Current & Past Contributors

The Death of Weinberg: An Interview with Walter Weinschenk

The summer 2020 issue of The Gateway Review featured the poem “The Secret of the Moon,” by Walter Weinschenk.  We’re thrilled to share that Walter’s debut full length manuscript, The Death of Weinberg, is forthcoming from Kelsay Books.  We sat down with Walter to talk about his work.  Check it out!

I noticed in your bio when you submitted to The Gateway Review originally that you’re an attorney by day.  What brought you to creative writing as well?  Is that something you’ve had a passion for since before you went into law, or did you come to it “late,” so to speak?  And do you see your background in law affecting your work at all?

Interesting that you should ask about my law career vis-à-vis my writing.  I have always been a writer.  I began writing fiction as a kid and wrote quite a bit during the years leading up to and through college.  I began writing poetry in earnest a few years ago.  However, my professional duties and obligations have been a priority and, unfortunately, I was not able to write on a regular basis during most of my legal career.  I still managed to write creatively from time to time and, in fact, my first published story was written while I was active as an attorney.  Though my output was minimal during these years, my writing experience has always been meaningful and fulfilling.

I retired in January, 2019.  Since then, I have been writing pretty much all the time.  It has been a wonderful three years:  I am able to jump in completely.  I am extremely fortunate to have the time and freedom to concentrate on my writing.

I think that my legal writing has helped me improve as a writer in a general sense.  My writing had always been formalistic.  My legal training served to elevate my sensitivity to form and structure.  These days, however, my inclination is to run from the rules and reject form, at least to some extent.  I’m obviously not unique in this regard but it took me a while, I’m actually quite late to the party.  I understand now that grammar is not a religion and, in general, it isn’t a sin to contravene form in order to produce work that is real and reflective of the way the mind thinks and the heart feels.  It was helpful, however, to practice the discipline of form, especially as a legal writer, and now have the freedom to dispense with it when I choose to do so.  In any event, I think it is fair to say that I will never write a story involving the law, the courtroom or the legal process – it just isn’t in me.  I would never try to write a John Grisham-type novel, for instance, although I might include some troubled character who happens to be a lawyer in a story I write.

I’m curious about your decision to create a hybrid work; you’re obviously not the first or only to do this, but I don’t think we see it as often as we do a traditional short story collection or poetry collection.  What about it do you find appealing?

The creation of a hybrid work was a conscious decision but I should point out that I don’t see a huge difference between my prose and my poetry.  I’m sure there are others who feel the same way about their own writing.  The impulse to write is the same for me whether the vehicle is a poem or a story.  I write because I am consumed with emotion or may have the need to express a poetic thought of some sort.   I’m usually not interested in making some abstract point or philosophical statement.  Like all writers, I want to bring the reader in with me, allow the reader to think it and feel it on a gut level.  My prose, however, is significantly skewed toward mood, tone, atmosphere, etc.  I want to provide an emotional experience; I want to have emotional impact and so I rely heavily upon imagery to convey the essence of it and lend some urgency to the matter.  I think the high degree to which I rely upon imagery, simile and metaphor in my prose serves to bridge the two forms to a certain extent and, in a couple of cases, the short story piece is essentially a prose poem.

My stories can also be extremely sparse in terms of plot.  I will avoid walking the reader through events A, B, C, etc. to the extent I can get away with it.  I include a minimal amount of dialogue in most of my stories.  And, typically, the action that takes place in my stories is passive, i. e., the thinking process of the narrator. Essentially, by minimizing some of the basic features that characterize the typical short story, my brand of prose feels a lot like poetry.  As I mentioned, I may have entered into prose poem territory in a couple of cases.  In any event, there always must be some degree of plot, it’s inescapable, but I try to keep it to a minimum.  In general, I find it liberating to allow a poem to masquerade as a short story although I should point out that most of my short stories are, in fact, stories.  “The Garden of Eden”, for example, is a piece that relies upon a linear series of events, includes some dialogue and features a limited cast of characters.  It is a long narrative:  a story in the usual sense.

In response to your question, I find it very appealing to be able to utilize either form to communicate artistically.  The object for me is to express myself in a way that is understood by the heart and in the mind whether a particular piece is a poem, a story or something that lies somewhere in between. The essential point is that all the pieces I included were stimulated by the same poetic impulse

If you had to describe your book in a blurb-like way, what would you say?

That’s a tough one.  I’m in no position to create such blurb:  it’s impossible for me to gauge what I’ve put together.  I suppose it would be great if the blurb said all the great things writers likes to hear:  the book is engaging, original, etc.  But I’d prefer that the blurb recognize the book for what I hope it turned out to be:  an emotional response – an honest response – to the weight of time and mortality upon individual consciousness.    Simply put, it would be great if the blurb described the book as a genuine attempt to deal with the emotional aspect of meaninglessness.  I would hope, however, that such a blurb lets it be known that not all the selections are dark:  there is some light there, there are some optimistic pieces in there.

Tell us a little bit about your process; where do ideas come from, and how do you go from that germination to the final product?

One method I rely upon – though not in every case – is a spontaneous drafting process, for lack of a better description.  I’ll sit down, pick up a pen and literally let words spew out in a form that looks vaguely like a poem though it isn’t really a poem at this point.  I try as best I can not to think about the words that are emerging.  I’m not suggesting that I’m channeling poetry in some mysterious or religious fashion, definitely not; however, I do try to leave my brain out of the process as much as possible.  I’ll make sure that I write what I’m feeling in a form that vaguely resembles a poem but I’ll write quickly and make sure I don’t censor myself.  The key for me is to write it all down no matter what the feeling or thought happens to be and try to let my pen (or keypad) do the talking.  I just let it happen.  I then examine what I’ve written which is sometimes a bit surprising but, in any event, this process helps me get a handle on what I may have been feeling.  It’s an interesting process – somewhat self-revelatory, almost as though I were giving myself a literary Rorschach test.  During the course of this initial stage, I will take great pains to avoid editing but just let words fly. Once I’ve studied what I’ve set down on paper, I take a stab at trying to form a poem or story out of it, start molding it into something that makes sense and is presentable.  I usually try to remain true to the initial idea or theme although I have, on occasion, altered the theme and have purposely changed direction.

I do a tremendous amount of rewriting and editing.  Many of my poems are pretty long – perhaps an indication that I’m not editing enough and need to be a bit more heartless when it comes to pruning those lines.  My willingness to edit is a good thing, I suppose, but it comes at a cost:  each successive rewrite causes the poem – or story – to drift a bit from the original emotional impetus.  The poem tends to creep away from the original inspiration with each draft.  I know this is a common phenomenon but it happens with me quite a bit and it’s frustrating.  The final version of a poem may express something that is not quite the point I intended to make when I first set pen to paper.  Therefore, during the writing process, I will often ask myself:  what was it that I was feeling that caused me to pick up my pen?  I get mad at myself if I’m choosing words only because they may fit or sound good at the expense of the original theme.  I suppose it’s a bit of a balancing process but I really do want to stay true to that original emotional basis.  Its almost as though I have a fiduciary duty of care and due diligence to whatever it was that caused me to feel or think something that I felt was important enough in the first place to want to write about.  Otherwise, I may feel I’m just writing words for the sake of writing words, discarding the meaning of the poem in the process.  There’s no point in that for me.

Sometimes a poem will germinate out of a single line or even a phrase that I’ve heard that resonates with me.  It might be a line that comes from within – or a line I hear in conversation, a line from a song, etc.  I’ll be enamored with that one line and it may go around in my head for a while but it’s there because it has an emotional resonance of its own.  I then try to build upon it, flesh it out, make something out of it.  That’s always a fun way to go.  Similarly, I may have an image in my mind that I can’t let go of – and a poem may develop out of that visual in much the same way that it might develop out of a phrase or line.

Very important for me is that the poem have some musicality about it.   I apply this almost as a test in the case of both poems and prose:  the writing should be songlike, practically capable of being sung.  If the lines are not musical to some degree – including a clear rhythm – I know the poem will simply not come off.

I’ve already explained that I rely heavily upon imagery in both my poetry and prose to get my points across.  I believe that if I don’t include verbal pictures, I’m not doing my job.  I will review my work for this specific purpose.  I may notice that I’m explaining too much – using words that lack visceral impact – and that’s a bad sign.  If there are a couple of lines in a row which are plot-like or instructional, I’ll hone in on that section and ask myself if there is an image that provides the same information – but in a visceral way, a way that will be received at gut level, make an impression and perhaps even be remembered.

One thing that I try to avoid as much as possible is to refer to “the specific”, for lack of a better term.  This is especially so with respect to my short stories.  It sounds strange, I know.  The reason I do this is because I try, to the extent I am able, to write stories and poems that resemble parables or have some sort of parable-like quality about them.  The great thing about parables is that they are generic:  they are templates that are adaptable to any age or place and, in my view, they have a unique quality and gravity about them.  My concern is that the inclusion of specific contemporary detail such as reference to a particular type of computer, for example, or reference to a famous person or even a particular country, may tie a story to a specific place and time and thereby minimize its impact.  I like stark landscapes and stark time frames:  I think stripped-down stories are better able to a focus a reader’s attention on essential themes and issues. This style of writing also allows the reader to place greater reliance upon his or her own imagination in forming a mental picture of setting and events.  In any event, I make a conscious attempt to leave out contemporary detail to the extent I can.  Hopefully, the result is that the poem or story can be read to happen at any time, in any place.    This appeals to me.  I don’t know if this actually helps my writing but I like to think that it does – and I certainly feel more comfortable writing in this fashion.

Sometimes I’ll take an old poem that’s unsuccessful – and try to rewrite it.  I’ll rewrite it if the old poem looks intriguing in some way or if the emotional basis of the original poem is still valid and alive in me.  If it doesn’t make sense to invest the time and effort, I may take some of the more interesting bits and pieces of it and either build a different poem around those pieces – or graft them onto something else I may be working on at the time.  Its almost like salvaging the working parts of a broke down car.  I remove what I can and try to put those words or lines to good use, especially if I like the underlying meaning or the way they sound.

There may come a time at which I realize that a particular poem is just no good:  it doesn’t flow, will never flow, isn’t understandable or doesn’t go deep enough.  When I realize this – and it will be an unequivocal kind of realization – I put that poem to bed permanently.  Maybe hold onto it for parts later on, as explained above – but I’ll know we’re done.  At that point, I can’t wait to file it away and try to forget about it, pretend that it doesn’t exist.  It’s disappointing when that happens – each poem represents a commitment in time and psychic energy – but sometimes writing just doesn’t work out.

What are you working on now?  Any new, exciting projects in the pipeline we should be on the lookout for?

I’ve written a short story recently which I’m hoping might be picked up by someone – and I had a good stretch during late July, early August, in terms of some new poems.   The most important project I am working on right now is simply to get myself “out there”:  participate in some poetry readings and, basically, commune with artists who are likeminded.  I really need to get with people and listen to their work and let them hear some of my own though I find this type of thing a bit difficult.  It will be a new experience for me in terms of my writing.  However, I do want to establish a greater number of personal connections and I realize its important for me to participate with those who love writing.  There are some local poetry groups that I hope to join so that I can deal with people on a personal, non-virtual level.  At this juncture, it’s a project as important as the actual writing.

Who/what are you reading?

I just started The Book of Laughter and Forgetting by Milan Kundera – and I’m enjoying it.   Prior to Kundera, I had been reading a Proust biography which, unfortunately, is long and tedious and I had to put it down.  It’s a huge book but I’ve made a commitment to get back to it.  I love reading about Proust and his world and, for that reason, I know that I’ll pick it up again, eventually.

Big Bad: An Interview with Whitney Collins

In 2021, former Gateway Review contributor Whitney Collins published her debut collection of fiction, Big Bad, with Sarabande Books, as the winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction.  We caught up with Whitney and talked shop about her process, her project, and her passions.  Check it out below!

As a fan (and fellow writer) of speculative fiction, I love the puzzle of making meaning out of the bizarre. Can you speak a bit to how you find that meaning in the strange premises of your stories?

I believe humans equally adore meaning and mystery. I think we are always dancing between the two. We like our lives to have some sort of predictability, but we also want them to have some sort of romance, mystique. Fairy tales and fables are really adept at this sort of balance. They tend to be transparent in some regard to what they want the reader to “get,” to what their moral is, but they also can be riddles, layered with surrealism and symbolism and absurdity. I usually write a story with a blatant meaning in mind (for example, my story “Good Guys” is, on the surface, about bullying), and then as the story grows and gains heft, other things start to appear. Is this about privilege? Is this a love story? Is this about geography? American history? Is this a story about false teeth? And if so, what do false teeth represent? I like the idea of story having multiple meanings. I like that people can interpret something many ways. Not all of this falls on the writer, though. A lot of it occurs naturally in the reading process, because of human nature. There will always be the human desire to decipher mixed with the human desire to complicate.

One thing I admire so much about these stories is how things coalesce so frequently at the end; I’m thinking particularly of the breathtaking “The Entertainer” and “The Pupil,” though you achieve this in so many of your stories. How do you get there? Do you have that end in mind from the start, or do you have to work your way there gradually?

I naturally like things to come around, to sort of circle back, but I do resist tying things up in a cute bow. I try to strike a balance between the “zero ending” where readers feel like a movie screen has just gone black, and the perfect, predictable conclusion. I typically have a glimmer of how a story is going to wrap up. Usually in the first few scenes of a piece, an image or a theme reveals itself to me and I think…OK, that’s what we need to see again before this thing is over. It can be one emotion, one interaction, one object that the whole tale hinges on. In my story “The Nest,” it comes back to the quail. I didn’t originally plan on that, but the minute the quail went into Frankie’s coat pocket, I thought: there’s where I need to end. And most of the time this thing, this return is symbolic or metaphorical in some way.

One of the things I love and admire so much in your work is the intense specificity and vivid sense of image. How much of that comes out in initial drafting and how much is a matter of really forcing yourself to amplify what’s on the page to begin with?

This is probably the easiest part for me. Plot can be really challenging. Writing about vulnerability and emotions, without coming across a saccharine, can also be super difficult. But detail is what I most enjoy. I was born an observer, a sponge. I take in a lot (probably too much) through the senses, and it’s therapeutic for me to get the details (everything I’ve soaked up) out and onto the page. Sometimes, I can really go overboard. I can really whack people over the head. I have to kill a lot of darlings in the end. People can only handle so much cologne. But yes, to answer your question in a very long way, the detail is almost always in the first draft. The technical stuff is where I tend to tinker and struggle.

I know process questions are boring, but what can you tell us about how you take a story from idea to final draft?

I almost always begin with an odd idea, a “what-if” idea. (What if a character found a peacock in the mailbox? What if a man left his entire life behind for a television show about a gold miner? What if a woman gave birth to herself? And then gave birth to herself? Over and over and over?) And then I take this what-if idea and fluff it out, fill it in. What’s an interesting setting? Who are some interesting characters? I typically have a running list of people, places, and preposterous ideas in my mind. When I sit down with a specific scenario, a specific story idea, I mentally go through this list and put together some wild components. These weirdos, this motel, this situation. I always try to add a generous dose of humanity in there, real feelings, so it still (hopefully) hits home no matter how bizarre. It’s a little like making chili.

Could you also describe the “journey,” so to speak, of putting this book together? You can interpret that however you like.

BIG BAD was basically my MFA thesis for Spalding University. For two years (2016-2018), I worked feverishly on completing sixteen stories (you have to work feverishly when you go back to graduate school late in life; time waits for no one!), and upon graduating, I submitted the manuscript to several small press fiction contests. I was lucky (and stunned) when Sarabande Books in Louisville picked it up. I worked with an amazing editor there, Kristen Renee Miller, who encouraged me to slim the collection by only including thirteen of the sixteen stories (thirteen DID feel wonderfully witchy to me), and who helped me really fine-tune the collection. I tend to be excessively wordy, and Kristen was masterful at helping me retain the lushness of the stories without overloading my readers with too much stuff.

Finally, what are you working on now? And what are you reading?

Currently I am finishing up a second collection of short stories. They are “love” stories. You know when “love” is in quotes that something deliciously nefarious is going on. And I am also working on an epistolary novel about a near-death experience. In terms of reading, I’m loving the Penguin Book of the Modern American Short Story, edited by John Freeman; The Complete Stories of Leonora Carrington; and Orange World by Karen Russell.

Whitney Collins is the author of the short story collection, BIG BAD (Sarabande Books), which won the 2019 Mary McCarthy Prize in Short Fiction. She received a 2020 Pushcart Prize, a 2020 Pushcart Special Mention, the 2020 American Short(er) Fiction Prize, and placed first in Grist’s 2021 ProForma Contest. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in AGNI, American Short Fiction, Gulf Coast, The Greensboro Review, Slice, The Pinch, and Catapult’s TINY NIGHTMARES anthology, among others.

Volume 6, Issue 2 Contributors

Check out bios for some of this issue’s contributors!

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Chase Dimock teaches at College of the Canyons and lives in Los Angeles. He serves as the Managing Editor of As It Ought To Be Magazine. His poetry has been published in Waccamaw, Hot Metal Bridge, Faultline, Saw Palm, New Mexico Review, and Flyway among others. He holds a PhD in Comparative Literature from the University of Illinois and his scholarship in World Literature and LGBT Studies has appeared in College Literature, Western American Literature, Modern American Poetry, The Lambda Literary Review, and several edited anthologies. You can read more at his website,

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Harli James is a writer living in Asheville, NC. Her work has been published or is forthcoming in Jabberwock Review, The Writing Disorder, and Bangalore Review.  She can be found on Twitter at @HarliJames.


Tina Vorreyer is a graduate of Lawrence University (Appleton, WI), who now resides in Downers Grove, IL. She has been published in 4 anthologies by Z Publishing (2017-2019), Black Works Issue #2 (July 2019), Not Very Quiet Issue #4 (March 2019) & Issue #6 (March 2020), Riza Press’s ‘Project Healthy Love’ online showcase (January 2019), and more to come! Follow her on Instagram at @tinavorreyer and visit


Walter Weinschenk is an attorney, writer, photographer and musician. Until a few years ago, he wrote short stories exclusively but now divides his time equally between poetry and prose. Walter’s writing has appeared in the Carolina Quarterly, Sunspot Literary Journal, and The Esthetic Apostle. He lives in a suburb just outside Washington, D. C.