I’m interested in this story about a homebound person with wanderlust as written by a world traveler! It’s a surprising subject for you. What was the impetus of the story?
The first draft came from a prompt in Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash Workshop. I started with the lighted makeup mirror, something my grandmother used to have, and the story just developed from there. Kathy encouraged us to welcome any surprises that arose with this particular exercise. The part about the man eating his girlfriend’s brains was a surprise that I probably would have immediately deleted if Kathy hadn’t said that.
It may seem strange for someone who lives halfway around the world from home to write about a homebound person, but I’m interested in writing about people who feel stuck—either in a situation or a location. I’m a homebody, so I can relate to this character in the sense that she spends most of her days at home, except I’m perfectly happy to not leave the house. And on the days that I don’t leave the house, I never put on makeup!
The character is uncomfortable, obviously, with aging. What’s the most horrifying symptom of aging you’ve experienced? It’s chin hair, isn’t it? I know it’s chin hair. I just want to hear someone else say the words: CHIN HAIR.
Fortunately I haven’t found any chin hair yet! Earlier this year I realized my neck isn’t as firm as it used to be. I become sort of obsessed with it the day I discovered it. I spent hours researching neck creams and then I went to Sephora that night, after my son went to bed, to buy some overpriced cream. I used it religiously for a few weeks and then forgot about it. Since writing this story I’ve started using the cream again.
You and I have something in common: we’re each in a loving relationship with a fellow writer. I know that in my situation, we’re always either competing for writing time or bending over backwards to make time for the other, because life is just more beautiful when we’re engaged with the written word. In what special ways do you negotiate life in a two-writer home?
The struggle for time is always a real concern. I’m lucky to not be working full-time right now so I have plenty of time to write during the week. I try to help my husband carve out space and time to write as well. We recently moved to a new apartment that has a big room upstairs. When I viewed the apartment I initially saw the upstairs as my space—I was planning out where I’d put my desk and my sewing machine, etc. But it made more sense for my husband to take that space—he can go up there at night or during the weekends and have a dedicated space to write without distractions (or with fewer distractions, I should say, as he spends a lot of time up there grading papers and planning lessons). I took a room on the first floor as my office since I have the apartment to myself while my husband and son are at school.
We try to always support each other, but of course there’s some level of competition and jealousy whenever you put two writers in the same room. We share submission calls with each other and point out places we think might be a good fit for each other’s work. We celebrate the wins, both big and small. We both have pieces in a recent anthology published here in Singapore, so that was a fun thing to celebrate together.
What have you gained or learned from your time as our Kathy Fish Fellow?
The best thing is that I’ve gained a new community. The SmokeLong staff is such a cool group of people, and they’ve been very welcoming and supportive. The editors worked with me through multiple revisions of every story I published here this year. I’m grateful for their time and dedication, and I’ve learned so much about flash fiction from those workshops, as well as from reading the submission queue.
So, is short-form fiction your permanent jam, or do you see yourself branching out into longer stuff or other genres? What’s next for you, writing wise?
I love short stories and flash fiction in particular, and it’s been fun to focus on that this year. I think I’ll spend next year working on longer form, though. I’ve got a three-month residency coming up this spring at the Kerouac House and I’d love to work a novel there. But then I find myself thinking: do I really want to write a novel? There’s a certain pressure for short story writers to move onto novels, so I’m struggling with that right now. Do I really want to write a novel or do I just think it’s what I should be doing?