Authors Talk: Daniel Aristi

Daniel Aristi

Today we are pleased to feature Daniel Aristi as our Authors Talk series contributor. In this podcast, structured as an interview, Daniel reflects on how his nomadic lifestyle has influenced his writing, as well as how different languages (his native Spanish and French, as well as his acquired English) interact during his writing process.

Daniel also comments on the inspiration behind his poems in Issue 18 and discusses his unconscious tendency to gravitate toward father-son relationships and the aging process in his writing. He then reveals that he “believes that anything can trigger a poem at any point in time.” Finally, Daniel touches on his success with flash fiction, his experience with rejection, the poets who inspire him, and his future writing projects.

You can access Daniel’s pieces in Issue 18 of Superstition Review.

Guest Post, Sean Lovelace: To An End

aconfederacyofnachos

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

TO AN END:

…11 minutes later I walk out of the office, shaking the test results like a fistful of musty bills I’d won playing Go Fish off Ignatius J. Reilly (or some such literary hero) in a tight, rightful, terrible wager (terrible in that a loss would have been profound—no new disc golf discs off EBay this month, no new flash anthologies [such as this one!], the dog without chow, the kid’s frog [actually a fire-bellied toad {but what is genre?}] without crickets, even cheaper wine, possible shortages in frozen waffles, other such calamities) and I yelled out, “That’s it! That’s it! I will no longer eat walnuts! No walnuts unshelled or shelled! No toasty! No crunch! No easy, natural, toasty crunch! No walnuts, no walnuts, no walnuts! I’ve had it!”

(Note: In writing, you should use approximately three exclamation marks your entire life. Rule broken.)

“But you’re supposed to be eating walnuts,” she says, flatly as a credit card. “They said to add walnuts to your diet. Walnuts are the king of nuts.”

(Actually, that’s almondsbut pick your battles, pick your battles…And anyway her blue eyes are like a ceiling fan: stylish, highly effective, often spinning, with some potential ability to maim.)

I go outside, to the shed, grab a small hatchet and thunk the apple tree repeatedly, with no real effect on the apple tree (the gnarled bastard—it produces thousands of apples a year. Is that good? No. I have to deal with thousands of apples a year, hauling them out in a wheelbarrow [yes, it’s red, Carlos Williams], swatting off yellow jackets, listening all evening to the marsh rats slither up from the creek, across my back lawn, below the apple tree, munching on apples under the moon…How does a man sleep!? But I do digress.), but with real effect on my mood, a slight simmering down of the emotions, this thunking. I replace the hatchet on its handy bent nail, calm and reenter the house.

movie.jph

Photo courtesy of http://www.openculture.com

(Note: In writing, it’s best to balance your creative, mental work with a physical activity. Haruki Murakami enjoys a refreshing jog, for example. Lydia Davis dabbles in archery, an activity as precise as her sentences. Tennessee Williams swam every morning. Simone de Beauvoir liked to shoot rifles with her eyes closed, while Jean Paul Sartre looked on, regally, very much in the pose of a douche bag. O. Henry—in-between crafting his many stories—spent time as a shepherd, ranch hand, cook, baby-sitter, bank embezzler, and drunk. So: physical exercise is significant.)

I’m going back to nachos, I tell her.

Hail Ignacio!

Hail Rocha!

Hail Bradley Werner! (A man who makes amazing book covers featuring nachos.)

Hail Howard Cosell!

Hail Prince Fielder!

I tell her. (And when I say, tell, I mean I’m braying like a wildebeest.)

She ignores me, as is her manner.

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com/2013/07/nacho-book-covers-hitchhikers-guide-great-gatsby/

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

Feelings bruised, I make a Cuban variation on traditional nachos (dollop of Swiss cheese, one jalapeno per chip, a smattering of black beans). Munch them. Take that last tortilla chip, hold it in the air and light to admire its structural integrity, and scream out, “Let the festivities begin!”

Then I swallow the last nacho chip and place my nacho bowl (carefully, I have a specific rotation of three handmade ceramic bowls of the upmost craftsmanship) in the sink, to rest in its cradle of bubbly bath.

That’s one way to end nachos.

Shall we discuss flash fiction, several finishing moves?

Like with relationships or dinner or spontaneous trips to the casino, some things are easier to begin than to end. Sometimes an idea forms, a flash fiction draft spirals out—click/click/click, your fingers dance like marionettes—and then you realize you’re running out of words, and you need to end. So.

THE CYCLICAL:

As a current Hoosier, I’d like you to recall that Breakfast of Champions opens with Kilgore Trout walking the streets of Midland, and ends with Kilgore Trout walking the streets of Midland. Everything in-between is satirical filler. Let’s examine Four Hard Facts by Damian Dressick, a devastating meditation of grief:

Note how it opens in a bar and ends in a bar. (Also note how appropriate the segmented form [episodic, like memory, like questioning], the use of second person (draws us into the theme), the effective use of objects [steak sauce is powerful here, its banality], the threads [water], but do primarily focus on the ending, cyclical.)

To end, look to the beginning. Check out “How He Felt” by Amelia Gray.

Billboard

Plane/song/sermon

Billboard.

Another flash technique might be what I’d call THE TWIST. Here, the last line is the core significance, a turn, not so unlike a sonnet volta, or O. Henry back in the day, but always remember this is flash, compression—make your turn hard and quick, a slap, a jab (or a legal summons—but I digress again), walking that keen line voiced so well by Flannery O’Connor, “Endings should be simultaneously surprising and inevitable.”

(She also said, “Everywhere I go, I’m asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don’t stifle enough of them. There’s many a best seller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.” But that’s another blog post altogether…)

See “Dog” by Kyle Minor. (Note repetition, rhythm, couched within the minimalist.)

thenachosofhuckfinn

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

I once got drunk with Minor at an epic literary cave of a bar in Muncie, IN, and Minor argued for long form literature—Great Expectations and Huckleberry Finn and Pride and Prejudice and whatnot—while I argued for short form, Palm-of-the-Hand Stories and Oh Baby and all those wonderful Latin American microficciones and whatnot and then here I go months later just surfing the hip flash mags for what’s fresh and see Kyle Minor flash fictions popping up the literary web and so I’m assuming mind changed, genre accepted, I’m assuming I won that argument and I so rarely win any argument, you know, I mean you should see my Tuesday mornings, my Sunday evening audio—splish and krunch and hiss and boom!—you should see my, my…what are you saying? What do you mean what am I doing? I’m writing a blog post. You did what? Threw all my books where? On the roof! Why? Are you drunk? Just a minute…Lord, I have to…what!?…Jesus…Yep, my books are on the roof. She threw my books on the roof. My Baudelaire and my Diane Williams, my Ultimate Nachos and my Jayne Anne Phillips [“Good one-page fictions have a spiral construction: the words circle out from a dense, packed core, and the spiral moves through the words, past the boundary of the page,” Phillips says. “Fast, precise, over. The one-page fiction should hang in the air of the mind like an image made of smoke.”], and my, even my sweet and lovely Suttree, even my Douglas Adams…And it’s raining.)

See “Bounty” by Dave Eggers. (Note how one line, the TWIST, transports the piece, from every day to philosophical.)

THE BOUNTY

In her kitchen, she saw many things she would like to eat. On the counter, there was a bunch of new bananas, yellow as a Van Gogh chair, and two apples, pristine. The cabinet was open and she saw a box of crackers, a new box of cereal, a tube of curved chips. She felt overwhelmed, seeing all of the food there, that it was all hers. And there was more in the refrigerator! There were juices, half a melon, a dozen bagels, salmon, a steak, yogurt in a dozen colors. It would take her a week to eat all of this food. She does not deserve this, she thought. It really isn’t fair, she thought. You’re correct, God said, and then struck dead 65,000 Malaysians.

All my favorite techniques, I steal from poets.

(Note: If you seriously want to write flash fictions, seriously steal from poets.)

Example, the FADEOUT, end on the visual, the sensory poem, the image…(I actually took this technique from my childhood in the 1980’s. See there was this channel called MTV and they played something called music videos [I know, I know, this sounds impossible] and these music videos would often end with a FADE OUT, a drifting off image, to fog, to gray, a dissolve, poetry really…)

Swimming naked butterfly

Night’s thick scent of peach blossoms

Dead bees

Photo by Bradley Werner, courtesy of http://nachosny.com

 

And a baseball player, with priorities intact…

(https://youtu.be/7uaMsJztm9I)

Hail Fielder!

Hail nachos!

Hail flash fiction!

Hail stepladders! (Hail stepladders?)

Yes, yes, now please excuse me. As I’ve intimated, things must end, even this blog post. Go eat nachos and please do write something, something flash, all the way to the finish. Me? I need to go get my books.

An Interview with Grant Faulkner

This interview was conducted through email between Jessica Fletcher, Fiction Editor at Superstition Review, and Grant Faulkner, Issue 13 contributor. 

Grant FaulkerGrant Faulkner is the executive director of National Novel Writing Month and the co-founder of 100 Word Story (100wordstory.org). His stories and essays have appeared in dozens of publications, including The New York Times, Poets & Writers, Writer’s Digest, The Southwest Review, PANK, and Puerto del Sol. He’s recently published a collection of one hundred 100-word stories, Fissures, and is at work on a novel.

Jessica Fletcher: In your opening to 100-word story collection, Fissures, and in your article, “Going Long. Going Short,” in The New York Times, you discuss how flash fiction and these 100-word stories “speak to the singularity of stray moments by calling attention to the spectral blank spaces around them; it can perfectly capture the disconnections that existentially define us.” Could you elaborate on how this form has informed how you process different events, memories, and ideas in your own life?

Grant Faulkner: I think our memories work in snapshots. We collect tiny moments, images that loop through our minds. Some might be attached to larger narratives by varying degrees, but many exist independently in a strange disjointed way. When I think of my interior life, I think of it as a collage of such snapshots, with my mind shuffling through images and weird little moments again and again.

I’m always searching for a way to shape narrative to experience, so the 100-word story form really spoke to me as a way to capture this shuffle of snapshots. When I first decided to become a writer, in my early 20s, I read Nathalie Sarraute’s Tropisms. She describes tropisms as the “interior movements that precede and prepare our words and actions, at the limits of our consciousness.” Those tiny, almost imperceptible dramas are so important in our lives, yet longer forms sometimes don’t give them the focus they deserve.

We live in the fissures, the interstices of life.

JF: Given the 100-word limit of your stories in Fissures, many of the stories read very similar to prose poetry. In fact, some stories, like “Dulcet” and “Dear X,” mimic this even more so. Did you approach this project with a poetic mind or did you see full stories and then cut the excess?

GF: The more 100-word stories I wrote, the more and more I learned how they veered toward prose poetry. I like to joke that the form allowed me to nurture my “inner failed poet.” Sometimes prose writers don’t get to truly express their poetic side.

I’ve always liked forms that blur. To say that a piece of writing is a prose poem versus a story is just a matter of an author’s intention, an author’s definition. I don’t write with such definitions now. I’d someday like to write a novel that’s a prose poem, or a prose poem that’s a novel

JF: I noticed in Fissures that you spent a lot of time coming back to the characters of Celeste and Gerald. Was there a significance to their reoccurring stories? Did you find yourself pulled to particular themes and human moments?

GF: The Gerard and Celeste stories are the rare stories in the collection that are part of a narrative with a larger arc. I’ve written maybe 50 of them now, and I’d like to someday shape them into a flash novella. The stories are about a tragic and forbidden love affair, which by definition is about disconnected moments, the way presence and absence mingle, the way memory works to put the pieces together.

I included twenty or so of them in Fissures because I liked the idea of creating some throughlines through all of the individual pieces. I viewed the motifs in the Gerard and Celeste stories as providing a guiding trajectory for the collection.

JF: How do you approach the differing objectives of longer forms that usually require comprehension and shorter forms that do not require comprehensiveness?

GF: I no longer believe in any notion of comprehensiveness. It’s just not a feeling, a sensibility, that’s really possible in life. We change day by day, moment by moment, and everything around us changes, including our memories, which are based as much or more in a story we tell than any factuality. We rewrite our memories each time we remember them.

I used to try to write my longer stories or novels with a sense of comprehensiveness, but I think that did the story a disservice in the end. It’s better to write toward the questions of a story than the answers, and those questions don’t have to be answered.  Instead of comprehensiveness, it’s more a matter of the scale of a story, the size it needs to be.

JF: In your article, “Going Long. Going Short,” you discussed how workshop professors and students always commented/critiqued with a call for more, “more characterization, more back story, more details — more of everything.” What do you think is lost, if anything, from having too much “more?” Or too little?

GF: I think writers are generally taught to write more rather than less—from the first time a teacher tells a student in elementary school to add detail to a sentence, to include more supporting evidence, etc. That’s good to begin with, but at a certain point, a writer needs to realize how writing less, whether leaving things out or writing more succinctly, serves a story. A writer needs to learn how a story moves best through the whorls of mystery and suspense created by the gaps of a story.

Writers naturally try to prove themselves through their words, through florid descriptions, curlicues of syntax. Our words can sometimes resemble a body builder’s muscles, which cover up the true person inside, so a writer has to find the balance of words and the textures that serve the story.

My stories move with fewer and fewer words, but I still love big, reaching novels like Moby Dick or Ulysses or The Adventures of Augie March. I love the way William Faulkner’s words spill and gush and swirl as he tries to bring past and present together. Every story needs different doses of “more” or “less” to create the necessary texture.

JF: As executive director of National Novel Writing Month, do you also work to produce roughly 1,667 words a day during November? How does this continuous writing strategy affect your flash fiction?

GF: I do write 1,667 words each day every November. I’ve primarily written novels in my life, which requires a different creative process than writing 100-word stories. I like to dive into a new novel each November and write a complete draft. To write faster, and to try to push the boundaries of my word count each day, inspires a different kind of creativity—it’s improvisational and free. It’s also an efficient way to get out a novel in a busy life.

This process doesn’t influence my flash fiction so much—other than training my mind to shut off my internal editor, to be open to new ideas. My flash seems to influence my novels more, especially when it comes to editing them.

I like to write in different ways, in different forms. One form feeds another. It’s good to write in many different ways to be agile and nimble.

JF: I found your characters in Fissures to be kooky, interesting, and distressed. The short form makes the weird and dark descriptions even bolder. How did these characters and their stories come to you?

GF: I never know how to answer this question. Stories and characters just always come to me. I’ve never had writer’s block. Sometimes I’ll see someone on the street or in a café. Sometimes I’ll just daydream about an episode in the past.

My characters are only loosely based on real people, though. I’m drawn to my stories primarily by their moods, their situations. The characters come in the writing.

JF: You mentioned Flaubert’s “mot juste” in your introduction to Fissures. How did you go about this process of finding the precise wording and cutting down to 100 words?

GF: Endless tinkering. I don’t know how else to describe it. The first draft of a piece might be 125 words or 75. Trying to get the word count to exactly 100 words requires an intense focus on each sentence, each word, in a way that other forms don’t. So I just shave and shape like a sculptor, adding words or cutting them in order to find the right contours of the story.

Interestingly enough, the story is always much better by the time I get it to exactly 100 words.

JF: In “Going Long. Going Short,” you mentioned how Twitter and Facebook are becoming new forums for short, succinct writing. In what ways, do you think social media has shaped the literary world and flash fiction?

GF: Since people read online more and more—and grow up reading online now—they’re essentially trained to read in shorter spans. When you scroll down your Facebook stream, you’re reading a series of tiny stories, each disconnected from a larger story or the others around it. You’re reading a version of flash fiction.

My guess is that people’s attention spans are changing as a result, that they’ll increasingly prefer to read shorter and shorter stories. We started 100 Word Story (http://www.100wordstory.org/) with this in mind. We thought a 100-word story was the perfect length to read online.

JF: Recently, the “white space” in writing has been given attention. Those empty spots are now given weight as if they are a “something.” How does this change the way a writer approaches all the unwritten and unsaid moments in a story?

GF: “White spaces” are a something. To loop back to your previous questions about “comprehensiveness” and “more,” I think using white spaces is just as important as text—that a story actually can move and escalate because of the white spaces, not in spite of them. A reader fills in the gaps, and what’s left out adds to the essential mystery of a story and the mimetic urgings of a literary narrative.

If you read Jenny Offill’s Dept. of Speculation, a novel constructed around fragments of text that are around 100 words, you see how the white spaces create a texture of disjointedness to mirror the main character’s thoughts while also paradoxically tying things together and building the story.

Hemingway’s famous dictum instructed a writer to only show the top 10 percent of a story and to leave the other 90 percent under the water, like an iceberg. A 100-word story might only show the top 1 percent. Yet the 99 percent that isn’t there is still there, like a ghost.

You can view Grant Faulkner’s featured 100-word story in Superstition Review Issue 13

Guest Post, Geoffrey Miller: Flash Fiction is the Belle of the Ball

Flash fiction is the belle of the ball, the flavor of the moment, the soup of the day and apparently well on its way to mainstream acceptance as a separate and unique form of writing. Recent articles in mainstream publications like O Magazine and MacLean’s had articles and pieces of flash as well, most literary journals now have separate submission categories for flash submissions and there are more and more flash only journals out there now. You can even earn a PhD in flash from the University of Chester in the UK. I mean Flash Fiction now even has its own day – just in case you missed it – June 22 demands a red circle on your calendar in 2014. What exactly one is supposed to do on this day I’m not sure, maybe read a piece of flash?

With so much attention coming flash fiction’s way, it made me think – did Juliette hit it on the head when she said what she said about roses or does that only apply to flowers? Huh? Well what is it that you are submitting – flash fiction, postcard fiction, sudden fiction, short-short fiction, micro fiction, palm of the hand story, vignette, or a I was going to say prose poem but then things would get really out of control. Vignette is often used as an example of a piece of flash fiction done wrong so we can knock that off the list as well; leave it for the playwrights. However, that still leaves about half a dozen names in a writer’s jargon. Who cares? If everyone is talking about the same type of writing then does it really matter if we call it something different as long as we are talking about the same thing? I guess Juliette was right after all.

Or was she? For example, when someone passes me a piece of short-short fiction I expect it to have the same basic structural components as a longer piece of fiction, exposition, conflict and resolution, but there will be a greater need for me to assume or hypothesize in order to build the narrative arch into a whole in my mind. Calling that short-short fiction makes sense after all it is a short story condensed into a shorter form, which asks for a little presuming, by the reader.

But I don’t see the flash. The piece is asking me to do something but I don’t have to; there isn’t an uncontrolled neuron flash in my mind if I don’t put my mind to it. TJFKhis is what flash fiction should do, it should present text based on previously constructed mental associations in the reader’s mind in order to create a gestalt piece of writing which comes alive inside of the reader’s mind.

For example,

An inattentive, transient license – “Check it” – high-pitched, estrogenic sound awkwardly steamed from thick, too-big lips covering whimsical precarious tan teeth. Mirrored sunglasses sterilize eyes, plunging transgressor back to fatigued, faded skin, unkempt hair – a mind of questions, comments, demands, justifications – stayed verbally, exposed physically – “Is there a problem?” Pigments, parchments, binding, images relapse then release ribbed steel, scuffed plastic, relabeled boxes reskinned with tape, twine, and plastic that meld into a horizontal borough in motion, eclectic and naïve to the pigment of deities.

That’s how a piece of flash fiction about flying into JFK for the first time would look to me. Yes, now we’ve gotten personal and now you know why I don’t want to let short-short fiction get all the good names, regardless of Juliette and her rose.

Guest Blog Post, Sean Lovelace: Why Flash Fiction is Like and Unlike Nachos

Like:
I enjoy afternoons sprawling out on my roof (toasty shingles at my back) while drinking a six pack of beer and reading flash fiction. I’ll bring several books, collections, anthologies. Usually I haul them up in an orange bucket. A bucket is an excellent bookcase, when reading on your roof. As I drink, the pages flutter and unspool along with my synapses. Crackle, caterwhomp, hum. Words and bubbles rising in glass elevators. The mind, the mind’s eye, two dragonflies on the chimney edge, mating. I’ll start with a realist, Kim Chinquee (North America’s Queen of Flash), wander over to the imaginative minimalism of Ana Maria Shua (South America’s Queen of Flash), onto Bruce Holland Rogers’s expressionism, then into stranger territories, Magical Realism (the terrific Amelia Gray), and, finally—clink, fzzzzzz—I’ll crack open the final beer, watch a V of geese overhead as they honk in all their glorious goose-ness, and then the last book of the day (the sun kneeling out like an exhausted llama), all the way sideways, yes into the wonderfully absurd, the madman of flash, Danill Kharms. I likewise enjoy beer while eating nachos, usually Dos Equis in an icy mug the size of my forehead.

kim nachos

Unlike:
Nachos were invented in 1943. They are a contemporary genre. Many flashcists (denigrators of the flash genre)—in a reductive attempt to link the genre’s sensibilities with the ephemeral ether of the Internet—claim flash fiction is also contemporary. They attempt to minimize the genre to bits of media, basically dash-offs and lollygags for our “modern attention span” These critics know not of what they speak. They are jackals chasing their own tails in miserable circles. They smell like scabby knees or lower math. They are wrong. Flash fiction is a proud and venerable genre, eons old. Fables, folklore, parables, mythology, all flash fiction. From Nubian creation myths (6000 B.C.) to Chinese Pangu (350 B.C.), to the wellspring of more modern authors (though still hundreds of years old), miniature stories have always been essential to human life and art.

Like:
Flash fiction can be consumed as an appetizer or a meal. Same with nachos.

Unlike:
Nachos go from hand to mouth to stomach. Flash, by its very essence, goes much further, off the page. All of the glorious white space that surrounds a flash—everything that isn’t shown, paradoxically leading to an even further telling. The writer brings technique, all of the tools to create a breathing genre, a living thing. The reader has to arrive! To flesh out the context, to meet the writer, to shake hands and bang heads. To create together. Flash is collaborative, like all of the finest imaginative endeavors.

nachos 3

Like:
Though invented in Mexico, nachos are international. Irish nachos are a ponderous dish based upon potato wedges. Italian nachos utilize mozzarella cheese and banana peppers. Greek nachos are best eaten alongside the sea (or at least in the bathtub) and consist of pita, hummus, and feta. Japanese nachos (Machi Cure), a light and delicate treat, use juniper berries and tuna. American ballpark nachos are a combination of tortilla chips and Ricos, a cheese product that resembles a polymer used in the construction of lava lamps. Flash fiction is also international. Nobel Laureate Yasunari Kawabata felt the essence of his life’s work was contained in his flash collection, Palm-of-the-Hand Stories. The French are prolific, both in the prose poem, the flash, and the hybrid. See Paris Spleen by Baudelaire. See Ponge or Jacobs. See Bertrand. From Italy, I suggest Calvino. From Austria, Peter Altenberg (a man who wore flip flops all winter). From Russia, many choices, but I suggest Before Sunrise, by Zoschenko. The Pearl Jacket and Other Stories is a good place to start for contemporary Chinese flash fiction. Oh, and the Latin Americans. Mexico to Chile, I wish you luck. Why? Because the Latin Americans adore flash fiction. They call them microficciones. From Shua to Cortázar to Gracián to Dario to Bolaño to Arreola to Monterrosso to Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez (hell of a name) to Borges (his powerful shadow cast over everything), you could be reading Latin American flash authors for the rest of your life. Which wouldn’t be a bad thing.

Unlike:
Celebrities rarely read anything, much less flash fiction. (A notable exception is actor/scholar/ writer/scholar/actor/scholar/director/scholar/scholar/artist/scholar James Franco, who will read and write anything [and he’ll be sure to tell you about it, probably in an over earnest poem] ). Celebrities can’t get enough of nachos. They eat nachos. They sleep with nachos. They are nachos.

Justin Bieber

Like:
To make nachos you usually need a knife. To make flash fiction, you usually need a knife. It’s the DELETE key.

Unlike:
One time, during dinner, this young lady ran off with my heart and my Camry and I dropped her plate of homemade nachos (cold, uneaten) on the floor and drank two bottles of red wine and everything (I do mean everything) shattered and I stumbled outside (the wind raw, like an onion or a tax audit) and shook my fist angrily at the moon and screamed out an unraveling stream of spittle and obscenities and later woke up completely naked on the kitchen floor. This hasn’t happened in my life with flash fiction. Yet.

Like:
There is no limit on the ways to make nachos. I should know. I personally have made over 414 different varieties. Same for flash. Real to surreal, lyrical to narrative, traditional to experimental, any form, any style, any technique, mode, method, way. Flash fiction is as endless and unique as art itself.

Unlike:
A fully realized flash fiction takes inspiration, intellect, execution, and meticulous care in revision. You can make a decent plate of nachos while drunk.

jay-beyonce

Like:
Obsession. I once ate nachos for 141 day straight. I just had nachos (spicy crawfish over blue tortillas, with a painful dollop of Dave’s sauce) for lunch. My last two books were written in the flash fiction genre. (My upcoming manuscript is flash and is about Velveeta.) I spent last year reading only flash fiction. I teach university classes dedicated to only flash fiction. I have a flash fiction blog. On that blog, I also discuss other things. For example, what I am having for dinner. Usually nachos.

An Interview with Teague Bohlen

Teague Bohlen EventWhen I was given the opportunity to interview Teague Bohlen about his upcoming talk at ASU I was thrilled—his flash fiction/photography pieces were some of my favorites from Issue 10. His stories are compact and powerful.

In just a few weeks Teague is scheduled to talk at ASU about a topic of personal expertise—Superheroes. If you enjoy this interview, don’t miss the opportunity to hear Teague speak at the Polytechnic Campus on February 13 from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m.

Brooke Passey: Thank you for taking the time to answer these questions, we are all so excited to hear you speak at ASU in February.

Teague Bohlen: Thank you for having me, both for this interview, and at ASU in February. It’s always good to come back to Tempe, and February is quite possibly the best time of the year to do it. Especially from Colorado.

BP: The title of your talk is “Superheroes in Narrative: Comics Come of Age in Print and Film.” That is intriguing to say the least! Can you tell us a little about where you plan to focus the discussion? Will you talk about the craft of writing with superheroes, the history behind it, the transition to film…? Give us a teaser.

TB: The idea behind the talk is how the archetype of the hero—specifically, in this case, the superhero—has changed over the many years since its modern inception. I’m going to start with a bit of the history of the superhero itself, how it’s changed, and how those changes have been reflected not only in the comics from which those heroes come, but also in traditional literary narrative. It’s an interesting parallel, I think; there’s been a specific maturation of both media over the last few decades–for sure, more for the previously kid-focused comic book medium, but there are certainly parallels. Now that the geeks have inherited the pop-culture earth, so to speak, this is becoming even more apparent, from a book like Chabon’s Kavalier and Clay to a deconstructive film like Whedon’s The Cabin in the Woods.

BP: On your website you mention reading Peanuts comic strips in high school. When did Superhero comics become important to you?

TB: I’ve been reading comic books since I was a young kid. Some of my earliest reading memories were of comic books. My uncle once brought me a huge box of comics when my grandfather passed away—I was five. My grandfather was gone, and my uncle—in some wonderful gesture of love and sorrow and sympathy—brought me a box of comics. There were Archie and Batman and Scrooge McDuck and Spider-Man, the last of whom I already knew from the PBS show The Electric Company, and from his Spidey Super Stories books. A couple of years later, I remember getting hold of the issue of Amazing Spider-Man in which Gwen Stacy—Spidey’s girlfriend—is killed. I remember that blew my mind. They killed someone; someone important. She wasn’t coming back. It was just like real life. I remember it was like a world opened to me—these weren’t just stories where everything worked out (which was true for books like Superman, etc., where the status quo and the cast rarely changed).

BP: This might be slightly off topic but I have to ask you about your upcoming collection of flash fiction/photography. Three of your flash fiction/photography pieces were featured in our last issue (all of which I adored, especially All His Shirts) but what inspired you to combine these two artistic mediums?

TB: I’m glad you enjoyed those. I’ve really come to love flash fiction. I edited for a great journal for a few years—Quick Fiction, now sadly defunct—that really made me appreciate the form. I’d been working in the medium for a while, and a lot of my flash work seemed to be centered around the Illinois Midwest, as was my first novel. It’s where I grew up, and where my heart still very much lies. The idea of adding photography came about when my cousin, Britten Traughber, chose to focus her own artistic bent on the same region. So much of her amazing work is set there, and it seemed like a natural pairing-up. We both wanted to allow the fiction to stand alone, and the photos to stand alone—and to be able to appreciate a new third thing, this alchemy of the two together, when they appear next to each other on the page.

BP: On a similar note, after reading your very serious and compelling stories I was surprised to find out that you were such an expert on comics. How do these two very different styles work together in your life?

TB: For a long time, I wasn’t sure they did! But then I moved from being a TV critic to being more of a pop-culture critic, and then a pop-culture humorist of sorts, and all that’s come together in interesting ways. I have a comic-book novel floating around in my head, which I want to get to at some point–that’s a book about people who like comics, who live in that world and speak that cultural language. People always try to pigeonhole your work into one thing–oh, he’s serious, or oh, he’s funny–but the truth is that most of our best writers are both, and more. Sometimes I spread myself too thin, but I think the range is good. It works for me, anyway.

BP: I read your pieces on Terrian.org and noticed that those photographs were also taken by Britten Traughber, who you just mentioned is your cousin. Did she take all the pictures for your upcoming collection?

TB: She did; the book is very much a collaboration between her and me, and the coming together of our work in rural Illinois. I come from a close family, so I feel like she’s more my sister, really. I’ve always admired her work, and since we share a Midwestern focus in some of each of our work, it seemed like a natural partnership.

BP: And last, but not in the least bit serious, let me end with a question about sugary snacks. I came across an article you wrote in 2009 titled, “The 10 Dumbest Comic Book Hostess Ads.” You made some very pertinent points, but what insights would you add to that article if you had written it after Hostess took their tumble?

TB: Ha! What a good question. You know, just to go back a bit, I love that series of silly lists I did for Village Voice back in the day. I miss doing them. They were crazy fun to research and write up. I’d like to do it again sometime. As for how that particular piece would have changed today, given the apparent demise of Hostess and all its wonderful products…well, honestly, the whole disappearance of Ho-Hos and Fruit Pies has me too depressed to even think about it. Though maybe I should write up something about where Hostess mascots Twinkie the Kid and Fruit Pie the Magician ended up–I’m thinking a lounge act on some ’70s-throwback cruise line.

BP: Thank you so much for your time. It has been a pleasure and we look forward to hearing from you again very soon.

TB: Thank you for the questions, Brooke! Looking forward to coming to ASU and talking comics. We’ll nerd-out, academic-style.