Author Profile: Paul Beckman

PaulBeckman2

How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?

Growing up, my late older brother was the writer in the family. In my 30’s I started to think about writing and collected story ideas in a box. After a couple of years I took my box and a pad along with a bottle of wine and went to a friend’s waterfront house and sat on the dock. I decided if I couldn’t complete a story I was going to toss the “ideas” in the drink and forget the idea. Fortunately, within an hour I completed the story and half the wine. It was titled “Clutter”, a story about a single father of two young kids who wanted to de-clutter his life and kept removing things from his house until there were just 3 spoons, three plates, three chairs, one toy for each child, etc. By the end of this very short story he looked at his kids and thought how much simpler his life would be with only one child. Eventually I got this published. I’ve been writing ever since.

What inspired you to write flash fiction?

I always wrote short—usually in the 1200 to 2500 word range. I read many collections, with my first exposure to micro fiction being Leonard Michaels “Something Evil” and Gordon Lish’s “The Quarterly Magazine” which came out in the 80’s. While not all flash, it did have quite a bit and it’s where I first read Diane Williams and Amy Hempel and others writing flash, but none calling it that. And there was Frederick Barthelme and one day I picked up a book called Sudden Fiction and I felt licensed to write short like these wonderful writers. Many of the small magazines of the day published my flash stories. And I still wrote short stories in my old range. My first book, published in 1995 had a number of flash stories in the collection. It will be reprinted by Big Table Publishing this year as an anniversary issue.

Describe your writing process.

Before I retired I would get up at five or five-thirty and go right to my office and write. Then at night I would do my rewrites and submissions. Now, I’m usually in my office by seven and write off and on for a good part of the day. Sometimes, when I need a break, I’ll grab my camera and walk in a state park or go down by one of the beaches in the area. I use a spare bedroom as my office and at one time listened to music while I wrote but it’s rare when I do it now. If I’m writing a crime story I may put on a nourish cd with some heavy sax and that’ll put me in the mood. I don’t outline. I have sticky notes all around with one or two words or even a sentence, but the fact of the matter is that  I only need to get out a good first sentence and that will lead me through my story to a conclusion. It’s extremely rare for me to know how my story will end or how I will get there. I revise after I read the story aloud to myself and again trying to lose as many words as I can that don’t push the story forward and are just sitting there taking up space. In 2000 I had a story in Playboy that was almost Flash—it was 1100 words. As for research, I have a large collection of books on writing, slang, Yiddish and others that I go to for words I can’t drag out of my brain or remember. Plus, I’ll read scattered stories from Flashers whose work I admire and that always gives me a boost.

What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?

The inspiration for “Old Blue Eyes” came from a prompt from one of the writers in my writing group. The prompt was simply, “Change” with no caveats for usage. All I knew is that I wanted to have a main character that changes personalities and this is the story that came out. It was more than I usually know when I begin to write.

What are you working on now?

Right now I’m working on getting my first collection ready for the publisher. It’s called, “Come! Meet My Family and Other Stories”. I’m almost there. That will come out in 2016 with Big Table Publishing. I’m also working on a new collection of flash stories that I hope to have ready by spring of 2017. My current collection, “Peek,” is still selling and I’m still doing readings with that interspersed with stories from my new collection. And of course I’m writing new, revising, submitting and reading. I’m also working on trying to get a flash reading series going.

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2 Responses to Author Profile: Paul Beckman

  1. Glen Donaldson says:

    Here’s to sticky notes all around!
    Great profile.

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