Smoking With Ann Walters

Read the Story December 15, 2004

“Cracks” is such a powerfully written flash. The narrator’s voice is particularly strong. How did this character and her voice come to you, Ann?

Thanks, Kathy. Writing “Cracks” was an unusual experience for me. It was one of those nights where my mind wouldn’t stop turning ideas round and round. Somehow I’d gotten this image of a tiny clinic where all aspects of life and death take place in one or two small rooms, and the idea that even lives which seem to slip between the cracks leave behind a residue. The narrator’s voice came into my head as I lay in bed half-asleep, repeating those first words over and over. She demanded that I get up (at 2:30 am!) and write her story down. The voice was so clear and so insistent, it felt more like channeling a spirit than writing a story.

How long have you been writing fiction and what got you started?

I’ve been writing fiction for almost two years now. I’d been talking about writing fiction forever, but between archaeological fieldwork, writing my dissertation, and starting a family, I never seemed to find the time. After our second child was born, in the early weeks of sleep deprivation and the overwhelming realization that I was now outnumbered, my husband came to my rescue. He insisted I make some time for myself, do something I really wanted to do. And to make it concrete, he brought home a course catalog from the local community college. I signed up for an online writing class, and at the end of six weeks, I was addicted. I’d always known I wanted to write, but until then, I didn’t realize I needed to write.

Do you write primarily flash? What do you like about writing flash fiction?

I do write mostly flash, though I squeeze in the occasional longer short story as well. I love everything about flash fiction – the freedom to play around and experiment, take risks; the economy and precision of the language; the intensity of emotion; the distillation of an entire world and life into a tightly focused scene. And, of course, there’s the immediate gratification of writing an entire story from start to finish in one sitting, which with two small children running around, means a very short story.

I’ve seen this quote in a bio of yours elsewhere: “You must stay drunk on writing so reality cannot destroy you.” – Ray Bradbury… Can you tell me why it is so resonant for you?

When I began writing, this quote embodied the way writing makes me feel—giddy and special, unreal in a dreamlike way. For me, there’s a headiness to writing, a sense of power and elation in creating something that is uniquely mine, that I rarely get from other aspects of my life. But the more I’ve written, the more I’ve come to realize that writing not only makes me feel vibrant, it is essential to my well-being. It brings a balance to my life that allows everything else to fall into place. Bradbury speaks of writing as survival, and I believe his words are particularly relevant in today’s world when he says: “…writing allows just the proper recipes of truth, life, reality as you are able to eat, drink, and digest without hyperventilating and flopping like a dead fish in your bed.”

Who or what inspires you?

Wow, that’s a tough question – how much time do you have? In short, everything inspires me: people, memories, conversations; sights, sounds, smells; the mundane and the extraordinary. In particular, I find that when I get the spark for a story, it usually springs from an emotion, and my emotions are quite often tied to a very specific locale. A sense of place informs nearly everything I write.

About the Author:

Ann Walters lives in the Pacific Northwest with her husband and two beautiful daughters. Her fiction has appeared in Quintessence and Gator Springs Gazette.

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.