Smoking With Jennifer Pashley

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story December 22, 2010

Can you discuss your associations with Dairy Queen? Do you love it? Hate it? Did you have the fancy DQs that you can walk into and order food and stuff, or was your DQ more like mine growing up where it was just a walk-up, ice cream-only place?

I grew up in Syracuse, NY, and except for a very short period of time, we didn’t have Dairy Queens. There was one in Liverpool, when my older son was a baby, but it lasted less than a year I think. It was indeed the fancy kind, where you could order burgers. So, instead, I associate Dairy Queen with far flung locations. I think of them as Southern or Western maybe, but not something I associate with home. Like Jack in the Box or Roy Rogers. They are road trip destinations for me.

I love so much about this story–how this very small moment is such a reflection on not only the characters’ lives up to this point, but all that is to come. Was this story always a flash, or did you have a longer piece that you trimmed down?

This story was indeed a flash, and when I get stories like that, I don’t typically question them. There’s always the temptation to make the story into more, to follow one of the other stories that is suggested within, but I tried to leave it alone as it was. It started as a conglomeration of memories, about being young and having a very small baby in the heat of summer, about what our lives felt like in the middle 90s, but then it grew into something else entirely.

Can you tell us more about your “seriously out-of-whack” story collection? And what exactly is “seriously out-of-whack”?

Ha. The full quote is that “the world in Jennifer Pashley’s stories is seriously out-of-whack” and I could still (and maybe fully intend) to kiss Frederick Barthelme for ever saying that. It’s about my first book of stories, States, which came out in 2007 from Lewis Clark Press. Probably all my stories are out-of-whack and probably what that means is that in many ways they are perversions of standards — not perversions as we use it to describe sexual proclivities, although that is often involved — but more like an alternate version, or even like a photographic negative. I like stories about mistakes, about people putting themselves in danger, or a near-miss, especially where the stakes — which is usually the heart — are very high.

What’s your favorite season of the year, and why?

Fall is brilliant in New York State. This year especially, the yellows were just breathtaking. But, our summers are also amazing and painfully short. It’s a dramatic climate. Very hot, and very cold. The very cold wears on me more every year.

What are you reading right now?

I’m reading Patti Smith’s memoir, Just Kids, which is brave and terrifying and filled with love. I like that I can hear her voice reading it. It’s got a real sense of place, of New York City, and time, in the 60s and 70s, and in many ways it’s just unbelievable. I like to read about how other artists work, the ways in which they make time and concessions for their art. It’s inspiring, in a kick in the pants kind of way. I could probably do without the lice, though.

About the Author:

Jennifer Pashley is the author of the "seriously out-of-whack" story collection, States, and has more stories appearing in PANK, Mississippi Review, Salt Hill and Los Angeles Review.

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.