Interview with Fall 2015 Flash Fiction Runner Up Tori Malcangio
Born to a national champion gymnast and a rodeo queen, Tori can’t do the splits or race barrels. Arizona was home for her first twenty-something years, then a stint in Atlanta and finally San Diego where she currently lives and writes and tries tirelessly to teach her three kids tolerance and how to pee neatly. She’s also been an advertising copywriter for a long, long time and has, admittedly, written a sentence with exactly six adjectives in it.
Stories can be found in: American Literary Review; Chattahoochee Review; Mississippi Review; Tampa Review; Cream City Review; ZYZZYVA; River Styx; Ruminate Magazine; Passages North; Smokelong Quarterly; Pearl Magazine; Literary Mama; and more. Winner of the William Van Dyke Fiction Prize, the American Literary Review Fiction Prize, and Waasmode Fiction Prize. Pushcart Prize nominee and MFA from Bennington Writing Seminars. And that novel she’s been writing...fingers crossed.
If you haven’t done so already, check out Tori’s award-winning story “Thirst” and then return here for a chat with the author.
WOW: Congratulations on placing in the Fall 2015 Flash Fiction Contest! What was the inspiration for your short story, or what prompted you to write this particular story?
Tori: I live in San Diego and with the drought and California's new stringent water restrictions, water is top of mind. Of course, I took those feelings to a darker place because it's so darn hard to write happy. Oh, and I'm a mom who thinks obsessively about worse-case scenarios. Oh, and I'm selfish with my time and I think in Gestalt therapy that might be symbolic for water.
WOW: Will you tell us more about that novel you’re writing?
Tori: An exploration of the triumphs and dark places a tight mother/father team endure while raising a troubled, mentally ill child, and then what happens when that mother is suddenly, tragically, faced with doing it alone.
WOW: Ooh, intriguing, and that brings to life similar elements you’ve just described about your short story: that darker place, worst-case scenario writing. What do you enjoy the most and/or the least about writing?
Tori: Favorite: my life is otherwise pretty vanilla predictable as it has to be with 3 kids, but when I'm with my characters they take me places I'd never go and we do things that might otherwise get me kicked off my sweet suburban street. My least favorite part is how being a writer skews my radar to ultra-sensitive mode. I'm no longer able to just spectate. Every place I go, everything I see is smothered by "story" —who feels what, motivations, dialogue inflections and tics etc. I'm always writing, even when I'm not, which means I have a bad habit of drifting from moments I should be paying closer “conscious” attention to.
WOW: Yes! I get that. I’m also always wondering about other people’s stories, or the stories behind certain objects or places. Sometimes that perspective can be a gift and a great catalyst for new stories. What are you reading right now, and why did you choose to read it?
Tori: I'm in a reading drought at the moment. I was on a roll, reading lovely book after book: A whip-smart debut short story collection, “People Like You,” by Margaret Malone, Anthony Doerr's "All the Light We Cannot See" and then started a novel I’m just struggling to get through. I may give up, but I hate giving up because I know there’s a writer behind the story who sacrificed so much in heart and time to get the words on paper.
WOW: If you could give other creative writers one piece of advice, what would it be and why?
Tori: Writing, and the squirrely act of being a writer, requires so much—time, space, advocacy—so it’s not always possible to sit down and write every single day (which can get depressing if that story is clawing at your skull), but my mentor years ago said: do something writer-ish every day, even if that one thing is simply jotting down two new books you desperately want. It is something. And it’s keeping you spinning in the writerly orbit.
WOW: I love that advice! Thank you for it and for your thoughtful responses. Happy writing!
Interviewed by Anne Greenawalt, writer and writing instructor