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Cowboy’s Quill: Catching up with Callan Wink

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By Doug Hare EBS Staff

Last month, Livingston author Callan Wink’s first collection of short stories “Dog Run Moon” was shortlisted for the International Dylan Thomas Prize. Here is a brief Q&A with one of Montana’s most promising literary talents.

Explore Big Sky: You are currently a Stegner fellow at Stanford. Are you working on any current projects? I heard you have a novel in the works.

Callank Wink: I am at Stanford until June at which point I’ll come back to Livingston to start my guide season. My two years at Stanford have been great. I’ve actually been living in Santa Cruz and this has afforded me plenty of time to surf. I’ve managed to write a little as well. For the last year or so I’ve been mostly working on novel attempts. I say ‘attempts’ because I’ve had a couple failed projects. I’m cautiously optimistic that eventually I’ll churn a decent one out. It is a much harder process for me than short story writing. 

EBS: Do you have a routine for writing? 

CW: It varies depending on the season and where I happen to be, but lately I try to get up at a decent hour, coffee up, and write a little, then go surf or go for a run. After that I’ll write a little more until it’s happy hour. I shoot for 1,000 words a day more days than not. My ideal schedule features some combination of the elements: writing, exercise and whiskey.

EBS: You were Jim Harrison’s fishing guide toward the end of his life. Did Jim influence you as a writer?

CW: Jim influenced me in a number of ways and I miss his presence in my life for sure. Regarding writing specifically, we didn’t talk about it all that much. That being said, I think I learned from Jim a way to go about living the writing life—basically, that you have to show up at the desk pretty much every day. Jim’s eating and drinking habits were fairly legendary but his work ethic thing was the thing that always stood out to me the most. He wrote seriously almost every day and even when he was fishing, he was thinking about it. That dedication is something I aspire to. 

EBS: Do you have any plans after finishing your fellowship? Are you still going to be a fishing guide half of the year? Do you want to stay in academia and teach?

CW: I’ll definitely still be fishing guiding. I like the way my year is kind of split between writing and fishing. I don’t think I’d ever want to do either one full-time, and in some ways each activity gets me excited to do the other.

At this point I don’t have plans to teach. I’ve done a little teaching and have enjoyed it to a certain extent. Of course, it would be nice to have healthcare and the benefits that come with a university position, but when it comes down to it, I’m not willing to live in a place I don’t love, just for a job. This fact pretty much cuts to zero the already scanty number of teaching gigs within my realm of possibility. Chances are I’ll be rowing a boat for quite a while to come and I’m ok with that. 

EBS: What advice do you have for a young writer?

CW: Read a lot. 

EBS: What are you reading at the moment?

CW: I just finished “A Hillbilly Elegy” by J.D. Vance. [It’s] a good, extremely timely memoir by a young guy from the Rust Belt, reflecting on his family. I’m also helping with the election process for the [National Endowment for the Arts] creative writing fellowships, so I have about 150 20-something-page short stories to read over the next couple months.

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