Five Questions with Kathy Fish

Sophie Rosenblum: With over 100 pieces of flash fiction published, you’ve cemented an impressive journal list. What’s even more impressive to me is that you’re one of the few flash writers I’ve read who can move me to tears and also make me laugh. Do you have any advice for writers about how to develop their range?

Kathy Fish: I’d say just write everything that comes to you. Don’t censor yourself. Don’t allow yourself to be pigeon-holed either. Be open to everything. Allow some light into a sad or dark story. Don’t be afraid of darkness or humor either. When I first started writing flash, I wrote much more humor. I kind of miss that.

SR: From following you on Twitter, I get the sense you spend a lot of time watching the Science Channel. With so many intricate details in your work, I can see how watching someone split an atom might be right up your alley. Then again, maybe this is just a Sunday afternoon activity. What’s the story?

KF: I hardly watch any TV! But I do like the Science Channel. I like that rock star physicist guy, but I can’t think of his name. I’m completely fascinated with science, especially physics, astronomy, cosmology. I love, most of all, the unknowable things, the mysteries. It’s what I love also, about creating fiction. Writing is exploratory in the best way.

SR: Your new book, Wild Life, is broken into halves. What was it like to structure the book? Did you look to poetry collections or short story collections for guidance, or were you able to decide how to arrange the collection based on other patterns?

KF: The hardest aspect of putting together a collection is how to order the stories, especially stories that aren’t necessarily “linked.” I printed out all the stories and laid them out on my large, mostly unused, dining room table and I kept circling the table, getting a sense for how the stories felt, sounded, looked on the page. It definitely seemed to me that I had two different kinds of stories in the collection. The shorter, less traditional, less narrative pieces felt “wilder” to me than the longer stories. So I separated by “wild” and “life” and think that feels right.

SR: How long do you typically work on a piece of flash fiction, and when do you know your work is ready for public consumption?

KF: There’s no typical amount of time. I will say that some of my favorite flashes came out very quickly. “Watermelon”, the first story in the collection is one such story. But now, thinking of it, I know that is a theme and an image that I worked on, over and over again, at various times, so it had been incubating for awhile. At the other end of the spectrum are the flashes that I seem to hold onto forever, never quite satisfied. The story, “Cancer Arm” is an example of that. I continued to noodle with that story even after it’d been published in Per Contra.

I know something’s ready to send out when I can read it over and over again without a hitch. If there’s nothing that bugs me, if the prose flows along and it feels like I’ve stuck the ending. Even then, I find myself going back to certain published stories (like “Cancer Arm”) because I’m just crazy that way.

SR: You once tweeted, “Cheesecake & coffee, nature’s most perfect breakfast.” What’s nature’s most perfect lunch?

KF: That would be whiskey and sardines! No, no. God, I really tweet the dumbest things. But no, that cheesecake was leftover birthday cake, my leftover birthday cake, and there was some kind of raspberry swirl in it so it really was nature’s most perfect breakfast.

SR: What can we expect next from Kathy Fish?

KF: I’m hugely excited about my forthcoming collection, Together We Can Bury It from Cow Heavy Books. It’s a collection of both short stories and flash and the cover, by artist Jana Vukovic, is absolutely gorgeous.

Kathy Fish’s stories have been published in Indiana Review, The Denver Quarterly, Quick Fiction, and elsewhere. She guest edited Dzanc Books' Best of the Web 2010. Her chapbook, WILD LIFE is available now from Matter Press or from Amazon. Her short fiction collection, TOGETHER WE CAN BURY IT, is forthcoming later this year from Cow Heavy Books.