Staff Profile: Patrick Carey

By Lauren Furman


Patrick Carey is a second-year MFA candidate in fiction at Colorado State University. In his first year he started as an editorial assistant at the Center for Literary Publishing, and now, after three semesters, he’s an associate editor. His work at the CLP involves reading fiction submissions for Colorado Review and the Nelligan Prize for Short Fiction. When he’s not reading, he also takes on other editorial tasks such as copyediting and proofreading. Most recently he worked as the typesetter for Cynthia Parker-Ohene’s Daughters of Harriet, the twentieth title in the Mountain/West Poetry Series.

Hailing from the Midwest, Patrick grew up in and spent most of his life around Chicago. He ventured to the East Coast, completing his bachelor’s at Brown, before coming out West for his MFA. The sincere and supportive community of writers at CSU drew him to Colorado.

Assistant managing editor and editorial assistant Lauren Furman talked with Patrick recently to find out a little more about the writer’s life and what it’s like to work at the Center for Literary Publishing and Colorado Review.

LF: What has surprised you most about working for a literary journal like Colorado Review?

PC: It’s hard not to make this sound trite, but every time I come to the CLP I’m reminded of how many people actually still care about reading and writing. Outside of this MFA program, I know only a handful of people who love to read and very few who write. For me at least, in the four years between college and graduate school, caring about fiction that wasn’t tied to a TV or movie adaptation started to feel like being stranded on an island.

Literary journals like Colorado Review are the perfect counterpoint to the fear that nobody cares or that literature has somehow been left in the past. Reading hundreds of Colorado Review submissions has given me confidence about literature’s relevance that will stick with me long after I’ve left my MFA—when I’m out there in the world attempting to write.

It’s also been surprising to see how much of our work at the CLP starts out independent but quickly becomes collaborative. We’re always getting pulled into projects to fill various roles, whether we’re working on another issue of Colorado Review or a new book publication, which adds a lot of variety to the work day.

Lauren Furman: Could you tell us more about your experience typesetting at the CLP? 

Patrick Carey: Halfway through my second semester at the CLP, I had the opportunity to typeset Cynthia Parker-Ohene’s new book of poetry, Daughters of Harriet. I was excited to try something new (I had to look up typesetting to make sure I knew exactly what it was). With quite a bit of help, I learned how to use Adobe InDesign. Little by little I dug into the nuances and started to see how typesetting requires you to make constant small but important aesthetic decisions. With poetry, given its heightened sensitivity to layout, the decisions can be difficult. For example, Parker-Ohene’s line breaks and white space are essential to her poems’ unique, history-spanning voices and the way those voices recur throughout the collection. I spent a lot of time trying not to get in between the reader and the world she’d built.

Unfortunately, because a manuscript and a book usually have different trim sizes, it’s inevitable that there’ll need to be some negotiations. What looked perfect on Microsoft Word didn’t always fit within our print format. This ended up being the most instructive part for me—participating in a month-long collaboration with the poet, our editor Stephanie G’Schwind, and some coworkers here at the CLP (who did a great job copyediting and proofreading). All this back-and-forth showed me how much work is still required of an author after a book is accepted by a publisher. It also taught me how much respect is necessary between the author and their editor—how their shared artistic vision has to shift constantly.

LF: How has your work at the CLP affected your own writing?

PC: By gaining a better sense of trends across our fiction submissions, I’ve become more alert to patterns in my own writing. How am I representing a certain group of people? What type of dialogue serves which type of scene? It’s one thing to read famous, widely published writers and sit there either loving their work or wondering why everyone likes it, but it’s another (maybe more instructive) thing to read writers who are mostly still at the stage of putting their work out there.

I’ve also gained a better sense of story structures that might serve a particular story well, whether they dwell on a single day, move restlessly between scene and backstory, use a different POV for each section, and so on. I knew all of these could work, but in reading a bunch of Colorado Review submissions, I’ve started to appreciate the need to match form with story.

LF: Give us a little insight into your writing. What are you working on? What do you aspire toward?

PC: I’ve spent my time at CSU writing short stories. They usually focus on place, and I often find myself writing about small(ish) communities, like neighborhoods, offices, or church congregations. I’m interested in all the weird, mostly unspoken connections that form between people when they’re brought together.

Most of these stories happen in Chicago, in Ireland (I’ve been learning a bit of Irish history because of my family background), or some unnamed landscape that’s just similar enough to a real-life place that it’ll bother readers who really want to know.

I would like to write a novel, though. So I aspire to have an idea that lasts me more than twenty pages.

LF: Favorite book?

PC: From the past year? Benjamín Labatut’s When We Cease to Understand the World. Ever? I don’t know, probably something cheery and super unique like Crime and Punishment. And I know they became such a big deal that it’s lame to mention them, but the My Struggle [Karl Ove Knausgård] books were really important to me in terms of opening up possibilities for my own writing.

Lauren Furman is the assistant managing editor of Colorado Review and a first-year MFA candidate in fiction at Colorado State University.