Smoking With Mike Young

Read the Story June 15, 2005

A perfect title for a perfect flash. How important is a title to a flash piece? Any secrets to share about nailing the title as you’ve done here?

Catchy titles and first lines are like any other hooks in art: they provide momentum. Like a great kickoff in a foot race, they force a little movement of the reader’s eyes down at least a couple sentences. Even if the rest of your story sinks and the reader puts the brakes on, you can be sure that you knocked them into a little unconditional propulsion. Nifty titles and openings mean they can’t help but give your story a chance.

As for nailing the title, I tend to go imagism: stark, unique pictures. Sound is important: the matching S’s of “hammers” and “house,” the way that C in Cat is the only plosive. Ear candy. Also, Don DeLilo has talked about the overlooked importance of how words and letters physically look, which I think about too. However, I rarely think about the physical importance of how Don DeLilo looks. He’s not a very attractive man.

Where can I find Pierre and Irvin in the real world? I feel a strong need to meet them.

There’s something so droolworthy about those jagged people we glimpse. In our society today, so much importance is placed not on looking graceful or neat, but looking safe. Easily identifiable: a soccer mom, a successful man, whoa that high school senior looks just like Jessica Alba. But those misfit people have umatching puzzle pieces. They just don’t fit into a neat slot in our mental catalog of characters. That’s why our eyes just keep going back to them. I think that’s why they’re so damn interesting.

Actually you can meet them on the public bus. I was avoiding answering because I thought this would be too hard to pin down. But yes, the bus: instant character fodder. They should market that or something.

Love the image of the cat house. How did YOU hammer out this image?

I can’t remember if initially it was a doghouse and then I changed it. If so, it was because I realized Pierre wouldn’t have a dog. If not, it was just as spontaneous as the rest of this story. The whole thing pretty much came to me in one sitting: I was frustrated with a blank imagination and just starting writing about this old man I knew, then I think I was about to make him a nice old man when I realized what I had so far wasn’t very nice at all. Then I thought about Pierre, and yadda yadda.

Word is you have aliens on your mountain. Friends or foes? Any of them act as a Muse?

Lemurians, they’re usually called. They have lots of stuff devoted to them. For instance, the whole mystical aura around zee mountain attracts these events, get-togethers of spiritually likeminded folks, where once a man tried to sell me Spiritually Enhanced Water that made walnuts grow Big, No, Really, Big Big. Like Big Big Big. Like Not Small.

There are lots of good Lemurian stories. A local brewery wanted to make a Lemurian Ale, but this protest group marched into the head dude’s office, shouting, and I quote pretty much verbatim (or so I’ve been told): “Lemurians are five thousand years old and they live in the mountains and they don’t drink beer!” So the brewery nixed the ale. I think they were afraid for their lives. Or their spiritual nexus or whatever. I don’t blame them.

Talk some about your new Mt. Shasta lit mag, NOÖ Journal (www.noojournal.com).

My friend Kyle had this idea of starting a local political forum journal, where normal local people could talk honestly about social issues. I thought it was a smash idea and I suggested appending a fiction section. Well, that grew into NOÖ: a local and now international (via the Netherlands) political / fiction / and poetry quarterly print journal. The debut issue will come out in June and will feature fiction from plenty of SmokeLong authors.

The Shasta community is a hotbed of writerly folks, and so a physical outlet for their creative works seemed like a bright notion. We’ve received lots of enthusiasm and excitement locally and on the internet for our project, for which I’m heavily grateful. I just hope we live up to everyone’s expectations.

Oh, yes, and submit everyone. Submit submit. We only pay in contributor copies so far but we’re thinking of paying in mittens. Get it? Submittens. Whoa. I’m gonna go put my head in a well-sized bucket of ice.

About the Author:

Mike Young does have a famous professional lady wrestler for a relative. He co-edits NOÖ Journal (www.noojournal.com) a literary/political magazine. Some of his newest stories and poems appear in Juked #4, elimae, FRiGG, and the Avery Anthology.

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.