Tuesday May 21

HazukaTom Tom Hazuka has published three novels, The Road to the Island, In the City of the Disappeared, and Last Chance for First, as well as a book of nonfiction, A Method to March Madness: An Insider’s Look at the Final Four (co-written with C.J. Jones).  He has edited or co-edited six anthologies of short stories: Flash Fiction; Flash Fiction Funny; Sudden Flash Youth; You Have Time for This; A Celestial Omnibus: Short Fiction on Faith; and Best American Flash Fiction of the 21st Century. He teaches fiction writing at Central Connecticut State University.Links to his writing and original songs can be found here.


Tom Hazuka interview with Meg Tuite

Tom Hazuka’s name is entrenched in my thoughts with ‘brilliant flash fiction writer extraordinaire.’ I have been teaching a class on flash fiction for a few years and I am always using examples from one of the many anthologies Tom has edited and co-authored as well as reading his stories to my students as examples of exceptional prose. Now that I have read his bio, I realize he has published three novels and a book of non-fiction, as well. And he writes songs. I am honored to be featuring some of his incredible work. Here are a few quotes from the four flash stories, “All Members Must Attend,” “The Threat of Fate,” “No Beauty,” and “The Hypocratic Oath,” that are published today in Connotation Press:

“Maybe moving to the city after graduation wasn’t the best plan after all. The prospect of being murdered in a case of mistaken vocal identity, or for any other reason, is not overly attractive. He prefers his heart to function unobtrusively, behind the scenes, not thump like a cheap speaker with the bass cranked to ten.”

“Watching in horror as my cubicle mate Dawson cleans his ear with a straightened paper clip, I remember Kayla Dowd singing as she undressed in front of a Michael Jackson poster in her bedroom.”

“My wife is not the sort of person you’d expect to chainsaw the furniture.”

“So that’s how we started. Our relationship was based on weirdness and wordplay--maybe not the ideal foundation, but not the shakiest either. Violence, for instance; violence is worse. And lies.   And violent lies.”

When was it that you became interested in flash fiction, writing it, and putting it out in anthologies so that it could be used in the curriculum for teaching fiction?

I first wrote 250-word stories, a length that came to be called micro fiction, as entries to Sun Dog’s annual World’s Best Short-Short Story Contest. I’d write one such piece per year, just to enter the contest (the best I ever did was honorable mention). In the mid-1980s I helped Robbie Shapard and James Thomas find stories for the Sudden Fiction anthology (fun fact: Flash Fiction was one of the title considered for that book). Shortly thereafter, James asked me to help edit Flash Fiction, which took three years to compile and was published in 1992. I got so immersed in flash that I tried to write my first novel, The Road to the Island, as a series of flash stories, each of which could stand on its own. That structure became too unwieldy and I abandoned it, though most of that novel’s chapters are still very short, and I’ve published several of them as short stories.

At the time, I had little sense that Flash Fiction or any of its progeny would be used in classrooms. It’s gratifying indeed that these books have turned out to be such good teaching tools.

What is your definition of a great flash fiction story?

I hope this doesn’t sound glib, but what makes great flash fiction is no different than what makes a great story of any length. The only difference is the problem of creating that greatness in a limited number of words, which even many superb writers are loath to tackle.

After writing in so many different genres, which do you find the most appealing?

I can honestly say that I don’t have a favorite. Novel, short story, flash fiction, nonfiction, memoir, songs—I enjoy working on them all for different reasons. Each brings specific challenges, and the satisfaction of surmounting those challenges and making a piece work brings equal rewards, no matter the genre.

I know you are working on a new anthology titled ‘Flash Fiction Funny’. Can you tell us more about this project?

Flash Fiction Funny will be published by the time your readers see this interview. It contains 82 humorous stories, none longer than 750 words. It’s the first anthology that I’ve done without a co-editor, so the credit or blame is all mine. I’m extremely proud of the book and heartily thank all of the contributors—including you, Meg!

What is your schedule for writing? You are a teacher and an editor, as well. Do you feel these two jobs enhance your writing or make it more difficult to find time or inspiration to write?

My teaching and editing definitely enhance my writing, while simultaneously lessening the time I have to do it. That might sound like a paradox, but this world we live in is loaded with paradoxes. We can whine about it, which of course does no good, or we can say, Hey, paradoxes make great conflicts to write about. I recommend the second option.

Were you brought up a city boy or a country boy and is place significant in your writing?

I grew up in Westbrook, a small town in Connecticut on Long Island Sound. Setting, which I eventually figured out should just be thought of as a character in your story, sometimes plays a major role in my work, and other times not at all. It all depends on how important that particular character is in a piece. In my three novels, for example, two of them set in a town modeled on Westbrook and one in Pinochet-era Chile, setting is crucial and therefore plays a starring role.

What inspires you most?

I’m inspired by the challenge of using a writer’s tools—gloriously defined by Tim O’Brien as twenty-six letters and a handful of punctuation—to bring to life a few of the infinite number of stories out there waiting to be told.

Tell me about your music and if you have a link to a song you’ve written, please post it here.

I’m a pretty good singer and guitar player, and have some songs on Google Music, CD Baby and iTunes, but my favorite musical activity is to contribute lyrics and collaborate with better musicians than I am. Les Julian and I have written a song called “Grace’s Owl,” about one of the children killed in Newtown. The song is in production now; when it’s released later this fall, all profits will go to Mayors Against Illegal Guns and Americans for Responsible Solutions.
You can check out some of my tunes and get a free download [by clicking on this link]. Don’t be freaked out by “Dancing in the Moonlight,” a jazz standard-style song I wrote with Joe Gaudette—the singer is Cheryl Aruda, not me!  

Who are your favorite writers? How about your favorite musicians?

How about my favorite six books? In no particular order: Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, The Catcher in the Rye, Catch-22, The Remains of the Day, Slaughterhouse-Five, The Things They Carried...

My musical influences include Neil Young, Loudon Wainwright III, Bob Dylan, John Prine, Joni Mitchell, Steve Forbert, James McMurtry, Bruce Cockburn, Todd Snider, and Warren Zevon.

Any quote you can share with us that you love?

How about this one from Michael Kardos’s The Art and Craft of Fiction: “Make us care, and go from there.”

What projects are you working on at this time?

Teacher of the Year, a novel about high school teachers, and The Threat of Fate, a collection of my flash fiction.

Look forward to those. Thank you so much, Tom, for all! I’m a huge fan! LOVE your work.



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