An Interview with Michael Zapata4
June 12, 2010 by The Citron Review
by The Citron Review
We’ve had the honor of publishing several fantastic authors and poets over the last year, and while their contributions to our journal are profound, we felt that it would be beneficial to hear their natural voices. Each publication will include a spotlight author. We will interview them and ask them about the process that brought about their contribution, and what their thoughts are on the short form in general.
This quarter, we highlight Michael Zapata and his contribution, “Any Sense at All.”
TCR: Was there a particular inspiration for this story? A personal experience? What exactly brought about your idea?
MZ: Last summer, I had the opportunity to travel around Argentina and although I had read about the Guerra Sucia (Dirty War) before, this was my first experience talking to Argentineans about it. I met a cab driver in Buenos Aires, for instance, and I ended up just driving around with him for an hour talking about his experiences during the Guerra Sucia and how a good friend of his had disappeared in the middle of a student protest. Tragic, really.
During the mid-late 70s and into the early 80’s thousands and thousands of Argentineans disappeared. While the teacher and the narrator from this piece are fictional, as a writer and high school teacher, I couldn’t help but think of the numbers of teachers and students who disappeared. Latin American governments in the 70’s were often paralyzing forces in education.
TCR: The first title was “3021.” Was there a particular importance for this? Is the year in any way significant?
MZ: The first title 3021 was taken from the Flaming Lips song, “One More Robot/Sympathy 3000-21.” The song, I think, is about a robot that learns to love, which the flash piece is definitely not about. Futurism connects the song to the piece maybe. I’d like to read a story directly based on that song though.
More and more I’m interested in futurism and dystopia, or rather, seemingly dystopian forces that have already played out in history and will continue to play out. Basically, societies fucking up, ruining civilization and peoples’ lives.
TCR: Were you wanting the reader to take away any particular feeling from it? Was there a particular theme?
MZ: Possibly, a sense of regret. Of making a mistake during a time of crisis, which the new title “Any Sense at All” speaks better toward. Many Latin American students and artists during the 70’s fled to Mexico City. I wonder what those who stayed thought.
TCR: Was this a portion of a larger story? How did you make the decision to keep it at its current length?
MZ: This particular piece was written for its current short length. I’m rather new at flash fiction, so I’m trying to get in and get out right away when I write something.
TCR: How did you hear about the Citron Review? What prompted you to write for us?
MZ: Actually, on the same day that one of my students showed me your site, a colleague of mine, Thomas Mundt, sent out a notice that he had a piece in your Spring 2010 issue. I thought I might try and send The Citron Review a piece.
TCR: What are the particular challenges of writing flash (or micro) fiction?
MZ: Trying to be comprehensive and precise, channeling a sustained emotion or an event for a few reading minutes. It’s very difficult and I have a lot of respect for those writers who do it well.
TCR: How do you handle these challenges?
MZ: Actually, I try to read myths and novels which confirm that aspects of short fiction and flash fiction have already been with us for years and years. The Greek myths or Arabian Nights are basically flash stories inside of stories. Or Roberto Bolaño’s 2666, which is an enormous novel, but ingeniously made up of dozens and dozens of significant, smaller stories.
TCR: Are there advantages to the short form?
MZ: I’m amazed at how many people today are writing and reading, contrary to conventional wisdom. The short form allows writers and readers to interact with art directly and immediately. A good piece gives a reader an idea and, whether a short story is twenty pages or two pages, the influence of that idea hopefully stays with him. It also perfectly converges with new technology, or rather, maybe its emergence is in direct response to new technology. All of this is very, very good for literature.
In addition, I’m convinced that the short form is indispensable to the craft of teaching high school, where the actual battle for literacy and literature is fought. I have seen non-reading, non-writing students identify with the short form – its accessibility, its immediate link to art – and emerge as readers and writers. It’s pretty damn cool!
Michael Zapata is a writer and educator living in Chicago. He is a co-founder and was fiction editor for MAKE: A Chicago Literary Magazine (2003-2009). He has produced and written for comedy revues at Second City’s Donny’s Skybox, The Viaduct, The Trap Door Theater, and the Apollo Theater Chicago. He is also a 2008 Illinois Arts Council Fellowship recipient for Prose. Currently, he is working on a novel entitled Children of Orleans and his column Last Evenings on Earth can be found on Isgreaterthan.net.
this is a great interview, thank you Mick
Very nice, Mike. Congratulations from Brazil!
I have to like his work I am his grandfather. All joking aside, we are following his work closely and are patiently awaiting his novel.
keep up the good work Mike
Good show ol’ chap.
Good show indeed…