Editor’s Choice Week: An Interview With Allison Pinkerton

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The story from this week’s submissions will be selected by a member of our editorial staff. All stories submitted July 17-23 will be read by Allison Pinkerton.

Allison is the 2017 Kathy Fish Fellow. In addition to workshopping stories with the SmokeLong staff, she’s also read and commented on hundreds of submissions in the SLQ queue so far this year–an experience that she says in a recent interview with Shasta Grant has informed her own writing: “I expected reading to help with my work, but I didn’t expect to learn so much about audience from the discussions we’ve had about pieces we might publish.” We are grateful to have Allison on the SmokeLong team.

The Kathy Fish Fellowship will be opening for submissions soon, so start polishing your best flash.

We asked Allison a few questions in preparation for her Editor’s Choice week:

Themes, topics, or styles I’m drawn to:

I’ve been drawn to the symbols and poetry embedded in American Christianity lately. Faith is interesting to explore in secular fiction because it guides people’s actions in unexpected, emotional ways. I write character-driven stories, and exploring religious belief gives me another way to understand character motivations.

Voice is always the first thing I look for when I’m reading a new story. If the voice is engaging, I’m there. I’m interested in character-driven stories, especially about complicated family relationships. I love it when characters surprise me in organic ways, and when the writer treats the characters with empathy and understanding.

I heard the advice once that each character in a story believes he or she is the main character. The best stories, to me, follow that principle. If a story is character-driven and organic and has precise language, it’s a winner.

Dealbreakers in flash:

Dialect in dialogue is a turn-off. I’m uninterested in stories with flat characters, or where I can see the writer pulling the puppet-strings, as it were. Gratuitous violence—without revealing something crucial about the characters—is a nonstarter.

I’m not interested in stories that are weird for weird’s sake—I need the weirdness of the story to be grounded, to make sense in its strangeness. For example, don’t have a character speak in couplets just because you can. Have your character speak in couplets because it’s a manifestation of her anxiety disorder that pops up when she has to speak in front of her crush in 3rd period history.

A flash story I LOVE:

Ali Rachel Pearl’s “The Town of Milkcarton Kids.”

A flash I’ve written:

“DM Me If You #Repent” in Pinch


About the Reader:

Allison Pinkerton is the 2017 Kathy Fish fellow at SmokeLong Quarterly. Her work is forthcoming in Image, and has been published online at Monkeybicycle, The Pinch, and elsewhere.