SmokeLong Quarterly

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“More than enough” — An Interview With Quarterly Guest Editor Jennifer Wortman

Interview by Shasta Grant February 15, 2022

We’re so excited that you’re joining our team as a Quarterly Guest Editor, reading for the Summer 2022 issue! First, I’d like to ask how you’re doing. The last time we talked was when you served as a weekly guest editor for us in January 2020 – right before all our lives changed with the pandemic. And now here we are, two years later, still living through it. How have you managed for the last two years? Has the pandemic affected your writing or reading life?

All things considered, I’m doing fine. I’m an introvert and I already worked from home, so my everyday life hasn’t changed a ton. My family is healthy and safe and provided for (knock wood). There have been challenges, for sure: it’s been hard, for instance, not to be able to visit my mom as much as I’d like. But I can’t complain. I wish everyone had the safety and resources we all deserve.

As for my reading life, at the beginning of the pandemic, my brain fog was so thick I could hardly read a thing. Then I found, ironically, that I could tolerate only big, immersive novels for their escapist properties: Tiffany Quay Tyson’s wonderful The Past Is Never was the first book to pull me from the funk. My brain eventually adjusted, and I returned to reading widely and eagerly. What joy when my public library opened for browsing again! For a few months I became a full-on library-book addict. I finally had to put library visits on hold so I could put a dent in the enormous stack of to-be-read books I own.

Writing-wise, I continue to plug away at my work-in-progress, a novel-in-stories called Dreams of My Dead Husband. But whereas before the pandemic, I usually had one or two little side projects going, these days I’m not moved to do more than the minimum, which usually feels like more than enough.

What do you love about flash fiction?

The intensity, the flexibility, the lack of room for nonsense, the poetry, the punch. And while it’s not necessarily easy to read and write, I also love that it’s accessible to readers and writers who might not have time for longer work. In that sense, it’s a democratic form of literature.

What kind of stories will you be looking for as you read the submission queue?

I’ve answered this question before and not much has changed! I want urgency, intensity, boldness, surprise. Technical finesse and emotional truth. This could take many different forms; I’m not attached to a particular aesthetic or subject. I do, though, have a soft spot for stories drenched in desire and loss.

What’s the best (or worst) piece of writing advice you’ve ever received?

The best piece of writing advice I’ve ever received, and often quote, is from Steve Almond: “Slow down where it hurts.”

About the Interviewer

Shasta Grant  is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest and the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellowship. She has received residencies from Hedgebrook and The Kerouac Project and was selected as a 2020 Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellow. Her work has appeared in cream city review, Epiphany, Hobart, wigleaf, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and divides her time between Singapore and Indianapolis.


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A SmokeLong Summer 2023!

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From June 5 to August 27 2023, SmokeLong is going to host the superworkshop, A SmokeLong Summer for the second year. We want to spend the summer with you, the flash community. Our asynchronous workshops take place on a devoted website where you can create a profile, interact with the flash community, and take part in group discussions on craft, but A SmokeLong Summer is much more.