Smoking With Rebecca Marshall-Courtois

Read the Story March 15, 2004

What inspired this piece?

It started as a writing exercise, creating a scene or story about an object found on a park bench. I’ve often written about homeless people, as well as all kinds of folks most people prefer not acknowledging. And as a mother, I also like to explore how children see the world around them, and I wanted something positive to come out of the confrontation between vagabond and child without turning the story into a sermon.

What did you find challenging in writing this story?

Getting into the character’s head. The first draft of the story was written in third person, but I had to change that in order to really force myself to understand this person.

What attracted you to writing flash fiction vs. other forms of writing?

The sparseness of flash fiction has always attracted me. I love to write description, but when I write flash I can’t get away with too much description. Writing flash fiction teaches me how to make every word work. There’s just no room for overkill. In turn, I think this type of writing helps me to become a better novelist as well.

How much of you is in this story?

Maybe it’s a fantasy of mine. I’d have liked to have been that kid. (I also have very sensitive teeth.)

If you weren’t able to write, what would be your creative outlet?

If I couldn’t write, I’d devote my time to all kinds of artwork and crafts which I only can enjoy occasionally at this stage in my life. I love to sketch, paint and take photographs and think linking these forms of art to my writing would be intriguing, like writing a story and then painting it or visa versa. I just wish I had the time to devote to such experiments.

About the Author:

Rebecca's work has appeared in several print and online publications, including Thought Magazine, Literary Potpourri, Freefall, The Listening Eye, flashquake and Virginia Adversaria (forthcoming). She teaches English in France. Read more about her at