This Week’s Reader: Willie Davis


Willie Davis is the winner of the Willesden Herald International Short story prize (judged by Zadie Smith) and the Katherine Anne Porter Prize (judged by Amy Hempel). His fiction has appeared in The Guardian, The Kenyon Review, Urbanite Magazine, At Length, Body, and The Berkeley Fiction Review among other places. He is a current fellow of The Kentucky Arts Council and a former recipient of a waiter scholarship from The Bread Loaf Writers Conference. He has taught English and Creative Writing at The University of Maryland and Kentucky State University.

Deal breakers:

The problem with literary rules is that as soon as you think of one, you can think of an even better counterexample. I don’t particularly like stories written in dialect, but it doesn’t seem to hurt William Faulkner or Flannery O’Connor. Even the broadest tips I can give (e.g. “Don’t write when you’re too drunk to make sense”, or “Don’t commit suicide until you’ve finished writing”) have been broken by wonderful writers. So write what you want and don’t apologize for it.

That being said, these are my preferences:

1. If I can only enjoy your story if I agree with your politics, then I probably won’t enjoy your story no matter what your politics are.

2. I don’t want to pity your characters. If you look down on them, it’ll be hard for me to feel very much at all.

3. Just because something happened to you doesn’t make it interesting.

4. Realistic dialogue is great. Interesting dialogue is much better.

5. None of these rules are binding. Always write what you want.

A story of Willie’s:
“No More Chatter”

A story Willie likes a lot:
“Stalking Nicole” by Tom Earles

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1 Response to This Week’s Reader: Willie Davis

  1. Suzanne Kehm says:

    Just finished Willie Davis’ story, “No More Chatter,” in “At Length” magazine. It was original and inventive and surprising and fun and sad and wonderful. It reminded me of life. Thanks, Willie, for taking the time and love and energy to write it. Thanks to everybody who’s supporting you and giving you the confidence it takes to write what you want.

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