MTPR

Callan Wink: More Than A One-Trick Pony

Dec 28, 2017

"The point I was at when I was writing a lot of these stories, let’s face it, I was in my mid to late twenties. I had a cheating heart, still do. That personal aspect of it, I think, most of the men I know, it’s something they’ve struggled with in their life, so to make it any other way would not be true to my reality. In a collection of stories I do think you have a duty to try to show your breadth as a writer and so as a criticism it’s pretty legit because if I am portraying a certain aspect of my characters in a repetitive manner, that’s something I definitely don’t want to do. So I would probably agree with your assessment of that, which is one of the things I did like about my decision to put a longer story at the end from a female perspective just to kind of show I’m more than maybe just a one-trick pony. Hopefully." -- Callan Wink

Dog Run Moon

The following are highlights from an interview with Callan Wink about his collection of short stories, Dog Run Moon. To hear the full interview, click the link above, or subscribe to our podcast.

What do you think you’d be doing if you weren’t writing?

Probably the same thing I’m doing now which is fishing guiding in the summers, especially. I think the one thing writing has afforded me is the ability to not find a winter job, which is quite nice (I used to do construction before this), so I’d probably be fishing guiding and working construction.

When did you know you could write, like really write?

I don’t know that I even know that at this point, but, you know, I started writing these really bad poems from a pretty young age and probably there are still some of those in my parents’ basement that hopefully never come to light.

Do you remember some of the themes of those poems?

A lot themes about fishing. . . laughing . . . and being outside. I met my 4th grade teacher about three years ago at my mother’s funeral and she came up to me and she said: “You know when you were in 4th grade you wrote this essay that said you wanted to be a poet and a fisherman.” And I thought that was pretty funny.

Your debut book is a collection of short stories. Why did you pick that form? Or did the form pick you?

Yeah I think the form picked me. Like I said, I used to write poetry and then I realized all of my poems were just short stories I was too lazy to write. So, I started turning some of my poems into stories. I’m trying to write a novel, but I have a short attention span.

What’s the difference for you between working on a novel and short stories?

I think a novel is so much more middle. A short story is a lot of beginning and ending, which I personally enjoy. The middle part is the hard part for me and that's the bulk of a novel.

It reminds me of this line in your book where you write:

“The young and the old seem to be uniquely positioned to take advantage of the opportunities life affords. It’s the middle time that’s a b****.”

Does it resonate with you?

Yeah, exactly. I’d never thought of applying it to the writing of a novel, but I think it kind of holds true; it’s a similar feeling.

Do you feel that way, also about—I’m not going to call you midlife, you were born in 1984—but do you feel like you’re in the middle stretch?

I feel like I’m hitting my stride a little bit, but yeah, approaching middle definitely. And, it’s okay, maybe the position I’m at now will allow me to write a novel.

Callan, if I were to be hard on this book, which I feel like I can do because the prose is so good, it would be that by the 5th story I was rolling my eyes at the love and sex scenes and it seemed to me that we had been here before—that every guy had a cheating heart and every woman was willing to put up with a guy with a cheating heart—and that the sex scenes were fairly catered to the male gaze, which is frustrating to me because the second half of the book totally steers away from that.

How much of those scenes do you feel like come from an internal place, and how much do you feel like comes from maybe a sense that you need to write within a certain tradition?

Probably a mix of both. The point I was at when I was writing a lot of these stories, let’s face it, I was in my mid to late twenties. I had a cheating heart, still do. That personal aspect of it, I think, most of the men I know, it’s something they’ve struggled with in their life, so to make it any other way would not be true to my reality. In a collection of stories I do think you have a duty to try to show your breadth as a writer and so as a criticism it’s pretty legit because if I am portraying a certain aspect of my characters in a repetitive manner, that’s something I definitely don’t want to do. So I would probably agree with your assessment of that, which is one of the things I did like about my decision to put a longer story at the end from a female perspective just to kind of show I’m more than maybe just a one-trick pony. Hopefully. 

About the Book:

In the tradition of Richard Ford, Annie Proulx, and Kent Haruf comes a dazzling debut story collection by a young writer from the American West who has been published in The New Yorker, Granta, and The Best American Short Stories.

A construction worker on the run from the shady local businessman whose dog he has stolen; a Custer’s Last Stand reenactor engaged in a long-running affair with the Native American woman who slays him on the battlefield every year; a middle-aged high school janitor caught in a scary dispute over land and cattle with her former stepson: Callan Wink’s characters are often confronted with predicaments few of us can imagine. But thanks to the humor and remarkable empathy of this supremely gifted writer, the nine stories gathered in Dog Run Moon are universally transporting and resonant.

Set mostly in Montana and Wyoming, near the borders of Yellowstone National Park, this revelatory collection combines unforgettable insight into the fierce beauty of the West with a powerful understanding of human beings. Tender, frequently hilarious, and always electrifying, Dog Run Moon announces the arrival of a bold new talent writing deep in the American grain.

Callan Wink
Credit Dan Lahren

About the Author:

Callan Wink was born in Michigan in 1984. He lives in Livingston, Montana, where he is a fly-fishing guide on the Yellowstone River. He is the recipient of an NEA Creative Writing Fellowship and a Stegner Fellowship at Stanford University. His work has been published in The New Yorker, Granta, Men’s Journal, and The Best American Short Stories.