Smoking With Claire Rudy Foster

by Nancy Stebbins Read the Story June 23, 2014

There is anger, but also a sense of futility here (We eat our young, and we are all young. We’re hopeless. What happens?”) that keeps this piece from feeling like “just a rant.” I’m very curious about what inspired it.

I actually wrote this short story while I was in a mosh pit at a punk show at Lola’s Room. Long Knife was playing, and they’re really excellent. I wrote this with my phone’s notepad app, no easy feat when you’re dancing around with a bunch of people in combat boots and studded jackets. This was a difficult night for me, and the music helped. What’s the point of ranting? That anger’s no good unless it has somewhere to go. Mine went into this story.

The narrator claims to be disinterested in church but there are so many (indirect and direct) references God in this short piece. Why is that?

First of all, I don’t think that churches have an exclusive claim on God. Monotheism, monogamy … punk is a reaction to these monolithic things, in a way. Nobody can claim them. For me, “church” is any place, emotional or physical, that we visit consistently because it feeds the sacred part of us. I know people who go to the gym every day, and that’s their church. Or the office. Or they make their kitchens or bedrooms into altars. In this case, it’s the concert, the energy of it, that provides that spiritual connection.

What’s the best thing about living in Portland?

The weather. I’m not kidding. The sky is usually low-lying, gray and cloudy. It keeps out the sun lovers and the people who want Portland to be some kind of twee amusement park. I also think that the weather encourages creativity. It’s like living in a Bronte novel, lots of rain and heath and broody people.

Where do you write? Describe your writing space(s) for us.

I write sitting cross-legged on my living room carpet. I have also had good luck writing in places with a lot of ambient noise—something about those environments really gets the words flowing. To me, the point isn’t where I write, because I think that’s a state of mind. I can write anywhere. The discipline of showing up daily for the story is way more important.

What are you working on now?

I recently finished a novel, which was a totally different experience from writing short stories. I like flash fiction for its sense of urgency. The instant gratification and the poetry of it. Writing a novel is not even in the same solar system. It’s addictive in a different way—a slow, patient extraction, instead of a quick hit of color and sensation. This novel is set in Portland and is about the conflict of choosing between what your heart wants and what your family wants for you. It’s about fidelity. Writing it meant giving a lot of attention to the things I’ve chosen to give my loyalty over the years, holding up a mirror to my life. It wasn’t an easy process, but I’m already looking forward to starting the next one. I guess you could say that’s my church—the story. That’s where I feel the connection. That’s where I feel I belong.

About the Author:

Claire Rudy Foster lives in Portland, Oregon. She holds an MFA in Creative Writing. Her critically recognized short fiction has appeared in various respected journals; she has been recognized by several small presses, including a nomination for the Pushcart Prize. She is afraid of sharks, zombies, and other imaginary monsters.

About the Interviewer:

Nancy Stebbins is a former editor at SmokeLong Quarterly.