Smoking With Ellen M. Rhudy

Read the Story August 15, 2004

Tell us about your journal, Frothing At The Mouth, and how that has affected your own writing.

I wouldn’t say Frothing at the Mouth has affected my writing in any way, but it an interesting project and probably a good example of why procrastinators should not run literary journals. I love the chance to publish new writing, and writing by authors I’ve admired for years, but I despise everything else about the magazine—laying it out, placing ads, getting sample copies out to bookstores—and am therefore very lazy when it comes to getting it all together. Ultimately, though, all that work gets some good new fiction out, and I’m excited to be able to do that. That sounds very bland. At the moment FatM is a straight fiction journal, though I’d like to begin publishing essays in the future. I’m not sure if I’ll be doing that in FatM or some other forum, I have a real backlog of projects at the moment and shouldn’t be thinking about this.

What is it about writing that fascinates you?

I write because I don’t know what else to do, and because I like the way gel pen looks on a yellow legal pad, not because anything about it fascinates me. I should say something about creating whole lives on paper, but what I’m doing is keeping myself busy for a few hours while I work on a story—my writing is a wholly selfish pursuit, and something that I do when I am very bored (when I’m at work and have nothing to do) or when I otherwise need to divide my day up into little blocks of time so I don’t feel bad for spending a full day listening to music.

Dreams often inspire writers. Have you found them to be a way into your stories, and if not, where do you go for ideas?

I have crazy dreams that would probably not translate well into stories. I don’t go anywhere for ideas; I sit down or lay down to write, and begin to write—I’ll start with a word and go from there. For instance, with this story, all I knew at the start was that it would be about a girl saying “oh.” The rest came to me as I went along. Writing is very instinctual for me; if I think about it I produce nothing but shit, whereas by not thinking about it I occasionally produce a story that is workable. On one instance a first sentence came to me as I was falling asleep and I sat up and wrote the story, “Crown Prince” in about an hour before going to sleep. That’s probably the closest I’ve come to getting a story from a dream, although it was not technically a dream. It was not even sleep, but it was close enough that I feel comfortable mentioning it here, to pad my answer.

I do get a lot of inspiration from music, and nearly always listen to music when I’m writing—while I don’t take ideas from my music, I do take emotions and feelings, and most of my work tends to be very emotional and vague (and, actually, dreamy). This story isn’t a good example of that, but I do love stories that FEEL as though they came from a dream. The concept of GOING anywhere for ideas just throws me; I can’t imagine being able to do anything like that, or wanting to.

When you come to the end of a story, whether it’s one you’ve just written or a piece by an author you enjoy, what makes you sad, and what continues to move with you?

When I reach the end of one of my own stories I usually feel pretty relieved, and then stuff it under my bed where I will, with luck, forget about it. When I reach the end of a story I’m reading—that depends. If it’s a shit story I probably didn’t make it past the first page, and if it’s a good story I don’t think anything at all. I lay there for a minute and stare at my ceiling or the inside of my eyelids, and then I move on and do something else, although when I read a good story I do think about it every once in a while.

Describe your perfect writing retreat.

I think I would be very unhappy if I went on a writing retreat. I would feel sad and lonely and would be unable to write. What a high-pressure environment, going on a retreat specifically to write! So, my perfect retreat would be to go on a trip, anywhere I felt like going at that moment, with someone I liked, and to write if the urge struck me, but to not worry about writing or not writing and just enjoy myself.

About the Author:

Ellen Rhudy lives in Philadelphia, where she works as an instructional designer. Her fiction has recently appeared in Lady Churchill's Rosebud Wristlet and is forthcoming in cream city review, Nimrod, and Jellyfish Review. Her non-fiction has been published at Electric Literature. You can find her on twitter @ilifi.

About the Artist:

A native of Ohio, Marty D. Ison lives with his wife transplanted in the sands of the Gulf of Mexico. He studied fine arts at Saint Petersburg College. In addition to the visual arts, he writes poetry, short stories, and novels. See more of Ison's work here.