Smoking With Curtis Smith

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story June 27, 2011

Why do you suppose the tycoon loves dogs so much?

He’s been isolated, geographically, by poverty and then wealth, abandoned by his father — dogs are so loyal and simple in comparison.

I admire how you capture a person’s whole life in just a few paragraphs. When you write flash, do you experiment with time often? Is this a typical Curtis Smith piece, or is it different from what you usually write?

Most of my flash pieces are a single moment. I had this story sitting around for a few years. One day I decided to cut it to its tightest form. So I deleted and condensed, shedding characters and plot items until I was left with a core that really spoke to me.

The tycoon collects cars and then hands them off to people. Do you collect anything? Are you a pack rat, or do you tend to also give stuff away when you tire of it or no longer use it?

I collect books and music. Not much else. Still, my basement is a mess. I’m not good at throwing things out.

Are you from Texas? What inspired you to write this piece?

I’m a life-long Pennsylvanian. But I do have family in Texas. In the mid-80’s, a buddy and I did a road trip from Houston to Dallas. It was winter — chilly and windy and gray, flat, lots of sky. That stuck with me.

Have you studied writing formally (i.e., MFA program) or is this just a passion you’ve nurtured and developed along the way on your own?

I started writing in the late 80’s. I didn’t have a writing background then, but after a few years, I did a low-res MFA at Vermont. It was a great experience for me.

About the Author:

Curtis Smith's stories and essays have appeared in over one hundred literary journals and have been cited by The Best American Short Stories, The Best American Mystery Stories, The Best American Spiritual Writing, and The Best Small Fictions. Smith has published five collections of fiction, the first two with March Street Press and the last three with Press 53. He has published three novels, the last two with Casperian Books, and two essay collections (Sunnyoutside and Dock Street Press). His latest book, a personal take on Slaughterhouse-Five, was recently put out by Ig.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.