In the Spotlight...
Smoking With Stephanie Harrison
This story is, essentially, written in one sentence, and I love the rhythm it creates. I've seen pieces try to utilize this method before. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn't. Here, it works. How hard was it to get the pauses just right?
Pretty hard. I've written quite a few one sentence stories, and after the story is there it's an exercise in punctuation. A little like flower arranging, I think. Getting it to fall just right. It should be written so that the reader doesn't notice that it's all one sentence.
Distance plays a large role in this story. Characters are nameless, communication reserved, emotions withheld. And yet we, the readers, feel close. How does this work?
I wish I knew. Some of it is achieved by using very particular details, but there's also something about the music of an extended sentence that invites closeness. It's not something I know how to do—it's something I notice after it's on the page. And something unique to the form. You could take the idea of this story and turn it into a traditional 5000-word story and it could be good. But the compression of a short-short gives the music a lot of pedal that you would probably lose if you expand it.
The image of blue starts and ends this story. Blue-light specials and flickering blue… What does the use of color achieve?
It's the metaphor that worked its way into this piece. I liked the idea of playing with the different ways we use blue as shorthand. Blue as in mournful. Or blue in the sexual sense, as in "blue" movies.
You edit an anthology devoted to stories adapted to the big screen. Can you name a few? Have any flash stories been included?
I included 35. Some of them are: "Rear Window," "The Fly," "The Wisdom of Eve" (All About Eve), "Memento Mori" (Memento), "Killings" (In the Bedroom), "Minority Report." Only one really qualifies as flash: Harvey Pekar's graphic story "The Harvey Pekar Name Story." It's a little masterpiece.
Congratulations on placing in the Kathy Fish Fellowship contest! Will you share a bit about your experience in applying for the fellowship? Preparing the goal statement, selecting the stories, the wait, etc.?
It was, as far as these things go, painless. I really dislike writing goal statements, because I think I sound pretentious, so thank you for overlooking any bloviation. You guys are great.
by Stephanie Harrison
Sometimes he leaves before she’s awake, and then they communicate via Post-It notes tacked to the alarm system, and today’s note reads, “Lunch?” and she’s not sure what to make of this—in the past she would have known: blue-light specials, they used to call them—and so all morning, as she weeds her garden and picks the last of her tomatoes, she feels uneasy, resentful even—there should, after so many years, be some certainty, she thinks—but when he comes home early from work to pick her up, things seem normal, and lunch is pleasant, and if it’s not quite reminiscent of other past lunches, well, they are a bit older; he wears glasses now, gold wire frames with bifocals, and she has creases along her throat, from nodding too often, or from lowering her head too much, and today, over pecan-crusted salmon, they talk about his job, and their upcoming vacation, and bemoan their neighbors’ barking dog, and that feeling she’d had all morning, that premonition that this would be the afternoon where one or the other of them says that perhaps it’s time they make a change, well, that fades into the cool October light and the mellowness of wine, and for the moment they are happy, she thinks, or at least content, and later, when they are home and he is sitting in his chair facing the television, she takes the initiative—yes, she initiates—and kneels in front of him, rests her cheek on his knees, then slides her hand along his thigh, and he doesn’t move, doesn’t look at her, and in this light, and from this angle, the only thing reflected in his glasses is flickering blue.