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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoking With Ellen Parker

(Read the Story) October 15, 2004

Ellen Parker

Gallaher's Cigarette Card - Boy Scout Series "Sucking Poison from a Dog Bite"

If God is in the details, your writing is straight from heaven. Talk to us about the importance of focusing in on the minutia.

Good writing is never “generic.” A story sticks with you because of the details in it that you’ve never seen before. Sometimes one small image, or perhaps just one word, makes you gasp.

You publish the literary ezine, FRiGG. How has being an editor impacted your own writing?

I have been an editor forever. Before I edited FRiGG, I edited lots of other types of magazines and written materials. When I first started writing fiction, being an editor stifled me. I couldn’t stand writing anything that wasn’t “correct.” I have since jettisoned that ridiculous attitude, however—to the extent that editors and their punctilious ways (and I am including myself in this group) sometimes drive me fucking nuts.

If you could give one piece of advice to the novice writer trying flash fiction for the first time, what would it be?

Please, please write something that makes you feel. Write something that strips you to the bone. After you’ve written a flash, you should put your head in your hands and think, Oh my god.

What was the last thing you read that influenced your writing?

A writer, when he or she reads, is always looking behind the curtains to see how other writers go about their business. This kind of examination can take some of the fun out of reading. Now, I will tell you that often the books you’ve stayed away from because they have been labeled “masterpieces” or “classics” turn out to be a blast. Like, I just read Crime and Punishment. Shit, in it Dostoyevsky makes all kinds of mistakes. First, he has his protagonist commit the big murder at the end of Part 1 (or thereabouts). There are maybe 500 more pages to go. I’m like, OK, what next? I’m bored. Plus, Raskolnikov (the protagonist) is a total jerk—your archetypal callow youth. He is nothing but a big ol’ whiner! The whole time I’m thinking, This fellow needs to be jailed—and sooner rather than later. Also, Dostoyevsky really rambles. He has his characters engage in long and not very interesting conversations. I LOVE THIS. It is hilarious. What have I learned from reading this book? That you can have the climax of your book come in the first fourth of the book, have your protagonist be totally off-putting, and you can basically ramble on for 500 pages—and still write a masterpiece. This pretty much gives me an imprimatur to write whatever the fuck I want to, dammit.

What makes a man sexy?

Ooo, now we’re getting down to bidness. People always say it’s a person’s mind that makes that person sexy. Bullshit. Gimme a man with a body, baby. I would like to have a man with a body that is unclothed.

About the Author

Ellen Parker reads and writes. She is editor of the online literary magazine FRiGG.

This interview appeared in Issue Six of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Six
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