Smoking With Bob Arter

Read the Story June 15, 2008
story art

You guest edited issue 17. What do you, as an editor, look for in a story? What about your own story, “Paper Mouse,” fits this criterion?

First, typos and other niggling errors. After that, I want the sense of the story to pass through the writer as transparently as possible to the reader. In this particular flash, rhythm is also an important element—I wanted a sort of singy-song fairy tale.

It does have terrific rhythm and song quality. What genre of music do you envision accompanying this fairy tale?

Anything danceable—good beat, get out on the floor, put the coins in the slots, push the buttons on the jukebox, and boogie. My Paper Mouse is into hip-hop, possibly into freestyle. Back in medieval times, there was a Top 40s hit that dinosaurs danced to at the malt shop. It was called “Land of a Thousand Dances,” and the lyrics were, oh, You gotta know how to Pony, like Bony Marony, Do the Mashed Potato…right—you got it. Okay, you have a snowman and a paper mouse in a lowdown bar, and they’re diving under a table when the air ride siren goes off, alerting everybody that several dozen thermonuclear devices have them triangulated. I like that word; it sounds mildly pornographic, and how would you like to have mere seconds before these H-bombs came raining down on your head?

“…and Germany is drunk and metric.” Love this! There’s something about that word “metric.” It seems random, and yet it conveys so much. But what does it convey? I’m not sure…

Thanks. I spent a lot of time toying with “drunk and metric” and “metric and drunk.” In the beginning, “drunk and metric” felt more like a song lyric. It still did at the end. It’s silly, of course, but I strove for silliness throughout.

I can’t help but ask: What’s your favorite beer?

Guinness Stout. If I were thinking domestic-only and being all patriotic, plain old Bud.

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’m not sure this is a “setback,” but I haven’t submitted anything (besides “Mouse”) for quite a while. Plus: I’ve been ill, so I have an excuse to fall back on. Right now, though, I have a novel nearly written (first draft); I’m collaborating with a fellow Zoetrooper on a short story having to do with Viet Nam; I’m collaborating with a cousin on a fantasy novel for young adults. Plug: Please subscribe to Writers Market online for $3.99 per month. It’s a terrific resource.

About the Author:

Bob Arter lives and writes in Southern California. His stuff has appeared, or soon will, in Zoetrope All-Story Extra, The Absinthe Literary Review, Painted Moon Review, Lit Pot, Ink Pot, Night Train, and elsewhere.