Mini-Interview with David Drury

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

I like getting to the point. I like starting fast and finishing in a short amount of time so I can do it all over again as soon as possible. Once I have started, the however, the writing happens very slowly, or at least it feels that way. Keeping the whole beginning-middle-end thing brief really helps.  I could write more, I suppose. I could turn micro-fiction into a short story or a short story into a novel, but why? I like more, but for me more doesn’t mean paragraphs, pages, scenes or chapters. It doesn’t mean sitting around inside of one long story. It means writing more stories. New stories. New settings, new voices, new pants with cake on them, new lightning in a bridle, new black holes, new crushes, new tricks. New ways to turn things upside down. New ways to spell hope. If a story asks to be longer than a few pages, I will listen, but I need a reason.

Flash is a house in a tree hardly big enough for one sleeping bag, but the windows go all the way around and the roof is a skylight, and the stars are out. Writers talk about their appreciation for the restraints of the form. I like those fine. I also like the freedom. Not freedom from something but freedom in aid of something. Flash might be a puddle wide, but it is capable of going all the way down, like a rope ladder or a well or one of those waterslides that takes the heads off of children. 

In the future, flash fiction will be the primary form of communication. On the way out the door, you’ll ask your spouse what they might need from the store, and your spouse will answer with a short story. The short story they tell you in less than a few minutes will bring about two changes. First, it will imprint itself on your heart in a way that opens you to receive love in ever new ways, and secondly, it will let you know in no uncertain terms that you should pick up butter, the good kind of bread, and something strong to drink, like someone’s coming over and we all have reason to celebrate.

In the New Testament, whenever someone turned to Jesus with a serious question, he answered with flash fiction. Just saying.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I don’t think character is the thing—I spend more time looking at what my characters are looking at. But it’s not plot either. When I start thinking about plot all the blood drains from my body and my breathing gets shallow.

I think my writerly lifejacket is paradox. Not like confusion or some dumb riddle, or things being cancelled out, but the search for balance when we spend so much of our life under all this weight of imbalance. Paradox is raising questions and scratching around for the answers. What would happen if a Disney Cruise Ship full of grandmas in white shorts disappeared from the sea and reappeared high in the Andes mountains? How might a room full of houselamps gossip about the sun? Why does life come from death? What do a lake and an onion have in common as it relates to the cosmos? –In my opinion paradox holds the clues to where we come from, where we are going, and how we can best get there. Flash fiction is perhaps best suited to engage paradox. With flash, readers allow their standards for what is a story to slide. And where there is a slide, there is an exposed hillside. And a good student of geology knows that if you look to an exposed hillside, you might find an entire skeleton or a vein of gold.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Most of my stories get their start from a daily writing exercise, essentially an 11-minute, 400-word free-for-all burst of typing. The exercise for me is an unlocking, an unleashing, a bloodletting. Like pulling the sink stopper on a head full of water. Once I isolate an idea from the middle of that rinse, I set it inside a spoon and turn up the heat and to see how the thing wants to melt. I stare at words. I remove a single comma. I put it back in.

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

Lately it has been the search for healing in my family of origin. But more generally it is the places where people/humanity intersect the spiritual/mystical—religion, outer space, death, the supernatural, inanimate objects, the afterlife. Writer and Franciscan Friar Richard Rohr said “Metaphor is the only language available to religion because it alone is honest about mystery.” I’m a preacher’s son who is trying to finally be honest about mystery.

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

Charles Simic, Mary Ruefle, Russell Edson, Albert Goldbarth, Kay Ryan, Kirsty Logan, Seamus Heaney, William Brohaugh, Avital Gad-Cykman, Alexander Weinstein, Kelly Cherry, Zuleema Renee Summerfield. I realize many of these are considered poets. Where they set aside the use of line breaks I like their work best.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

Trick question. I can’t say there is one story for which the response was notably underwhelming as compared to any other story. I always get a few likes, a few retweets, and one new follower. For print publications—silence. Nevertheless, the story that first popped into my head when I read this question was one called The Lake and the Onion. But the weird thing is that The Lake/Onion story has gotten way more “recognition” than my other stories (first published in ZYZZYVA and then Best American Nonrequired Reading 2019). I think the story came to my mind because not because I want recognition, but because I want to know what people think. I want them to talk about it—to me, to each other, whatever. I am curious if someone can tell me something about my story I don’t already know. I’ll bet they can. That’s what I want.

BIO: David Drury lives in Seattle, Washington. He is the son of a preacher man, and earned a master’s degree in Christian Studies from Regent College, University of British Columbia. He co-starred in a rock-and-roll film set in Tokyo, Japan (Big in Japan 2014) and co-wrote the soundtrack. He counted cards on the notorious Church Team, as seen in the documentary film Holy Rollers: The True Story of Card Counting Christians. He has been kicked out of every casino in Las Vegas. His fiction has been broadcast on National Public Radio and been published in Best American Nonrequired Reading (2003, 2019), ZYZZYVA, Matchbook, Atticus Review, Pidgeonholes, Paper Darts, Monkeybicycle, Cheap Pop, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Scablands Books, 100 Word Story, New Flash Fiction Review, Best Christian Short Stories, Tiny House Magazine and others. His fiction can be found atdaviddruryauthor.com.

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