Kathy Fish: Finding Significance in the Small Moments of Life

“Kathy Fish wields words with intimate precision and in doing so, she opens up the world in ways that can be exhilarating or devastating and always unforgettable,” said the inestimable Roxane Gay. The word “precision” is mentioned by many who describe Fish’s flash fiction, along with “effortless” and “unparalleled” and “masterful,” so we decided to talk with Fish and explore her fiction-writing process.

Fish teaches fiction for the Mile High MFA program at Regis University. She also teaches her own intensive Fast Flash workshops online. She has published four collections of short fiction: a chapbook in the Rose Metal Press collective, A Peculiar Feeling of Restlessness: Four Chapbooks of Short Short Fiction by Four Women (2008); Wild Life (Matter Press, 2011); Together We Can Bury It (The Lit Pub, 2012); and Rift, co-authored with Robert Vaughan (Unknown Press, 2015). Her story, “Strong Tongue,” was recently chosen by Amy Hempel for Best Small Fictions 2017 (Braddock Avenue Books).

When do you first remember deciding that you were a writer?

It took me a long time. I always wrote, even as a child, but it wasn’t until I got my first story published, at the age of 40, that I decided I actually was a writer. Before that, I was a person who did many things and writing was one of them.

What draws you to short shorts?

As a reader I love them because they can be very quickly read. The best ones stay with you long past their reading. As a writer I love the challenge of creating something interesting, evocative, resonant in as few words as possible. It has gotten to the point now, though, where that is just how I write. I’m not “challenged” to write very short pieces per se. The challenge now is in writing really strong short pieces.

What’s your favorite flash story that you have written and why?

That’s a great question. I’ve been recently working on pulling together a new edition of my Matter Press collection, Wild Life. It will include old and new pieces and draw some flashes from my other collections. It seems the one I always want to include is Foreign Film. I just love the voice and aesthetic of that one and I remember it flowing quite easily. I’m always fond of the stories that felt easy to write, that didn’t give me much trouble.

What has writing flash fiction taught you about living life?

Oh this may sound corny, but I think it’s taught me to find the significance in the small moments of life or at least to appreciate them. I tend to think in snapshots anyway, so flash fiction and my brain are totally in sync.

If you could go on a road trip with an author, who would it be and where would you go?

Without question, it would be Joy Williams. I’d like to travel the American southwest with her. I’d drive and she could just … talk. Or not. She could just be quiet. I wouldn’t want to bother her with a lot of annoying questions. We could just drive with the windows down and the wind in our hair and our sunglasses on and we’d stop in small town bars and drink whiskey.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Calm down.

What advice would you give to your older self?

Calm down.

For more, see Fish’s 100-word story The Host.

4 Responses to “Kathy Fish: Finding Significance in the Small Moments of Life”

  1. Al Faraone says:

    I know Kathy’s work from my stint as the illustrator for FRiGG magazine. Summer 2004 “Talking About Ernie Banks.” I got to read her work before Ellen published it which was a treat. I read her to my 11th grade English class (Space Man just a week ago) from her Wild Life collection. Then they try and emulate her style . . . ! Thank you, Kathy for being such an “undomesticated” fiction writer and inspiration.

  2. Tom Allman says:

    I would like to take a road trip with Kathy Fish! Rt. 1 in the fall? She is my favorite storyteller not named Twain, Barthelme or LeGuin.

  3. Yes. The world is in too big a rush. Everyone needs to slow down and take a deep breath.

  4. Mary Eastham says:

    I just took a fab Kathy Fish Flash workshop in June. I was elated about the work that came out of that workshop. The pace made me a little crazy but we need to amp things up now and then. I’m hoping to go another round in the fall with her if she’ll have me! I’m gonna Google Joy Williams and of course read The Host. Thanks for the interview!

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