Smoking With Lauren M. Spencer

Read the Story September 28, 2009

The couple in this story seems to be communicating, not necessarily through words, but through non-verbal cues—sounds and thoughts. What was the importance of this for you?

I was intrigued by a question of what is exchanged in a completely non-verbal space and how that exchange is affected by personal perception, particularly in regard to an intimate relationship. The sounds and physical gestures of one character only have significance when the other assigns meaning to it. I wanted to explore what people choose to give weight to and how those choices can create disconnection and isolation.

This story deals with a lot of fragmentation. Rachel hums in broken parts. A piece of wood is being shaved down. Though we don’t see any direct signs of a conflict, we feel the weight of something heavy behind the story. How were you able to create this sense so effectively?

This story began with an image I had of a couple sitting on their porch on a summer evening. I tried to expose some of the darker undertones of the characters’ relationship by figuring out what pieces of that image the narrator would focus on if he was in direct conflict with it.

In reading this over and over again, I can tell that something is building up in me. A pain gradual builds that is so heartbreaking in a way I can’t quite explain. How long did it take for you to write this piece? Did you need to build up your emotions before the words came out?

I wrote the initial draft in about an hour, but I edited the piece regularly for months and kept cutting it down. I tend to work better with some distance between myself and the words. I think approaching writing from an emotional place almost always turns out poorly because it creates a quality of attachment that doesn’t ultimately serve the story. I love when characters reveal themselves in ways I hadn’t planned. That can’t happen if I am emotionally invested in a specific sense. That’s not to say my writing isn’t influenced by my emotions, but it’s a very unconscious process.

Does Rachel hear her name being called?

Well, that’s for the reader to decide. Although, I think whether or not she hears it is inconsequential. It’s more about whether or not she responds.

About the Author:

Lauren M. Spencer is a writer/vagabond/cowboy who currently lives in Brooklyn, New York. She likes the smell of library books, the color green, and overripe mangoes.