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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoking With Sandra Maddux-Creech

(Read the Story) June 15, 2007

Sandra Maddux-Creech

"Self-Portrait with Bandaged Ear and Pipe" by Vincent Van Gogh

How did this story come to such an ending, “dry and rough”?

It was originally the second to the last line, and Dave Clapper asked for a small edit at the end. We did go back and forth a couple of times, but it resulted in the original final line being mercifully killed. Don’t ask what that line was. I won’t tell you. Maybe Dave would. But I like the contrast between the water in the line before and the dry, rough hands at the end.

What place, for you, has the magical power that Old Leningrad wields in this story?

The river, of course, as opposed to the church and the other buildings. I like the idea of water touching one place or one person and then flowing off to touch places and people on the other side of the world.

What effect did the MFA at Colorado State have on your writing?

It taught me a lot that I didn’t realize I’d learned for years. When I graduated, I was a bad writer. I still remember things people told me in workshop, things I resisted then. They talked about nuance and deeper meaning. I was only a storyteller. I still am a storyteller, but now I feel like a writer.

Congrats on being the finalist in some fantastic contests. Do you ever write a story for a specific contest? Also, any advice for those writers such as me who have yet to place in any contest, even one that my mother was judging?

I’m sure it was judged blindly, and that’s why she didn’t move you up. But thank you. I was thrilled to place in those contests. The e-mail from Glimmer Train kept me grinning for days. But when I have written specifically for a contest, I haven’t done well. My only advice would be to read, read, read. Read the winners. Read what’s getting published every day.

The titles of the stories in this issue wowed me and got me thinking about the value of the great title. What are some great titles—for novels, stories, movies, albums, CDs, and the like? And what is the worst title you’ve ever encountered?

I’ve always hated the album title, Weasels Ripped My Flesh. But, though I have respect, I’m not a huge Zappa fan, so maybe it has some meaning I’m not aware of. It’s odd, but now that I think about it, my favorite books don’t have fantastic titles. Some great titles: Rosencrantz and Guildenstern are Dead, On Beyond Zebra, Foggy Mountain Breakdown, Films About Ghosts, God Shuffled His Feet, Through the Looking Glass, Pictures of the Gone World, Fables of the Reconstruction, Let us Compare Mythologies, Postcards from the Edge, and Pretzel Logic. Do I have to cite the sources for all those? I’m probably forgetting the very best ones.

About the Author

Sandra Maddux-Creech earned her MFA at Colorado State University. Her work has appeared in Margin and Ballyhoo Stories. She was recently a finalist in contests sponsored by Glimmer Train and Many Mountains Moving, and her story “Ceremony” was nominated for a Pushcart Prize in 2004.

About the Artist

Vincent Willem van Gogh was a Dutch post-impressionist painter who posthumously became one of the most famous and influential figures in the history of Western art.

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