Mini-Interview with Kara Vernor

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Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Flash was just what came out, probably due in part to my natural impatience. Flash also felt most akin to my favorite songs, and music, maybe more than reading, led me to writing. I’ve kept at it because the length is a great frame for experimentation. In longer works, fewer readers tolerate being challenged with less familiar structures, syntax, content, etc. Can you imagine reading a novel by, say, Gary Lutz (in the style of his shorts)? It’s rare that a style so experimental finds an audience for a novel; lucky for us we have flash.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Plot? What’s plot? I generally walk all the way out to the end of the diving board before I look to see if there’s any water below. I’d say character sometimes, though id would maybe be more accurate. It often feels like I conjure more than I write.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Unfortunately, mine’s both messy and slow, and then at some point, after I have enough of a slow, messy mess, I steamroll it with whatever precision I can muster.

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

For a while, I was writing sex ed inspired flash (I sometimes teach sex ed), but then I started writing a novel with a teenage protagonist and I think I over-teenaged. I’ve recently come back to flash after the novel, and I’m writing stranger, more violent pieces. This probably has something to do with having gotten a restraining order against our next-door neighbor, who is a Trump supporter with severe PTSD. I could go on about the creepy stuff he’s done, but suffice it to say, he is *affixed-spikes-along-his-fence-to-impale-our-cats* loony. I’ve gotten clear that having a mental illness doesn’t mean you’re not also an asshole. Living this way, in Trump’s America with a mini version next door, has me writing some angry shit when I’m writing at all. I’m also finding I used to care more about entertaining people, but in this current climate, I care much more about being true.

 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

I feel like I’ve shouted my standby faves in one way or another many times, so I’ll mention a few I’ve either never shouted or have been particularly appreciating lately. Kevin Sampsell has been on fire. Check out his recent stories in Paper Darts and X-R-A-Y. I just finished Deb Olin Unferth’s Wait Till You See Me Dance, and it’s as brilliant as you’d anticipate. The flash in Peter Orner’s Last Car Over the Sagamore Bridge is full of virtuosic grace.

I consider Etgar Keret to be my flash father—at least I want him to be. I love how frank and creative and funny and real and deceptively plainspoken he is. He’s a defender of complexity, and in this age of social media, that’s sorely needed. Plus, I’ve learned more about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict through reading his interviews than I have from the (very biased) news. He and a Palestinian writer, Samir El-Youssef, took the revolutionary step of publishing a book together called Gaza Blues. El-Youssef’s novella and Keret’s stories are incredible alone but published together, they’re even more affecting.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

With the phenomenon that is Twitter, that’s hard to say. The writing community is tirelessly supportive, and maybe I have a low bar, but I’m always honored when anyone takes the time to read something I’ve written. This question makes me think of stories that generally don’t get the love they deserve, and I’d have to go with happy ones. Similar to how comedies almost never win the Oscar for best picture, happy stories don’t seem to get their due respect, especially given that they’re more difficult to write, in my opinion. “The Recommendation” is a happy story of mine, so I’ll mention it here. It’s about two nerds negotiating a 69.

 

Bio: Kara Vernor’s fiction has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, Green Mountains Review, Fanzine, No Tokens, and elsewhere, and her fiction chapbook, Because I Wanted to Write You a Pop Song, is available from Split Lip Press. She is the recipient of an Elizabeth George Foundation scholarship, and her stories have been included in Wigleaf’s Top 50 Very Short Fictions, the Best Small Fictions finalists, and Outpost 19’s Golden State 2017 anthology.

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