Smoking With Caroline Zilk

by Nancy Stebbins Read the Story September 29, 2010

There’s a link on your website to your photographs on Flickr. I was particularly drawn to the ones with series–baskets, bottle, canoes–and couldn’t help thinking of the line in your story: “I liked straight lines and plans.” Do you think that being a writer influences your photography? Or vice versa? Do you have other creative outlets, in addition to writing and photography?

I’m a journalist by trade. I don’t think my photography influences my writing as much as other people’s photography and art. I’m lucky to spend a lot of time around a lot of really talented people who see a lot of beauty in every day. Those people and images are very inspiring to me. Also, my journalism training has made me think a lot about story-telling, so I do try to tell a story in everything I write and in every photo I take.

I design – for print and for the web. Design is one of the only tasks that completely draws me in and that I can never get distracted from. I’m going to be learning more about print-making this fall and may try to sell some stationary designs. It’s a very hip thing to be doing these days, it seems.

I really liked the juxtaposition: “You swam to the top of the bowl. You jumped from star to star.” If the lover is like a fish that needs to be shaken every so often, what does his swimming to the top of the bowl signify?
In this context, having the character “swim to the top of the bowl” means that he is stepping up to the plate and finally making an effort to be selfless in a way – something the speaker in this story finds extremely attractive.

I’ve found that a writer who uses second-person POV has to explain (or maybe defend) this choice more than with other points of view. What has been your experience? And how did you choose the second person POV for this story?
I haven’t been questioned much about using second-person. I do it for a lot of my short short stories and vignettes, because more than any of my other fiction, they usually have some deep rooting in reality…past experiences or some kind of image that has stuck with me. It just seems to make sense. I don’t feel the need to defend myself too much.

None of the characters’ names are given in this story. As you imagined them, did they have names?
Sometimes the vignettes I write are left-out scenes from longer pieces, but this one wasn’t. It stands on its own and is actually a culmination of a lot of different characters and a lot of different experiences and plot bunnies that have stuck with me for a long time. The characters, in my mind, don’t necessarily have names. I wanted them to be relatable, so leaving out names was a deliberate decision. They could be anyone.

What writing project(s) are you working on now?
I’m a staff writer for the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette and a regular contributor to Sync Weekly, an arts and entertainment magazine serving central Arkansas. Other than that, I write flash fiction when it comes to me. I’m also always attempting to rewrite and edit a young-adult novel I wrote in high school about a group of girls who attend a Christian school and are forced to attend spiritual counseling. I can’t ever seem to get it right…

About the Author:

Caroline Zilk has lived and worked in the U.S., U.K., Germany and South Korea. She holds a degree in journalism from the University of Missouri and currently resides in Little Rock, Ark. with a Boston terrier named Boone. Visit www.carolinezilk.com.

About the Interviewer:

Nancy Stebbins is a former editor at SmokeLong Quarterly.