How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?
The first story that I ever remember writing was in second or third grade. It was about me and my best friend, saving a city from a flood by unplugging the drain in the center of town. I had such fun writing it that, in school, I began to relish any assignment that allowed me to be creative. But, it was really Wade Hall, a professor I had in college, who really encouraged me to pursue writing, and it was his influence that helped me make the decision to keep writing as a central part of my life. At the time, he was the editor of the Kentucky Poetry Review, and he published my first piece of writing there.
What inspired you to write flash fiction?
I really fell in love with the form after reading Jamaica Kincaid’s “Girl” years and years ago. She was able to do so much in a single moment of time, and that, I think, is the beauty of flash. It is the attempt to capture a world through a keyhole, looking at characters in a room just before someone turns off the lights. I love working toward that level of intimacy and complexity in such a short space, because I also think it reflects the way we encounter most people. We see them talking on a street corner or driving in their cars. We see a moment and create a narrative of possible lives that they are living. I love exploring those mini-narratives that we see played out in the aisles of a grocery store or standing in line at a fast food restaurant. It’s just fun trying to find and express moments like that. A moment like that is not as true in this piece, obviously, but it is a moment of encounter as well.
Describe your writing process.
I would love to say that I am one of those writers that spends hours a day at a writing desk, but I’m not. I try to work on something every week, and I would say that I weave narratives in my head around encounters that I see pretty much every day. It is often out of those moments — seeing people while I’m driving, in stores, at some event or other — that I eventually am able to find something to write about. I jot down notes on scraps of paper that sit in my drawer, and I will read through them to see if anything strikes me. Most of them don’t trigger anything. Once I have a draft, I would say that is when the real writing begins. If I have a first draft of a story that I like, I work on revision every day until I am satisfied with it. It takes a long time for me to find a draft of a story that I actually am willing to put time into though. Often before I start writing, I will read poetry out loud, because it creates a rhythm in my body that helps me find the language that reflects the story that I am trying to tell.
What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?
That actually came from two encounters that I had while driving. Years ago, I saw a man leaned up against his car playing a saxophone on the side of a country road next to a corn field. I kept trying to fit that into a short story, and nothing ever worked. Then, recently, I saw a woman riding a bike and guiding an empty bike alongside of her. I added a third bike to the story, but I wondered what would happen if the two met. That was the beginning of the story. It became her story later, but I wanted two elements — that they were both striving for something that could only be achieved alone but that in that aloneness there is connection. I don’t know if this achieves that, but I tried. I also like working with what some would call surreal circumstances.
What are you working on now?
I am working on two things: one is a collection of flash fiction and the other is a novel. The novel is based on an occurrence when I was a kid when one of my classmates’ brother went missing. He was a teenager at the time; and, on the day he left, he cleaned his room and made his bed but didn’t leave a note. He’s never been seen since then. The way I work, I should have it finished in about fifteen years.