Archive for March, 2012

Kristine Ong Muslim

by Rumjhum Biswas

Philippines based Kristine Ong Muslim is possibly the most prolific and consistently enjoyable writer I have come across since the first years of the twenty first century! She writes fiction, especially flash fiction, and poetry with equal élan and each genre carries her trademark tilt towards unexplored margins, a quality that brings freshness and originality to each piece. Not surprisingly the legend on her blog says: Author. Not
Cool. Nut.
  And when you learn that Kristine is a chemical engineer, who sits for nine to ten hours before a computer everyday (her own admission – http://kristinemuslim.weebly.com/8/post/2012/02/steady-glide.html !) writing and copy-writing for a British SEO company apart from her own creative writing, the legend makes sense. Though I disagree on the not cool part. And you will too, once you sample her work. Her list of publications and credits is way too long - hundreds, literally! But you can browse at leisure here and take a peek at her honours and awards list here .

Kristine’s latest book is a collection of one hundred flash stories and prose poems entitled We Bury the Landscape. To quote from the publisher’s website -  “We Bury the Landscape is an exhibition of literary art. Ekphrasis, collected. One hundred flash fictions and prose poems presented to view. From the visual to the textual, transmuting before the gallery-goer’s gaze, the shifting contours of curator Kristine Ong  Muslim’s surreal panorama delineate the unconventional, the unexpected, and the unnatural. Traversing this visionary vista’s panoply of “rooms of unfinished lives,” the reader unearths and examines and reanimates—revealing the transcendent uncanniness that subsists underfoot.” The book can be purchased from Amazon .

 

Rumjhum Biswas:  You are one of the most prolific writers on the net. How do you manage to write so much and where do you find your inspirations?

Kristine Ong Muslim: Writing is the only thing that I’m really passionate about. It’s wonderful to wake up in the morning and to always feel feverish to write because of the swarm of new ideas in my head – unfortunately, not all of them are publishable. I really don’t know where that energy comes from. I think it’s because I read a lot.

RB: Tell us a bit about your writing life.

KOM: I wrote many poems and many flash fiction pieces; hundreds of them ended up in fine magazines online and in print. Many are collected in book form. A flash fiction collection, We Bury the Landscape, is forthcoming in April. Another forthcoming length poetry collection is Grim Series. I also have several print chapbooks from the small presses.

As for my writing routine, nowadays I write almost every day. When I was still working in the city (I moved back to my rural hometown), I wrote during the weekends. These days, since I’ve managed to get a telecommuting arrangement with an employer, my writing hours have grown more rigid and more organized than before. I force myself to finish the day job responsibilities in the morning or early in the afternoon so that I can get more hours writing after that.

When I write, I need coffee. Something black and something very strong. Then it’s tea all the way. I will probably bleed tea if a surgeon opens me up. My writing desk has a conducive set up for writing – just a laptop and an all-in-one Epson, the one that can print, scan, etc. I face a large
tinted glass window. It looks out to a big yard with trees and vehicles. Here’s the picture of my writing space. I can’t think if I’m facing a wall. The window is my primary writing tool. And there’s no paper. As a matter of fact, I avoid using paper. I write with a working theme in mind, a theme that can sustain a  book-length manuscript, otherwise I will lose interest after a few days.

RB: When did you  start writing? Did anyone inspire you?

KOM: I’ve been  writing since high school. Of course, those writings were not publishable. I  can’t remember if he got me inspired or not, but I’m always in love with Ray  Bradbury’s stories. There were days I remembered daydreaming in high school  while classes were ongoing. I day dreamed Bradbury’s Technicolor nostalgia. If  I need to pinpoint an inspiration, I believe it’s Bradbury.

RB: You write  mostly flash and poetry. Is there a correlation between the two? In your case  do you start off with a poem and then find it’s turned into flash? When do you  know that an idea is flash and not a poem, and vice versa?

KOM: If an idea  does not read well when I cut it up into lines, then the best form for it is a  prose poem. The case of a poem turning into flash hasn’t happened to me yet,  but it’s an interesting premise. I am curious as to how the product will turn  out to be. Whether an idea is best presented as a poem or as a flash fiction  piece is instinctive, I guess.

RB: Did you  consciously take to flash? If so why?

KOM: Last year,  yes, I did consciously take to writing nothing but flash fiction for We Bury  the Landscape. I can’t mix genres. That’s the problem. I’m not flexible enough  to write poetry today, then a story the next day. My writing process is this:  take months writing poetry, then go to prose. That is why I have to produce  material in bulk. I will lose momentum if I begin writing in another genre, so  I maximize my output. I published almost a thousand poems for the past few  years. Last year, I wrote all flash fiction. This year, I will write nothing  but short fiction for a book project. The nuances of plotting, the subtleties  of character development – those are skills that I have yet to learn after  concentrating on years and years of poetry. The next year will probably be  devoted to something more ambitious and dense, like a novel.

RB:  You are one of the longest running writers on  the Internet. Can you tell us a bit about those early days, pre 2005?

KOM: Those were  the years when I didn’t know better. I’ve had some nice stints in 2004 with  Star*Line, Dreams and Nightmares, and Electric Velocipede. Many publishers began to welcome online submissions during the early 2000s, and those opened  doors for foreign writers like me. Those were the days when the amount of  rejection slips I got was sufficient to part the Red Sea.  I’m learning, and I still do right now. Pre-2005 was a time of gaining foothold  and finding a voice.

RB: Do you have a  favourite genre for flash fiction? Tell us about it.

KOM: It’s not  much of a genre, but I’m drawn to original takes on apocalyptic themes. My  first flash fiction hero is Bruce Holland Rogers.

RB: When you read  flash fiction what do you enjoy most? What grabs you?

KOM: It’s always  the first line. That’s my weakness. In this excellent story by Stephen Ramey,  the first line alone does it for me. For me, a flash fiction writer doesn’t  have plenty of room to wiggle around if the first line (or first two sentences)  does not deliver.

RB: Please tell  us about “We Bury the Landscape,” your collection of 100 mini-stories  about different paintings. It’s not often that one comes across an entire  collection of flash pieces inspired by paintings.

KOM: Want to say  that the book is more than that – that it’s more than 100 little stories about  100 different paintings – but I can’t. That’s what the book really is at the  core. But how I enjoyed writing that manuscript, staring at those paintings on  the corner of the computer screen while I type up something on the other half  of the screen.  The book is not for  everybody. Some will see it as an exercise in exploiting artworks to extract
stories from them. Some will see that I brought something bigger anymore  intricate than the artworks themselves. The readers I will touch with that  book, they will never come in droves. They will be small in number. But they  will get my little stories. They will see my point. I met one of them this  morning. She’s a book blogger who will review my book. She emailed me about it,  and it was the kindest gesture I’ve gotten from a stranger. She said that she  had been given a whole new way to look at art. That, for me, is very  satisfying. The logistics of selling it to publishers is daunting, and more so  with gaining a readership for it.

Kristine Ong Muslim

RB: What mistakes  do you think writers make when writing flash?

KOM: This is just  a matter of personal taste, but these days, I get turned off by pop culture allusions. I believe that they must be used only when necessary in flash  fiction. The word count is too precious to include terms that will turn the  piece dated at some point in the future. I’m guilty of this in my early stories.

RB: Have you ever  been a member of a writing community or group? Any mentor?

KOM: There is no  writing group or a mentor. I never attended anything that resembled a writing  class except for a basic English course that everybody was required to pass in  college. I might have turned out differently if I had one of those.

RB:  Which was your very first flash fiction? Tell  us about that first experience. (If it was published, do provide the link)

KOM: My very  first piece of flash was “Carnage & Co.” It was published by the long  defunct From the Asylum. I can’t forget that little thing. I got paid a few  dollars for it, and I thought it was too clever. It was the best I could do at  that time. It is reprinted here.

RB: Tell us about  your other interests, (other than writing).

KOM: I’m a homely  sort, so my other interests are cooking (it doesn’t mean that I’m a good cook),  watching cooking shows (I have a crush on Mario Batali), and gardening (but I haven’t been doing it these days because I’ve got no time).

RB: Do you have  bad writing days, like most of us have bad hair days? :)

KOM: Oh, yes.  Whenever I write so much, then I wake up the next day to reread what I’ve  written, and it sounds to me like the remnants of diary entries by an  angst-ridden teenager. My bad writing days consist of wasted time pursuing a  material that I’ll be too embarrassed to publish because it simply has nothing to offer.

 

Rumjhum Biswas lives and writes in Chennai, India Her writing blog is at Writers & Writerism. Her fiction and poetry have been published all over the world.

By Michelle Reale

Michelle Reale:Tell me a bit about your evolution as a flash fiction writer.

Tara Laskowski:I’ve always written on the shorter side anyway, but I don’t think I would’ve necessarily called it flash fiction at the time. I took a prose poem class during my MFA years, and that was probably a turning point. I realized I could write very very tiny stories as poems, and I loved working with language in that way. Even so, it wasn’t until I won the SmokeLong Kathy Fish fellowship in 2009 that I really became aware in a big way of all the wonderful forms of flash fiction out there. After that, I couldn’t really turn back. I just love it.

Michelle: What are some common misconceptions about flash fiction?

Tara:I think the number one misconception is that it’s easy to write because it’s short. I also think people don’t think flash fiction is as “important” as a traditional length short story.

Michelle:You are a senior editor at Smokelong Quarterly—-one of my all time favorite publications.   Has the experience made you a better writer?

Tara:A million times yes. Winning the Kathy Fish fellow was probably the best thing that happened to me so far as a writer. For a year, I got to work with Randall Brown and Dave Clapper and Beth Thomas and have them workshop my flash. That was amazing. And then after my fellowship, it was so great to continue to work with the publication and now to be the senior editor! How cool is that? I feel so very lucky to be a part of one of the best online literary magazines out there. That reputation was there before I was a part of it, but it’s so amazing to continue to publish excellent stories and (hopefully) keep up that reputation. I just love our staff so much, and everyone works “for free” and with spare time they don’t have, and I am grateful for all that they do. We are fortunate as well that we get so many great submissions from a wide variety of writers. It is truly a blessing.

Michelle:Describe a failed piece of flash fiction.

Tara:Oh dear. I don’t know. There are many ways something just doesn’t work. I think being boring is a big mistake. Or cliche. I also hate flashes that have a “trick” ending. Ugh.

Michelle:And a successful one?

Tara:A unique, beautiful command of language. Creating real characters. Having an intriguing conflict. Something we’ve never seen before–a surprise. I’m always amazed at the different kinds of stories that strike me. I never really know how to articulate what I’m looking for, but when I read something that I LOVE, it’s like I have to accept it right then and there because I’m afraid someone else will get it first. That’s what I’m looking for.

Michelle:You are such a playful writer—as a point of comparison—I am not, but always wanted to be.  For instance, two pieces stand out—Ode to the Double Crossed Lackey in Thunderball and “The Hamster”—how do pieces like this begin in your head?

Tara:Thanks! Those were fun stories to write. The hamster story actually happened to a friend of mine, so that’s where that idea came from. I have no idea where the Thunderball idea came from. We watched that movie and I kept thinking of that poor guy in it, and then decided to play around with it and write about him. I was so excited when Barrelhouse took that story because it was so perfect for them and they are such cool guys that I wanted to feel cool, too. Ha ha.

Michelle:Now that your unbelievably precious baby boy Dashiell has come onto the scene, no doubt your writing process has changed.  But has the urgency, as well, changed?  Tell me about this.

Tara:Dashiell is so cool. He is certainly a distraction, but I think that’s ok. It’s harder to find time to write, but I actually think it’s been not as bad as I thought it was going to be. First of all, my husband and I were very determined to keep writing after the baby. (It helps that he’s a writer, too, so he understands the importance of that.) I managed, somehow, during maternity leave, to finish up a collection of stories I’ve been writing for several years now, write a piece for an upcoming anthology, and draft a few other flashes. I consider that a success!!!

Michelle:I know you are working on a novel.   How do you shift gears from writing flash fiction to writing the long form—personally, I find it difficult to sustain concentration in anything longer than 1000 words.

Tara:Me too! That’s why my novel is currently suffering from severe depression and neglect. But that’s mostly because I’ve been focusing on finishing up this collection of stories–”etiquette” stories about things Emily Post would never write about. I’ve been way more interested in that then in my poor novel. But someday!

Michelle:Who are some of your favorite flash fiction writers?

Tara:There are so many! But what comes to mind first–Kathy Fish, Randall Brown, Sherrie Flick, J.A. Tyler, Jen Michalski, Amber Sparks, Matt Bell.

Michelle:Give some good old Tara Laskowski advice to flash fiction writers—be bold, be brutal

Tara:Um, you already gave it: Be Bold. Be Brutal. That’s excellent advice!

Michelle:Time for my flash challenge! Write a 200-word piece using these words: cowboy, guest, circular, potatoes, fingernails, blossoms, dry, invisible.

Tara:The cowboy showed up late, carrying a sack of potatoes and some ice cream. Someone said he was a guest from out of town, somewhere exotic like Houston. We were intrigued by his purple hat and the way he dug his fingernails into his palms. Nervous, Jenna said. She liked his vulnerability. She’d dressed like a flower girl, scattering blossoms from her basket and winking at the group of construction workers in the corner. I’d gone cute rather than sexy, a lone member of a sleepover with pigtails, a bowl of popcorn, and a DVD of Dirty Dancing–a costume, I realized, that rendered me invisible among all the slutty witches and kitten cats.

I met the cowboy in the kitchen. He’d put his potatoes on the counter and was explaining to a slutty vampire what it felt like to have your penis  pierced. There was much hand-gesturing, circular motions that made me dizzy. He grabbed some of my popcorn and tossed it in his mouth. Like, imagine pressing a thumbtack in your eye, he said, and winked at me. The vampire moved closer. Her lips were dry, flaked, under all that red paint. Why potatoes, I asked. So I can keep my eyes on you, he said.

In the end he went with the vampire. Jenna said it was the three-inch heels and the fake fangs. At home, alone, I finished my popcorn and sliced a Yukon gold in half. Sank my teeth into it, sucked and sucked, but nothing much came out.

Michelle:  Brilliant.  Thanks, Tara!

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Tara Laskowski is the senior editor for SmokeLong Quarterly , an online flash-fiction literary journal. Her short story manuscript, Black Diamond City, won the 2010 Santa Fe Writers Project Literary Awards Series. She has had numerous stories published online and in print.  Tara is originally from Pennsylvania and now lives in Northern Virginia with her husband, mystery writer and book reviewer Art Taylor and their 3 month old son, Dashiell. You can keep up with her blog, Writing and Whatnot, here.

by Erin Entrada Kelly

When you’re immersed in a slush pile and a story fails within three paragraphs, there’s no need to sit on the fence and consider its rank and file on the subjective scale used for rejections and acceptances.

Unfortunately, most of the slush isn’t that easy.

The majority of stories fall on the fence and sit there, waiting for a fiction editor to nudge it one direction or the other. Where to nudge isn’t always an easy task, considering acceptance rates are typically around 2 percent and there isn’t room for everybody—nor should there be.

When I’m dredging through the slush piles, the stories that defeat the no-nudge and get pushed in the direction of YES are those that succeed where the vast majority of fence pieces fail: Originality.

There’s a school of thought that there is no such thing as original fiction anymore. People argue that fiction—specifically, genre fiction—has fallen victim to its own formulas and has sucked the life force out of any new thoughts or ideas. Experimental writers who believe they have come up with something new blame the market’s taste for conformity when their work fails and to some extent, especially for novelists, that may be true. But short fiction and flash fiction are other beasts entirely. It is in the shorter masterpieces that writers are truly able to stretch their creative wings and find publication.

Why, then, do so many writers fail to be original?

  • They see originality as the technique of a piece, rather than a quality of it. Being original doesn’t mean utilizing strange or quirky punctuation, printing on all sides of the paper a la House of Leaves, or using unusual fonts. In some cases that approach may work, but in many cases it fails because the writer doesn’t understand that originality has to live deeper within the manuscript—in its depths, as a quality of the work, not as a gimmick.
  • On the surface, life stories lend themselves to conformity. You can pick up most any traditional slush pile and find a story about cancer. Death. Love. These things have touched the lives of just about every person on Earth in one way or another, so it’s no surprise that more than one person wants to write about it. Unfortunately, many writers fail to see that the power in the story isn’t the cancer. The power of the story is in the characters. I’ve read dozens of well-written cancer stories where husband and wife are in the living room or the dining room, moving through fairly solid but uninspiring dialogue about the future. Nice and touching, okay. But the story that will truly resonate is the one that happens outside of the house or the doctor’s office. It’s the story that sneaks up on you because you are in a new setting, with new and interesting characters and you don’t know what to expect, even though cancer has been written about in thousands of stories before this one.
  • The characters aren’t original enough. Human beings have everything and nothing in common all at once. The reason we resonate with characters in life and fiction is because we can relate to them, but at the same rate, we are all eccentric individuals—even the most “normal” of us all. You can write about John Everyman, but we need to know what makes this John Everyman different from the others living in the slush pile.

It’s hard enough to get published. It’s even harder when you’re one of five stories that week that have the same setting and the same concept. Reading slush piles makes me a better writer because it teaches me a very important lesson: No matter how clever I think I am, there are other writers just as clever, and more so.

To stand out, you can’t blend in.

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Erin Entrada Kelly is staff editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Her fiction has been published widely in places like Keyhole Magazine, Monkeybicycle and the Kyoto Journal. She was short-listed for the Eric Hoffer National Fiction Prize and the Philippines Free Press Literary Award for Short Fiction. She currently has two novels under representation with the Jenks Agency and works as a freelance fiction editor, as well as assistant editor of Thrive Magazine. Read more at www.erinentradakelly.com.

by Aaron PolsonAaron Polson

Many writers express a love/hate relationship with marketing. Smarter people than me have said anonymity is an author’s worst enemy. I agree. (While shaking my fist at anonymity.)
Wearing someone else’s mask serves as the field marshall of that worst enemy – that anonymity. Here’s what I mean: too many authors, especially indies, are chasing the same brass ring and stomping the same path to get there.
Just because something works for an indie juggernaut like J.A. Konrath or John Locke or Amanda Hocking or (insert name here), doesn’t mean it will work for me. In fact, I’m likely to fail outrageously if I try to be someone I’m not.Readers appreciate a good experience more than anything. A good experience starts with a good, solid story.
My twitter feed is choked with authors saying basically the same thing about their books. Discussion boards are full of the same chatter. Everyone does a blog tour–and while this is a valid way to reach new readers, a blog tour should really try to bring something new and unique to the table. Introduce yourself, but be yourself. Whatever marketing you choose, please, please be you. Be yourself. Make it yours.

In the end, if I’m selling me, I can only sell the “me” I am. If I try to borrow a mask from someone else, it’s going to look false. I work with teenagers all day. They’re good at sniffing bullshit. So are readers.

Am I a marketing genius? My bank account would say no. Hell no. But I’m not going to get to the Emerald City on a borrowed yellow brick road.

(My path goes a bit wonky through the darkest part of the woods. But I hear there’s a secret there, and perhaps I may find it.)

This is a reprint from Aaron Polson’s blog, Writer of Digital Pulp & Fantastic Lies, first run on 2/28/2012.

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Aaron Polson currently lives in Lawrence, Kansas with his wife, two sons, and a tattooed rabbit.  To pay the bills, Aaron attempts to teach high school students the difference between irony and coincidence.  His stories have featured magic goldfish, monstrous beetles, and a book of lullabies for baby vampires.  The Saints are Dead, a collection of weird fiction, dark magical realism, and the kitchen sink, is due from Aqueous Press in 2011.  You can visit Aaron and learn about his writing on the web at http://aaronpolson.blogspot.com.

 Christopher Allenby Gay Degani

Christopher Allen splits his time between the UK and Germany, where he teaches business English and shovels quite a bit of snow.  His fiction and creative non-fiction have appeared in numerous places both online and in print.  In 2011, he was a finalist at Glimmer Train and a Pushcart nominee.  He blogs about his obsessive travel tic at I Must Be Off!

Flash Fiction Chronicles:  Christopher Allen!! We have to talk. After reading over 150 short short stories for Flash Fiction Chronicles String-of-10 Flash Fiction Contest and another thirty-one for the Micro Award, I thought of you. Decided we have to discuss how to write unexpected fiction. That’s what you do brilliantly. Nothing is ever quite down to earth in your work and yet somehow it still carries an impact.

I’ve gone back and read three of your stories, all of which seem to me to be like “magical realism.” If you had to categorize what you write, what would you call it and why?

Christopher Allen: Thank you for inviting me to talk about what I do. What would I call it? First, I’m not sure everything I do would squeeze neatly into one aesthetic or one literary style. There are elements of magical realism in “The Shoes, the Girl and the Waves that Washed Them Away” (Blue Fifth Review) and “Husk of Hare” (Referential Magazine), but I’d rather be called an absurdist or a surrealist if we’re calling me names.

If I look for rules in my writing, I keep coming back to surrealism and absurdism for which my interest began several years ago when I was learning about dramatic writing. I was shocked to discover I’d been an absurdist for years. My characters never wanted to learn anything (and I thought they were just bitchy). Literary surrealism was new to me. The importance of true surrealist writing—as opposed to merely writing weird—is it allows me to find the hidden stories in myself. The happy by-product is what you’ve called “unexpected fiction”—and I like this term very much.

FFC: I hadn’t thought about surrealism and absurdism. Not because those labels don’t fit, but because what you do is so unique. I am at a loss as to how to label it. What I do know is that your work offers one of the elements crucial to good fiction and that is surprise. Surprise can be anything, but it’s not that easy to do. Your stories seem to flow organically from some little faucet in your heart (soul, right side of your brain?) without any prompting. Is that true? Can you tell us a little about your process?

CA: I love talking about the process of writing. Twenty years ago when I taught freshman composition, I once challenged my students to draw “the writing process” on the board. Their drawings were so orderly and linear. That’s not my process at all. I revise and revise and revise my revisions. My writing process looks more like a Jackson Pollock painting than a flowchart.

Pru in the Dimple of the Broad-Smiling Boy” (Gone Lawn) happened so slowly. It began with the idea of a character who lived in a hollow . . . or a dimple. For weeks I had nothing more, but the idea never left. Then one day, Pru arrived to inhabit the story, and the dimple became the dimple of a young boy. I hadn’t written a single word at this point. Once the setting and the characters were there, I began writing. The narrative happened in solid squares. As soon as Pru began leading me through the story, I knew I was writing a story about The Soul trying to connect to her little boy, and I knew the story would have to come from that surreal faucet you mentioned.

“Husk of Hare” happened in a completely different way. Loosely, the story grew from a prompt. After some research into Cornish legend, I developed a fairy tale based on the three parts of a conventional story: exposition, conflict, resolution. From the beginning I was planning to include the recipe at the end. The story is a didactic, satirical fairy tale—a warning to little girls not to get mixed up with little boys who are like their cheating, womanizing fathers. I wrote the story on a treadmill in a Berlin gym, and I heard it entirely in the voice of writer, Marcus Speh.

I could talk for days about the process. Everyone has his/her own writing rhythms, but it’s important not to let a rhythm become a rut. I think it’s important to grab the sparks when they fly.

FFC: “It’s important to grab the sparks when they fly.” This is a difficult “rule” for some writers to follow. I guess it’s not a rule, but I think it should be. Especially for newer writers who aren’t confident with their skills. It was hard for me to learn this. If you procrastinate when you have an idea, that idea often—too often—dissipates. What other advice would you pass along to virgin scribblers?

CA: I have slips of paper lying around everywhere with my jotted, scribbled one-liners, titles and ideas about plot and characterization. Every time I think I’ll remember these ideas, I prove myself wrong. I used to think if the idea was good I’d remember it later; now, after losing some really good ideas, I know even great sparks dissipate, as you say.

I have a pile of ideas for the main character of a novel I haven’t written yet. When I finally get around to her, she’ll have an extraordinary wealth of language all her own. There are three other piles of notes for projects in various revision stages. My advice to someone starting to accumulate piles of notes: tell your partner she or he will lose a limb if they try to “clean” your desk. No one messes with my “Ordnung.”

Sometimes the notes lie neglected for weeks, and sometimes I have a problem figuring out what I scribbled and why it meant something to me at all. That’s why it’s important to give yourself more than a couple of messy words on a scrap of paper. Take a few minutes and write yourself something that you’ll understand three weeks later. I started two stories on the plane home last night, so I’m going to my notebook now to see if any of it makes sense.

FFC: When I requested an interview, I asked you to send me three stories to read/reread. Are these your favorites? If so, why do you feel a kinship to them in particular? What do they say about you?

CA: Oh my Lord. This is such a LARGE question. First, these three stories say I’m open to anything my subconscious decides to deliver. When writers whom I respect tell me these stories are “unique,” I take a deep breath and hope they don’t mean opaque.

“The Shoes, the Girl and the Waves that Washed Them Away” was a prompt from Riley Michael Parker. He’s drawn a few WILD stories from me. I love the story. I LOVE the fact that this character takes all her bad decisions to a place she can’t pronounce and loses them. Of course this says a lot about me. Wouldn’t we all love to lose our bad decisions?

“Pru in the Dimple of the Broad-Smiling Boy” is a fairy tale. Fairy tales are didactic—very much like Biblical parables. I love the Biblical, satirical slant of the morality play. Poor Pru. The Soul trying to connect to its little boy. She’s definitely got her work cut out for her.

I have to thank RMP again for “Husk of Hare,” but the story doesn’t say anything about me except that I’m open to dark comedy—and that maybe reducing solutions to recipes is . . . pleasing.

FFC: Your blog, I Must Be Off!, is ultra-cool. What I learned about you there is that you were voted “best ezine editor” in the annual Preditors & Editors Readers Poll for your work at Metazen. What are some of the attributes that make up a good editor?

CA: Thank you, Gay. Maintaining a blog is a full-time job–especially something like I Must Be Off, which is essentially my life. Yes, I was voted “best ezine editor” in the Preditors & Editors Readers Poll. I’m very grateful to everyone who voted for me, but I’m also aware that I was not competing against ALL editors. What makes a good editor? I need to know the writer’s narrative style before I suggest changes.

A good editor looks at every piece anew. Sometimes the best thing you can say to a writer is “I enjoyed it, but it wasn’t for my magazine.” There wasn’t anything particularly wrong with the writing, but it just wasn’t new. We’re supposed to be looking for something unique, and we’re supposed to be trying to write it too.

FFC: What are you up to these days, besides jaunting around the world? You mention novels. When can we read one of those? Is there a collection in the offing?

CA: I haven’t slept in 30 hours now. I just got back from a whirlwind—life is always a whirlwind—trip to Brazil. I’m so glad you asked what I’m working on now.

Besides shorter pieces, I’m putting the final touches on an episodic absurdist satire–a conversation between a guy who thinks he knows everything and one who thinks he knows nothing. A train wreck of sorts. A select group of readers knows this project. Some have laughed their asses off; some have told me how deathly offended they are. Oh well. That’s what satire does.

I have a few other longer works I’ve put on the back burner for now. When I come back to them, I’ll be able to look at them with new eyes.  One of them is a tricky affair that might hurt some people, so I’m quite nervous about it.  I’m not sure publishing the novel is worth hurting anyone.

Thank you, Gay, for inviting me to talk about the way I write.  It’s been centering and productive for me.

FFC: And thank you for giving FFC readers an opportunity to understand how you create your wonderful and unique work.