Smoking with Jo Mortimer

Read the Story September 15, 2008
story art

From where did this story come?

Hmm. There was a call for submissions from a magazine; they wanted something to do with origami. I live by a harbour and often watch seagulls at night; they appear from nowhere, sometimes – like someone threw them in the sky and they are pure white so that made me think of paper. Then I went to Ireland for a week and sat in a tethered rowboat, on a lake by the house. It’s all ‘what if’s’ with me. I made paper boats that week and still have one. It got much easier to write once I’d figured out what each aspect of the story ‘meant’ so in terms of theme, it comes from a sense of deliberate alienation and what can happen if you drop the barriers just a little bit.

I love the use of “dry things” in “Constructing Birds.” What’s the difference between wet things and dry things?

I suppose the difference is comfort. Peter kind of ‘dived into’ the situation so he’s all wet. Dorothy cares for him and can’t leave him feeling uncomfortable.

Such a moving, lovely final image. Does this piece always have that ending? Were there alternative endings out there for “Constructing Birds”?

No, it didn’t always have that ending. Right at the start of thinking about it, the story was set in a town and though the paper birds were thrown from the balloon, Dorothy was never sure that she’d actually seen it happen because there were lots of tall buildings in the way. But she was happy to have at least imagined it.

“A perfectly white balloon.” What else have you encountered in life that has been perfectly something?

I’ve made the perfect tomato sauce a couple of times. I think many perfect things slide under the radar – they are that perfect.

Begin this answer with the words, “I write.” Complete the sentence. Then, write as many sentences as you’d like, each one beginning with that “I write….”

I write at a window, facing the harbour. Right now, I can see a man trying to get water out of his boat with an ice-cream carton.

I write in a panic sometimes because the thoughts are coming quicker than I can type.

I write things that make no sense and then they suddenly become perfectly clear.

I write every day and I don’t always enjoy it.

I write with my Granddad in mind.

About the Author:

Jo Mortimer lives in the UK, down South right by the sea. Her recent publications include Alba and Tales Of The Decongested.