Smoking With Rachel Mangini

by Tara Laskowski Read the Story June 27, 2011

Sometimes I read stories and I appreciate them on an intellectual or technical level — yes, this is a good story. And then there are those that strike me on an emotional level. I think your story hits me on that emotional level — I fell in LOVE. I’m curious how you feel about it — do you ever fall in love with your own stories? Or does the process of writing/rewriting, etc. sort of ruin that reaction because you’ve lived with the piece for so long?

First, love, wow, thanks. I fall in love with stories too, and usually email a love letter to the author. I don’t think love is a word I’d use for my own work, though. We’d probably use the “it’s complicated” check box on Facebook.

This story in particular feels like a puzzle. It started out much much longer and nearly died a slow, boring death. Then I condensed it as an exercise, and suddenly it worked. But now I see each one of its parts clearly. It’s all elbows to me. While we’re on the topic, love is the best word for how I feel about the illustration.

Yes, the illustration is perfect! You’re good friends with the artist, yes? Did she help you get through those painful teenage angst-y years that you capture the mood of so well in this story? Did high school suck for you, or do you look back fondly?

Yes, Amy and I are friends from high school. Being Amy’s friend was great at that age, because she wasn’t ever trying to fit in. She wasn’t afraid to just be herself.

Do I look back fondly on high school in general? No. Nope.

April’s going to be ok, right?

I think she’ll be fine. High school will probably continue to be a little miserable, but it will build her character.

What makes you happiest?

I’m happiest when starting something new. I’m also very happy when surrounded by my family. And on the 4th of July. Parades, fireworks, dogs wearing bandanas, it doesn’t get much better.

What’s the worst piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

Instead of one single piece of advice, I think the worst thing for my writing has been listening to too many opinions. Too much conflicting feedback has stifled more than a few of my stories. Breaking a story down can make the magic evaporate. I sound anti-MFA, anti-workshop. I’m not. I just need to learn selective hearing.

About the Author:

Rachel Mangini lives in Pittsburgh where she writes during evenings and weekends. She is the fiction editor of Hot Metal Bridge Magazine. This is not her first creative collaboration with the artist—when they were teenagers, Rachel sat very still while Amy chopped off her hair with kitchen scissors. You can read more about haircuts and first kisses on Rachel's blog at everyonesanocean.wordpress.com.

About the Interviewer:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.