Smoking With Pam Bolton

Read the Story June 25, 2009

“Pen” has (for me) the interesting other meaning of “an enclosure” and evokes that sense of powerlessness/entrapment that is so part of being a kid. It is no wonder kids are drawn to magic. From where does the magic in this piece come? How might it save them?

I love where you went with the word “pen,” especially since it was not on my radar at all. And, you’re right, this piece is about the experience of powerlessness and the entrapment of being a kid, in a life, a landscape, a house, a family, relationships, and ways of dealing with that. How do kids survive but by finding ways of slipping out of identifying with what is and finding and asserting self: the snake, the cigarette, the shit on the wall, even the observation of Henry’s nose. For me the magic comes from the pens, which are totally free. And from the kid getting a reflection from those pens, presuming they’re flying around collecting these moments and writing them down, there’s a magical transformation that occurs. The kids are alive and with us, the pens are here too. They don’t have any barriers they must abide. They time travel, not confined to linear time. They fly around, like we do with our writer’s minds, collect and record particular moments of a life and set them free, by giving them their moment, by linking them, by applauding them and the child.

I really enjoyed the odd point-of-view. Whose POV is it? How do you decide upon this POV?

You’re right. It is an odd point of view. And odd appeals to me. I actually got the words “flying pens” from a prompt in a writing class. I was intrigued by using the flying pens as the omniscient observer, symbolizing the part of consciousness that a writer engages that is literally free to go wherever it wants, and can defy the rules of being a kid that can feel so confining.

Pens and writing/writers feel very closely related. Is this at all a story about writing/writers? If so, how might we read that aspect of it?

This story is definitely about writing and writers, and the freedom we get to through writing. The flying pens are really a metaphor for the imagination of the writer. The pens fly around, the imagination does the same, and begins this intuitive reflection of moments that may not seem to link up yet, do in the story of the kids, and in the psyche of one kid in particular.

That last line is so interesting. What does it say to you? Why does it end with this image?

For me, the last line emphasizes how the “writing was on the wall” so to speak, in terms of the character of this child. This kid has always been going for freedom. Not afraid of the mess, the smell, willing to express herself, freely, shockingly. And, I have to admit, I love the surprise of this image at the end. It’s a way of coming back around to the beginning freedom of the flying pens as they go through stop signs, etc. The pens and the kid are alike, they both go past boundaries.

There is something in this story about the (kids’) need for someone to notice, to pay attention. Yes? No? Perhaps?

Yeah, thanks for… noticing, paying close attention to something I wasn’t intentionally emphasizing when I wrote “Flying Pens.” Any kid who’s putting her shit on the wall and stealing cigarettes is wanting/needing attention. Almost yelling for it.

About the Author:

Pam Bolton started out a tree climbing kid in the sticks of Massachusetts. She's still got a thing for trees, and for animals. After over thirty years on the west coast, where she picked up a BA in Art and an MA in Transformative Arts, Pam has started to submit some of her writing and is actually beginning to have work published. A Process Coach, she spends a lot of her time with clients, learning more and more about how to change the stories we've told ourselves and have more of the life we've always wanted.