Smoking With Joseph Young

Read the Story October 15, 2004

Love “The Suspect.” The man, alone, being scrutinized, as if there is something wrong with him. What was your starting point for this story?

The starting point I had for The Suspect is pretty much the starting point I have for any story, which boils down to: I have no idea. It’s not like an image comes to mind or an idea or even a mood. Somehow I just find that a sentence becomes written across the top line in my notebook. Very often, that sentence really doesn’t mean much to me, it’s just a spark that comes out of my brain. But as I look at that sentence, another one occurs to me to follow it, and then another. After awhile, I get some idea of a situation. I’ve come to realize, I think, that unless there’s a worry in me that the story I’m writing will never work, that it’s premise or idea is untenable, that I probably won’t write it at all. Somehow going forward with little confidence other than that I should go forward works out for me.

You get to ask one writer (living or dead) one question. Who is the writer and what is that one question?

One question? That’s not very fair. I’d probably ask Faulkner some Zen riddle then and he could spend 3 hours answering it. Maybe he’d start rambling on about time and dust and that wagon rolling across the inexorable landscape.

What is it about flash that appeals to you?

I like flash because it’s short. I mean, I don’t think I have the willpower to write any longer most of the time. I get bored or discouraged. Usually bored. That’s the practical reason I like it. But I also love it because I get to capture something so small. Try to at least. This little bit out of life that glows very intensively. I think little bits naturally glow like that. If you focus all your attention on the way the sun is shining through the leaves in your grape arbor, the scene takes on this intensity of meaning. If you’re lucky, it does, and in the right mood. Flash I think is about getting into that mood. It’s a mood I really like to experience in actual life, so I guess that transfers over to writing.

Everything is taken away from you, but you get to keep one CD (uh, and you have something to play the music on), one book and one work of art. What are they?

If I just had one of them, I probably wouldn’t care. I’d probably just prefer to sit and watch the waves, you know, on the desert island. Things, art things, spark up at different times and you don’t even necessarily know why they spark when they do. And one art thing usually sparks another, a book makes you want to listen to record which makes you want to watch something. That’s one of the weird things about living right now, that so much is available so readily. You can go on the Internet and order any kind of music you’ve ever dreamed existed and it’ll be sent to your house in 3 days.

Tell me about your blog, “Flash Light.” It’s fairly new, are you enjoying the process?

I’m loving the blog. I like the look of it, with the paintings and all, and I like seeing my stuff collected together like that. It’s actually kind of an exercise in confidence. Every few days or so, I post something on the blog and in doing so I’m saying, hey, this is my story, my thing, and I think it’s worth your time to read it. It’s an act of faith. So, even if I’m really worried that something isn’t all that great, I’m saying to myself by posting it, well it’s what I’ve got and that’s got to be good enough. The other thing is, I’ve gotten to be very impatient. I’m finding it really difficult to send something out to a magazine and wait 3 months or 6 months or a year, maybe never hear back from them. The blog is instant gratification.

About the Author:

Joseph Young writes microfiction in Baltimore. His work has recently appeared in Lamination Colony, Wigleaf, and FRiGG, and he has work forthcoming in Cake Train and Grey Sparrow Journal. A volume of his microfiction, "Easter Rabbit," will be published by Publishing Genius Press in December 2009.

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.