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Tuesday
Dec222009

Interview: Stace Budzko

Stace Budzko's "Blades" (a finalist in our 2009 Flash Fiction Contest) appears in our December 2009 issue. He has been anthologized and/or published in Night Train, Monkeybicycle, Snow Monkey, Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction, Flash Fiction Forward, Brevity & Echo, Quick Fiction, SmokeLong Quarterly, Long Story Short, Southeast Review, Carve Magazine and others. At present, he the writer-in-residence at the Institute of Contemporary Art, Boston. His work is forthcoming in Hint Fiction: Norton Anthology of Stories.

1. Can you talk about the inspiration for "Blades"? What was on your mind while you were writing this fiction?

The main inspiration for "Blades" is real life.  My uncle did pull a knife in an attempt to stop me from sucking my thumb, but in an incredibly honest and loving way.  At least that's what I wanted to portray in the narrative.  As with these slightly personal things, finding a way to appreciate acts of fictional grace requires suppressing the initial impulse to shock the reader, or hammer the sentimental.  So in that respect a certain degree of understatement went far in shaping the moment.

2. This story is all knives and hands, it seems—I'd guess half to two-thirds of the sentences here have either one or the other in them, and for me it adds a nice sense of danger to the piece. The hand is what holds the knife, but its also one of the parts of the body most likely to be injured by a knife. What effect did you hope these elements would have on the reader?

From the start I very much intended to earn my title using the knife as a way of revealing character.  In workshop I'm constantly reminding writers of the importance of objects in story.  This goes back to growing up with a father who stuck a golf club on the roof of our house when the TV antenna broke during a hurricane.  To me, that said everything you needed to know about the man – ridiculous, but hopeful.  In this spirit, by placing emphasis on such a loaded (and yes, dangerous) object throughout the narrative, I hoped to illuminate the softer notes.  Vulnerability being one.  This was the only way I imagined a reader could fall into this world without constantly screaming, "Where's Social Services?"

3. One of the elements of flash fiction I hear mentioned often is how flash is supposedly incapable of supporting characters with fully fleshed out back stories. And yet, in "Blades," we've got a story that rests more on the uncle's history than it does on the narrator's present. Do you think this story is a special case, or is this bit of common wisdom about back story in flash just hot air?

At its core Flash is about defying the rules, I've found.  I often compare the sense of urgency and DIY attitude to one of my favorite bands: The Ramones.  And I hear what you are saying about narrative strategy.  It's important, truly.  Things like excessive backstory and language can be a buzzkill in any story form.  What amazes me about flash, and what's so intoxicating, is the dare of convention.  As soon as I think that flash can't do something, I find a writer who is doing it, and it's like experiencing "Blitzkrieg Bop" for the very first time.

4. I'm a writer-in-residence at an elementary school, which is pretty amazing, but not quite as impressive sounding as your gig as the writer-in-residence at the Institute of Contemporary Art in Boston. What does your position there entail?

The standard answer is I work with inner city high school students to facilitate creative writing using today's art as inspiration.  Remember that these are mostly at-risk kids who rarely step outside their neighborhood/project/foster care facility, forget inside a museum, and you have a sense of what we're up against in terms of difficulty.  In short, our work together is both terrifying and breathtaking – much like flash, no?

5. What other writing projects are you currently working on?

I've recently completed my first novel Wild Kingdom and a collection of flash and short fiction called How to Set a House on Fire.  In addition, I'm in the process of editing a flash chapbook Alone, Among Friends comprised of writers from my writers group (who, I must point out, play an invaluable role in all my work).

6. What great books have you read recently? Are there any upcoming releases you're excited about?

Steve Almond's collection of stories and essays, This Won't Take But A Minute, Honey should be required reading for any serious writer/reader of flash.

Sudden Fiction Latino: Short-Short Stories from the United States and Latin America edited by Robert Shapard & James Thomas will no doubt challenge and inspire.

References (2)

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  • Response
    Stace Budzko is great, I read his few writings and I think he know what to write and how to write. His articles about homwares usage in America have got very popularity!
  • Response

Reader Comments (1)

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March 5, 2010 | Unregistered CommenterKatelyn Bolfa

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