Smoking With Girija Tropp

Read the Story March 15, 2008

Your descriptions are excellent. I particularly like “walls the color of fashionable baby-caca…” For you, what is the key to writing great imagery?

I don’t know that there is a key. At least if there is one, I can’t claim access to it. All I can say is that one keeps writing until blessed by some kind of imagery-mannah from heaven.

“They were doing art.” I love this line. If this couple were literally a work of art, what type of art would they be?

Graffiti!

You have an incredibly strong voice and story-telling ability. When you first started out, however, were there any particular aspects of fiction writing that kicked your butt? How did you overcome them?

Perhaps it is because of a cultural inheritance—a tendency to flamboyance, a purple prose. I guess I kept making mistakes till I got an eye for what worked.

Tell us about the novel that was a finalist in the Faulkner Awards.

It is/was the fifth novel in my novel-writing career—the rest have been trashed. A story about a manufacturer of recreational drugs who had to let go of what was rightfully his before he could enter the ‘gates of paradise’. Anyway, being a finalist meant that I was motivated to visit New Orleans and see my writer friend Pia Ehrhardt; that, and the city—even post-Katrina, was an amazing experience.

While reading through the annual Kathy Fish Fellowship applications, I was struck by the number of writers who were using flash as, to paraphrase, a means to an end. Most people weren’t writing flash because they loved the form, because it took them places other types of fiction didn’t. Instead, they were using it as a gateway into longer works—short stories, short story collections, novels. As a champion of flash, I found this discouraging. Is flash fiction less satisfying, in terms of either writing or reading, than longer works? Or is it that the markets still haven’t accepted flash as a legitimate form? Why do you write flash, and where do you see it taking you?

Flash is a form unto itself! The demands of flash are different to other forms. For me, flash is like undressing in public. It seems to me that a good piece of flash fiction reveals both the writer and the world within which the writer lives together with a certain difficult to define something that is its hallmark. I write flash or micro-fiction because it seems to have a close relationship with meditation. While I am working on a piece, everything else around me dissolves… I don’t think of narrative drive, character arc, relevant detail… I keep searching till the piece seems to arrive.

I don’t see it taking me anywhere. However, in retrospect, it has been one of the ways in which I arrived at a strong bonded writing community. If that is a ‘somewhere’ then it was worth every second

About the Author:

Girija Tropp's fiction has appeared in several Best Australian Short Stories editions. She has been published in The Boston Review, Agni, and various other journals. She has also won or been short-listed for major awards. Most recently, her flash fiction has appeared in New World Writing, and anthologised in Cafe Irreal and Smokelong Quarterly: The Best of the First Ten Years. She lives in Australia.