Christine Borne is a writer, editor, and recipient of the 2012 Creative Workforce Fellowship in Literature. Christine earned a B.A. in English from Cleveland State University in 2000 and a Master’s Degree in Library and Information Science from Kent State University in 2002. She has worked for numerous Cleveland cultural institutions including the Shaker Heights Library, the Cleveland Museum of Art, the Western Reserve Historical Society, the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame and Museum’s new Library and Archives, and Loganberry Books. In July 2011 Christine attended the Tin House Summer Writers’ Conference where she workshopped an excerpt from her novel Rust World Problems. Christine has lived in Montana, New Jersey and New York, and currently resides in Cleveland with her husband, James Nickras. She enjoys drinking sherry, watching Columbo, and listening to Hüsker Dü, and is currently working on a YA novel about Krampus.
Iulian: Give us a little bit of background on Christine Borne. How/where did you grow up, what was your upbringing and were there any particular influences in your life, especially ones that steered you towards your current self?
Christine: That’s a big can of worms! Let’s see. I grew up in a small house on a busy streetcorner in an inner-ring suburb of Cleveland in the middle of the Rust Belt era. That’s pretty much what set this ball of neuroses rolling.
How did you get involved into writing? Give us summary of your path.
I was writing as early as I can remember—from age four or five, I was obsessed with my mom’s electric typewriter. As a kid I was a prolific writer of fan fiction. There was no Internet so I had no idea that fan fiction was a thing, of course. I still have notebooks full of Doctor Who and Red Dwarf and Blake’s 7 scripts written in junior high. Actually I lost that compulsion to write in high school and ever since, writing has been like pulling teeth—I think it’s because I kept forcing myself to try and write long fiction and never really considered the fact that what I really like doing was dramatic writing.
In 2012 you have received the Creative Workforce Fellowship in Literature. How did this came to be and what did it mean for your and your career?
The Creative Workforce Fellowship was a program of Cuyahoga Arts and Culture, which (I believe still) is the third largest public arts grantmaking agency in the United States, after the states of New York and Minnesota. I say “was” because the program in on hiatus right now, which, if I might be frank, completely sucks because $20,000, no-strings-attached arts grants are pretty hard to come by. I owe a lot to this fellowship because I would never have rediscovered my interest in dramatic writing without it—I spent the year trying to bang out this terrible satirical novel which was really just a catalogue of people who had wronged me, but through the program I met my current writing partner, Justin Glanville, and we sort of bonded over our mutual love of television. We ended up using the last vestiges of our fellowship money to take a TV writing class through Mediabistro, after which we were a little befuddled, like “what are we going to do now? Move to LA?” Well that’s not in the cards for me at least because the two things I hate most are a) driving and b) the sun, so we took our idea and developed it into a dramatic podcast series, which we’re now recording with a full cast at Cleveland Public Theatre. I don’t know what it was, but we felt sure that podcasts were about to blow up as an art form, and apparently they are.
What do you consider to be the defining moment in your writing career, the moment when you knew this is what you will do for the rest of your life?
I definitely haven’t had that moment, as I’ve spent most of my adult life avoiding writing. It’s taken me a long time, actually, to realize that I want to write but I also want to do other things. I am a writer but I am other things too.
In the past, you’ve worked as a librarian and independent book seller. It seems like you’ve lived most of your life around books. What other things have you done, or are currently doing?
Well I’ve recently gone back to school because I want to do a master’s degree in linguistics, which was my first love, intellectually. I’m not sure how I ended up in library school, honestly. I was a terrible librarian. I loved selling books, though. The bookstore I worked in, Loganberry Books, is like the bookstore you picture dying and going to; it’s got library ladders and Persian rugs and secret nooks and a bookstore cat (his name is Otis). Seriously, if I had a nickel for every New Yorker that ever walked in through the front door and said “we don’t have things like this in New York anymore…” Right now I’m winding up to do another long distance move and do some more traveling. I’d like to rent a cottage in the Shetlands for a month or two and finish one of my half-finished novels, maybe, just to say I did. Just for me.
In our issue #5, we’ve included your story “Tempest Fugit.” Tell us a bit about it. How did it come to be? What does it mean to you?
“Tempest Fugit” was one of those stories that came to me fully formed in a dream. It’s actually an older story—I wrote it in 2009, when I was freshly laid off from the local historical society and kind of in a tailspin—we’d just moved back to Cleveland from New York, which I had misgivings about, because I liked New York an awful lot even though I had this terrible guilt about Cleveland, about how all the educated people were moving away and it was dying, etc. I think I spent that entire summer in the basement reading Neil Gaiman and Lisa Goldstein and every ghost story anthology I could get my hands on. I guess I felt like a ghost, in a way. I felt like there was just no use for me here. Anyway, the story is about a sea captain and his men who died in a battle hundreds of years prior, who are just hanging around the place they knew best in life—a cliffside brothel. The captain’s men are starting to disappear, though, as the city they fought for declines once again. Because whatever change you work for in life is never really permanent.
Do you have any works in progress? If so, can you tell us something about it?
Yes! As I mentioned before, my writing partner and I are working on an 11-episode dramatic podcast series called “Munchen, Minnesota,” which a friend has generously been describing to people as “Buffy meets Lake Wobegon.” It’s about a broken down old textile mill town in the Upper Midwest that’s got a problem with, let’s say, an infestation of supernatural critters. The heroes are a geeky teenage taxidermist, her gay librarian father, and an ambitious city planner who’s just transferred from the East Coast. We’ve got an incredible set of actors lined up—working with actors is a particular joy that I wish I would’ve discovered a lot sooner.
You have to learn to recognize what advice works for you, and what never will. Getting up an hour earlier every day is just never going to work for me, and if it means I work more slowly on something, that’s just how the cookie crumbles. You also have to recognize your limitations and learn to work with them rather than berate yourself for being the way you are. Also, you have to figure out how long you should spend on something. You’ll reach a point where you need someone else to get excited about your work, because you’ve gone over it so many times that you’re completely not excited about it anymore yourself. But the thing is, once you’re at that point, the work is probably pretty good, and then someone else (an editor, an agent, etc.) is (hopefully) going to run with it and reenergize you.
What’s next for you? Is there anything else you’d like to add?
Well, Justin and I are doing a presentation at the AWP conference in Minneapolis this spring on dramatic writing for podcasts, so we hope people attend (it’s on Saturday, April 11, at noon). I’ve still got a few half-finished novels lingering. Otherwise, that’s about it. Thanks for having me!
And thank you, Christine, for participating!
Stories by Christine Borne:
• Tempest Fugit
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