Smoking With Tara Laskowski

Read the Story June 25, 2009

How are things going as the Fish Fellow? I know we have sworn you to secrecy about the intricacies of the program and all the learning we are bestowing upon you, but in vague terms no one could possibly fully grasp, what can you share about the experience so far?

I believe under my contractual agreements, I’m allowed to say: It’s been great! (And it really has!)

From where did you get the idea for “Minor Setback”? I so love brother/sister stories. What attracts you to them, both as writer and reader?

I didn’t actually know it was going to be a brother/sister story when I started it. I actually just wanted to write about all the Ramen noodles I have in our pantry. Art, who I can call my husband by the time this goes to print, makes fun of me all the time because I’ve somehow managed to amass a great quantity of those packages without actually ever wanting to eat any of them. And yet, somehow, I don’t want to give them up. Not sure what that means.

However, then it sort of just turned into this other thing, which is good I guess. I liked the images of kids being reckless, then having to grow out of that, but still having these urges to go back to those simpler, crazier times.

I also wanted to try something a little more “weird,” for lack of a better term. My stories tend to be very realistic, so I wanted to experiment a little here. That, too, was a challenge, but ultimately I had fun with it.

Forts! What is it about forts and childhood? What are your own fort memories?

Forts are, like in my story, a way of creating a barrier between the “adult world” and the child’s world, I think. But they are also a place where kids can experiment with adult roles—many forts I played in as a kid involved us doing adult things: protecting our land, washing dishes, going to work, etc. Which is the really weird question, I think. Why are kids so fascinated by the boring adult chores of the world? Why do we buy kids plastic kitchens with dirty countertops to clean, or cardboard store fronts where they can sell food and cartons of milk, or tool boxes with hammers and drills to fix things? How is that fun? Maybe it comes back to the whole “grass is greener” thing—children want to put those huge high heels on because they don’t yet fit, and adults really miss their pigtails and swingsets because they no longer fit. We always want what we can’t have.

Tell us all you can about your wedding and honeymoon plans. (Tara will be on her honeymoon after this goes to press!)

Yes! We got married June 6 just outside of Washington, D.C. Being the nerds we are, Art and I had a kind of literary theme for our wedding. Our wedding cake was shaped like a stack of books, our invitations were little library cards stamped with significant dates of our courtship, our favors are CDs with songs about books or writing (think “Paperback Writer” and “The Book of Love”). Also, during the ceremony we read literary passages, including one of Kathy Fish’s stories, “One Purple Finch,” which is just a wonderful love story that appeared in Issue 17 of SmokeLong.

And to top off that literary theme, we’re headed to Ireland for our honeymoon, where we have timed it to be in Dublin for Bloomsday (and lots of Guinness.)

After the “minor setbacks” of the past few years, the beginning of the year began with lots of promise and hope. How so you feel midway into 2009? What do you hope to see in the latter half of 2009, both for your self and all of us?

I feel great! Though that probably has a lot to do with being newly married to an awesome person and writer, right?

Yeah, so I’m on a high here. And when we get back from Ireland, Art and I already have goals set: books to read, stories to write and submit, people to have dinner and wine with. As for the greater “we,” I see (and I hope I’m right) a sense of hope in the country that continues to grow with the new president and administration. I do hope that we begin to see an upturn in the second half of the year in this country with the economy, of course, because I know a lot of people who are still struggling. But as in writing, sometimes out of struggles come great things, so I hope that will make people stronger in the long run.

About the Author:

Tara Laskowski has been editor at SmokeLong Quarterly since 2010. Her short story collection Bystanders was hailed by Jennifer Egan as "a bold, riveting mash-up of Hitchcockian suspense and campfire-tale chills." She is also the author of Modern Manners For Your Inner Demons, tales of dark etiquette. Her fiction has been published in the Norton anthology Flash Fiction International, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Mid-American Review, and numerous other journals, magazines, and anthologies. Tara lives and works in a suburb of Washington, D.C.