Smoking With Lindsey Gates Markel

by Gay Degani Read the Story September 24, 2012

What struck me about this story is the tone and how it leads the reader through the main character’s depression. Her observations create a window to her heart. Did the tone guide you through this piece? It almost feels as if it did. Was that the inspiration?

I live in the Midwest, where ants are a mainstay in the summertime, and I often find myself sitting outside, focused on myself and my many varied problems, when I’ll glance down and see these rows and rows of ants going about their business without complaint. Depending on my mood at the time, it’s usually heartening to see them and be reminded that there are whole worlds that go on without me, but in this piece, it just enforces the main character’s feelings of isolation and guilt.

Along with tone, I love the imagery of this piece, such as “…it was just a rectangle of dry dirt but now it’s August and the whole thing is green and wet, full of fruit and spiders.” This suggests to me that she has gone into the garden ostensibly to smoke, but also the barrenness of the rectangle of dry dirt appealed to her at first. It’s simple, straight-forward, that rectangle, but with time passing it gets complicated with living things, the most annoying being the ants with their blind submission to their DNA. “I look at the railroad tie I see them [ants] everywhere, lines spreading around me like a spilled drink.”
How do you approach putting imagery into your writing? Is this something that comes naturally to you or does it emerge over several drafts? Do I have this all wrong?

Thank you! And yes, I tend to start with image and work out. I find imagery to be a really tangible inspiration, especially when the images are related to the blood and guts of nature. The outdoors lends itself well to relatable metaphors—we can deny our fates as much as we want, but in the end, we’re all dirt and blood and teeth and roots. I love that.

Can you tell us a little about what other projects you have? Do you focus on flash or do you also create longer work?

I mostly write short stories and have just started playing around with flash this year. I’m currently working on tightening up my collection for submission. I also edit the blog Pinkie Swear , which features weekly installments of user-submitted childhood stories retold and illustrated.

What writer would you like to sit down with and have a long confab about writing? What would you talk about? What would you want him or her to tell you about getting good?

I’m obsessed with the internet for many reasons, and easy exposure to writers I admire is one of them. I first submitted a piece of writing when I was in college—only seven or so years ago—and trying to be a published writer just felt impossible. I had no idea how to do it.

Now I follow many of my favorite writers on Twitter. Also there are publishers and lit mags and editors and authors everywhere, writing Tumblr posts and tweeting about their everyday writing lives, all giving out priceless advice all the time. I think it’s much easier to visualize the trajectory from beginner to successful writer. That said, I’m overtly obsessed with Elizabeth Ellen, and that is that.

About the Author:

Lindsey Gates Markel earned an MFA in creative writing from Lesley University in Cambridge, MA and has done graduate fiction work at the Iowa Writers Workshop. Her thesis featured recurring themes of cats and nipples (but not cat nipples). She is the author of You Are Among Friends, a book of advice for young gals, and her short fiction has previously appeared in Storychord, Bluestem, and Necessary Fiction.

About the Interviewer:

Gay Degani is the content editor at Smokelong Quarterly. She has had three of her flash pieces nominated for Pushcart consideration and won the 11th Annual Glass Woman Prize. Her suspense novel, What Came Before, was published in 2014.  Founder and editor emeritus of Flash Fiction Chronicles, she blogs at Words in Place where a complete list of her published work can be located.