“Light up the heart”: An Interview With Guest Reader Gay Degani

by Shasta Grant See all Guest Readers

You recently traveled to Costa Rica (how wonderful!). I’m curious if your travels influence your writing? And if yes, in what ways? 

This is a two-part answer. First, I travel to write. Being surrounded by one’s tribe is always a good thing, makes me feel embraced, encouraged, home. The energy, the camaraderie, the inspiration all work on my soul. I was lucky enough to attend the “Writing Wild” retreat in Costa Rica facilitated by Kathy Fish and Nancy Stohlman. I’ve gone to a Bending Genres retreat in Taos, spent a week in Banff with Joan Clarke, and time at the Vermont Studio Center as well as a few others including AWP in several cities. All these adventures nurture one’s writing.

Second, since my husband’s retired, we’ve traveled quite a bit and though I find inspiration all around me in my own little city, there is nothing quite like being away to light up the heart and mental circuitry. While I don’t always end up writing about something specific we’ve seen, I return home feeling expanded, eager, and renewed. I have several “starts” inspired by place, yet I haven’t tapped into that resource as deeply as I should.  Thanks, Shasta, for this specific question. I feel something in me stretching down into the well of remembered travel.

Why do you like to write flash fiction?

I write flash fiction mostly because it’s fun, challenging, and gets me to the computer every day.  Even as I struggle to finish my second novel, I can’t seem to get myself to focus on longer work exclusively. One trick is helping me: deciding that each chapter is going to be a 1000 word piece of flash. My first novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016), has 70 1000-word chapters. What works with this idea is that when one thinks of each chapter as a flash piece, it forces the mind to create an arc, to think in terms of movement from point A to point be, to make every word count.

What is the best piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

I really can’t think of anything specific, anything like “write every day.” I’ve been inspired by so many books on writing (I’ve read most of them over the last fifty years) and writers who have given me hope and faith in myself. Maybe that’s it: surround yourself with like-minded people, those wild-minded writers on the net and in your town, engage them, read them, mingle and drink with them. I would say the community, my community, has been the source of great encouragement, knowledge, inspiration, and solace.

What kind of story would you love to find in your queue this week?

I look for reality in small moments. Awareness of being in those small moments. I like grounded work. Put me in a specific place, with flawed people who have to face some life challenge, large or small. If I see a Greek god or obscure writing, I will most likely roll my eyes. I am not one for the abstract. I want to have a movie in my head beginning like all movies, with an establishing shot, a character that catches my attention, a story that promises to make me think and feel. Feel more than think, but both. This doesn’t mean I won’t love something that is experimental or absurd, but the writer must give me something to hold onto while I’m flapping in the wind of unique prose. In other words, make the writing mean something to me. The non-specific me, the reader.


About the Reader:

Gay Degani has been nominated here and there for Pushcart consideration, Best Small Fictions, and a few various and sundry honors including the 11th Glass Woman Prize. She is the author of a full-length collection of short stories, Rattle of Want (Pure Slush Press, 2015) and a suspense novel, What Came Before (Truth Serum Press, 2016). Her micro "Abbreviated Glossary" appears in the anthology New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fictionedited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro. She occasionally blogs at Words in Placeand is currently working on another novel of suspense.

About the Interviewer:

Shasta Grant is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She was the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow and she won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, matchbook, MonkeyBicyclewigleaf, and elsewhere.