Smoking With Stephanie Harrison

Read the Story March 15, 2008

This story is, essentially, written in one sentence, and I love the rhythm it creates. I’ve seen pieces try to utilize this method before. Sometimes it works. Sometimes it doesn’t. Here, it works. How hard was it to get the pauses just right?

Pretty hard. I’ve written quite a few one-sentence stories, and after the story is there it’s an exercise in punctuation. A little like flower arranging, I think. Getting it to fall just right. It should be written so that the reader doesn’t notice that it’s all one sentence.

Distance plays a large role in this story. Characters are nameless, communication reserved, emotions withheld. And yet we, the readers, feel close. How does this work?

I wish I knew. Some of it is achieved by using very particular details, but there’s also something about the music of an extended sentence that invites closeness. It’s not something I know how to do—it’s something I notice after it’s on the page. And something unique to the form. You could take the idea of this story and turn it into a traditional 5000-word story and it could be good. But the compression of a short-short gives the music a lot of pedal that you would probably lose if you expand it.

The image of blue starts and ends this story. Blue-light specials and flickering blue… What does the use of color achieve?

It’s the metaphor that worked its way into this piece. I liked the idea of playing with the different ways we use blue as shorthand. Blue as in mournful. Or blue in the sexual sense, as in “blue” movies.

You edit an anthology devoted to stories adapted to the big screen. Can you name a few? Have any flash stories been included?

I included 35. Some of them are: “Rear Window,” “The Fly,” “The Wisdom of Eve” (All About Eve), “Memento Mori” (Memento), “Killings” (In the Bedroom), “Minority Report.” Only one really qualifies as flash: Harvey Pekar’s graphic story “The Harvey Pekar Name Story.” It’s a little masterpiece.

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.?

It was, as far as these things go, painless. I really dislike writing goal statements, because I think I sound pretentious, so thank you for overlooking any bloviation. You guys are great.

About the Author:

Stephanie Harrison has published short fiction in many journals, including Quarterly West, Hayden's Ferry Review, Northwest Review, and the Beloit Fiction Journal. She is the editor of the anthology Adaptations: From Short Story to Big Screen (Three Rivers Press, 2005), and her articles on adapting stories for film have appeared in magazines such as Poets & Writers. She teaches English to Speakers of Other Languages (ESOL) in Columbus, Ohio and an online creative writing course for the University of Florida.