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Smoking With Kim Chinquee

Interview by Kathy Fish (Read the Story) September 30, 2010

Kim Chinquee

Smoke Me! by Paula Iannuzzi

“Hip” is such a beautiful and layered work, Kim. There is a feeling of longing as this narrator dances in the bar with her friend, who feels like a sister, as the guy, the bouncer, who is almost a boyfriend, watches. The young narrator feels very wise to me. You capture a moment in the girl’s life that resonates. Can you talk a little about what brought you to this piece?
Thank you, Kath. A sense of longing inspired the piece. I was thinking of sisterhood and some of the close friendships I’ve had over the years. I wanted to celebrate that.

I love the first sentence of this: “She gave me her hips.” The oddness of this sentence is what makes it so beautiful and intriguing. And then followed by “Mine did their sway…” Was there a conscious decision to start with this or did it emerge organically from the writing? And then also, why “Hips” for the title?
I went back to read the original version, and I guess that’s how I started. I’m not sure why I started with that sentence. I just imagined two friends dancing and having fun on the platform and perhaps the hips signify a closeness between them—they, unlike the almost boyfriend have “hips.”

The first time I read this, I was astounded by how moving that last sentence felt, coming at the end of such a short piece. I’ve read it several times now and it never loses its power. You seem to have an intuitive genius for last sentences. What advice would you give a new writer who doesn’t quite have that intuition yet and is struggling with closings in their stories?
Thanks, Kath. That’s very generous of you. I struggle with endings. I think, in this one, I wanted it to emphasize the boom, and make it more internal for the narrator. I revise endings over and over and over. This one felt a little different to me, as I often like to leave the reader with an image. An ending, to me, is like saying goodbye, and if the reader’s made it that far, then it’s my duty to give it one last chance to sing.

About the Author

Kim Chinquee grew up on a dairy farm in Wisconsin, served in the medical field in the Air Force, and is often referred to as the “queen” of flash fiction. She’s published hundreds of pieces of fiction and nonfiction in journals and magazines including The Nation, Ploughshares, NOON, Storyquarterly, Denver Quarterly, Fiction, Story, Notre Dame Review, Conjunctions, and others. She is the recipient of two Pushcart Prizes and a Henfield Prize. She is Senior Editor of New World Writing, co-director of Buffalo State’s Writing Major, and serves as the Association of Writers and Writing Programs Northeast Regional Council Chair. She can be reached at kimchinquee at gmail dot com.

About the Interviewer

Kathy Fish teaches for the Mile High MFA at Regis University in Denver, Colorado. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Three of her stories have been Best Small Fictions winners, most recently “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild,” chosen by Aimee Bender. Additionally, two of Fish’s stories will be featured in the upcoming W.W. Norton anthology, New Micro: Exceptionally Short Fiction.

About the Artist

Paula Iannuzzi on Instagram

This interview appeared in Issue Twenty-Nine of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Twenty-Nine
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

Deadline November 15!

The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction (The Smokey) is a biennial competition that celebrates and compensates excellence in flash. The grand prize winner of The Smokey is automatically nominated for The Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart, Best of the Net, and any other prize we deem appropriate. In addition to all this love, we will also pay the grand prize winner $2500. Second place: $1000. Third place $500. Finalists: $100. All finalists and placers will be published in the special competition issue in December 2022.