How and when did you decide, or discover, that you were to be a writer?
I am less suggestible than I used to be. When I was a junior in high school, an English teacher who opened me up to literature through the short story stuck it in my head that I could write. So I tried. Later, in college, another one expressed a similar sentiment. So again I tried. In retrospect, though, I really didn’t do any serious creative writing until I was teaching philosophy at a community college in California, when a playwright colleague suggested I write plays. I did for a while, until a textbook publisher suggested I take a flyer at that field. I did for a longer while. Now retired from teaching, I wrote my first short story in 2014. Nobody suggested it.
What inspired you to write flash fiction?
One “inspiration” has been the brute, blunt fact of the market, which is clearly trending flash. At first I resisted this, preferring more space to strut my stuff. Then I realized that flash is prose most like poetry—“language at its most distilled and most powerful” (Rita Dove). That appealed to me—not because I’m a poet but because—well, because I have a poetic pulse, you could say. Then there’s the age factor. You know the old joke about the guy who is so old he doesn’t buy green bananas? I guess I’m beginning to see the longer short story as a kind of green banana.
Describe your writing process.
Getting the words right—that sums up my process, not the time, place or any other circumstance of the writing. The writing—the craft, the artistry—is all in the rewriting.(So what else is new?) Fortunately, that’s what I enjoy most about the writing process, the discipline of rewriting, over and over, until it is as clear and compelling as I can make it. If even a single word is changed, then I must re-read the entire work. It’s only when I change nothing that I consider a work “finished.” Then the story goes out; and, honestly, at that point I don’t care whether or not it gets published, because I know that it’s as good as I can make it, and that’s my payoff. And, oh yes, when I send it off, I always feel wistful, like a parent on the first day of kindergarten.
What was the inspiration behind what was published on FewerThan500.com?
It’s a truism that the best (creative) writing takes root in personal experience. This is especially so of the setting, characters, and events of “A Late Walk.” I knew the instant the couple remained unmoved by the roar of the lion that I would write about them. I didn’t know until I did what I would say about myself.
What are you working on now?
A story about a fender bender that dents a couple’s relationship. I’m not a good driver.