Smoke and Mirrors: An Interview with Colleen Kearney Rich

by Isaac Boone Davis Read the Story December 14, 2015

Tell me about the repetition of “the reason” in this story. Therapy on some level is about seeking reason, logic, in the things we do. Is the narrator explaining to an imaginary therapist her rationale? Or is something else going on? 

The story is about secrets. The things you won’t or can’t say or admit. The therapist wasn’t necessarily imaginary. I imagine the parents of this girl might seek professional help for her. But if she doesn’t say what’s really going on with her, there isn’t going to be a resolution any time soon.

Normally at SmokeLong we like a story that checks out early. But this one is quite short (and in my opinion really effective). Talk about the decision to make it the length you chose.  

Thank you. I wrote this story in an online workshop with Kathy Fish. It was an experiment with form. I originally wanted it to be an actual numbered list of the things she couldn’t tell the therapist. But it didn’t work out that way. For me it is all about the moment—that missed opportunity to say goodbye for what turns out to be the last time—so I was able to get there quickly and keep the writing pretty tight.

Indulge me a little bit. Tell me some more about your narrator. You give us just enough information to make me think that you’ve gotten to know her before. 

I have two teenagers, so I am surrounded by this world. About two years ago, there were two suicides at their high school very close together. The one boy killed himself right before school and they announced it before they released the students for the day so that people could get counseling if needed. It was traumatic. My daughter said she could hear someone wailing in the hallway, and it was the most awful sound she had ever heard. One of her good friends, who this character is loosely based on, was texting with the boy the night before and had no idea he was even depressed. As a result, she is very haunted by the fact that he never let on what he was about to do. Kids were tweeting messages to the boy on Twitter telling him how much he meant to them. It was heartbreaking to watch.

The story really captures the mania that is high school. All the little micro-worlds and bubbles that can feel like life and death. And then, bam, there’s a real death in the middle of all that, which of course creates more micro-worlds. Some more legit than others, probably. Tell us a bit about your high school experience. 

Ugh. What a question! I went to a huge high school. I think it is still the second largest in Virginia.  So I was just a face in the crowd. I was a drama nerd and a photographer for the school newspaper. I am still in touch with many classmates and just attended a reunion this past summer, so it must not have been too awful. It is fun to see where everyone ended up in life, and it is never where you think.

What are you working on these days? 

I’ve been working on some flash and thinking seriously about longer works. I have a really bad habit of starting novels and not finishing them. Many of my writer friends are publishing books so there is pressure to get myself organized and finish something. That’s a goal for 2016.

About the Author:

One of the founding editors of the literary magazine So To Speak: A Feminist Journal of Language and Art, Colleen Kearney Rich is currently a reviews editor for Literary Mama. Her writing has been published in the Washington Post, Phoebe, Minerva Rising, and the anthology Amazing Graces: Yet Another Collection of Fiction by Washington Area Women, among others. She lives in Virginia and is at work on a novel.

About the Artist:

Claire Ibarra is a writer, poet, and photographer. Her photographs have appeared in numerous journals and magazines, including Roadside Fiction, Alimentum--The Literature of Food, Foliate Oak, Lime Hawk, and Blue Fifth Review. She was an artist in residence for Counterexample Poetics and art editor for Gulf Stream Magazine. Claire’s work was included in the “Finding the Light” Exhibition at the PhotoPlace Gallery.