Behind the Masthead: Heath Wilcock
And now, the highly anticipated interview with HFR’s Special Projects Editor, Heath Wilcock! Heath gave intern Lauren Mickey the inside scoop on exciting topics, such as: stand-up comedy, fame, breakfast fowl, the to-be-installed HFR steam room, etc.
Lauren Mickey: Okay, so, you are the "Special Projects Editor" at HFR. What does this mean? What sort of "special projects" are you working on (or do you plan to work on)?
Heath Wilcock: Special Projects Editor means that I run HFR. I'm the person in charge. I arrive in the HFR den promptly at 5am and demand my morning breakfast, which consists of one whole roasted fowl. Other editors are rarely in the office at this hour, and the janitorial service do not understand how important I am, so I'm usually left to my own devices. In this case, my device is actually a briefcase where I keep an entire cooked fowl locked inside. After eating my roasted fowl, I'm oftentimes covered in grease and need to bathe. But before I head to the HFR steam room, I sit at my desk and contemplate my sins. Special projects I'm currently working on:
·HFR agenda for coming AWP
·Putting in a new steam room
·Being there for others
·Convincing everyone that I'm in charge
LM:You handle HFR's social media, correct? What does this entail? How do you keep things interesting on those sites / platforms?
HW: Yes, Lauren Mickey, that is correct. [turns to camera, grins wide, holds it for a solid minute] I tweet at least once a day. I do have a hard time finding a universal voice for HFR. I've been trying to play with it a bit. With a magazine that's over 25 years old, it has established a sweater vest literary fineness, and then I come in and try to make that sweater vest entity say something that's probably garbage. To avoid this qualm, I end up tweeting pictures of myself with a certain facial expression that is a cross between satisfaction and mistrust. That gets more attention than say "10 Reasons Kafka Despised Fondue Parties."
LM: You do improv. Does this at all affect your fiction writing, your work at HFR, your teaching, etc?
HW: Yes. It has a profound effect on developing scenes, establishing relationships, defining character statuses, finding the funny, exploring themes, turning mistakes into revelations, and so on. However, with writing I do slow things down a bit more, try to make it more complex with the use of language. Improv needs to be experienced in a live setting, whereas stories are striving for that timeless quality. You'll never see the same improv show twice, but you'll always return to the same story that shifted your thinking. I'll also act out my stories in my room, playing the different characters. It helps me see how a character would react to a problem that is honest to his/her traits. If my wife's around, I'll have her improv with me. She's great at reacting honestly.
LM: What is most exciting to you, as a reader of submissions? Are you particularly drawn to humor in prose, or not necessarily?
HW: I get the most excited when I come across a piece that is a tight ten pages and it leaves me breathing hard, either from laughing, crying, or simply exhausted from pleasure. I enjoy humor in prose, but I don't necessarily seek it out. I crave stories. Whether it's scary, philosophical, absurd, or sad, I just want to be involved. I don't stick to one food at the family dinner table, I absolutely dish myself a portion of each. Except that one dish that has been on the dinner table for a couple of months, leaks a smelly substance, and uses bad language when guests come over. I don't care for that dish, or story.
LM: You're kind of Vine famous... Would you like to comment on that? Like, how does it feel to be famous? (Also, does HFR have a Vine yet?)
HW: I have yet to receive my multiple butlers that are required to carry me while I drizzle the finest Beluga serum on my naked body. And until this happens, I'm not considered famous. Vine is a great platform to create small scenes or share a strange image. That's what I like using it for. I'm surprised and grateful that so many kind people follow me. HFR does have a Vine account. It only has one post for our flash fiction contest. Definitely need to do more with that.
LM: What are you currently reading / watching / generally obsessed with? Are any writers overwhelming you with their brilliance, lately?
HW: I'm currently reading a wonderful collection of stories by Shawn Vestal called Godforsaken Idaho . Let's see, shows I'm watching. I think Key & Peele is a fantastic show; every episode is smart, smart, smart. They get me excited to explore new ideas. Also Nathan For You is incredible. I have to pause that show to catch my breath. I also enjoy Bob's Burgers, Venture Bros., and everything from Tim Heidecker and Eric Wareheim. Lately I've been watching a lot of documentaries, specifically Iraq and Afghanistan war documentaries. I'll watch them, get really upset, and then clean the house to cool down. I recently read Jeanette Winterson's Sexing the Cherry and she stimulated my senses, hard. I also just picked up Donald Antrim's short story collection The Emerald Light in the Air. Pretty excited to dig into that. His novel, Elect Mr. Robinson for a Better World, was the most twisted, funny, and surreal book I've ever read and I couldn't get enough. Other obsession is Steve Martin. Will always be Steve Martin.
LM: Do you ever perform stand-up comedy sets for your students, or is that frowned upon?
HW: I perform stand-up for my students and they sit there and frown. Then I have them circle around me and chant, "you're doing your best," while I openly weep.
LM: What is the most magical thing about working at HFR ?
HW: The steam room, once I get that installed.
Heath Wilcock is an MFA candidate at Arizona State University and currently serves as the Special Projects Editor for Hayden's Ferry Review. He lives in Tempe with his wife and four-year-old daughter.