Smoking With Eugenia E. Gratto

Read the Story December 15, 2003

What inspired you to write this piece?

I got the inspiration for this particular piece while on a Memorial Day Weekend trip to a college friend’s lake house in southern Virginia. We spent hours in the afternoons and at night sitting out on the beach. We built bonfires both nights, and on one of the nights, I was one of the last people sitting down there, watching the fire burn down and a huge, orange, full moon set over the opposite side of the lake. I was watching the path of light it cast along the water, and started thinking about what would happen if someone tried to traverse that path, and next thing I knew, the story was born. I wrote it almost immediately after returning from that trip.

What authors inspire you?

I love Isabel Allende and her magic realism — I think that blurring of the lines between reality and fantasy appears often in my work, and that’s probably from reading her work and also from reading a lot of W.P. Kinsella’s work. He plays with magic realism a lot, but he writes about baseball rather than the topics that Allende works with. Amy Hempel and Pamela Painter have both inspired me as teachers and as writers—I am indebted, particularly to Pamela Painter for finally helping me learn to revise my work.

How long have you been writing flash fiction? Is it your favorite form? If not, what other types do you enjoy?

I truly love writing flash fiction—the stories usually arrive all at once, so they’re easier and quicker to get down the first time, and I love working with them, focusing line by line and word by word to get everything right. I greatly admire poets, and I think flash fiction is probably about as close to writing decent poetry as I’ll ever get. I don’t remember exactly when I started writing flash fiction pieces, but I took one of Pam Casto’s online flash fiction workshops a few years ago, and that’s the first time I put a name to what I was writing.

We all have favorite genres to write about, be it everyday life, romantic pieces, dark pieces, etc. What draws you in to write about? What makes you want to write?

I tend to write very dark pieces, which often surprises those who know me—I’m a pretty happy, well-adjusted woman, although I think my work reflects a much darker worldview! A lot of what I write about has to do with loss, whether that be loss of self, loss of love, loss of hope or loss of understanding. Sometimes my characters overcome their loss and find something better along the way, but other times, as in this story, the character’s outcome is a little more ambiguous.

To me, this story seems to be about lost love. Is it? Care to elaborate?

One one level, certainly the story is about lost love. But perhaps, more than being about lost love, it’s about never been able to achieve love in the first place. Emily goes after something that loves her but not in any real, tangible way, and she is lost because of it.

Finally, I want to know, do you think Emily is happy now?

Well, as I see it, she never really makes it out of the lake. Whether that makes her happy now or not, well, I guess I’m going to have to take the evasive road and let the reader decide that for him or herself.

About the Author:

Eugenia E. Gratto lives and writes in Arlington, Virginia. She holds an M.A. in fiction from Johns Hopkins University and has completed a fiction residency at the Vermont Studio Center. Her work has appeared in the premiere issue of Night Train, Wordwrights!, The Unknown Writer and The Washington Post.

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.