Sherrie Flick: Finding Truth in Compression

Sherrie FlickWhy did we interview Sherrie Flick? First, we loved Sherrie Flick’s recent story collection, Whiskey, Etc. Second, we’ve heard a lot of great things about Sherrie from others in the flash fiction community, such as, “Wow, you have to read Sherrie Flick!” and “She’s an amazing food writer!” (hence a gourmand). Third, we wished we would have asked her questions about Pittsburgh (such as, what does she think of the classic Primanti Bros’ sandwich?), but fortunately she told us about a road trip she’d have with Gertrude Stein.

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

It was pretty early for me. I knew I wanted to be a creative writer in high school. I didn’t have any idea what that meant, of course, but the idea was there.

What draws you to short shorts?

I love the idea of compression. Taking a complex life and bringing it down to its essence in just a few paragraphs or words. This process seems very close to finding Truth to me. Distilling words down to their most honest on the page. That laying bare intrigues me—whether I’m writing or reading short short stories.

What’s your favorite story in your new collection, and why?

Right now, my favorite story is the first one in the book, “Sweet Thang.” It’s dear to me because I like to read it aloud and I’ve been doing a lot of readings to promote Whiskey, Etc. It has never let me down. It also represents a lot of what I’ve been trying to achieve in my flash work in recent years. The story itself compresses a 20-year failed marriage into 3 pages. I’ve been trying to go beyond just a single present moment in my flash fiction—compressing on a more complex level by relying on setting and voice. For me, it all comes together in this story.

What has writing flash fiction taught you about living life?

Good question. Writing flash has taught me to look closely at the world around me. To try and observe without judgment as Chekhov suggests. This has helped me to appreciate the tiniest visual detail as interesting or beautiful or brutal. For this I am thankful.

If you were stranded on a desert island and could only bring one flash story with you, what would it be?

Oh wow. I think my answer to this question would probably change daily. Today, I think I’d bring Carver’s “What We Talk About When We Talk About Love.” Even though I’ve taught this story and read it many times, I still feel like I’m not done unpacking it and what Carver does with time and point of view there.

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

I’m a big fan of road trips! I’ve driven all over the country many times. I did this more frequently in my 20s, of course. I only have three states to check off: Mississippi (which I’ll do this January), Hawaii, and Alaska. So I’m trying to think who would really be the best driving companion as well as adventurer as well as great writer, who also wouldn’t mind be obsessing a bit about finding great food.

So, I’m thinking Gertrude Stein and Alice B. Toklas. We’d start in New York City and then head west to Wyoming and Montana. We’d have such a good time, even when Gertrude got too fussy. Alice and I would make fun of her, and then she’d snap out of it and we’d find a fine town to stop in for the night with a great bar, jackalopes lining the walls.

What advice would you give to your younger self?

Knock it off.

What advice would you give to your older self?

It’s okay to choose greater happiness over greater success.

 

For more, read Sherrie’s 100-word story, Sweetie Pie.

 

Photo credit: Heather Mull

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