Mini-Interview with Kristin Tenor

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

My stories often lean toward the quiet details that surround a relationship, a life, with the hope they’ll somehow uncover the extraordinary. Once during a writer workshop at UW-Madison, our instructor introduced the class to Robert Hass’ “Story About a Body.” Without too much of a spoiler here, the piece concludes with the lasting image of a blue bowl filled with dead bees covered by rose petals. I’m continually amazed and inspired by what the well-chosen detail can convey through image and implication alone. Resonance is the gold standard to any lasting piece of literature, however, the possibilities in flash fiction to meld narrative and emotion in such a concise, complex way defines real artistry to me. It’s something I strive for with every piece I write.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: plot or character?

This often feels like one of those chicken/egg questions, but I’d have to go with character. If neither yearning or an emotional connection exist between the character and reader, you can throw all the plotlines you want into the water. Nothing will save you.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

How about messy and slow? The most difficult part of the process for me is actually getting that first draft down on the page. I agonize over it for days, sometimes weeks, writing notes here and there. I’ll take a walk, visit the library, weed the garden, talk to the kids, bake a batch of cookies, eat the cookies, write down a few more notes, rinse, repeat. Once I have the initial draft down, revision picks up the momentum. I realize it’s not the most productive route, but I’ve come to trust both my subconscious and the process.

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

My grandsons, who are three and one, constantly remind me how important it is to stay open and curious about the world. To them everything is a wonder, good or bad.

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

One of my favorite flash pieces is Kathy Fish’s “Collective Nouns for Humans in the Wild.” Her work not only illuminates the human condition, but also seeps compassion.

I also love Cathy Ulrich’s Murdered Lady Series. I’m impressed with how these pieces start from the same origin but tell such different and compelling stories. “Being the Murdered Babysitter,” published in Passages North, is both incredible and haunting.

I’m enjoying Josh Denslow’s collection, “Not Everyone Is Special.” He does a fantastic job creating a bridge between his characters and readers.

Christopher Allen’s “How to Shop After the Death of Your Brother” in Split Lip left me speechless.

The footnote structure in Meg Pillow Davis’ “Ten Rules for Cooks on the Verge of Collapse” in Hobart creates such and interesting parallel to what’s on the surface.

K.B. Carle’s “Vagabond Mannequin” floored me with its ingenuity. She’s definitely someone to watch.

Kim Magowan’s “Madlib” and her collection, “Undoing,” are wonderful. The complexity and layers she weaves into the relationships she writes about are so palpable and real.

I appreciate the honesty in Marvin Shackelford’s work. “The Coyote Eventually Has His Day” in Waxwing and “On Water” in Spry both speak to this truth.

Otherwise, I recommend anything written by Joy Williams or Lydia Davis. Also, Garth Risk Hallberg’s novella, “A Field Guide to the North American Family,” combines both flash narrative and photography to present an artistic feast. Great stuff.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Honestly, I appreciate any recognition my work receives. The flash fiction community, especially on Twitter, has been extremely generous and supportive. I’m so grateful.

Bio: Kristin Tenor’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Midwest Review, Spelk Fiction, Milk Candy Review, Bending Genres, River Teeth—Beautiful Things, and Spry Literary Journal, where she also volunteers as a general reader. She lives in Wisconsin with her husband. More at www.kristintenor.com or on Twitter @KristinTenor.

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