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from the wayback machine: @floodg interviews @freefringes [2006]

Posted on 1 Jan 13 by in writing fringes | 15 comments

sarcastic fringehead

Editor’s note—I ran across this conversation between Flood, my old friend and writing partner, and me from 2006 while I was looking for something else. I doubt if even ten percent of the links in the interview are still live links, but I thought you’d enjoy reading it anyway. My first blog was called On Life as a Sarcastic Fringehead, titled after a collection of short stories I never got around to writing. Some of it can still be read on Blogger, most of it was lost to an expired self-hosted domain. I wrote for five years under the pseudonym “fringes.”

Happy new year. Enjoy.
fringehead_cover

 

FV: Flood Vax of floodflashes

SF: fringes of the sarcastic fringehead

“He would sing her an Italian aria and melt her soul. Her money would be an insult as he instead would ask her to marry him. Or ask her name. Her name would be a good start.” – The Serenade

This week’s visit is with writer and blogger of On Life of A Sarcastic Fringehead.

FV: “On Life As A Sarcastic Fringehead”. Why that name?

SF: When I was writing primarily in my sketchbook journals, I would think of titles or phrases that could eventually become titles for my short story collections. ‘On Life as a Sarcastic Fringehead’ was one of those titles I’d scribbled in my journal a few years ago.

FV: I have to ask because I know people are wondering, why have an anonymous blog?

SF: I’m a private person for the most part, and I’m shy when it comes to being Googled. I don’t want people knowing what I’m doing all the time. If three million Internet strangers know my daily habits, fine. But when it comes to people who know me and who can discover my blog and lurk, I’m nervous about that. Plus, I would lie awake at night thinking about somebody entering my house who found my address because I used my full name on my blog.I know that sounds crazy. I never claim to have a rational reason for anything I do.

FV: Why did you start blogging?

SF: My friend Marshall started a blog one day last April and I thought it was well written and funny and all that. Marshall is not a writer, but he’s a creative person. I figured if the creative person could write a decent blog, the creative writer could, too, and here I am.

FV: You started out with a different view of the your blog than what you have now.

SF: My original view was to use it as a repository for all of my old short story fragments. I thought I’d post them all and use them as a diving board into something else, anything else since it was all fairly crappy. Then, I discovered that I didn’t have that many frags to post. Next thing I knew, I was out of frags and I had this live blog. Two people were reading it while snacking at their desks. How could I fold? How could I disappoint? So I decided to use it to try try try to finish the short story I am currently working on. Then, I hit a snag, as we all will, on that story. So for a while, I was–lalalala–talking to myself on my blog with my audience that had grown to four reading whatever shit I decided to post that day. That, yeah, kinda got old. So I revamped the blog. I moved off Blogger and to my own SarcasticFringe.com domain. I needed a clean break and I felt I had to leave Blogger to get one.

FV: What’s the style of your blog?

fringehead screenshot

 

SF: My blogging style is to write in the same style as I talk. I don’t spend a lot of time trying to figure out my entries for the day and I don’t rewrite except to eliminate errors. My schedule is only to do it every day. I don’t have a set time. I don’t have a lot of routine in my daily life and that freestyle shows up in my blog. My overall theme is whatever the reader pulls out of it. I never feel the need to over-explain myself unless I’m on some sort of caffeinated high. On my second cup of coffee, please beware of whatever spills forth.

I do blog personal entries when I need a break from the fiction, but the fiction should be the focus. I completely loved “The Serenade” and I’m sure I have a few more pieces in me if I can just get around to writing them. My life is busy and hectic blah blah blah, but I do make time for writing in large spurts. I am a good developing writer, I’ve known that for a long time. It’s now a matter of finding the right charge in the middle of everything else that’s going on in my life.

FV: You’ve appeared on Flashing in the Gutters a few times this spring.

SF: Gutter exposes both unpublished flash fiction writers and the published ones to a whole new audience. I have two pieces on the site: The Serenade and Parker’s untitled flash. I wrote The Serenade in about an hour after imagining a man’s fingers touching tip to tip in his lap. The setting of the bus grew around that image and I needed to know why he was there and what was causing his nervousness. It’s always a woman, I think. So the woman appeared.

FV: I read that you often start with images like that as a first line to get you started.

SF: It might even be a piece of dialogue. Something that pops into my head looking for a place to land. I always have paper around me at home or at work, but this blogging allows me to be digital. I opened up my word processing software and began the story. The main character doesn’t have a name, and his mental illness is rooted in my trying to process a previous relationship of my own. There were so many signs that I didn’t recognize. Anyway, I built this character around the fragility that mental illness causes. One small event can be catastrophic.

FV: The helplessness at the end of The Serenade was very moving.

SF: It’s very emotional. I think the character had held himself together for as long as he could in preparation for meeting this woman he’d fallen in love with on the bus. I love this woman in the short time I’ve had her as a character. Her walking away from the main character was a random mistake. Which, now that I think about it, I am possibly processing as a random mistake that heavily impacted my own life about ten years ago. Randomness and its strange and ironic insistence on interconnectedness has always fascinated me.

FV: I think the impact of his song, the dirge almost, is one we all feel when we can’t find the words to communicate.

SF: How was she to know that song was meant for her without his telling her? She’d probably heard him singing that song on the street corner a million times before. And she was to stop in that one moment to say what? It’s our responsibility to share our feelings outright without making others guess our intentions. Of course, I never do that. My stories are probably filled with characters who suffer the consequences of my inaction.

FV: Stephen King wrote that the most important things are the hardest things to say.

SF: A woman who quotes Stephen King is in my heart forever. And, yes, I completely agree with that statement.

FV: Of your fragments, you’ve been dedicating a lot of time to working on the longest, Stillwater. What’s it been like to draft with an audience?

SF: Flood, the audience was a major adjustment. I was paralyzed for about three days after the first time you visited my blog and left a comment. Before that, people were reading, but leaving me alone. Then, once I realized people were interested in the next thing to spring from my keyboard, I didn’t know what to say. Soon enough, though, I just started writing. I’d been working on Stillwater for about three years when I started the blog. Three years for a short story seems like a long time, but there are many short story writers who think on and tweak the same story for 10 years or so. I’m not alone, but I think I’m one of the few throwing out the first draft for public view and criticism.

FV: And you hope it becomes part of the short story collection?

SF: I can’t think past finishing it. I mean, that was the secondary goal of starting the blog in the first place–trying to finish the first draft of the project. Then, I’ll have the second, third and eventual final drafts to complete. Once it’s done, maybe I’ll know what to do with it. It’s hard to have a collection when there is nothing to collect. Now, here is where my mother would step in if this were a live interview. She’d pull me aside on Oprah or whatever and say: don’t tell people that. It sounds like you don’t know what you’re doing. But, I think it’s very important for other writers who are experiencing similar struggles to read that on the days they don’t have it all together, they are not the only ones. I appreciate honesty over false appearances every day of the week.

FV: I think that’s exactly why it’s important to hold each other’s hands in misery once in a while.

SF: But not just in misery! It’s so important to stick together and encourage each other in temporary success and temporary failure. It’s all temporary, but the friendships or the lessons learned in those friendships should last from event to event. It’s the community building that’s so important. You, Flood, are an excellent source for support and friendship, on and off the blog.

FV (completely ignoring fringes falling in love with her): Same to you. What else inspires you?

SF: I am sometimes inspired by an extremely well written movie. I’ve mentioned the screenwriter Charlie Kaufman a few times. He is very good at circumventing standard expectations and creating something completely unexpected. That type of writing is where I want to be once I’ve perfected my style.

FV: How do you practice perfecting?

fringehead_workspace

 

SF: Something I’ve been trying is writing the backstories of each of the characters as a piece of flash fiction. 500-700 words concentrating only on one particular character’s history. I was having major problems with understanding Parker, the main character of the Stillwater piece. I decided to write her backstory as a flash. I was able to get into her head and she was able to get into mine. The next project, after I complete the SLQ reviews, is to write the flashes for Stillwater, the character who calls himself Freddie Mercury and the fourth character who is unnamed at the moment. The flash likely has no place in the actual short story, but it will help me with the character development as I complete it. And the flashes could be a fun addendum to the story once it’s finished—tucked away in the back of the book.

FV: Your day job involves editing other people’s writing.

SF: My day job involves editing other people’s attempts at writing. It’s technical, it’s puffery, it’s technical puffery. The work is extremely important and publishing the findings is completely necessary, and my job is to streamline the words, remove all the jargon, and make the published paper something that someone interested in space exploration actually wants to read. Dante’s Inferno it’s not, but I am excited to be part of the process.

FV: Do you have any interest in space exploration yourself?

SF: I grew up in Houston. We are, you know, Space City. Almost every kid grows up thinking about being an astronaut. But, hey, what’s up with all the math and science requirements? What I like about being a writer for the space program is challenging young writers to expand their assumptions of what a professional writer can do. It’s not all starving and waiting for rejection letters, although that was a part of my life when I was younger. I decided to stop being the frustrated writer working in jobs unsuited to my talents. I focused on a career that requires me to use my creativity.

FV: Ever think of writing any sci-fi?

SF: Nah. I’m terrible at making up those names. Remelak starpoint and all that. And my math and science is weak when compared to literature and English. Time warp? How the hell does that work? Black hole? Get out of here. But I can twist the hell out of a good metaphor.

FV: I think you need a number in there somewhere, like ‘Remelak 4-TX.’

SF: Exactly. You’ve proven my point.

FV: Tell us more about the series of reviews on the latest SmokeLong Quarterly issue.

SF: That’s what I love about surfing through writers’ blogs. I think I was on metaxucafĂ© which led me to Kat Denza’s blog and Kat was announcing Issue 13 of SLQ going live. I clicked on her link and fell in love with the cover art. It was raw and repulsive and very bravely done. Even on my monitor, I could feel the richness of the colors. I had no choice but to visit the stories on the inside. My writer’s voice said “Let’s review the stories!” My editor’s voice complained she didn’t feel like more reading of more other people’s stuff. But the writer always overrides the editor, and I started the series of reviews two weeks ago.

It’s been a great experience. The project was a way to invite discipline and structure to my blog, and it’s turned into such a valuable learning opportunity. Besides the structure, I thought the reviews would give my readers something to comment on as they were visiting the blog. That did happen, but then, I started getting new visitors who were really appreciative of the effort: the SLQ editors, the writers and their readers. I’ve now been exposed to writers of contemporary fiction that I may have missed otherwise. Serendipitous, fortuitous, humbling. I’ve joked that by review no. 15, I was all out of adjectives, but I have those three left to describe these past couple of weeks.

I completed the reviews over the weekend and the reviewer’s wrap-up is posted today on my blog. This is the perfect time to give much love to Scott of Hard To Want and Rebecca of Writing Blind for filling in for me as guest reviewers. They both did a great job.

FV: What else do you read?

Anything I get my hands on, really. It’s true that we learn more from the bad stuff than the good. I never intentionally read the bad stuff, but sometimes, I have no choice. And I am furiously taking notes on what not to do. The good stuff inspires me to do better. The back of the cereal box lets me know what promotions the cereal company is running.

There is a page in my blog that lists my favorite movies and my favorite writers. Those lists probably say more about me than I could say in this interview.

FV: What advice do you have for new writers? New bloggers?

SF: I’m not a giver of the advice. I am so laissez-faire. I can say I do my best to put myself out there, warts and all, and if someone learns something the day I’m in major ramble mode, all the better. But here’s my plea to all bloggers, new and old. If someone takes the time to email you, you have to respond. I’ve stumbled over a few blogs that really impressed me by the effort the writer was pouring into it and I’ve written a nice email. The two that chose to ignore the email, I didn’t visit their blogs again. Why are they writing online if it’s not for an audience? If you’re not interested in two-way communication with your readers, then why have the blog? I have several other questions for the universe, but those two are the ones relevant to this interview.

FV: Who in your life supports you most in your writing?

SF: I have a couple of friends who read my blog regularly. They will both email me with faint praise, which is the best kind. Just enough to let me know I’m on the right track. Instead of a “You’re incredible!” I get “That was interesting”. Instead of “You’re a genius”, I get “Good stuff. What’s next?” And the fact that they are reading every word is very touching for me emotionally. Even if they don’t read it everyday, my good old sitemeter lets me know that they catch up on what they’ve missed. The funny thing is each of them visits my blog for a different reason. One visits for the stories and the Stillwater continuation. The other is looking for the process of writing, my running commentary. Each reason that I have the blog is being validated by these guys. It’s perfect.

FV: What does the future hold for you and writing?

SF: Future sounds so futuristic. I can only take it a year at a time. I see myself as a better writer, a better person. I like flinging about the lofty goals, so here is a few more: I will have completed this story that I’ve been working on for three years. I’ll still be blogging. I’ll have learned to SCUBA dive. I’ll still be reading.

FV: Thanks, Fringes, for showing us the writer behind the writing.

SF: The anonymous writer behind the writer, anyway. Thanks for having me. That is my real picture on the book cover, by the way. Cover design before writing, that’s what I always say.

FV: Now we’ll know what to look for when it comes out.

SF: Planning ahead is our friend.
 

15 comments

  1. It’s interesting to see a bit of where you were then. When I read your writing I can really see the “find your voice” part of writing.

  2. It is interesting to look back, so you can see how far you’ve come :)

  3. I enjoyed reading this. It’s always interesting to read about the process others go through in practicing their creativity; where their inspiration comes from, how they channel it. Thanks for sharing this!

  4. Thanks for sharing your feelings on writing with us.

  5. Isn’t it fun to look back at your old(er) writing and see how you’ve evolved?

  6. This was so fun to read! Did you learn SCUBA diving?

  7. This was so interesting. Now I’m curious for a follow-up interview to see how your views have evolved. The anonymous thing especially intrigued me since I just went in the opposite direction.

    You’ve built an amazing community at yeah write that makes me happy to be blogging again. Thank you!

  8. I read this.

    We’re delightful. I could have asked you a zillion more questions

  9. OK, ladies. I’m ready for the 2013 interview now. Can we do this again, please?

  10. What’s with the purple vagina-fish? It looks angry. Like Pink Floyd’s The Wall Angry Vagina.

    Otherwise – how cool is it to hear the two of you blabbing away all those years ago. Very nice. Thank you for finding this and sharing it all over again.

    • The fish is the oddly named sarcastic fringehead. I stumbled over it in 2006 while Googling the title “sarcastic fringehead” a term I thought I’d made up, but I wanted to be sure I wasn’t going to be sued by some crazy copyright holder. Turns out, there was a fish by that name. Who knew?

  11. That was so interesting getting a glimpse into your blogging beginnings, as well as your and Flood’s relationship. Really great read, I’m so glad you unearthed it and shared it!

  12. Cool trip in the time machine! How many of the fragments have become reality?

    Thanks for sharing:)

  13. thanks for sharing! i love looking back. does it seem like you’re a totally different person now? obviously you and flood have stayed together, and i’m glad for that you. you guys make a great team. :)

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