Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Allison Pinkerton

by Shasta Grant Read the Story June 19, 2017

We both frequently write stories about adolescent girls but your stories are more contemporary than mine – my characters are stuck in the 80s and 90s with no cell phones and internet. Modern day teenagers are a mystery to me. Can you talk about how you’re able to tap into their psyches so successfully?

I used to teach high school, so that helps. I spent each day with girls who were trying to navigate a turbulent time in the creation of their social selves. I watched them build and break down boundaries in their relationships. The fallout was sometimes intense, and emotionally tense moments are perfect to explore in flash fiction.

I read an article once on how teenage girls are the most inventive language users. This seems to be pronounced with the advent of the internet, where people communicate in extreme ways—something about the anonymity leads people to be both more gracious and more acerbic than they would be in real life.

I like to explore intersections in my work—between the pithy and the profound, the sacred and the profane. As teen girls are at the intersection between childhood and adulthood, their voices are perfect interrogating these ideas.

Religion is another theme I see in your writing but it’s presented in unique ways, like in this story, with the narrator sketching a Virgin Mary superhero with eyeliner. I’m curious what draws you to the theme of religion?

Religion has always fascinated me—maybe because religious practice provides the opportunity to explore complicated questions that might not have answers. I grew up Christian, and have begun to work on what that means in my adult life. I’m attracted to the symbolism behind the ancient Christian practices, and the emotional resonance Christianity holds for many people.

You are now halfway through your Kathy Fish Fellowship. What has been most surprising about the experience so far? We’ll be opening up to applications for the 2018 fellow soon. Any advice for writers who are considering applying?

The most surprising part of the Kathy Fish Fellowship has been the way that the flash I’ve read for SLQ has informed my 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.

People who are thinking about applying for the fellowship should read through the SLQ archives to discover the kind of work that the editors at SmokeLong Quarterly appreciate. I’d also recommend Tin House Flash Fridays, PANK, and Gulf Coast.

It’s almost officially summer! What is on your summer reading list? What is one book you’ve read recently that you think everyone should read this summer?

This summer, I’m going to read all the books. I’m a huge fan of Lauren Groff, so I’ll probably reread her short story collection Delicate Edible Birds. I’m looking forward to Julie Buntin’s Marlena, and Mohsin Hamid’s Exit West. I recently finished The Family Fang, by Kevin Wilson. It’s funny and weird, while still being literary. #writergoals.

About the Author:

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.

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.