Interview: Jared Yates Sexton

Jared Yates Sexton

We talk to Jared Yates Sexton about his surreal short story “Alone, Ypsilanti” which appears in issue #32 of Neon.

What does the word “Ypsilanti” in the title of your story mean? What significance does it have to the story?

Ypsilanti, in this piece, is actually referring to the town in Michigan. For some reason I threw a mention of Michigan in the piece, and when I was figuring out the title I looked at a map of the state and came across that particular one. The word has such a mystical sound to it, like it’s some kind of ancient, spiritual city, that I thought it fit perfectly. The inclusion of “Alone,” actually came from a thought I had that maybe the story was a letter to some advice columnist, or paper editorial. I’d been reading old Dear Abby columns where the letter writers called themselves “Disappointed in Denver,” or whatever, and I thought the juxtaposition added to the strangeness.

“Alone, Ypsilanti” concerns itself with dreams, and is somewhat dream-like in general. How much weight do you give to dreams? Do you think they have any bearing on reality?

You know, I actually had a student the other day mention that she’d read something about our dream worlds actually being alternate reality. That’s frightening stuff. I’m not so sure I agree, but it’s an interesting concept. That aside, I have this terrible, reoccurring nightmare where my teeth fall out. I’ve read maybe half a dozen dream books just trying to figure out what it means. There’s really something to the idea that dreams, like stories, are veiled references to real life problems and stressors, and I think it’s fascinating that our subconscious creates these narratives, like writers do, to deal with all of these issues.

“Alone, Ypsilanti” is a somewhat surreal and off-kilter story. How do you think this story compares with your other writing?

I’m nearing the end of my second collection of stories now and editing together the book manuscript. Part of that is taking stock of what stories you’ve got, how long they are, and what the themes and styles are present. What I’ve discovered is that when I start writing, after completing another collection, is that I start with experimental pieces. Most of them are short to medium in length, and they go to strange, surreal places. As I progress the stories start getting shorter and more minimalist in nature. The last couple of pieces I’ve written have been medium-length – five to six page – minimalist pieces that are all realistic in nature. So, in other words, I’m kind of all over the place.

You mention in your bio that you’re the managing editor of BULL. Can you tell us a bit more about what that entails?

BULL is a pretty misunderstood project. More or less, we’re a literary magazine that’s concerned with chronicling the changing role of masculinity. It’s not a misogynistic publication, as some charge, but actually a journal that’s about male enlightenment in the realm of art, gender roles, and culture. We have an aesthetic of our own and welcome any and all writers and readers. My role in that is to manage a staff of editors and serve as the next-to-final-stop in the submissions process. I help Jarrett Haley, the Editor-In-Chief, sculpt the direction of BULL and provide content, in the form of interviews and features, from time to time.

Do you have a website? Is there somewhere readers can find out more about you?

I actually just opened my website, jysexton.com. My good friend, and brilliant web designer Kate Gramlich (kategeedesign.com) whipped it together and I couldn’t be happier with it. It’s got my publications, a blog, and a page for my upcoming book An End To All Things. Oh. And a drawing of my cat.

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Jared Yates Sexton is an Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at Georgia Southern University and Managing Editor at BULL. His work has been published around the world and his first collection of stories, An End To All Things, will be released by Atticus Books in November.