Smoking With Robert S. Jersak

Read the Story October 15, 2004

You’re a teller of Asian folk tales. How do you think that impacts your own writing?

If it has impacted my writing, I don’t think I’m able to pinpoint exactly where or how. I would like to think that the gentleness, the perseverance, of archetypal characters in Asian folklore keeps my characters in balance, and keeps their perspective from becoming too emotional, manipulative or self-absorbed.

We can’t seem to get enough of Minnesota writers here: Nance Knauer, Ian Kita, you … what is it about Minnesota that drives excellent writing?

We simply have so darn much time to reflect in winter. We’ve got six months out of the year that are practically inhospitable. However, we also have a nice balance between natural space and urban identity in Minnesota, and supportive community centers like the Loft where we aspiring writers can sharpen our skills.

I love the tenderness of this piece and the instructions of what not to do. How much of your relationship to your own father is in this piece?

Thank you. There’s certainly a bit of my father and I in this piece—a bit of our disassociation and disconnection. There are so many things about my father that I don’t know. He’s very stalwart, very quiet. I know that he enlisted in the armed forces, and I know that he served, but that’s it. He’s a great man, generous and thoughtful, and I respect him immensely–-but, in reality, I really don’t know him the way I think that other men know their fathers.

You’re a professional tutor. At what level do you provide instruction and in what subjects?

Everything at all levels, it seems. I work in a community and technical college, and the wide range of needs forces me to keep a working knowledge of critical reading, grammar, composition, math, science and computer applications. It’s a tough job, but I enjoy it—and it beats the hell out of counting cell phones for a living (don’t ask).

“Instructions” is a hair longer than the pieces we usually publish. Is flash a natural form for you, or are you more inclined toward longer works?

Flash tends to suit me just fine. I enjoy writing, and reading, a short, tight, tease of a story that lingers. “Instructions” is probably one of my longer short fictions. I appreciate you folks opening the door a little wider for the piece, and I’m very pleased to be included in this journal.

About the Author:

Robert S. Jersak is a professional tutor, amateur writer and Asian folktale storyteller. He currently resides in Coon Rapids, Minnesota.

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.