Smoking With Miriam N. Kotzin

Read the Story August 15, 2004

You write poetry as well as fiction. How has that helped you in writing flash stories?

Writing poetry has influenced my fiction—whether or not it has helped it, I’m not sure. I’m used to making every word count. And I’m conscious of the sound of a piece, the cadence of the sentences. For a long time I’ve been writing narrative poems, poems with dialogue, so the move to fiction, especially flash fiction, is natural. On the down side, poetry allows for, even encourages, ambiguity—there’s a whole book about it called Seven Types of Ambiguity—and readers often want a story to be nailed down more than I want to do.

In your story the grotesque is made sublime. Do you find that writing helps you see beauty in unexpected places?

I don’t know. It might be just that I see things this way and then my writing gives me a vehicle to share my vision. My mother used to call me outside to look at spider webs and things like that. So she taught me to see the world, really look at it.

Your life sounds very busy and full. How do you find the time to write, and how does teaching affect your work?

Teaching is a boon to my work although it is a huge chunk of my time. However, the constant reading and talking about literature with my students is an extension of what I’d want to be doing anyway: reading poetry and fiction, looking at the clockwork mechanism instead of just the hands going around. When I teach creative writing I do the same writing that I have my students do.

Do you workshop your writing and how has that helped, or not?

I’ve been workshopping since the late sixties off and on, most lately online with Zoetrope. I find that I learn a lot from what others say, and from the discipline of making helpful comments about others’ writing too. An outgrowth of the Zoetrope work has been writing fiction collaboratively via email with Bill Turner.

What advice do you have for your fellow writers?

I usually had advice for every occasion, a bit like Lucy in Peanuts, but each writer is so individual that I don’t have any one-size-fits all advice here.

About the Author:

Miriam N. Kotzin teaches literature and creative writing at Drexel University in Philadelphia, Pa. She directs the Certificate Program in Writing and Publishing, and she is the advisor to Maya, the student literary magazine. Her poetry and short fiction have appeared and are forthcoming in many print and online publications including Boulevard, Mid-American Review, Painted Bride Quarterly, Small Spiral Notebook, Segue, FriGG, Flashquake, EdificeWRECKED!, Three Candles, Drexel Online Journal, Slow Trains and Xaxx.

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.