Mini-Interview with Marcelle Heath

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

I was working at a bookstore in the 80s when I discovered Sudden Fiction. I remember looking for other books like it, and not finding anything, until Sudden Fiction International was released. Then, in the 90s I found Micro Fiction. Amy Hempel’s “Hostess” and “Housewife,” Padgett Powell’s “Gentleman’s C,” and Beauvais McCaddon’s “At the Point” blew me away. “At the Point,” about an alcoholic couple trying to turn it around, is one of my all-time favorites. This was when very short stories were called “short shorts” or “very short stories,” before Flash. I started writing flash in the early aughts. I’ve always loved brevity, formalism, and compression, and how flash lends itself to experimentation and humor.

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

Plot. Moving the action forward, even if I don’t succeed and the story falters (which it does more often than not). I don’t need sympathetic narrators or characters I fall in love. I like mystery and opposition. I don’t care about motive.

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Slow and precise. I admire the quick and messy approach, especially because at least you have something to show for it at the end of the day. However, it’s not in my nature. I jot down notes. I write two sentences a day sometimes. A paragraph or two is a stellar writing day for me.

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

Moving around a lot growing up – my family hopped from coast to coast for the large part of my childhood. What I remember of the homes I lived in and the places I’ve lived often comes into play. As does music. I played the piano as a kid and I have genetic hearing loss, and desire to hear what I couldn’t or what and how I hear, especially since I had an “ear” for music, really influences my relationship to sound, writing, people. My collection IS THAT ALL THERE IS? is named after the Peggy Lee song, and there’s a lot of music in it.

Also, my mother.

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

Cathy Ulrich’s work. I love her collection GHOSTS OF YOU. I love the poet and essayist Anne Boyer, whose vignettes I think of as flash. Renee Gladman’s CALAMITIES. Any and all that Wave Books publishes. I know I’m biased as former series editor of Wigleaf Top 50, but I love Scott Garson’s work. Kara Vernor’s BECAUSE I WANTED TO WRITE A POP SONG.

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition?

I am really proud of my short story “Nine times Gretchen King is mistaken on July 12, 1980.” I worked with Katharine Weber, Kenyon Review Editor-at-Large. She was an incredible editor, and helped me transform this story. It went through some intense revisions, and I learned so much. Katharine took it on because she saw potential in it, and I’m so grateful to her.

Bio: Marcelle Heath’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in Joyland, Little Fiction, matchbook, Nat. Brut, Split Lip Magazine, Wigleaf, and other journals. Her short story collection, IS THAT ALL THERE IS?, is forthcoming by Awst Press in 2022. Marcelle curates Apparel for Authors, an interview series on writers, fashion, and the public sphere.

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