We were able to speak with Catherine Sinow about her piece “Kiwi Pemberton’s Last Day of Sunlight” in Issue Seven!
During the editing process, do you find it difficult to adhere to a word limit? And if you do, how do you manage to keep it within the parameters?
I definitely do not have word limit issues. Whatever I write, it always seems to be between 3,000 and 6,000 words. I have no idea why, especially because I usually read novels. I guess my brain just naturally works within those parameters. On the flip side, my stories usually contain enough ideas to be novels, but I don’t have the attention span to write any.
What inspired this piece?
When I was 14, I had a lot of angst and I expressed it by gossiping relentlessly with my siblings about how much I disliked our neighbors. I also came up with a lot of prank ideas that I never followed through on because deep down, I am a normal person with inhibitions. In some other universe I grew up to be a shoplifting cave diver, but in this one I’m just a writer, and this is how I ended up expressing these prank ideas. Thank heaven.
Writing a younger narrator seems challenging sometimes. What would you suggest writers do in order to achieve what you have in this story?
I’m guessing that most rational adults maintain a secret (or not-so-secret) immature side. I definitely do. It’s essential to tap into it if you’re writing a younger narrator. Also, it helped that I first wrote a draft of this story when I was 14 (it was really bad, though, and it also explains why the story is randomly set in 2009).
Fiction sometimes comes from a single moment in time that sticks with us, is this the case when you sit down to write? Or do you plan each step? Is it formulaic for you?
For me a story comes from an absurd idea, often one that I’ve had floating around in my head for years. Like… “What if I wrote a story about a group of voluntarily nomadic children?” “What if I wrote a story in which my friend’s scary ex-girlfriend was obsessed with Yelp?” “What if I wrote a story about the furries I knew in high school?” Eventually I decide that it’s the right time to write the story. It seriously does take years. I start with a scene in the middle and work outwards. I commit to working on it for 30 minutes a day, and soon, a story is born. All of my stories are written this way.
Do you have any previously published pieces you’re particularly proud of?
I like this one. It’s my first “creative nonfiction” publication. http://www.summersetreview.org/18fall/anything.html