Smoking With Joseph Young

Read the Story March 15, 2006
story art

You never stop pushing the boundaries of what flash can accomplish. What boundaries were you up against here?

I guess the main one I was pushing against was the flash that tells of a protagonist with a need striving through a unified series of events and coming to some singular conclusion—you know, the flash as a story. I’ve written a lot of those, I love those, but it’s nice to mix it up. Mainly though I was interested in the rather conceited conceit of putting myself in the “work week” of a range of celebrated people. I liked the silliness of it, hanging with Lou Reed one day and an 18th century poet another, and the presumption.

Writing a piece in sections must post its own challenges. Yes?

Yeah, I suppose. As usual, I groped through the writing of it, not knowing too much what I was doing or why. That kind of ignorance is great because you really have no challenge, so to speak, you’re just trying to get something down. Well, the challenge then I guess isn’t so much in structure or content or whatever but in keeping that blunder moving in a direction that’s interesting to you. The result of trying to keep myself attentive might then be something different in structure or approach.

If you want to learn how to write flash, I was once told by a very wise and respected writer, you need to read Joseph Young. I did—and I learned a lot. I’ve always especially admired your fearlessness. How fearless must a writer of flash be? And what has been your own evolution into the Fearless Flash Man?

My goodness, what a silver tongue you got!

I don’t think it’s so much fearlessness as it is ignoring the many fears I have. And, I can’t speak for everyone, I don’t know that you have to approach it fearfully fearlessly, but that’s the way I like it. I find it stimulating to go out on a limb and see what happens. For me, that’s where the good stuff comes from, and it keeps me challenged. The worst thing for me is to start feeling in a rut, and that can happen at the drop of a hat. And I pretty much worked that way from my first tries at flash, which is what started to convince me that’s what I wanted to focus on. I’m so much more tentative with longer stories, painfully tentative, to the point where I have hard drives full of two clumsy paragraphs.

Tell us a bit about Saturday and Sunday.

We get together for lawn darts and BBQ. The competition is fierce and puncture wounds are custom. In the fall we rake leaves, chase deer. As we get older and some of us deader it gets harder to bring the crew around.

You took a bit of a hiatus from writing. Thank goodness you’re back. What brought you back? And what did you learn while you were in Oz?

The break was brought on by a need to rest and recharge, and once I did, the urge to write came back of itself, glory be. I learned another measure of confidence while I was off and soon I’ll have some.

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.