Smoking With Peggy Duffy

Read the Story December 15, 2003

I have to ask what inspired this piece?
The story grew from the woman’s face and wrapped itself around a few recurring images, which parallel the story’s movement. The daughter cannot get past that one moment—finding her mother in that condition. Everything in her life revolves around and comes back to it. The challenge was to capture a whole life, that of the daughter, in so few words.

In tone this piece is quite unlike your story in Smokelong Quarterly #1. Do some subjects or voices appeal to you more than others?
I’m a voice-driven writer. I cannot begin a story until I hear the narrator and then the voice dictates the story. I think voice is an elusive quality, difficult to define, but the single most important aspect of short fiction because it both defines and drives the piece.

Were you always courageous enough to submit your work for publication?
Every short story over 4000 words I’ve ever written has been submitted to The New Yorker and The Atlantic. That shows a bit of courage, don’t you think? Or else blind faith laced with arrogance. Writers need those qualities, and more, to keep plowing along despite all the rejections and not take them personally.

We are always told to write about what you know. Do you?
I write what interests me, what haunts me or scares me, what obsesses me. I get to know my characters and therefore their stories as I write them. Any factual gaps necessary to the story get filled in on revision.

And last, what does your writing say about you, the person?
I believe writing should stand on its own merits and does not necessarily reflect the person behind those words. Sometimes readers confuse the narrator, especially in a first person story, with the writer. They are not the same person. The writer creates the story; the narrator tells it. I’d like my writing to say I’m an insightful, creative, compassionate person who leaves her readers with something to think about or reflect on when they’ve finished one of my stories, even if it’s just fleeting.

About the Author:

Peggy Duffy's short stories and essays have appeared and are forthcoming in The Washington Post, The Chronicle of Higher Education, Brevity, Octavo, Drexel Online Journal, Whole Terrain, So To Speak, Pierian Springs, Flashquake and elsewhere. Her fiction was recognized by the Virginia Commission for the Arts as a finalist in the Individual Artist Fellowship program for literary artists. She lives in Centreville, Virginia and maintains a website at http://www.authorsden.com/peggyduffy.

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.