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Smoking With Jen Michalski
by Davin Malasarn

cigarette by SuperFantastic
cigarette by SuperFantastic
via Creative Commons license
You chose not to translate the French you used in this piece. Why is that?

One, I felt that the reader could probably pick them out contextually, their meaning, and I didn't want to introduce any metatextual narrative. Plus, I like that it puts Alex's frame of mind as slightly off focus, off the moment, which is that this boy is hitting on her.

Of course, I read it at a reading once and totally mangled the French, which was embarrassing. ;)

Along the same lines of words and meaning, why did you choose the title "Conjugation" for this story?

I like the transitions of the verbs of her being--from an academic, off-focus sense to being right in the moment with this boy she'd always associated as being one of her brother's friends, nothing more.

Alex drinking coffee out of her Snoopy mug is a perfect way to capture her age and stage in life. What inspired that scene?

There used to be something different on the mug, something different, but it felt too forced and specific. I think everyone had something Peanuts-related when they were younger, or probably still have it from those more innocent days.

Is Alex a passive person?

I think so. But I think a lot of passivity, in young women, is just guarding, fear. Not wanting to make the wrong assumption, to do the wrong thing, and thereby it's better to let things happen to you. I think the concept of "conjugation" plays into that, too. Here's someone afraid to use verbs other than the ones that have been established for her to succeed.

When we spoke last, you had just published Close Encounters, and you were shopping around a second collection and a novella. Where are you on your publishing journey?

The novella (I CAN MAKE IT TO CALIFORNIA BEFORE IT'S TIME FOR DINNER) is coming out from Dzanc in 2013, and I just published another novella in October with Press 53 (MAY-SEPTEMBER, which won first place in their 2010 Open Awards Anthology). Right now, though, I'm trying to finish a novel--I'm 300 pages into the first draft. It's about a man who lives forever (although the actual novel covers maybe 200 years, 1800 to the present). But it's more about the innate loneliness of the human condition, and how we struggle and make peace with it (or don't). There's lot of cool stuff in it--Poland during the partition era, turn-of-the-century immigration, World War II, women in the country music scene in the 1950s, the old smokejumpers from the National Fire Service. You know, stuff I like. So, yeah, now I need to get an agent's attention somehow. I'm thinking of buying one of those wind-men you see in the parking lot of car dealerships. ;)

Read Conjugation.

Issue Thirty (December 22, 2010): Eulogy for Maria Mamani, Fire-eater by Ed Bull «» Language Barrier by Thomas Cooper «» A Goblet Falls by Barbara Diehl «» Life Lesson by Damian Dressick «» Yams by Gary Fincke «» How We Handle Our Midnights by Charles Hale «» The Corn by Kathleen Hale «» Amelia by Aubrey Hirsch «» Inside by Ashley Inguanta «» About Things That Are Lost and the Places That Things Get Lost Andrea Kneeland «» The Good Woman by Sara Levine «» Buckaroo by Ravi Mangla «» Her New Friend Jesus by Michael Meyers «» Conjugation by Jen Michalski «» Dairy Queen by Jennifer Pashley «» What Do You Do? by Dariel Suarez «» Up, Up and Away by Art Taylor «» Three Jokes by M. Thompson «» Between Budapest and Dying by Dean Marshall Tuck «» Crash-o-rama! by Chris Wiewiora «» Thirty-Word Story Contest Winners «» Interviews: Ed Bull «» Thomas Cooper «» Barbara Diehl «» Damian Dressick «» Gary Fincke «» Charles Hale «» Kathleen Hale «» Aubrey Hirsch «» Ashley Inguanta «» Andrea Kneeland «» Sara Levine «» Ravi Mangla «» Michael Meyers «» Jen Michalski «» Jennifer Pashley «» Dariel Suarez «» Art Taylor «» M. Thompson «» Dean Tuck «» Chris Wiewiora «» Cover Art "Holiday Wishes" by Marty D. Ison «» Letter From the Editors
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