Thursday, December 10, 2015

AuTHor Thursday: Ryan Christiansen

Greetings Readers of the Red River Valley Writing Project Blog,

Meet Ryan Christiansen, today's local author feature. 

Ryan graciously shared part of his writing world with us.

Ryan Christiansen has worked in a variety of writing disciplines, including journalism, technical writing, and creative writing. He is the author of Boy Wanted, a new "flash novel" published by the North Dakota Institute for Regional Studies Press at North Dakota State University. Ryan has also self-published a collection of poems titled Wolverton Road, as well as a collection of short-short stories titled The Guard House and Other Stories, which he wrote as the artist-in-residence at Fort Stevenson State Park, North Dakota, in 2011, for the North Dakota Parks and Recreation Department and the North Dakota Council on the Arts. His short stories and poems have appeared in Red WeatherSan Antonio CurrentBig City LitRELEVANTMinnesota Technolog, and in the code {poems} anthology. A professor of English, he has taught a variety of English composition courses at both two-year and four-year universities.

Why do you write?

I write because my life depends on it; if I go a day without creating something new, I get anxious and crabby. And I love shaping the world through language, whether that means writing fiction, writing an opinion, or telling someone else's story in a magazine article.

Who currently inspires you?

I'm newly inspired by young adult writers, and I'm re-reading the books that I read as a youth. I'm currently enthralled by the writing of Ursula K. Le Guin and her series of books that begins with A Wizard of Earthsea. I'm also inspired by Viking Age culture, and I'm seeking something important within that milieu, but I'm not sure what yet.

Who encouraged you to be a writer?

My teachers encouraged me, of course, but so did many artists through their works, and many musicians. I consider Steve Jobs to be an artist who encouraged me: when I purchased my first Macintosh computer in 1989, there was something about the design of that object that inspired me to fill it up with words. And my first typewriter inspired me to hammer out prose in much the same way a slab of marble might inspire a sculptor to begin chiseling. There's something very encouraging about having good tools to work with.

What are you currently reading?

Like I mentioned before, I'm reading Le Guin, but I'm also reading comic books, not for the stories (because many of the stories are terribly constructed) but for the visual language. I'm also reading rules and adventures for role-playing games because I like making connections between how an author constructs a story and how people play out a story in games.

What advice do you have for writing teachers?

My main piece of advice is that, yes, creative writing can be taught. I think because creative writing is so hard for most of us, we tend to buy into the myth that creative writers are born, not made.

What advice do you have for writers?

When telling a story, use the very best nouns and verbs in the active voice while suppressing adjectives and eliminating adverbs to tell how a character’s desire overcomes conflict to attain a goal. If you can do that while actually writing instead of talking about writing, you'll do well.

What genres do you write? What is your favorite? Why?

When I write creatively I prefer writing in short genres. I aspire to write flash fiction and flash nonfiction, and I like writing in simple poetic forms like the American cinquain. I have to admit, though, that my favorite genre is the human interest story. I absolutely love interviewing someone and then telling their story, using their own words and my words together to shape their presence on the page. The human interest story is the form of art I first fell in love with, probably because I used to read a lot of Rolling Stone articles and biographies about musicians. When I was a journalist, I poured my heart into human interest stories.

Thank you, Ryan, for your writing insight!