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Smoking With Darlin' Neal

I am fading among my own smoke by Hamed Masoumi
"I am fading among my own smoke" by Hamed Masoumi,
via Creative Commons license
"She thinks of birth, giving birth to herself.." So it begins. Have you ever had such a moment, when you gave birth to yourself?
If I were lucky, I'd be that aware and growing every day. Though when you think about it, it sounds pretty dang painful.

"Trace" has so many meanings here. What role do you see "trace" playing in this piece?
First it was the way the images of the piece began coming to me. And I think she will only be that much of herself now as she moves on from this moment and becomes something else. I also envision a geographical trace outside this house, where she will travel from here, and from where she's come.

She is "the girl" and he is "another man" and there is, also, "the woman of the house." How do these "names" define them?
Well, again the girl becoming and the people being close to her and yet mainly strangers and transient in her life, and she is an outsider to this home.

You recently had a gig as the selecting editor for wigleaf's top 50 [very] short fictions 2009. What did you discover as you read through the 200 or so final stories?
I discovered that Scott Garson has a fine eye for flash fiction and is a dedicated soul to the art form. There were so many stories left out of the 50 that are amazing, so I'm glad he included the list of all 200. I was happy to see the numbers of us out there questioning narrative and pushing it in new directions. It feels like so much is bubbling up and forming. I love the forum for all these voices that the internet is providing. I think it's hard to pinpoint, but the writer has to find a way out of a piece of flash fiction that sort of completes its shape. When this didn't happen the fragmentation was less interesting to me, less satisfying. It felt like the voice didn't quite find its way.

But mostly what I discovered was that I was awed at all the great work, from writers whose work I'd long admired like Stuart Dybek to writers I'm only now discovering like Blake Butler, Matt Bell, Kyle Minor, and, well, go read all those terrific stories!

What's life like as a professor in an MFA Program?
This is a new program and I'm incredibly excited about embarking with it. If anyone reading this is thinking of getting an MFA, check this program out. You can find "Out of the Garden" by our MFA director, Jocelyn Bartkevicius, online, which is a gorgeous piece of nonfiction. Susan Hubbard, Pat Rushin, Lisa Roney, and Toni Jensen, all teach fiction there. And it's a beautiful place to live. Orlando is also very dog friendly, which I like.

I had a great MFA model. I had the treasured experience of being a student in the MFA program at the University of Arizona, having those years with writers I admired who were my peers and my teachers, and where our sole focus was on writing. I got to study alongside Kevin Canty, Jana Martin, Kate Bernheimer, Monica Drake, and so many other people who are dear to me and doing wonderful things right now, and to study with the likes of Joy Williams. I've had the great fortune of having teachers like Antonya Nelson, Kevin McIlvoy, Mary Robison and Frederick Barthelme. I'm happy that we're walking around on the planet at the same time, and I think workshop can remind writers of this, that we're not alone. I've already had students whom I've kept in touch with for years. I'm excited now to be teaching in a program where writers and editors and teachers are forming, and relationships. I think when you have dedicated writers, the play and conceptualizing of workshop can be magical. I enjoy workshopping at that level, and also being with some of the students from the inception of a book to its finish.

Read Trace.

Issue Twenty-Five (June 25, 2009): Bush Chanting by Cynthia Helen Beecher «» Flying Pens by Pam Bolton «» Rats by Z.Z. Boone «» The Hobblers by Dan Chaon «» Slanguistic Lipstick by Frank Dahai «» Rain by Natalie DeClerck «» Good Friday by Steven Gullion «» Me and Theodore Are Trapped in the Trunk of the Car with Rags in Our Mouths and Tape Around Our Wrists and Ankles, Please Let Us Out. by Mary Hamilton «» Underfoot by Joan Harvey «» A Minor Setback by Tara Laskowski «» Woman in a Bar by Dorianne Laux «» Matt: How It Will Happen by Amanda Nazario «» Trace by Darlin' Neal «» Exile on Payne Street by Ryan Ridge «» Home Economics by Gail Louise Siegel «» A Funny Smell by Ray Vukcevich «» Andersonville by Lindsay Marianna Walker «» Northern Migration by Brandon Wicks «» Interviews: Cynthia Helen Beecher «» Pam Bolton «» Z.Z. Boone «» Dan Chaon «» Frank Dahai «» Natalie DeClerck «» Steven Gullion «» Mary Hamilton «» Joan Harvey «» Tara Laskowski «» Dorianne Laux «» Amanda Nazario «» Darlin' Neal «» Ryan Ridge «» Gail Louise Siegel «» Ray Vukcevich «» Lindsay Marianna Walker «» Brandon Wicks «» Cover Art "The Vanishing Lotus" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editor
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