Smoking With Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau

Read the Story March 15, 2008

Clay skin, nicked arms, slabs of pork and veined cheese, blank womb. Wonderful descriptions. How important is each word in a work of flash fiction?

For me, it’s not so much about looking at each word, but in really listening to the material. I’m happy when I can do two things: 1) Look for the word that can capture exactly what I mean; 2) Look back on what I’ve written and trim what’s unnecessary.

That said, I can totally relate to a friend who once agonized over using “scrambled eggs” or “sunny side-up” in a film script. I think it’s in a writer’s nature to agonize about these things, whatever form or genre.

I’d like to talk about the word “blank” specifically. I love that you use it instead of the typical “empty” or “bare.” It sounds much harsher, almost abusive. Did you know immediately that “blank” was the right word? What do you like about it?

The feeling came first, then I ran a list in my head until I zeroed in on “blank.” It’s not just about having nothing inside, or about being stripped to the basics. It’s about something being rendered to nothing, an erasure of sorts. Plus, I loved the sound of “—ank”. It felt more final and absolute.

This story first appeared in elimae. Where else can we find your flash fiction?

I have flashes published or accepted in Chronogram, Raving Dove and Word Riot. I hope to add more soon.

From Manila to Los Angeles to Bretagne. Whew! That’s quite a journey! Have you lived anywhere else? Which culture do you most identify with?

So far, it’s just those three. If I could live in every part of the world, learning from other cultures and contributing in some way, I’d be in heaven. Alas, there’s always the question of time and money.

Los Angeles brought me so many opportunities. France—where I am now, thanks to my husband Bernard—is incredibly beautiful. But my heart will always be in the Philippines. My family still lives there, as do most of my friends, and I miss them something fierce. I wish they could see everything that I see.

Congratulations on placing in the Kathy Fish Fellowship contest! Will you share a bit about your experience in applying for the fellowship? Preparing the goal statement, selecting the stories, the wait, etc.?

Thanks! It was totally unexpected. Part of me felt intimidated to try out at first, but I figured it couldn’t hurt. Obviously, I’m glad I did.

Before submitting, I must’ve read the guidelines at least 30 times. I also looked at SLQ stories and author interviews, Kathy Fish’s and Beth Thomas’ work, and how the editors decided on Beth in 2007. Since I only started writing flashes last October, I didn’t really have a selection. I just had those five pieces that I sent in. My mantra was just to be honest and open, because you never know.

I think it’s really generous and wonderful of SmokeLong editors to offer this opportunity to emerging writers like me. Merci beaucoup! You guys rock.

About the Author:

Michelle Tandoc-Pichereau grew up in Manila, greased elbows in Los Angeles and currently lives in Bretagne, with the best husband in the world and a spoiled cat. She dedicates this piece to her mom, who first taught her how to love a pen.