Matthew Hooton,
Member of Fiction Board

Matthew HootonMatthew Hooton holds degrees in creative writing from the University of Victoria (BA), and Bath Spa University (MA). His first novel, Deloume Road, was published in 2010 by Knopf Canada and Jonathan Cape UK. He has also written creative nonfiction for venues such as the CBC, Geist, Reader's Digest and Monday Magazine. After years of working as a freelance editor and writer in South Korea, he now lives and writes on Vancouver Island, where he teaches Creative Writing part-time at the University of Victoria.

Describe your ideal short story

It’s tough talking about what I look for in a short story, because what I most want is for writers to write exactly how they want, and with as much integrity as possible. And of course it’s impossible to think of something that hasn’t been said 3 million times. Voice, a strong narrative, intriguing characters, beautiful language, a setting that matters- these things are a given for any editor. But, considering the number of submissions we see, I guess I’m looking for a bit of audacity. I want to read writers who aren’t afraid to take risks- risks with their language choices, perhaps with structure, perhaps with the whole piece. I’m not necessarily talking about experimental prose, rather, about an artist pushing their own voice to the limit. Hard to know what that might look like, but an example might be working with literary sensibilities in a popular genre, something that’s not just well executed, but truly reaches outside the comfort zone of contemporary Canadian literature.

What is your favourite short story?

Favourite short stories include: Jim Crace’s “Cross-Country,” Ray Bradbury’s “I Sing the Body Electric,” and Annie Proulx’s “Brokeback Mountain.” All great stories. Wonderful language in each. And all of them are utterly audacious: Crace’s collection Continent is a series of stories set on an imaginary landmass full of superstition and magic. Bradbury’s intense language would be enough to admire on its own, nevermind robot grandmothers arriving in sarcophagi. And Proulx’s story features tough-as-shit gay cowboys, and one of the most intense and beautifully tragic endings I’ve encountered. But, for the record, I could have just as easily listed work by Jack Hodgins or Tessa Hadley or Alistair McLeod or Terence Young.

From the time you started on our fiction board, what has been your favourite pick?

Well, I’ve just come on board, but I’m very excited that we’re publishing a western by Cody Klippenstein this spring ("Dainty, Pretty Things"). Gorgeous language describing a gunfight- what’s not to love?

Finally, what are you not seeing in submissions as of late that you would like to see?

Again, a lot of the submissions I’m sifting through (all of them wonderful in their own way) seem to be rather safe. Competent, but not compelling. I know it’s harder to publish work that falls outside of the so-called mainstream, but questions I’d like writers who are submitting to consider are: how is this story truly mine? What lies have I left on the page that no one else could have? And, have I aimed high enough and reached far enough artistically here?