Smoking With Alicia Gifford

Read the Story June 15, 2008
story art

You guest edited issue 16, and you’re the Fiction Editor at Night Train. What do you, as an editor, look for in a story? What about your own story, “Lobster Girl,” fits this criterion?

I’m a sucker for humor, sometimes at the expense of meaning and depth. “Lobster Girl” probably reflects that.

I’m never quite sure how to interpret stories that contain unreal elements. Are they meant to be humorous? Or do they step outside the box, so to speak, in order to shine new light on human emotions and problems?

Speaking only of “Lobster Girl,” humor, yes, the flamenco wannabe alien is there for humor, and also irony, in that the extra-terrestrial is kind of an on-purpose cliché. He serves to bring out Maybelline’s loneliness and sense of being “other”, but it wasn’t necessary to use an unreal element to do that.

What sparked this crazy, fun story?

I wrote it for a Flash Flood, which is an event where a bunch of writers write flashes, post them, and then comment on them online. There were some prompts, I believe the chocolate chips were one of the prompts, and I’ve forgotten the rest, but I did incorporate prompts. There used to be a news anchorwoman in Los Angeles, Bree Walker, who had this deformity, ectrodactyly, and she must’ve been on my mind, somehow.

This issue marks SmokeLong‘s fifth anniversary, which has me thinking about longevity and growth. There’s no denying the literary arena is a fickle one, with journals coming and going, writers shooting onto the scene then falling into a long hiatus, editors changing houses, agents merging, and the trends! Don’t even get me started! How do you, as a writer, endure the ups and downs? Have you experienced any setbacks? What measures have you taken to grow?

I write because I enjoy it, it’s stimulating and fun, and that’s mainly what drives me. Rejection is discouraging and I’ll say I’ve gotten used to it, but then something particularly disappointing happens and then I’m not so used to it. Hmmm, I have this image right now of a merry-go-round, the painted ponies enduring the ups and downs, but getting nowhere. Now I’m really depressed. Ha ha! As far as growing, I think workshops and all that stuff are valuable, anything that makes something click about craft, etc., but the best “growing” medium seems to be just reading admirable work and deconstructing as much as possible, why it works. That said, I should heave my TV out the window.

About the Author:

Alicia Gifford writes fiction as hard and as fast as she can. Her work is published or forthcoming in a number of places including Narrative Magazine, Confrontation, McSweeney's Internet Tendency, The Barcelona Review, Mississippi Review Web, NFG Magazine and other journals. She hopes to have a collection of her short stories ready very, very soon. Contact her here.