Released by Aqueous Books in 2013, The Sense of Touch is the debut collection of short stories by Ron Parsons. His fiction has been featured in many literary venues, including The Gettysburg Review, The Onion, Indiana Review, The Briar Cliff Review, Flyway, and Paul Vidich’s wonderful Storyville App. Although he has previously resided in such diverse places as Detroit, Minneapolis, Fort Worth, and Brooklyn, Ron now lives in beautiful Sioux Falls, South Dakota, a growing metropolis located in the fertile Missouri River Valley at the eastern gateway to the Great Plains of North America.
Congratulations on the release of your latest book, The Sense of Touch. When did you start writing and what got you into short stories?
When I was attending the University of Minnesota, a friend of mine loaned me copies of two short story collections: “Like Life” by Lorrie Moore and “The Watch” by Rick Bass. I think I read both books on consecutive nights. I thought they were perfect; collections of small, brilliant gems. I resolved that someday, somehow, I would publish a short story collection of my own. It took a long time and no small measure of luck, but I finally was able to make that happen.
What was your inspiration for the story Big Blue, which was featured on the Storyville App?
One of my best jobs was working for Project Enhance, an organization in Minneapolis that served mentally challenged adults. As part of my duties, I was tasked with organizing and participating in athletic activities with our clients. In the winter months, the favored sport was floor hockey. When it was warm enough outside, we played very competitive games of Wiffle ball using a big, blue plastic bat that I found at the local K-Mart. The games were the substance of many joyful evenings.
During the same time, I was taking a fiction writing class at the University of Minnesota. When writing at night and wrestling with the words, I would often find myself taking the Wiffle ball bat into my hands. I would assume a batting stance and imagine the feeling of swinging and smashing my laptop across the room. That particular feeling became the genesis and opening paragraphs of “Big Blue.”
What do you hope readers will get from your book?
The theme of “The Sense of Touch” is the importance of connecting with others and how we are inevitably changed, for better or worse, by those encounters. The book’s epigraph is from a wonderful Wallace Stevens poem called “It Must Change,” and the cover, designed by my publisher Cynthia Reeser, depicts a butterfly, which is a symbol of transformation. I hope that readers will put down the book with a sense of caution, reflection, hope, and appreciation for the opportunities that we have for communion with others.
What do you do when your muse refuses to collaborate?
I stop writing and go out and do something! Life is much too short to spend staring at a screen when the writing will just not flow. But you have to be careful not to stay away too long…
What was your publishing process like?
I started by submitting short stories to literary reviews. After many rejections, a few acceptances began to trickle in. My first true success was placing “Hezekiah Number Three” in the Spring 2008 edition of The Gettysburg Review.
When I felt that I had enough good stories to try to publish a collection, I began submitting the manuscript to potential literary agents. Those that responded politely recommended that I try contacting independent publishing houses directly. Almost randomly, I chose ten publishers, sent off the manuscript, and then forced myself to forget about it. It took almost a year, but the first to respond was Aqueous Books with an offer to publish my debut collection.
How do you celebrate the completion of a book?
This is my first book, so I don’t have that perfected just yet. But I cannot begin to explain the moment of perfect satisfaction when I finally was able to hold the first published copy in my hands. I highly recommend the feeling.
Do you have a website or blog where readers can find out more about your work?
The book has its own website, Facebook page, Goodreads page, and Red Room page, as well as a twitter account, where I try to keep people updated on any scheduled events and notices that the book has received. I also really enjoy making appearances at book clubs and fielding questions about the stories and the writing and publishing process.
Where is your book available?
The book is available online at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, Powell’s Books, Tower Books, and in various, mostly independent bookstores around the country. If you are in Sioux Falls, be sure to purchase your copy at Zandbroz Variety located on Phillips Avenue in our historic downtown!
George Orwell once wrote: “Writing a book is a horrible, exhausting struggle, like a long bout of some painful illness. One would never undertake such a thing if one were not driven on by some demon whom one can neither resist nor understand.”
Orwell is one of my favorite writers, but I prefer to think of most writers as being touched instead by the better angels of our nature, as Lincoln famously described, or at least the most interesting ones.
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