Smoking With Randall Brown

Read the Story August 15, 2004

We think you did an extraordinary job of balancing humor and pathos in this piece. Why did you choose this approach for this story?

Medical bulletin boards on the internet fascinate me. Someone writes, “My throat. Soon it won’t open. Every time I swallow, I can feel it constricting. Please, anyone with this problem, respond. Please!” I thought the only way to survive having such a “disorder” is for a person to have a sense of humor about it all, yet I can’t imagine that the horrifying and heart-wrenching nature of such thoughts ever disappears.

After this story was accepted into SmokeLong, you signed on as guest editor for the following issue. Are you having fun? And has the experience changed the way you approach your writing?

Am I having fun? The inner workings of SmokeLong is worthy of a reality show. And you wouldn’t have to eat sheep eyeballs or date someone’s father. Three things I’ve learned: (1) attempt to say something in a way no one else in the world could; (2) begin the story as close to some life-changing incident/unstable situation as possible; and (3) mention Dave Clapper’s sexual prowess in the cover letter (no matter to which journal you are submitting).

You’re getting your MFA in fiction writing right now. Is it everything you expected it to be?

Every three weeks for the next two years: 30 pages of fiction and 10 pages of critical writing. Also, reading: a book a week. I’m learning the discipline required for such an undertaking. That’s exciting, to see those writerly behaviors begin to develop. I’ve taken to drinking and having a revolver next to the computer, too. I think that should help.

If you were on the beach right now, what would you be reading?

I’m actually at the Jersey shore right now. And I’m reading The Known World by Edward P. Jones.

Boxers or briefs?

Calvin Klein button-fly boxer briefs. Magnum size. Okay, so they’re way large on me. It still impresses the cashiers.

About the Author:

Randall Brown is on the faculty of Rosemont College’s MFA in Creative Writing Program. He has been published widely, both online and in print. He earned his MFA at Vermont College.

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.