Thursday Apr 18

KimChinquee Kim Chinquee is the author of the collections Pretty, Pistol, and Oh Baby. She has published work in hundreds of journals and anthologies including The Nation, Huffington Post, Ploughshares, Noon, Story Quarterly, Denver Quarterly, Indiana Review, The Pushcart Prize Anthology, and others. She is associate editor of New World Writing, chief editor of ELJ (Elm Leaves Journal), and an associate professor of English at SUNY-Buffalo State. Her website is can be found here.

Kim Chinquee Interview with Karen Stefano

“Jack” and “I Move On” are vintage Kim Chinquee. Both stories snuck up on me. I was reading about the simplest things, everyday things, beautiful things, and then without even knowing what was happening I felt the punch to the gut, the catching in my throat, the knowledge that “Wow. She got me.” This depth of feeling is delivered through the sparest of prose:

“She drops the donut tire, and it bangs so hard on the cement her ears
hurt. Lately, her ears have been sensitive, making noises like dull
echoes coming from inside her.”

“Rhubarb, which reminds me of my grandma's plant near the tire
swing from where I used to hang, Upside down, letting my pigtail sweep
the grass beneath me. My grandma made rhubarb bread, rhubarb pie and
torte. I tried to eat it raw once. It was tart in my mouth.”

Both stories leave a reader breathless.

Kim, thank you so much for sharing your work with us. Can you tell me about your writing process generally? How do you begin? How do you move from that starting point to get to a finished piece of work? And how do you know when you’ve really finished?

When I sit to write, I try to recall certain senses: textures, smells, sounds. I use prompt words, which help me add a bit of surprise: elements I wouldn’t expect. I just try to move forward with the writing of it, and sometimes the piece finishes itself before I have a chance to actually say what I thought I needed to say in the first place. After that, I let the pieces sit, then tool around with them for a long time after that.

I’m not sure I ever know when anything is finished until I finally know and feel strongly about an ending. Like maybe I’ve hit the right note. I can’t really explain how I sense that. I guess it’s just instinct. But it’s also rare when that happens. Has only happened a few times, on my own. And sometimes, great editors (like Diane Williams), help me in finding them.

What projects are you working on right now?

I’ve been working on an essay about my experience at the 2013 Boston Bombings. I’m also working on flash fictions every day. Revising, and writing new. And re-working a few fiction collections I’ve written. I’m working on a novel about the Boston Bombings, as well.

What’s the biggest risk you’ve ever taken as a writer?

Probably quitting my job as a med tech in Wisconsin and moving to Mississippi to pursue an MA in creative writing. I was a single mom. I’d moved around a lot, having joined the Air Force at eighteen, and I stayed for almost nine years, living in places like Texas, Missisippi, England, Germany and North Dakota. After taking a creative writing course after that, I felt as if I’d found something for which I felt a passion. I was with my son and we got by. I worked very hard. I realized the risk and I made sure to make the best of it.

I understand that you’re a marathoner –is that right?

I’ve run marathons. I’ve been a runner almost all my life. I became a triathlete two years ago to motivate myself to cross train because I was getting a lot of running injuries. I’m not sure I’ll run another marathon, but I know I’ll keep doing triathlons for as long as I can. I’ll be competing in Nationals again this August.

What are your favorite marathons you’ve run? And why were they your favorites?

Marathon-wise, Madison Marathon is my favorite, mostly because it was my first, and my fastest. That was 1998. Race-wise, USA Triathlon Nationals last year in Milwaukee, so far, is my favorite. Mostly because of the personal lessons of the race I carried (and still carry) with me. Lessons not only regarding the sport, but those that encompass many other parts of my life.

Training for marathons takes discipline. Writing excellent flash fiction takes discipline. You do both, which leads me to conclude that you’re an extremely disciplined person. Would I be wrong in that assumption?

I grew up on a dairy farm and probably from very early on being physical was part of my everyday self. I did a lot of work on the farm. And I was expected to work hard at school too. Working hard didn’t really seem hard-working. It’s just what you do. It doesn’t feel like discipline to me. I love hard work, and challenges, intellectually and physically. It’s just part of who I am, and the ability to pursue them is a privilege.

In what other areas of your life would you say you’re disciplined?

I like to clean my house. And water my plants. And mow the grass. And cook.

In what areas of your life are you less so?

Sometimes I have to tell myself to give myself a break and just watch a movie, or sit on the patio and try to think about nothing. I have to discipline myself to see friends, sometimes.

What are your aspirations as a writer? What are your aspirations as a human being?

I aspire to be the most honest writer I can be. To be the most integral at what I do and the choices I make. To be good to myself and those around me.

How are you moving forward toward fulfilling those aspirations?

I keep trying, I guess. Sometimes I screw up and I’ve learned to forgive myself.

What are you most proud of about your writing life?

I’m proud of taking risks. I’m grateful for all the obstacles I’ve overcome and for my efforts.

What are you grateful for?

I’m grateful for my mom. For my son. For all the lovely people in my life. For being able to find my passion and for the ability to be able to pursue that. I’m grateful for my health, my home. My freedom. I’m grateful for this interview! Thank you.

And we’re grateful to you, Kim! Thank you so much for your time, for sharing yourself with our readers!



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