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Smoking With... Kim Chinquee
by Meg Pokrass

Kim Chinquee is the author of the flash fiction collection OH BABY (Ravenna Press), the forthcoming collection BIG CAGES (White Pine Press), and is co-editor of the forthcoming anthology ONLINE WRITING 1996-2006: BEST OF THE FIRST TEN YEARS (Snowvigate Press). She is the recipient of a Pushcart Prize and a Henfield Prize, and lives in Buffalo, New York.

What are your current thoughts on the prose poetry/flash dividing line?
I talk about this in my essay for Rose Metal Press's forthcoming anthology (The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction:Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field), and in summary here, I believe that prose poetry and flash are more inclusive of each other than exclusive. That there really is no dividing line, but rather a big thick line of intersecting factors.

You're considered to be a master microfiction writer. On the other end of the spectrum, I understand you've recently written a novel or two! I marvel at your ability to stretch yourself as a writer.
I enjoy writing very, very short pieces (microfiction), as I do flash fiction, and short stories. I've completed a novel and have another in the works. I write differently with each form. When writing shorter pieces, I focus more on a moment, or a theme, or those in-between spaces. The longer work requires more of me, imo, and it's sometimes more challenging for me. Though I can spend just as much time on a short piece (or even more time) than a longer story; with the shorts, I can obsess about one word or phrase, the essence of it, whereas the longer work, I'm thinking more about the overall picture, the layering of events and other factors, and how all of that works together.

You are well known for your use of prompts in your own writing. How are they important?
I use prompts more for the shorter work. Not so much with the longer stuff. I often use a set of prompt words for the day. Picking five random words, and connecting the dots, so to speak. I also use prompt exercises from books like Brian Kiteley's 3AM Epiphany. That helps to get me going sometimes. The longer work usually begins with a thought or idea, or a shorter work and just turns out longer, or an event that has been nagging at me, hanging in my head and demanding my attention.

How has teaching affected your own work/growth as a writer?
It always helps. Reminding me what's important in writing. Going back to the basics. Looking at the elements and explicating, focusing on plot and structure and point-of-view and tone and voice and characters and setting, language. And in re-reading stories, I always find something new. And I'm constantly reading new work. It keeps me current, feeds into that momentum. I usually assume that everyone in my writing classes wants to be (or will want to someday be) a writer and that keeps me excited about it.

Since you recently moved, I thought I'd ask how times of disruption and personal transition affect your writing?
Yes, I moved to Buffalo in August. I try to stay on target, writing-wise, and it seems like when things get busier in life, I write more. I find that when I'm moving, traveling, I find more to write about, and writing provides me with that constant. Even if things around me are in transition, I feel like writing grounds me.


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