Posts Tagged ‘Tara Laskowski’

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“Rearview Mirror” Appears in March/April EQMM

January 20, 2010

I’m delighted that Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine is featuring my story “Rearview Mirror” in their March/April double-issue, which should be out on newsstands early next week. (I received my subscription copy in the mail yesterday.) As editor Janet Hutchings notes in her introduction, the new story is lighter than others of mine that the magazine has published — and this one was certainly a lot of fun to write. Just for some quick background, the story had two inspirations. First, my wife, Tara Laskowski, and I challenged one another to compose a story in response to the Washington Post‘s 2008 Valentine’s Day Fiction Contest — a contest which each year offers up a photograph to prompt writers toward creativity. That year’s photo (as you can see from the link) had a Southwestern theme, and since Tara and I had travelled to New Mexico that previous fall, I also drew on a couple of places we visited for additional ideas and inspirations. The story proved too long to submit to the contest, but ultimately struck me as perhaps a good fit for EQMM. I’m glad they agreed, and hope other folks enjoy as well.

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Tara Laskowski (dot com)

January 6, 2010

My wife, Tara, has just finished her year as the Kathy Fish Fellow at SmokeLong Quarterly; her final story for the journal, “When the Cicadas Come,” was published just a few weeks ago. But as one chapter closes, so another opens. This week, Tara is serving as guest editor for the new SmokeLong Weekly; she’ll be choosing a single story from this week’s submissions (through January 10!) to be posted online next; submit here.

And in bigger news, she’s also recently launched her own website: www.taralaskowski.com. So if you missed any of her other stories, you can find plenty of links and other information there.

Check it out!

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Tara Laskowski Interviews Jessica Anthony

August 31, 2009

I’m pleased today to host an interview between two great writers — and to present this interview as the first post of my recently redesigned site. Here, Tara Laskowski, the Kathy Fish Fellow at SmokeLong Quaterly, talks to Jessica Anthony, author of the highly praised novel The Convalescent. The two writers were classmates in the MFA program at George Mason University, and Anthony returns to Mason on Wednesday, September 23, for an alumni reading as part of the 2009 Fall for the Book Festival. Tara introduces the novel — and the interview — here:

Jessica Anthony’s debut novel, The Convalescent, hit the shelves earlier this summer to rave reviews. (Check out this one at the San Francisco Chronicle.) Anthony was the winner of McSweeney’s Amanda Davis Highwire Fiction Award and graduated with an MFA in Creative Writing from George Mason University. As McSweeney’s proudly writes on their web site about The Convalescent: “It is the story of a small, bearded man selling meat out of a bus parked next to a stream in suburban Virginia . . . and also, somehow, the story of 10,000 years of Hungarian history.”

I’ve been a big fan of Jessica Anthony’s work ever since we shared a fiction workshop class in grad school, and I can see why Barnes & Noble chose the book as a recommended summer reading pick, part of their “Discover Great New Writers” series. It’s a sharp, smart book that’s as weird and charming as its main character.

Tara Laskowski: In many writing classes, professors will say, “Write what you know.” You obviously haven’t stuck by that rule with this novel. What are the challenges of that, and what are the benefits?

Jessica Anthony

Jessica Anthony

Jessica Anthony: When I started writing fiction, I often struggled with real life and invention. I felt bogged down by all sorts of things: whether I was being unfair to a person I knew; how I could use something interesting that happened to my advantage—but as soon as I let go of writing what I “knew,” as soon as I began aiming for pure unadulterated invention, the boundaries suddenly disappeared. There was no need to sort out what in my life was useful to fiction because it was suddenly all useless. It was a very freeing, happy feeling not to have to rely on experience to tell a story. So I don’t see much benefit for ‘writing what you know,’ whether in fiction or non-fiction. I have never had much interest in heavily autobiographical fiction, because I always found myself asking: “Why isn’t this an essay?” And what do we know of anything, really? If you have a character who has lost a parent and you have also lost a parent, you and your character experience that loss in wildly different ways (usually for the story to work, the further you are from your own experience the better, otherwise you may suffer defending the weaknesses in your story with that embarrassing insistence: “But it actually HAPPENED that way…”). If you are an essayist, memoirist, journalist, or fiction writer, it seems to me that you’re probably better served by writing what you learn, observe, or investigate. Reading what a writer has sought out in truth and fiction is far more interesting than reading what a writer knows.
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New Stories At SmokeLong Quarterly

June 25, 2009

On the heels of my own fiction publication earlier this week, I’m pleased also to celebrate and recommend two new flash pieces at SmokeLong Quarterly.

cover25My wife, Tara Laskowski — the first time I’ve called her that in print! — continues her year as the Kathy Fish Fellow at SmokeLong with a story significantly different in style and approach from “The Hamster” (discussed here), her last piece for the journal. “A Minor Setback” draws on a fantastic element to explore the changing relationship between a man and his sister, both grown now and growing apart. In the same issue, Brandon Wicks — not only one of our best friends but also a groomsmen at our recent wedding — offers up a similarly surreal tale in “Northern Migration,” about a man slowly selling off his heritage bit by bit. Both pieces are provocative and, of course, highly recommended from these quarters. (Even without my own bias, I think you’ll agree that these are some fine stories.)

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Ten Questions for Tara Laskowski

March 18, 2009
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Animals Everywhere: Tara Laskowski, 2009 Kathy Fish Fellow, joins her cats in celebrating the publication of "The Hamster."

Back in January, Tara Laskowski was named the Kathy Fish Fellow at SmokeLong Quarterly — a program honoring authors who’ve demonstrated consistent excellence in flash fiction. With its March 18, 2009 issue, SmokeLong publishes “The Hamster,” the first of four short stories by Tara that the journal will present over the coming year. In honor of the occasion, I conducted a quick interview with Tara, a fine writer and, not incidentally, my fiancée (for full disclosure of any bias you might detect below). 

Art Taylor: You’ve already been interviewed twice now in conjunction with SmokeLong Quarterly’s publication of your first story as this year’s Kathy Fish Fellow (including an interview about the story itself here). Is it tough to be suddenly thrust into the spotlight as an authority of some kind on flash fiction? 

Tara Laskowski: I don’t know if ‘tough’ is the right word, but it’s been kind of weird. I don’t consider myself an authority on much of anything by any means (although I do know a song that recites all 50 states in alphabetical order; this comes in very handy during trivia games). I certainly love flash fiction, but I don’t read any author regularly. I like to read random flashes online or in other pubs. I think it’s a really great length for a story. I’m all about the moment, really. I’m thrilled that they picked me as their Fellow, and it’s been really great so far. I’m hoping to come out of the year with a bunch of stories (maybe a book??!!), some new friends and a better grasp on the form in general.

How do you get started on a new story: with an image or an idea or maybe with the full plot laid out in your mind?  

Hmm… totally depends, I guess. Sometimes it’s a story that someone else tells me that sparks something. Sometimes it’s a character’s voice. I’m more of a planner with longer pieces — I like to plot out a short story or a novel in detail in my head before I write anything — but with flashes I’ve found sometimes it’s best to just take that image, or voice, or whatever it is, and go exploring. Sometimes that exploring results in beautiful, lush places and sometimes I end up in an alley in a dumpster filled with cat litter.

Well, speaking of cats…. Do you find that having cats helps or hurts your writing process?

It’s difficult to write with a big fat cat sprawled across your arms or your keyboard. Sometimes Stanlee tries to help out, though, by inserting a 888888888888888UUUUJOJ)*&# right in the middle of a scene where it’s totally needed!

Who have you found to be the best reader of your work? And as a follow-up, how exactly have I helped you to develop your craft?

Brandon Wicks, a member of Tara's writing group, created the artwork for "The Hamster."

Brandon Wicks, a member of Tara's writing group, created the artwork for "The Hamster."

Hahahahaha…. You’re funny. Seriously, though, you and the people I’ve met in my MFA program at George Mason University have been by far the best help with my work. I value all of those opinions and appreciate all the hard work and thought my writing friends put into reading my work and each other’s work. It’s a great support network, I think, and I hope it continues for a long time.

 What’s your biggest procrastination tool when you don’t feel like writing? 

Anything and everything! The bathroom always seems really dirty when I don’t want to write. 

What are your goals for the year ahead in terms of developing your flash fiction?

I’m hoping to write a lot. Quantity and quality, hopefully. And try experimenting a little, I guess. I’m hoping to have fun!

Anything else big on your agenda for this year? 

Nope. Nothing at all.

No, really, I heard you’re getting married. How’s the planning going for that?

Oh right, that. It’s going and going and going. I’m hoping to get lots of story fodder off that. (Oh, and a lifetime partner, best friend, soulmate, yadda yadda.)

Finally, one more craft question: In addition to concentrating on short fiction, you’ve also recently completed a draft of your novel. You mentioned earlier some difference in your approach to longer and shorter works. What else have you found are the particular pleasures and problems of working in each form?

After plodding through almost five years of working nearly only on my book, flash fiction is like eating bon bons and sipping bourbon. It’s fun because I can switch gears and jump into different people’s heads and situations more often. Although, working on a novel has its advantages, too. You become friends with your characters, think about them constantly, dream about them, worry about them. It’s like a novel is a long-term relationship and flash fiction is more about speed dating. So I’m having tons of affairs right now, and it’s fabulous.

Um…. I know I said “finally, one more question” a moment ago, but…. Since you were just talking about your upcoming wedding — and to a guy who’s so handsome, intelligent, upstanding and (to borrow your phrase) “yadda yadda” —  don’t you think it would be a little suggestive to end this interview with you saying, “I’m having tons of affairs right now, and it’s fabulous”?

Yes, I thought of that. I also thought how many of my stories are about failing relationships and bad marriages. Luckily, I don’t always go by the mantra, “Write what you know.”

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