My last Friday Night Drinks of 2021 and it’s what is known as ‘Mad Friday’ here in the UK. Only one week to go until Christmas Eve and tonight I am sharing a festive drink with author… Jennifer Fliss.
Jennifer, welcome to the blog and thank you for joining me for drinks this evening. First things first, what are you drinking?
Something fun, but non-alcoholic. But maybe a fancy coffee drink because we are going dancing after this, right? Gotta stay awake because I’m basically middle-aged now and staying awake is one of those skills that goes away with age, like being able to put your leg up straight in front of you in the shower to shave. We’ll hit up a club that plays 90s/00s hip hop. But for now, assuming we are not going out after this, a Shirley Temple or the house mocktail…which many places are doing now, and I’m grateful for that.
If we weren’t here in my virtual bar tonight, but were meeting in real life, where would you be taking me for a night out?
It’s raining, okay? And we go to a dark wood-filled bookstore, maybe Mother Foucault’s in Portland here in the U.S. or somewhere in Edinburgh, and we drink coffee and eat Indian curry. And I know they wouldn’t allow eating & drinking in the store, but this is my fantasy, so…I make the rules. Maybe it’s Halloween. And there’s a reading of spooky stories. Remember, it’s raining.
That sounds perfect, I can picture it clearly. If you could invite two famous people, one male and one female, alive or dead, along on our night out, who would we be drinking with?
Michelle Obama and Edward Gorey.
I’m always working on several projects. First novel revisions. Second novel generating. I will always write. I love it so much. Also working on the preparations for getting my first book out into the world. I have a flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, coming out in December.
What I really would love is to be able to have my writing career be sustainable financially, which, these days: Ha! Ideally, I’d publish enough to be able to do all those supporting role jobs for writers: teach workshops, edit, etc. as well as make money off the books themselves. I’d never want to be famous; that sounds atrocious. But to be a known enough name so that people would pay me decent dollars to do what I love.
I also dream of my book being translated into different languages. Imagine a wall of framed covers with different designs and languages!
What has been your proudest moment since you started writing and what has been your biggest challenge?
Someone teaching my work. When someone reaches out to me and says they’re teaching one of my essays or stories in their class, be it high school, college, or a workshop. What a gift that my writing is being taught! It’s such a gift when people tell me that my writing has made them feel less alone, in particular when it’s traumatic stuff. That’s why I started writing, so when my work is being shared in classrooms, especially to young people, I feel it’s my way of reaching them and saying: it will get better. Let me help.
My biggest challenge is revision in my novel. Writing longer form is not my natural literary state. And while it’s fun to generate the story, when I have to revise something that’s several hundred pages long, I feel mired down and terrified by the breadth of that work.
What is the one big thing you’d like to achieve in your chosen arena? Be as ambitious as you like, its just us talking after all!
In addition to having my work translated into many languages, I’d love to see a film adaptation. Or stage play. It just fascinates me how other eyes and minds see my writing. How they are interpreting it. I love when the literary and the visual meet, so this would be the ultimate take on that.
What are have planned that you are really excited about?
Writing novels is way harder for me, generally a flash fiction writer. But I am quite excited about both of my in-progress novels. I love their settings – honestly the thing I’m most a sucker for when I read. When they say: write what you want to read, THIS is that for me. I would love love to fall into these story lines. I just hope I can do a good enough job that others actually get to read them one day.
I love to travel, and I’m currently drawing up a bucket list of things I’d like to do in the future. Where is your favourite place that you’ve been and what do you have at the top of your bucket list?
Scotland. The old buildings, brick roads, twisty darkness, reading. Cozy tartan blanket. Those great accents. The castles intrigue me, but if I had to choose it would be to spend time in Edinburgh. Get an Airbnb and spend a month there. To write and read and wander the streets. Spend time in cafes. Watch everyone.
Yellowstone National Park was a bucket-list item I didn’t know I had. Initially I was intimidated by it being the U.S’s most visited National Park. But we went during the shoulder season and it wasn’t too crowded. The geothermal features are astounding. Not just geysers – I could not care less about Old Faithful – but the rainbow colored pools! Bubbling mud pots! Landscapes that look like Mars, if Mars was made of porcelain. I have never seen anything like it and chances are, most people haven’t, since there are more geothermal features there than anywhere on Earth.
And the bison. I am newly obsessed by those dopey cute incredible large creatures. They were everywhere, including running down a hill towards our car, only to slow down and traipse across the road calmly, just feet (meters) from us.
I hold grudges. But I also hold onto every single kindness, big and small. If someone apologizes and works to change, I’m open to that, but if not, I have a hard time forgetting about it and moving on like nothing happened.
And it’s not necessarily a secret because I share it often as my “random fact,” but I did the flying trapeze for years. I’d still like to get back into.
Books are my big passion and central to my blog and I’m always looking for recommendations. What one book would you give me and recommend as a ‘must-read’?
This is a really hard question. I love love love reading and have forever. I used to have a book blog before I really started to do my own creative writing. I was going to say something by Yoko Ogawa, but then I just finished reading Charles Yu’s Interior Chinatown and I’m blown away by it. It is a view a side of life being Asian American that we who aren’t gloss over, too readily, too easily. It should be required reading for everyone, frankly.
Willis Wu doesn’t perceive himself as a protagonist even in his own life: He’s merely Generic Asian man. Sometimes he gets to be Background Oriental Making a Weird Face or even Disgraced Son, but he is always relegated to a prop. Yet every day he leaves his tiny room in a Chinatown SRO and enters the Golden Palace restaurant, where Black and White, a procedural cop show, is in perpetual production. He’s a bit player here, too, but he dreams of being Kung Fu Guy – the most respected role that anyone who looks like him can attain. At least that’s what he has been told, time and time again. Except by one person, his mother. Who says to him: Be more.
So, we’ve been drinking all evening. What is your failsafe plan to avoid a hangover and your go-to cure if you do end up with one?
Am I taking care of you? Because I haven’t been drinking. Ha! Maybe something to replenish your electrolytes, some Gatorade – the red kind because it’s not the most awful. Do you have that over there? I’m sure there’s some version of it.
After our fabulous night out, what would be your ideal way to spend the rest of a perfect weekend?
Sleeping in is non-negotiable. So I wake up kind of late and then someone serves me eggs benedict with crunchy bacon and a really good mocha. Also a croissant. My daughter pops into bed for a little bit. We read together but separately. Maybe then I go for a run. In the rain.
The next day, we go for a not-too-strenuous hike with a rewarding view of a turquoise alpine lake at the top. Yeah, maybe it’s raining for that too. And someone’s brought cookies. Someone has definitely baked fresh cookies. Is that you? Thanks for that!
In the most ideal world, I’m back in New York – where I’m from – and I wake up early for a bagel and mocha and then walk the streets for miles…in the rain. The rain breaks and I go down to the flying trapeze rig on the west side of the city and fly above the Hudson River (something I used to do regularly when I lived there.)
Then I’m back home, it’s raining again (of course) and I order in dinner. I take a bath and eat dinner in the tub and read. Then into bed I go and watch bingeable mystery TV series for a few hours. Did you want all this detail?! Because there you go. From sun-up to sun-down and then some.
Jennifer, thank you so much for joining me, I have had a blast.
Jennifer Fliss’s flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball, comes out from Okay Donkey Press on December 14th, 2021. It’s her debut book, but she’s also had over 200 essays and stories published out there in the world. You can buy a copy of her book in paperback and ebook formats here.
In a society where predators are always the ones doing the celebrating, Jennifer Fliss’s debut collection of short stories, THE PREDATORY ANIMAL BALL, crashes the party. These stories are about the people left in the predators’ wake, and the large and small ways in which their grief and fear manifest. Predators appear in the places we least expect it, and this collection turns the previously accepted hierarchies upside down in a series of flash fiction that are often absurd, but always cutting.
Jennifer Fliss (she/her) is a Seattle-based writer with over 200 stories and essays that have appeared in F(r)iction, PANK, Hobart, The Rumpus, The Washington Post, and elsewhere. She was a Pen Parentis Fellow and recipient of a Grant for Artist Project award from Artist’s Trust. She has been nominated four times for The Pushcart Prize and her story, Hineni, was selected for inclusion in the Best Small Fictions 2019 anthology. Her flash fiction collection, The Predatory Animal Ball will be published in late 2021. She is an alumna of the Tin House Summer and Winter Writers’ Workshops.
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