Meet a Resident: Corinne Manning

Corinne Manning is a prose writer and literary organizer. Their stories and essays have been published widely, including in Toward an Ethics of Activism and Shadow Map: An Anthology of Survivors of Sexual Assault. Corinne founded The James Franco Review, a project that sought to address implicit bias in the publishing industry. Corinne was a Mineral School resident in 2019. Kait Heacock asked Corinne about their work present and future, including the experience of publishing during a global pandemic.

How can writers build community with one another in a time when we can no longer meet in person for readings or attend residencies together?

Goodness, starting at the deep end! I think one thing is to figure out how to connect without inundating each other because everyone is in crisis at varying levels, no one is their best self. I’m interested in ways that vulnerability can play a role. I would like to hear more podcasts hosted by best friends across the country, I’d like to see people mailing other people’s books to each other. I think we should send letters and postcards when we can. A picture of something purple. Whatever we figure out I think it needs to be from our most authentic self and it needs to be okay for us to take our time. 

You have a short story collection coming out during the pandemic, which has probably put you on a rollercoaster of emotions. Have you found any positives in this experience?

You know, if anything it feels like a good opportunity to practice impermanence. I worked so hard for this moment and now this moment looks very different than I imagined. I still wrote the book, still had the experience, and hopefully people will read it. I’ve had the opportunity to connect with other authors online though, and I did a giveaway in April where people who had early copies of the book took pictures of themselves with it and I sent a free copy of it to a friend of their choice. In March, I hand delivered books to people’s doors. Those moments of intimacy have brought me joy. 

Tell me more about the collection We Had No Rules. What is the thread that connects the stories?

All the stories are first person narration where the characters are questioning what their relationships mean and all the ways they’ve failed, been hurt, or have been complicit. 

Does the collection bring together a body of work spanning a long period of your writing or did you write these stories close together with the intention they would form a cohesive body of work?

When I sat down to write the first story I didn’t know it would be a collection, I also didn’t know I would write anything at all. I was in the middle of a dry spell after really becoming aware of the homophobia in the publishing industry and my own internalized homophobia in my writing. I didn’t know how to write authentically. And then I typed the line “Oh, fuck it. I’m writing Lesbian fiction.” And the story Gay Tale (a meta take on a coming out story) came out from start to finish. I set myself the guideline where I had to write a story in one sitting, it had to be first person, and I couldn’t keep myself from writing anything—so if I thought that’s not what you are supposed to do, or that’s too didactic, or that’s too porny or gay I made myself write it down. By the third story I knew I was writing a collection, and I wrote intentionally towards the same curiosities about harm and relationships and care. I wrote to free myself and to keep myself company. 

How do you know when you have a finished story collection? Did you tinker at the end, pulling stories and replacing them with others, etc.?

These stories always came to me in a rush. The stories stopped coming and that’s when I knew the book was done and it was time to edit and put them together. I arranged them so many times. There are more stories than exist in the book but I ultimately decided to take them out because they weren’t needed. Mattilda Bernstein Sycamore gave me the arrangement that stuck. I edited the stories for years even though each first draft was probably written over the course of an hour or two. 

What are you working on now? Next?

I’m working on a book of autofiction called Dirty Joke—the narrator is writing straight erotica for money at the time that her family abuse is revealed to her. The book explores abuse in Italian American families and the dual diaspora of immigration and healing sexual abuse. 

Where can folks hear you read–online or, later, in person?

My press has asked me to put a tour on hold, but I’m occasionally making videos of readings on my Vimeo page. I’ll also be reading with Seattle Arts & Lectures on May 28th along with Kristen Millares Young and EJ Koh, moderated by Paul Lisicky. Follow me on instagram, too @corinne.manning.

Corinne’s below (pink shirt, center) with members of the Class of July 2019!