Smoking with Kathy Fish

Read the Story September 15, 2008
story art

“Tenderoni.” How hard is it to get “tenderoni” into a piece, and not only get in, but be so lovely?
Tenderoni is just a great word and term of endearment I think. It’s probably not in the dictionary, but oh, I think it’s a song. You’ll have to ask Jeff Landon about that.

I like that word, right where it is in the story. Just this note of sweetness in the midst of the awfulness. And better and more personal and specific than, say, “sweetheart.”

First, fuck. Then, “And fuck and fuck and fuck and fuck.” Not exactly “tenderoni,” but still! And yet the five fucks seem not too many, not too few, just enough. Are you aware of “risk” when you take them in your writing? Or maybe more to the point, when are you aware of riskiness?
It never felt like I was taking a risk with that line. I just heard him saying that, in a slow, measured way. It’s the way my dad used to swear when he was REALLY upset, not yelling, just cursing low, over and over again.

Usually, if I’m taking a risk in writing or anything, I feel a little anxious, but I fight the urge to play it safe because more often than not, the risk is where the good stuff is.

I love these two. What do you love about them?
I love their youth! I love that they take off on their bikes in the pouring rain. I love that they’re somewhat innocent and clueless, but don’t realize this yet. I didn’t write them to be a “loveable” couple at all. I think they are loved in spite of themselves.

Tell us about your recent chapbook and recent readings and what’s next for Kathy Fish.
I’ve had recent readings at Powell’s Books in Portland and at the University Book Store in Seattle. I read with Claudia Smith, whose chapbook is also featured in “A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness.” Both readings went really well and I met people I’d only previously known online, so that was fun.

I will say that if you really want to learn what you love and don’t love about your own writing, read it to an audience a few times. Certain lines and stories and characters still make me joyful, I’m still glad I wrote them and other lines and stories….not so much. I really look at my stories and writing differently now.

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 to try to get to the other side of things that worry or hurt and amaze me in this world. I think there must be a greater understanding and empathy there, on the other side and I want to get there, very much! So I keep writing stories and scenes and people who go through similiar things that I have, feel similar hurts and disappointments and befuddlements, and they’re always, always struggling in the stories I write.

I write to get myself to that other side, that point where I can say, oh, see! Things are never as clear cut as you think they are and maybe in this awful and amazing and worrisome thing you can find some transcendence and humor and grace.

About the Author:

Kathy Fish teaches for the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Three of her stories have been Best Small Fictions winners, most recently “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild,” chosen by Aimee Bender. Additionally, two of Fish’s stories will be featured in the upcoming W.W. Norton anthology, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction.

About the Artist:

Robinson Accola creates artwork for SmokeLong Quarterly as needed.