Smoking With Sophie Rosenblum
Read the Story March 15, 2008
I like how you turn the meaning of sentences around and play off our expectations. For example: “I was a hard ass. My teammates bounced quarters off it.” Is this a technique you use often?
As often as I can. In flash fiction, since you only have so much space, words need to work over time. Everything must be quicker, tighter. Also I read a lot of Woody Allen’s work. He is a master at taking something that means one thing, and by the next sentence flipping it to mean something else entirely.
The short sentences provide for a great clipped rhythm. Upbeat. Bouncy. Like a gymnast.
Yes, I most certainly wanted it to sound like that. I like that you used the word “bouncy.” That is part of the appeal of a gymnast, their buoyancy. I love watching them spring back and forth across that blue mat. I tried to base this piece around that rhythm. Each story has its own tempo, and therefore changes according to characters, themes etc. This one, being about gymnastics, was made to be short and fast—the way they tumble through the air. In addition, their bodies are so compact. It seems gymnasts are to the world of sports what flash fiction is to literature. Then again, I guess I could have elongated the sentences, and made it all about their stretching. Maybe next time.
Is this story humor?
In a way, yes. There’s clearly something funny about the world of gymnastics, something bizarre, at least to me. In other ways, I think of it as sad. They spend so much of their time dedicated to something that has such a limited life-span. Although I think there are humorous elements, to me this story is ultimately about loss.
What do you write for the Houston Press?
I review both food and music. I feel it really helps balance my fiction. Plus, I find the more jobs I have the more precious my fiction writing time becomes.
Congratulations on placing in the Kathy Fish Fellowship contest! Will you share a bit about your experience in applying for the fellowship? Preparing the goal statement, selecting the stories, the wait, etc.?
Thanks very much. Well, I first learned about the fellowship from a friend of mine who said, if you apply, I’ll buy you a dirty martini. I couldn’t very well pass up that offer, and so I sent my work in that day. Well, that is not exactly the way it went down, but pretty much. I had actually never entered a flash fiction contest before, since I only recently started working in this form. Preparing the goal statement was wonderful, because it gave me a chance to reflect on what exactly it was that I was doing with my work—consider where I had been, and where I was going. I should probably write one of those monthly.
Selecting the stories was challenging. I decided to go with work I thought conveyed my voice, but also my range. Waiting was agony. There were pieces of chewed rawhide all over my carpet, large sections of my hair fell out. Okay, not exactly, but it was anxiety provoking, as any waiting is when it’s something you actually care about. When I found out that I had placed, I was really delighted. It’s such an honor.
About the Author:
Sophie Rosenblum is currently finishing her MFA at the University of Houston. In addition to being short-listed for the 2008 Kathy Fish Fellowship, her work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Outside World and Gulf Coast. She is also a frequent contributor to the Houston Press.