Can you talk about the process of writing “Rabbit?” It strikes me as a story that in some ways could have been much longer, so was it always flash? Why are you drawn to flash in particular?
A few months ago, I watched my boyfriend shoot a rabbit. I didn’t grow up around hunters, so it was the first time I’d seen something like that. The moment tumbled around in my skull for a while, gathering other memories to it: the death of a childhood dog, a stuffed animal I still have, the work I’d done in a lab as a teenager. When I completed a first draft, the story was shorter—about 500 words—and mostly about dead animals. I sent it to a peer and she echoed what I was feeling: the story wanted to be about more than a rabbit. That’s when I started investigating why the protagonist was preoccupied with these endings and what conflict might exist within her and the relationship. Over the course of revision, I read “Rabbit” aloud over and over to myself, each time reshaping sentences and the piece as a whole. One evening, I read it to a group of friends at an informal event called a Hoot and felt, finally, like it was ready to send off into the world.
I started writing flash fiction a year ago, around the same time I started a novel. I had to hold so much in my head at once for the long form that new ideas didn’t have enough room. Flash became an outlet of sorts. It was a tiny space where I could keep those subjects that were tugging at me. And I quickly fell in love with the form’s capacity for lyricism, nuance, noise, and quiet. I even started a flash contest at a magazine I edit, Sycamore Review, so that I can publish others’ work in the genre.
Where does a story generally start for you? Is it usually through an idea or a concept or is it through imagery or character? And if it’s at all possible to answer, why do you think it starts there for you?”
For me, it begins with a moment, usually between two people. I write that moment with imagined or remembered images and then build other elements around it: characters, plot, etcetera. The narrative takes shape over many drafts, and I have to listen to the story, my instinct, and peer feedback before I’m able to build something that feels whole.
What made you pursue writing as a craft, how are your current studies and work propelling that choice, and where do you see yourself in five years?
I worked as a middle and high school teacher for five years. During that time, I realized that writing was the thing I wanted to do most in the world, and my career didn’t leave enough space for it. I craved a writing community—people who would read my work not just during the course of a program but also for life. And I lucked out. I found that at Purdue: time to write and a group of women writers, whom I call the Wolf Pack, that I trust, admire, and respect. I know the next few years will be a challenge—that outside of my graduate program, I must find a way to finish my novel and earn a living— but I am confident that I can and will do it.
Whom do you read and admire? Why?
I try to read widely across all genres. I just finished Cheryl Strayed’s Tiny Beautiful Things and admired how collected columns became a memoir of sorts. I dream of writing about emotion as honestly as Strayed.
One text I keep returning to is Colum McCann’s Let the Great World Spin. I initially reread the book because of its structure: the way it weaves around one day in history. It appeals to my love of organization, patterns, and connections. But I keep returning because his sentences break my heart.