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A Discussion With Our Third Winner: Sebastian Soare 

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The Mash Stories Competition is now graced with three winning authors. It’s striking how different each story is in genre, style, and subject, and yet the Mash jury saw something singularly special in each. “The Stone in Becoming” was Sebastian Soare’s first submission to the Mash Stories Competition.

Soare’s story is brooding, poetic, and loaded with subtext. The details that describe the characters’ surroundings give the reader hints about their motivations and mental states, the language artfully woven and never unnecessarily expository.

For Soare, the making of art is a necessity equal to breathing, yet the experience itself is fraught with the inadequacy of our human ability to capture evasive truth.

Kate Kearns: To begin, tell us a bit about yourself, your background, your writing life. Have you been published anywhere?

Sebastian Soare: I was born in a little town in Romania, some seven years before the fall of communism. I’ve had quite a troubled childhood, but I wonder if the strongest memory I have from those times is not that of a dove falling through the leafy branches of a chestnut tree, then the small sound of its neck being broken and then, too soon for my own sake, laughter from the teenagers who had felled it with sling shots.

I find I have been cursed with a hypersensitivity that makes life rather painful. But it also allows me to find great joy in small things.

Kate: To what authors do you always return? What are your favorite re-reads?

Sebastian: I find I never tire of reading Borges. I used to be fascinated with Marguerite Duras when I was in high school (and secretly I still am). It was a very strange thing to find a translation on her Les yeux bleus cheveux noirs published in 1986 in such a tiny library. I can’t imagine how they’ve managed to get away with it.

Kate: Why Mash? How did our competition appeal to you?

Sebastian: I find I’m more creative when I have a prompt to start with and your three words captured my attention. I liked the site and the fact that you are notified quite quickly if your story is shortlisted. (Somewhere along the line I have run out of patience, and I find waiting paralyzing. It’s something I need to relearn.) I’ve also enjoyed the way the podcast was done.

Kate: How did you approach the three keywords while creating your story?

Sebastian: Monkey and cathedral made me think of evolutionary arc, but also of the damnation of the instinct, of the animal. I wanted to show that the animal can be a beautiful thing and that he can have access to the cathedral (love, understanding), when ‘higher’ aspects of humanity (reason, represented by the man) cannot. The child has access to the pain of the mother and tries to bring order and meaning by counting, but that fails. Unconsciously, as a self-defense mechanism, he is waiting for the stone (which is in the process of becoming) to settle, to solidify. He’s not watching the adults, his sight is turned towards the garden, the cathedral tower, towards the only place where stones are being kept ‘alive’. He knows more than his mother does, he knows the solution (which is outside words).

Kate: Your story is a scene, a conversation, in which very little “happens;” it is engaging and emotional without explaining itself, like a lyric prose poem. What does “plot” mean to you in fiction?

Sebastian: I never could separate plot from character. I like to think that when characters participate in a plot they are there entirely, with all the complex emotional and psychological world they carry within. So plot is also what happens in this interior world—and the changes that result from the interaction between characters can sometimes be very subtle and can only be alluded to.

What is important in my story is that the mother is talking about something that the child could not possibly understand and yet the connection between them is very powerful. The child goes through the experience and understands intuitively (he doesn’t need the words). The man doesn’t understand. There is no such connection between him and the woman, love is not there yet. He thinks they have been hurt in a similar way, but it is not true. He’s only looking for the comfort of turning the Other into the Same. Words do that, unfortunately, and that’s why I am trapped in this love – hate relationship with them.

Kate: Your creative interests are woven from many cloths: classical music, philosophy, art, and writing. What is the common thread that binds them for you?

Sebastian: I’ve never really thought about that. I spent twenty years in a house without a single book, and I hardly knew of the existence of classical music. Gradually, I’ve started discovering this overwhelming wealth and power of art. It started, I suppose, by me being in a tree, trying to catch radio waves with a contraption I’ve made. That’s when I first listened to a piece of classical music. And no, it wasn’t something sublime. It was hilarious and it made me laugh, it was Largo al factotum from Rossini’s The Barber of Seville. I think the common thread is probably a search for beauty, in a way, though never consciously. But mainly, yes, I have to admit this now, it’s a way of surviving.

Kate: In your bio, you mention an “ambivalent” relationship with words. While the word “ambivalent” is sometimes assumed to have a negative connotation, you disagree. You and I have had a lively exchange about what you mean, would you mind talking a bit about the complexities, and your personal metaphor of writing as caging a bird?

Sebastian: ‘Ambivalent’ can sometimes have negative connotations. For me it simply means having contradictory attitudes towards something. Even as I was writing the above answers for this interview I couldn’t stop noticing how untrue words are. It doesn’t (necessarily) mean that I lied, it means that what I was trying to capture in words (capture, you see? The captive bird is not the same as the free bird.) has a life of its own that is mostly beyond my grasp.

I am different from you. I’m trying to give something of myself to you, but I need to put it in a way that you can understand it, decipher it. But in this process, this ‘something’ is being changed and it ends up representing much more (on the horizontal) and much less (on the vertical) of what I was trying to give. It is tragic, but in the same time it makes literature so much richer.

Kate: What are your future goals? What should Mashers expect to see from you?

Sebastian: I’m currently working on my first novel. I wish I could write a novel or a collection of short stories that would somehow resemble Debussy’s La mer. This just came to me.

Sebastian writes both poetry and prose, and his work has appeared on VisualVerse, 1000 Words, and FlashFlood Journal. He also posts his work on his own website.

The immediacy and depth of his writing impressed the Mash Jury, and we look forward to reading his future endeavors to free the bird.

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Kate has a Master’s of Fine Arts in Creative Writing from Lesley University. She enjoys all the equipment on the writing playground, evidenced by her many simultaneous projects. She is a freelance writer and editor, author of the poetry collection How to Love an Introvert, and is working on a piece of non-fiction while dabbling in children’s books and flash fiction. She’s the Platform Manager at Mash Stories and the owner of Black Squirrel Workshop LLC.

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