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Smoking With Miriam N. Kotzin

Art by Marty D. Ison
Art by Marty D. Ison
You write poetry as well as fiction. How has that helped you in writing flash stories?
Writing poetry has influenced my fiction—whether or not it has helped it, I’m not sure. I’m used to making every word count. And I’m conscious of the sound of a piece, the cadence of the sentences. For a long time I’ve been writing narrative poems, poems with dialogue, so the move to fiction, especially flash fiction, is natural. On the down side, poetry allows for, even encourages, ambiguity—there’s a whole book about it called Seven Types of Ambiguity—and readers often want a story to be nailed down more than I want to do.

In your story the grotesque is made sublime. Do you find that writing helps you see beauty in unexpected places?
I don’t know. It might be just that I see things this way and then my writing gives me a vehicle to share my vision. My mother used to call me outside to look at spider webs and things like that. So she taught me to see the world, really look at it.

Your life sounds very busy and full. How do you find the time to write, and how does teaching affect your work?
Teaching is a boon to my work although it is a huge chunk of my time. However, the constant reading and talking about literature with my students is an extension of what I’d want to be doing anyway: reading poetry and fiction, looking at the clockwork mechanism instead of just the hands going around. When I teach creative writing I do the same writing that I have my students do.

Do you workshop your writing and how has that helped, or not?
I’ve been workshopping since the late sixties off and on, most lately online with Zoetrope. I find that I learn a lot from what others say, and from the discipline of making helpful comments about others’ writing too. An outgrowth of the Zoetrope work has been writing fiction collaboratively via email with Bill Turner.

What advice do you have for your fellow writers?
I usually had advice for every occasion, a bit like Lucy in Peanuts, but each writer is so individual that I don’t have any one-size-fits all advice here.

Read Maintenance.
Issue Five (August 15, 2004): Lovers by Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Shore by Susan Henderson «» Lovechild by Ellen Parker «» Lipstick by Claudia Smith «» Back Home by Bob Arter «» Gloves by Gary Cadwallader «» Gilda by Patricia Parkinson «» Attic by Kim Chinquee «» The Radioactive Chicken or the Egg? by Randall Brown «» Summer Swim by Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Two Benches by Pasha Malla «» Fall by Richard Hulse «» Drop by Roy Kesey «» Galveston by Steven Gullion «» Every Pane of Weathered Glass by Ellen M. Rhudy «» I Can't Talk About Butter Because Margarine Is All I Know by C.R. Park «» Something of Value by Brian Reynolds «» The Therapist Told Her Not to Stop Smoking–Right Now by Astrid Schott «» Maintenance by Miriam N. Kotzin «» Enough by Katrina Denza «» Interviews: Karen Simpson Nikakis «» Susan Henderson «» Ellen Parker «» Claudia Smith «» Bob Arter «» Gary Cadwallader «» Patricia Parkinson «» Kim Chinquee «» Randall Brown «» Pia Z. Ehrhardt «» Pasha Malla «» Richard Hulse «» Roy Kesey «» Steven Gullion «» Ellen M. Rhudy «» C.R. Park «» Brian Reynolds «» Astrid Schott «» Miriam N. Kotzin «» Katrina Denza «» Cover Art "A Character in Short Fiction" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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