Hurley Winkler is good at far too many things. Her CV includes helping produce Swamp Radio and Perversion magazine, and she’s just finished her master of fine arts in creative writing at Lesley University. Jim Draper is primarily known as a visual artist whose work has been seen in galleries, in the airport, on the façades of public buildings — on and on. But he’s not just a visual artist. Draper says, “Words are our primary symbols.”
On Feb. 23, each will perform a reading of their work at the second monthly installment of JaxbyJax.
Folio Weekly: When did the two of you first meet?
Hurley Winkler: I think it was through Swamp Radio. Jim had a story in the very first show.
Jim Draper: And Hurley was helping put the show together. Then we worked together on Wild Application, a conceptual anthology. We were going to do more of them, but only did the first one.
HW: The theme was “knees.”
JD: Knees are the joint between prayer and sex.
So, Jim, people know you primarily as a visual artist, but you’ve been writing for a while now. Where did Jim Draper the writer come from?
JD: He comes from the same place I do, this little town — Kosciusko, Mississippi. It was named for a Polish general. There were never any Polish people there. Then when I was in elementary school, some factories started moving in, and a Polish family moved in from Twin Rivers, Wisconsin. So the town had a parade, first Polish family to move to Kosciusko, and they put the family, there were about 14 of ’em, in the back of a pickup truck in front of City Hall and they drove ’em around the town square. When they dropped them back off at City Hall, the townspeople gave ’em a big Styrofoam key with gold glitter on it wrapped in a bow — presented ’em with the key to the city.
Hurley, you’ve done so many things, from helping produce Swamp Radio and Perversion magazine to, hell, playing the ukulele. Is writing even the central art form for you?
HW: It definitely is. Like Jim, I’ve always written, but it was at UNF that I started to feel like this is the thing I like doing more than anything else.
And you just finished your MFA in creative writing, you’ve been working on a novella, and you were just recently deep into analyzing Faulkner.
HW: Yes, The Sound and the Fury.
JD: You were working on Benjy’s voice, stream of consciousness? I couldn’t read Faulkner in Mississippi. I had to get away a little bit. I read Faulkner in Georgia. You know the thing a lot of people don’t realize about Faulkner is he’s best read aloud. I grew up hearing those speech patterns and cadences.
Hurley, how is writing different for you from everything else you do?
HW: In college when I was searching for a major, I thought about doing so many things. I thought about law school, biology, even being a business major, and then I figured out that if I studied writing, I could explore all these different things I was interested in by writing about them. I think my strongest quality is my curiosity. I’m relentlessly curious about everything.
Both of you have been studying with Lynn Skapyak Harlin in her “shantyboat” workshops. What’s that been like?
HW: It’s been wonderful. I’ve learned so much about pace and craft from her. It’s like I constantly have a new light bulb over my head.
JD: When you put your work out there, you don’t have the opportunity to go around with your book to everyone who’s reading it and explain it to them. The writing is the only chance you’ve got. I’ve never before been so specific about what I’m trying to do.
HW: And she has you establish a goal right from the beginning of her workshop.
So there’s no pseudo-mystical “I’m gonna wait and see where it takes me” approach.
JD: She’d tell you to get your ass off her boat.
So what can people expect you to be reading at the next JaxbyJax event?
HW: Well, there’s this girl who works in this Jewish deli with her friend. Their boss puts this “Do Not Enter” sign on an inconspicuous door near the kitchen. It’s a door they’ve never noticed before. In fact, they never would have noticed it if he hadn’t put the sign up.
JD: I’ll be reading my story “Hymn at Rock Creek.” One line goes, “The stench of the preacher’s voice dripped through my ear and puddled sour at the back of my throat.” There may or may not be organ music.