Five Questions with Robert Scotellaro
Moira McAvoy: I was drawn to the intimacy of your story “Leaning In” in NANO Fiction‘s issue 9.1 as well as the refreshing take on the “isolated lover” tale. What drew you to the idea of Skype as an agent in relationships?
Robert Scotellaro: Thank you. I think there is an interesting dichotomy built into the Skype experience. On the one hand, there is a feeling of intimate connection, and on the other, a physical disconnect, a separation. So different from being in the same room with someone. A virtual experience of connectivity where there is room for misinterpretation, where nuanced details can be lost, even in plain sight.
MM: Speaking of Skype, I enjoyed the connecting motif of what was shown through the app—from the purely physical and bodily to the more personal and external—only to have that growing connection dissipate with the final line. Is this more a story about isolation, missed connections, or trying to make a relationship—whatever sort it is—work?
RS: I think it’s a combination of the three. A new way of trying to relate from separate venues. It could be next door, bicoastal, or international. Each inches away (“leaning in” to the screen) and at the same time, worlds apart. So, yes, there is also isolation. A kind of intimacy/a kind of separation. And, maybe even a kind of safety.
MM: You’ve written prolifically both in terms of chapbooks/collections and books for kids, moving back and forth between the two. What was the initial draw to children’s books? What was the most important thing you learned while writing children’s books in terms of your current adult-aimed writing?
RS: I started as a poet, wrote and published in hundreds of journals. When my daughter was born I shifted, for a time, to writing for children. I think the passion and process never changes: only the particular genres. I wrote gag captions for syndicated cartoonists, underground comics, children’s poetry and picture books, short fiction, flash fiction, and micro. I think each informs the other, even if the links are not readily understood. But, one thing that seemed consistent throughout was that all of it was “short.” I have devoted myself, for some time, exclusively to flash fiction and micro. Feel it is the literary territory I am most comfortable roaming/exploring. Everything else has led me here.
MM: Your career has followed an interesting trajectory through several scenes, from playing bongos while Allen Ginsberg read to being involved with Underground Comix, and beyond. What’s the most impactful experience you’ve had along the way?
RS: Each was a patch in the crazy quilt. Being on stage with Ginsberg was exhilarating in a certain way. Being part of the Underground Comix scene and interacting with Crumb and company, and publishing counter culture books surrounded by all that creative and sparking energy: art and lit. Vietnam: the horror and comradery. Being a editor for a poetry series. My commune experiences/encounters with the Weather Underground, faux revolutionaries, flower power, Hells Angels, humanists, artists, mad men and saints, were all impactful in different and defining ways.
MM: What are you currently working on?
RS: I have a collection coming out early next month of my micro fiction entitled What We Know So Far (winner of the Blue Light Book Award). I’m currently putting together a new book of my flash, everything from 100-word stories to pieces tapping out at 500 words or so. Editing a poetry magazine: One Sentence Poems with Dale Wisely. Plus, co-editing two flash and micro anthologies which are fairly far along. No bongo playing at the moment, but plenty enough excitement for this old guy.