Smoking With Paul Silverman

Read the Story June 15, 2008
story art

Is there an actual city known as “Steam City,” or is it more of a descriptive term?

Steam City is a name that I made up, because it seemed to fit a western locale. Real places that come to mind are Rapid City and Cooke City. It just sounds like the kind of town my character, Corinne, grew up in, a place that sprung up quickly, because of some boom, but never got be more than mid-sized.

The last line took the story in an entirely different direction. When you wrote it, was it headed there all along?

Yes indeed. Everything is preparation for it. The core of the story is basically told, in miniature, in the first paragraph. All the words that follow, including the last line, arise from what’s said right up front.

I love this line: “And then, in a swoop of light and color, it was the future: sunset pulling its blanket of blue and rust over the chilled crags of the Presidios.” Gorgeous! It’s the word rust that really gets me.

Well, thank you very much. I needed a big image because this is a major transition point: the stop, look and listen point just before the finale. Since it’s flash fiction it had to be accomplished with vivid words, but not too many of them. I think you like rust because it’s a precursor: it’s there in honor of Johnny.

Tell us about your Jacob Kopens stories.

Some day I’d like to see them published as a group. They kind of link together. On one level, they’re about tribalism in America. All of the groups, all of the strife and struggle. On a simpler level they’re about one kid whose name, Jack Kopinsky, doesn’t fit the path he finds himself on, so on the way up he adjusts it, smoothes it out and makes it Jacob Kopens. “Sort of like a nose job,” is the way he puts it.

This issue marks SmokeLong’s fifth anniversary, which has me thinking about longevity and growth. There’s no denying the literary arena is a fickle one, with journals coming and going, writers shooting onto the scene then falling into a long hiatus, editors changing houses, agents merging, and the trends! Don’t even get me started! How do you, as a writer, endure the ups and downs? Have you experienced any setbacks? What measures have you taken to grow?

Congratulations on the anniversary. Smokelong deserves longevity, and will indeed have more of it, because the media and the message (strong, fast stories) are in perfect sync. As for me as a writer, I will tell the truth for a change. I don’t chase trends because I don’t have the agility. I am what I am and I do what I do. The best of it usually finds a home, although it can take a while. And I endure the ups and downs because I don’t depend on the ups and downs for my livelihood. My advertising work has always paid the bills. The truth, sad or otherwise, is that for many years I’ve been able to make more money for three words than for three thousand and maybe even three hundred thousand words.

About the Author:

Paul Silverman has worked as a newspaper reporter, sandwich man, olive packer and advertising creative director. One of his commercials won a Silver Lion at Cannes. His stories have appeared in Tampa Review, The South Dakota Review, The North Atlantic Review, Word Riot, In Posse Review, The Pedestal Magazine, The Timber Creek Review, The Front Range Review, The Jabberwock Review, Jewish Currents, The Coe Review, Hobart Online, Amarillo Bay, The Adirondack Review, The Paumanok Review, Subterranean Quarterly, Thieves Jargon, Lily, The Summerset Review, and others. His piece, "Getaway," published by Verbsap, is on the 2006 Million Writers Award shortlist of Notable Online Stories. Byline Magazine and The Worcester Review have nominated his stories to the Pushcart Committee. New work was recently accepted by Oyster Boy Review, Cricket Online Review and Alimentum.