Mini-Interview with Michelle Ross

Michelle Ross bw

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

Writing flash has made me a better writer because it’s taught me so much about compression and silences, the importance of what is intentionally left unsaid. It’s also an extremely practical form for when I have only small snatches of time to write.

Although I’ve never whittled wood, the metaphor that comes to mind right now is that whereas writing a longer short story is like carving out an animal or some other intricate shape into wood, writing flash is more like whittling that piece of wood into the sharpest point possible.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

It depends on the story to some extent, but what keeps me afloat more than any other elements are probably rhythm and theme. I get snagged on ideas and love to mine and mine and mine. But in putting those ideas onto the page, rhythm is in command. I will rewrite sentences hundreds of times until they sound just right. I will change the meaning of a sentence in service of making the rhythm right. The most painful thing to me as a reader is prose that is inelegant. Reading prose that is clunky and awkward is like driving a heavily potholed road.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Precise over messy, almost always. Probably this is related to my above answer. If I write quick and messy sentences, I’m instantly compelled to revise them. Whether that precision comes quickly or slowly varies from story to story, though. Some stories come together rapidly. I write the entire draft in a sitting, and all it needs is a little tweaking. But a lot of the time I build my stories slowly over a period of months or years. Even flash fiction. I put stories aside and take them back out again. Repeat. Repeat. Repeat.

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

 So many. Science writing, mothering, running. Above all else, however, the experience of being female in a patriarchal world is what influences my writing most.

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

This is difficult to answer because I want to name so many stories and so many writers. For instance, all the great flash fiction writers I’ve published on Atticus Review. I’m not going to try to list them all here, but let me just say that I’m proud of the great flash fiction we’ve published over the years. Because we publish only one fiction writer a week, we’re highly selective.

A few of my favorite flash fiction stories in recent years outside of Atticus Review include Janey Skinner’s “Carnivores,” Gwen Kirby’s “Shit Cassandra Saw That She Didn’t Tell the Trojans Because At That Point Fuck Them Anyway,” Jennifer Wortman’s “A Matter Between Neighbors,” Kim Magowan’s “Madlib,” Michael Czyzniejewski’s “The Nudist Contemplates Cannibalism,” Sara Lippmann’s “Wolf or Deer,” Christopher Allen’s “Blood Brother,” Sherrie Flick’s “How I Left Ned,” which is included in her great new story collection, Thank Your Lucky Stars.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

One of my favorite flash fictions still is “Prologue,” which was published in Gravel. It was also a finalist for the 2017 Lascaux Prize in Flash Fiction and included in my collection, There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (Moon City Press 2017). It’s the first flash fiction I ever began, I believe, though not the first piece I completed. I worked on it on and off for several years. For me, the title and the ending make this story, yet oddly, weeks after it had been accepted for publication, an editor at Gravel asked me to cut the last two lines. I’m usually quite receptive to editorial suggestions, but in this case, I refused. And I was a little dismayed to realize that the editor’s vision of what this story is about was so drastically different from mine.

BIO: Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You (2017), which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Alaska Quarterly ReviewColorado ReviewNashville ReviewPidgeonholes, Electric Literature’s Recommended ReadingSmokeLong Quarterly, and other venues. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review and was a consulting editor for the 2018 Best Small Fictions anthology. www.michellenross.com

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