Smoking With Tara Laskowski

Read the Story September 28, 2009

“Perhaps she will be famous—a doctor, a writer. A musician, like the violinist.” What dreams existed for you? Did they in any way define you? Did you set yourself against them in any way?

So in that line, it’s the pregnant woman thinking of what her possible daughter might grow up to be. Every parent, I’m sure, wishes their kids success, and some people I think have a set idea of who their child should be when they “grow up.” Some parents, for example, might insist their son/daughter major in biology, or go to law school or business school because that is the parents’ vision. I think the important thing for me growing up was that my parents never tried to mold me into any kind of image they might have had for me. When I started writing creatively in high school, and then later in college, my parents always encouraged it. They never asked, “What are you going to do with that degree?”

And then later, when I decided to take out MORE student loans to go back to graduate school for fiction, they perhaps were sad I was moving away, but they never tried to discourage. They are awesome, basically. So this is not exactly an answer to your question, but I do think that because of them, I was able to pursue writing and really find a passion I might not have otherwise stuck with.

Has your recent marriage changed your writing? Do you find yourself attached to different subjects than before?—different themes?

Not really. Are you suggesting that because I wrote about a pregnant woman here? Sheesh, Randall, give us some time. Ha ha. No, seriously, I don’t think so. For example, I’m working on a story right now about a kind of nasty cheating woman and a bad relationship.

That ending is so perfect and remarkable. How do you find endings?—and how do you know when the right ending has been found?

Wow, thanks. I actually think endings are the hardest to come by when I write. That, and titles. If they don’t come right away, then I really have to work and work to get them. In this case, I rewrote the ending almost five or six times before settling on it. Art (my husband) read some of the earlier versions and he can tell you that some of them were really horrendous. But this one seemed to fit the whole mood of the story, so it stayed. I think you just kind of know when it works. My good friend and great writer Jessica Anthony says that you know when you’re doing something well, and when you’re cheating. I think that’s SO true. Once you’re honest with yourself, you’ll keep working at it until it’s right.

What do you find yourself working on these days as the writer-in-residence at SLQ? Are there aspects of your writing and yourself as a writer that you feel you’ve become more aware of?

I’ve declared this the Year of Flash, so that’s really what I’ve been focusing on. I’m hoping to get enough good material by the end of the year to compile a chapbook. I’ve found I really love writing flash fiction. I’ve revisited some of my older short stories, actually, and find myself wanting to slash and burn dramatically, so I hope I can learn to write long again!

I’m also hoping to soon start a (dramatic) revision on my novel. We’ll see how that goes.

What are you reading, listening to, watching these days? Any finds that we should all know about?

Oooh, I just finished the second book in the Stieg Larsson series, “The Girl Who Played With Fire.” Those books have really fast-paced plots and great mysteries, so I eat them up like candy. Next I am going to start “The City and The City” by China Mieville. As for TV, I’ve been into cop shows lately. Just finished the last of The Shield episodes, and we’re working our way through The Wire. Both shows have amazing writers. Oh, and football season is underway, so all my Sundays are booked now through January. Go Eagles!

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.