Marina Petrova’s stories have appeared in The Conium Review, Catapult, and the Empty Mirror. Her writing also has appeared in The Brooklyn Rail, LARB, the Late Night Library, and Sugared Water. She holds an MFA from The New School and received fellowship from The MacDowell Colony and from The Mineral School. Although she did not place in the 2018 Pinch Literary Awards, her fiction story “Monkey” was still selected for publication in issue 38.2 of The Pinch due to the quality of the piece.
Did your publication in The Pinch affect your perspective on literary competitions?
I was thrilled to find out that The Pinch was interested in publishing my story even though I didn’t win the competition. I worked on this story, on and off, for about three years, putting it aside, then going back to it. My publication in The Pinch reinforced my, at times faltering, belief that it pays off to keep revising and submitting, to literary competitions and in general.
Who are you reading right now?
I’m reading Ties by Domenico Starnone. I’ve read that this book is a response to Elena Ferrante’s novel Days of Abandonment or that Starnone could actually be Ferrante. I don’t know if I believe the latter. But the two novels do seem to be closely connected, telling the same devastating story of a marriage from different points of view. It was impossible for me to read Starnone and not think that the characters in Ties were the same characters I read about in Days of Abandonment. The translation by Jhumpa Lahiri is stunning, the language is vivid and economical, no word is wasted and every word is in its right place.
Tell us about something pinchy (weird / cool) that's happened recently in your life!
This past September, I was lucky to spend three weeks at the MacDowell Colony. It was cool because I had whole days, uninterrupted, to focus on my writing. I met many talented, generous, and fun people I still keep in touch with. And I could sit, for hours, in a library in the woods with large glass windows, looking into the forest watching the weather change. In our regular lives, when do we have time to watch the weather change? It was weird to be away from all my daily responsibilities. It was like I was at a summer camp for grownups, where all my needs were taken care of, and I was given physical and mental space to write, read, think, and learn.
What advice would you give a first time contest submitter?
My advice would not be very original: edit and proofread. Read the work out loud to yourself -- it often helps me catch typos or sentences that sound off key. It also helps me tremendously to have other writer friends read my work. I may not always agree with their suggestions on how to fix parts where they see issues. But I find that the parts they point to consistently tend to be the parts where issues exist. When in doubt whether to keep something or cut, generally, go with cut.
What are you writing about these days?
I’m currently working on a few other stories, with a fair amount of weirdness, hoping one day to turn them into a collection.