Mini-Interview with Sarah Freligh

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

Flash combines the lyric precision of poetry with the narrative urgency of fiction. It’s the perfect storm.

That’s my academic answer. The real reason is because I dole out my life in coffee spoons. I write in grabbed time and flash lends itself nicely to small dollops.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Character, with a splash of plot, most likely because I am a terrible plotter. If conflict is fuel, flash can run on a buck’s worth, long enough to arrive at a story (not so for a novel, which I’m discovering to my great chagrin). At some point in the writing, I get hold of a tail of something – a metaphor, an action – and hitch a ride on that for a while. I eventually arrive at a story or even better, a hint of a story.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Ideally, quick and messy on first swipe after which I abandon the mess for a while to forget what I both love and hate about it. At some point, I start to revise. I might see a potential structure and how that might work to underscore theme. How fooling around with language can create opportunities for metaphor that expand and deepen understanding and meaning. A mentor once said to me that there are no true synonyms in the English language, and I agree. I’m eternally after the right word.

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

I’d wish I could say that I bit into a madeleine and saw my life whole, but the truth is far more pedestrian. My cats, dead and alive. Swimming, definitely. It’s so boring that after 1,000 yards, you develop a rich imagination or go starkers. I have a bank of stored-up images that need homes, and usually I find them in my poems or prose.

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

Jayne Anne Phillips’ book Black Tickets, especially “Wedding Picture” and “Blind Girls.” Gary Gildner’s “Fingers” and Paul Lisicky’s “Snapshot, Harvey Cedars, 1948,” both from the iconic Flash Fiction anthology. Anne Panning’s “Candy Cigarettes,” a flash nonfiction. I’ve used them as prompts in so many classes; they never fail.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Hard question! Probably “We Smoke,” because that might mean that people are reading New Micro, the terrific new anthology edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellero, or reading my poetry book Sad Math, published by Moon City Press in 2015.


BIO: Sarah Freligh is the author of Sad Math, winner of the 2014 Moon City Press Poetry Prize and the 2015 Whirling Prize from the University of Indianapolis. Her fiction and poetry have appeared in Sun Magazine, Hotel Amerika, BOAAT Journal, diode, SmokeLong Quarterly, and in the anthology New Microfiction: Exceptionally Short Stories (W.W. Norton, 2018). Among her awards are a 2009 poetry fellowship from the National Endowment for the Arts and a grant from the Constance Saltonstall Foundation in 2006.

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