The Story Behind the Story: “Visceral”

At the time when I wrote “Visceral” I had been spending a lot of time reading books about Buddhism, Hinduism, yoga, and meditation, as well as practicing a good deal of meditation and yoga myself, and so the ideas that the story revolves around—boundary, separation, union, interconnectedness—were very much at the forefront of my mind.

Like many of my stories, and like a lot of surrealist or magic realist literature, the action revolves around the physical, outward manifestation of an inner state or an intellectual concept. It springs from a sort of musing on the idea of what life would be like if our minds, our thoughts, our preoccupations, were manifest in the material world.

I feel it bears mentioning, too, as part of the Story Behind the Story, that “Visceral” was accepted by Fiction Southeast almost three years to the day after I first started sending it out to journals. In the meantime, the story received a couple dozen rejections and went through several significant revisions, including a change from a story into a poem and then back into a story again. I find that, even with a short piece like this, clocking in around 600 words, the process can be a long one. Ultimately, though, like in meditation or yoga, the process itself is the destination and the reward.

Of course, finding a good home for the piece here at Fiction Southwest was a pretty nice reward, too.

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About Matt Tompkins

Matt Tompkins is the author of two books: Souvenirs and Other Stories (Conium Press) and Studies in Hybrid Morphology (tNY Press). Matt’s stories have appeared in the New Haven Review, Post Road, and online at the Carolina Quarterly. He works in a library and lives in upstate New York with his wife (who kindly reads his first drafts), his daughter (who prefers picture books) and his cat (who is illiterate).