Smoking With Judd Hampton

Read the Story December 15, 2004

“Three-Second Angels” is such a strong and unusual story. What inspired you to write about the canyon jumpers?

Back in my early twenties, I used to watch canyon jumpers at Lynn Canyon in North Vancouver, B.C. They were usually groups of high school kids, local kids with their own subculture. Unless you grew up in the area you could never be part of the group.

“Cliff jumping” could be dangerous and two or three people were usually killed every year. I was there when two people died on the same day in separate incidents. The undercurrent pinned one jumper to a concave wall under a waterfall. The other person, a tourist, fell by accident.

Despite the dangers, I started jumping: after work and on weekends, usually by myself. I felt an amazing sense of spirituality and closeness to nature, which I’ve never felt since. This piece is probably the closest I’ve come to capturing the essence of that experience, although it is more from the viewpoint of the high school kids than my own.

The voice and point of view of “Three-Second Angels” are particularly unique. Did you set out to create this voice or did it arise naturally from the writing?

Rather than focus on or develop one character, I wanted the story to suggest the collective feeling of the group, how they view their lives as hopeless, redeemed only by this one thing. After the initial concept became clear to me and I started writing the story, the voice emerged naturally. It was the opening pages of Don DeLillo’s Underworld that gave me the inspiration: the way he creates a broad sense of the world and the feel of the crowd.

You have published a number of excellent flashes. What do you like about writing in this form?

How a satisfying sense of wholeness can be achieved in just a few paragraphs, and how instantly gratifying that can be. I find flash an uplifting break from the struggle of longer stories.

What are you working on currently?

Two short stories.

What one writer would you like to meet?

I would have liked to meet Pierre Berton (he died quite recently). He wrote about history in a way that made it come alive for me. He grew up a child of the Klondike, witness to the unimaginable hardships and pioneering spirit of the last great gold rush. His books show history from the perspectives of people and their specific stories. Berton’s history is unique, colorful, and comprehensive. The exhaustive research he must have done to uncover these stories boggles my mind.

About the Author:

Judd Hampton lives in rural Alberta, Canada among the pump jacks and canola fields of the north. His writing has appeared in Night Train, Vestal Review, Flashquake, Paumanok Review, Danforth Review and NFG magazine, among others.

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.