For this special installment of the Fictionaut Five, regular interviewer Meg Pokrass turns the questions on herself and collaborator Jack Swenson. Together, they are releasing Naughty, Naughty, a collection of erotic flash fiction.
Meg Pokrass is an editor for Smokelong Quarterly and her writing appears in Gigantic, Gargoyle, Wigleaf, Annalemma, among others. One of Meg’s stories was selected for Wigleaf’s Top 50 Flash Fiction 2009, and recently again, two stories in Wigleaf’s short longlist 2010. Meg has been nominated for Best of the Web and the Pushcart Prize. Her new collection of flash fiction, Damn Sure Right by Press 53 comes out in 2011. Meg loves lobsters and lives with her creative family and seven animals in San Francisco.
Jack Swenson was born with a pencil in his hand. He has been scribbling one thing or another for many years. He lives in Fremont, CA, where he also teaches a writing class at the local Senior Center. His age is a secret, but he is no spring chicken. His stories have appeared in Pindeldyboz, Ghoti, Wigleaf, Metazen, Staccato, and many other online and print journals.
Q: You two met here, yes?
J: Yes. We hit it off. We think alike. We agree on a lot of things. I read a lot of flash fiction, and I have been a reader of Meg’s work for years.
M: Yes. We hit it off. We’ve met a few times now as well. We continue to hit it off. I’m an avid reader of Jack’s work, I have three of his books and I cart them around with me everywhere – and I would not have found his work if it hadn’t been for Fictionaut.
Q: How did the idea for this book come about?
J: We noticed that we both have some stories that veer toward the erotic side of life. At first we just chuckled about it. Then the flash bulbs went off. Let’s make something.
M: I met Jack whose stories were as naughty as mine and got very inspired to do something as a team…
Q: Why do you people enjoy stories about fictional people misbehaving?
J: People like sex. They like doing it and reading about it. And talking and thinking about it. Personally, I like writing about it, too.
M: I’ll blame it on my training as an actor (I studied acting from ages eight to twenty-six). Acting teachers taught us to always “find the sex in a scene”. They drilled it into me!
Q: How did the idea for a vintage look…
J: Well, I did the cover design, and I have this large online file of vintage pix of naked ladies, so I thought of that when we started talking about making a book. I can’t remember which of us first used the term “naughty,” but it seemed like an appropriate word for what I write-not always, but some of the time. I think you’d agree that some of Meg’s stories might raise eyebrows, too.
M: Jack’s cover ideas blew me away. We met for lunch and he took out about eight cover ideas to show me. I could hardly decide, but there was something about the 1920’s vintage naughtiness combined with the negative image (Jack’s work) and the lovely picture of that gorgeous woman with her alluring…er… necklace.
Q: What has it done for you personally…
J: I love Fictionaut. I was laboring in obscurity. I posted a story and got a big welcome. And yes, it was a naughty story! Then I began to get some idea of who “you” are-some of the best writers on the planet. Fictionaut flat out works. It’s a forum. It’s a group of people who are knowledgeable, helpful, and kind. Not Boy or Girl Scouts, certainly, but nice. I don’t know where else I could get the same level of support.
M: At the risk of sounding corny, Fictionaut has changed my life. I have met and gotten to know writers and readers that I never would have known. This is such a great time for writers, we are so much less isolated than writers have been in the past. I have come to know many kindred spirits through Fictionaut. Recently, I’ve met some of them in person. One of the biggest prizes for me was meeting Jack Swenson.
Q: What is your relationship to flash fiction? When did you first become aware of the form? What is your perspective about this form historically, and how do you feel about where it is now? Is flash coming into its own?
J: As an undergrad in the fifties, I read the short short stories of Isaac Babel and poet William Carlos Williams. Wow! I thought. That’s what I want to be when I grow up! My teachers thought otherwise. They dismissed my stuff as “vignettes.” Took me a long time to recover from that.
Flash is a new term but an old form. Think folk tales, Bible stories. Flash has been popular in Asia for centuries. I think they’re called “palm-of-the-hand” stories over there. Yes, flash is coming into its own here and everywhere. Check out the number of journals on Duotrope. It’s a digital world, my friends. Short is no longer a dirty word.
M: I fell in love with the form when reading Amy Hempel in the early 90’s. Still, I didn’t try my hand at it until two and a half years ago.
It’s been around for a long long time. Authors who have written flash fiction have included Anton Chekhov, O. Henry, Franz Kafka, Ernest Hemingway, Kurt Vonnegut, Jr., William Carlos Williams.
Flash is coming into its own. I believe that is because of the internet, and how easily flash can be read online these days. Flash fiction has a blinding kind of momentum right now. And it is growing in academic acceptance.
The Fictionaut Five is our ongoing series of interviews with Fictionaut authors. Every Wednesday, Meg Pokrass asks a writer five (or more) questions. Meg is an editor at Smokelong Quarterly, and her stories and poems have been published widely. She blogs at http://megpokrass.com.