Smoking with Beth Thomas

Read the Story September 15, 2007
story art

If you were to name the “thing” what name would you give it?

I’m not sure it’s my place to name the thing. It seems like that’s something the Universe should do, or maybe the thing itself. (But if I could, I’d name it Penelope.)

“The thing dishevels its wings and they catch the light and flash green-gray like aliens.” There is an eerie beauty to this line, as well as to this strange being. Why is it so hard for adults to see the enchanted nature of a creature? Why must we write these types of stories from the perspective of youth?

Because, as children, we just want to see, to study. What do its eyes look like, its mouth, its wings? If I do this, will it jump, fly, smile? As adults, we just want to be safe. And that sucks. We see the thing and wonder: Will it bite me? Does it carry Dengue Fever, West Nile? Will it scare the baby? Will it jump up and land on my neck and freak me the hell out? And then we swat at the thing with a long-handled broom while screaming like a little girl. That last part could just be me.

“Tomorrow they will wake and find that the thing has gone still.” Ah, the lessons of childhood… Do I dare ask what happens next, after the children peer at it, prod it, tip over the plastic cup and watch it tumble out, like an exoskeleton? What, do you imagine, are their reactions? Or is that something you insist on leaving up to your readers?

I imagine that, being little boys, their reaction is something like this:

Shrug. Run off to find something else to study.

What is our Fish Fellowship winner up to in her spare time?

My spare time has been very limited lately due to work. But I have managed to take 2 vacations this summer: one to the New Mexico mountains for a family reunion, and one to Hawaii with my husband, daughter, and parents. Both vacations were awesome; working 70-hour weeks is not awesome.

Since this is my first issue with SLQ, I thought it’d be appropriate to discuss firsts. Writing firsts. First time you called yourself a writer, first publication, first check. Those sorts of things. So, dish. What is your most memorable writing first?

I think my writing firsts might be a little odd. Truly first, I wrote as a journalist and PR person, and published a whole mess of stories, feature articles, and press releases. I think my first straight cash-for-words payment was for some guest columns I wrote for the Las Cruces Sun-News. It wasn’t fiction, but it was memorable. Sixty bucks a pop. Big time, baby! I first called myself a writer when I got my first business card that said “Technical Writer.” So that wasn’t fiction-related either. I still don’t really call myself a “writer” in the fictiony sense. I hope that someday I can call myself a “Writer” without feeling like a fraud or having to add “Technical” to it…

Any day now.

About the Author:

Beth Thomas is originally from New Mexico but currently lives in California due to military relocation. She works as a technical writer in the aerospace/defense industry—don't ask what she writes about 'cause she can't really tell you. She has a BA and an MA in writerly things from New Mexico universities. Her work has recently appeared in Pindeldyboz Online, SmokeLong Quarterly, Juked, Word Riot, and other places.