Smoking With Robin Slick

Read the Story October 15, 2004

Any chance you were influenced by the Beats? Your work has that “go, go, go” quality of the best beat writing.

Oh wow, what a compliment. I grew up with the Beats. No, seriously, my dad was a jazz musician and that was the only life I knew. I don’t want to name names but when I was a young girl, our house was a revolving door of celebrities from the art/music world. But a funny story, I can remember being about ten years old and this is how hip my mother was. She’s reading a poetry book by Lawrence Ferlinghetti and she says “Hey, Rob, listen to this: ‘Johnny Nolan has a patch on his ass. Kids chase him’…hahahaha – isn’t that great?” And even back then, I remember thinking, Oh wow, my mom is so cool, other moms are telling their kids not to say “ass” and go play with their Barbie dolls but my mom is actually reading this to me and telling me how great it is. I am so lucky! As far as the author who influenced me most, I know this is a cliché, but when I read Catcher in the Rye, that’s when I knew I wanted to be a writer. I can probably recite that entire book to you verbatim. Damn, I wish I could capture that voice in the worst way and I still work on it daily.

“Now you know how it feels, baby.” Oh yeah. I love the way the piece builds to that moment and man, you nailed it. So tell me, oh you of the oh-so-right-on ending, how do you do it?

I’m good at endings. Everyone tells me that. Oh wait, we’re talking about writing. Ha. The thing is, when I read, I look for authors who write stories that have beginnings, middles, and satisfying finales and they are my major influences so that’s the way my mind works, too, when I write.

I love the way you inhabit the character in this piece, so completely and perfectly. Any chance you’ll give up any secrets on how you achieve what is very hard for many writers and darn near impossible for me?

Thank you! Well, to be honest, it’s very easy for me to step out of myself and become the actual character. It’s the best form of escape there is and one of the reasons I’m probably more of a natural writer and don’t follow too many rules. You should see me when I’m writing a novel. I walk around the house talking out loud in the narrator’s dialogue, acting like him/her…it’s a scary sight but hey, it works.

I know you have lots and lots and lots of editorial experience with NFG and Philadelphia Stories. Where do most stories go wrong?

Oh god, that’s easy. Most beginners write autobiographical pieces chock full of too many personal comments – and worse, their lives aren’t interesting to begin with. I almost feel like giving them topics myself or directing them to writing sites on the web that will. It’s too bad – if they would just try and be original and spit out the story like they’re talking to a friend, they would make their lives (and mine) so much easier.

Word is you’re a rock and roll mom. I’d love to hear more about that.

Ah, do you have a few hundred hours? Yeah, my son is a percussion major at University of Arts in Philadelphia and my daughter is a bassist in her second year in the music program at Drexel University. They’ve played with everyone from James Iha of the Smashing Pumpkins and members of Yes to many musicians from the various incarnations of Frank Zappa’s former ensembles. They’re in a new original band together now but up until September when they were deemed “graduates”, they were part of the Paul Green School of Rock, traveling all over the world performing the music of Frank Zappa and Pink Floyd – interestingly enough, bands I personally never liked. I was always more of a guitar god/blues/jazz groupie but they’ve converted me. Well, to the more complex Zappa stuff, anyway. So it’s kind of difficult being an adult hanging out backstage like a hip version of a soccer mom, half trying to maintain my cool still and the other half desperately trying to control myself from screaming and clapping and dancing around making a total fool of myself. I’m so proud of those two – they’re my greatest achievement. There’s a movie coming out about them in March – a documentary called Rock School that premiered at the LA Film Festival in June and was purchased by Newmarket Films who just put out a small little movie called Passion of Christ and they’re going into Sony Studios shortly to do the soundtrack. We went on tour in connection with it this past summer out west – 16 cities in 17 days – everywhere from Los Angeles, CA to Boise, Idaho and that’s the subject of my new book, which chronicles the whole event and interweaves kind of what I’m saying here – that wistful feeling of being an adult but still a child at heart. My first foray into real non-fiction. I’m very psyched.

About the Author:

Robin Slick lives in downtown Philadelphia. When she's not writing and working and editing for NFG and Philadelphia Stories, she travels around the world as official groupie mom following her rock star kids. For more information and to read other stories please visit her website at www.robinslick.com.

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.