Smoking With Alicia Gifford

Read the Story October 15, 2004

“Broodiness” is one wild story. I love it. It’s a story of hope for everyone, except maybe those poor chickens. It seems your favorite them of moral ambiguity is at work in this story. What is it about this theme that intrigues you so?

Black and white thinking irritates me. It interests me to take something that is traditionally “wrong” or “immoral”, like leaving the scene of an accident that kills a child, and raise the possibility that it’s not so wrong in a given situation. Here in “Broodiness” it appears in a very light way; my main intent with this story is humor.

Alicia, you came to writing relatively late, yet reading your work, it seems you are a natural storyteller. What finally got you started?

My mother taught me to read before entering kindergarten and supplied a plethora of books that my sister and I devoured. Writing, spelling, and grammar came easily to me growing up and I enjoyed it. As a nurse I wrote strange nurse’s notes, and other nurses read them for entertainment. I imagined my notes being read in court some day, wowing judge and jury (I’m an idiot, okay?) But it was when I became single in the late 90’s and joined Matchmaker.com to lure men on the Internet that I got a lot of queries asking if I wrote for a living, and if I didn’t, I should. Because of that feedback I took Fiction I at UCLA Extension in the fall of 2000 and learned you didn’t have to have a story idea to write a story; that you could write a sentence, follow it with another, and produce a story that way. This was a huge epiphany for me. The matchmaking thing proved successful, too.

I’ve noticed there is always a thread of humor running through your stories. Do you feel humor is vital to telling a good story?

Hmm, maybe not vital, I’m trying to think of a story I love that is humorless—maybe Cynthia Ozick’s “The Shawl”—but in my work it bubbles out, often inappropriately, and I have to edit it out. I have an inordinate fondness for dark, sick humor. It came in handy as an ICU nurse.

You write mostly short stories, but also some flash. What do you like about writing flash fiction?

Writing flash has its own set of challenges that I find stimulating and very satisfying. Reading it is like popping one of those mini Snickers in your mouth. Yum.

What is your favorite story that you’ve written and why?

I think it’s “You Go” that NFG published in Issue III. I empathize with the main character a lot, even though our life experiences are very different, and the ending always makes me cry in a sappy, happy way.

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.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.