Richard Zwicker

Bio Picture Richard Zwicker is an English teacher living in Vermont with his wife and beagle. Besides reading and writing, his hobbies include playing the piano, jogging, and fighting the good fight against middle age. Despite the fact that he lived in Brazil for eight years, he is still a lousy soccer player.
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The Centropic Oracle Library


S0005 That Was So Funny I Forgot to Laugh In a future where robots take over the world, one must ask: if you tell a joke and nobody laughs, is it still a joke?

#TuesdayTalk with Richard

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May 16, 2017
C: Hello and welcome to a Centropic Oracle Featured Author podcast episode. Iím Charly Thompson, editor and cofounder. Today weíre chatting with Richard Zwicker, author of ĎThat Was So Funny I Forgot to Laughí. If you havenít listened to it yet, I urge you to pause this podcast and visit our Library at www.centropicoracle.com/library to listen to the charmingly funny sci-fi short story that makes you wonder just how much we have to worry about machine intelligence in the long run. If you like, you can send Richard a PayPal donation from his Contributor page on our website. If you can, please pledge your support for us on Patreon to help us continue bringing you interesting stories and content.

Richard has a long list of short story writing credits, many of which are still available. Visit his Contributor Page for links to free-to-read and available for purchase short stories.

Welcome Richard, Iím happy that you could join me.

R: Thank you, glad to be here.

C: How long have you been writing?

R: Now, do you mean writing seriously, or just writing?

C: In general, like writing for hobby, for fun, and when did you decide to take it seriously?

R: Well, in elementary school, I just found when teachers assigned something open ended, write a story or something, I was good at that. I donít know what exactly I was good at, I just enjoyed doing it and I guess there was a liveliness to what I was writing. So I thought of myself as - this is something I can do. The one thing in high school that really pointed me towards writing was, every year we had a class competition, each class would put on a play. And in 11th grade I got involved in that. I ended up writing the play that we did. It went over well and we won and I thought ďwell, yes, this is something I definitely wanna doĒ. Then I got full of myself the next year and wrote something really pretentious and we didnít win. Then college, I majored in English, concentration in Journalism, I took every writing course that I could. The thing that really made me serious, as far as writing things that might sell, I really didnít do that until I joined Critters.org, the online writerís group. Iíd been writing off and on for years but mostly musical plays to jazz up my classes, things like that. But I didnít know where to send them to be sold and I thought I knew everything I needed to know about writing short stories because I was an English teacher, but itís different when - critiquing a studentís story is very different from someone critiquing your story.

C: Yes, I could imagine.

R: The students couldnít critique my stories, and I didnít - almost all my English colleagues, they didnít write seriously. So finding Criters.org was a godsend to me, and suddenly I was getting 20 critiques per story that I submitted and feedback. Iím still a member and Iím always amazed at what I donít see until someone else reads it and tells me that itís either there or not there. I donít think I realized that somebody like Stephen King, or any professional writer, they all have people reading their stuff and giving them feedback. I didnít know that.

C: Yeah, beta readers. Pretty much everybody would have to. Even before it hits the editor.

R: Right, definitely.

C: Orson Scott Card tells the wonderful story that basically, he writes a page, his wife reads a page.

R: Ah. Yeah. My wife doesnít read a page. I donít think I write that way. At least with Criterís, I donít wanna get crucified, it takes a while for me to get the story to where itís a level that I am gonna show it to somebody and I guess if your wife was knowledgeable in that way, then that would be different, but sheíd probably be more tender.

C: Right, yeah. Critiquing, thatís a tough one. That is a tough step to make. Would you classify yourself as a writer who wings it and then edits a story into shape after the fact, or do you do a lot of planning before getting started? Or is it kinda somewhere in between?

R: I would say in between, because I generally, I get an idea, a problem, something I wanna write about, and then I write a barebones plot. Nothing very intricate. Even if I wanted to write something really intricate, I donít think I could, until I actually get into the writing of it. I do some planning, but then I beat it into shape and that process can be long. It usually takes - of course it depends - it can months before I submit a story, because it just takes a while for it to work, to make the words behave. It may look like I wing it.

C: I wouldnít say that, I think your pieces - the work that Iíve read of yours - I think that, thereís too many clues that I donít think you could just wing that, you have to have some forethought.

R: Iím amazed, I recently read - I mentioned Stephen King - I recently read his book on writing. Itís a good book, but he insists that writing has always been a joy to him, every aspect of it. I love to write, but itís work. Itís hard.

C: Itís a love/hate thing. It is for me too, I understand what you mean. Itís not easy to sit there and stare at the page and just go ďokay, make it happen nowĒ.

R: Then afterwards itís a great feeling, but actually doing it, itís like jogging, itís hard. But then afterwards you feel better.

C: Right, yeah. A really tough workout. I think thatís probably a great analogy. So what was the first piece - first short story piece - that you had that was accepted for publication?

R: It was long before I joined Criterís. In 1990, I wrote a murder mystery called ďInside JobĒ and I sold that to a magazine called - I didnít sell it, I didnít get paid for it - it was accepted by a magazine called Innisfree, and I got paid one copy of the magazine. This was before e-zines. I was pretty happy about that, but like I say, I didnít learn how to write stories to sell until, I think it was about, 18 years after that.

C: Oh my.

R: Yeah. I didnít know anyone else who wrote, and I was writing plays instead of stories and I didnít know how to sell them either.

C: Have you learned how to do that since?

R: No, I havenít. But thatís alright, I havenít written any for a while. Itís mainly, as I said, to entice my students to read the main piece.

C: I see. Thatís actually kinda fun. What grade do you teach?

R: Grades 11 and 12 this year. I teach quite a few electives. One of the electives I teach is mythology and Iíve written several musical plays about some of the myths. Actually, myths are one of the easier things to get students to read because a: theyíre short, and student do have more of an interest in that.

C: Well I think too because thereís so much pop culture around mythologies. Particularly with the advent of, I think, things like Clash of the Titans, and Percy Jackson now.

R: Yeah, thatís a class that I donít have trouble filling.

C: How many markets did you submit to before it was accepted?

R: That mightíve been the only market that I sent it to. Itís funny, the first two stories that I sold were also the first markets that I sent them to but I think thatís because I didnít pick the really demanding markets. I made the princely sum of ten dollars for the second story that I sold.

C: Token markets, yeah. Itís a little easier getting into a token market.

R: Yeah. I have many stories, I have stories that have gotten rejected many times. Part of it is Iím just more ambitious about who I send them to.

C: Gotcha. When you start with - what they call ďstarting at the topĒ, where you start with the pro markets, that are getting like, 1500 to 2000 submissions a month, where their acceptance rate is .06%

R: Yeah, I do often start with them. I donít even know if thatís the best way to do it because normally the story doesnít sell the first time. Each time it gets rejected, Iíll look at it - almost each time - Iíll look at it again and tweak it and so it gets better. So maybe I shouldnít send to top markets first, maybe I should send it fifth or something, because they end up getting an inferior product to what the lower scale markets get.

C: Maybe that is why it goes so quick when you start getting down to the semi-pro, right? Have you had pieces that just never sold?

R: Well, when I joined Criterís, my first two submissions, I didnít really know what I was doing and I did try to sell them and they never sold. But virtually everything that Iíve submitted to Criterís since seems to eventually sell.

C: Do you have any stories that youíd like to share about any conflicts that you come into where youíre pursuing writing - because Iím assuming youíd eventually like that to be your primary income - versus being an English teacher and how does juggling all that - because Iím sure marking must take up a significant amount of your, weíll call it, spare time.

R: First of all, Iím sixty years old, so writingís gonna have to hurry up and become my primary income, if thatís gonna happen. I donítÖ it makes a difference if a market pays, of course, seven cents a word, or a hundred dollars, as opposed to thirty dollars, but itís really symbolic because you canít live on that anyway. So I donít worry about that too much. Whatís important to me is that I write a story thatís good and part of that process is the story getting rejected a number of times until I make it as good as I can. As far as conflicts with my teaching job, I think being an English teacher, being a teacher does help because you have lots of time off. So I can really focus on my writing in a way that someone who only has two to four weeks vacation all year canít. The downside of course is I often bring work home during the week, Iím lucky if I can steal an hour here or there during the week to work on my writing. So itís pretty much - I always put in at least a couple of hours Saturday and Sunday morning and then I try to steal a day or two during the week, an hour here or there.

C: Right.

R: It works okay for me, I canít be as prolific as someone who writes for a living, obviously, but it works. And Iím in a job where Iím using a lot of those muscles. Itís not a job where I have to turn my brain off. So that helps, I think. I try to have a lot of stuff that I put together during the school year, and then during the summer I polish it up and make it saleable.

C: Gotcha. So you, basically, do your rough work through the school year?

R: No, not really. I certainly finish some stories during the school year, but itís important that I have ideas that I can really put my mind to during the summer because thatís when I can.

C: Gotcha. How would you say writing has influenced your work as a teacher, and going the other way?

R: I do teach a creative writing class now, so it certainly helps in that way. The students are impressed that I published a book. Unfortunately, when I sell a story and I tell them, the first thing they always ask is ďhow much did you make for ití.

C: Right

R: Then I tell them, theyíre not very impressed. I could make more being a Wal-Mart greeter than that. And I say ďyeah, well, I play volleyball a lot, and nobody pays me to do that. I just like doing itĒ. As far as being an English teacher influencing my writing, I think itís influenced it a lot because you write about what you know, and what I know is a lot of the classic novels and stories that appear over and over in English classes. A number of my writing has been take offs on that, or tangents off of that. For instance, one story I liked, The Monkeyís Paw, by W. W. Jacobs. I do that a lot, I do some stories based on myths. And Iíve done a couple of spin offs of Poe stories as well. I like to have fun with the stories. Certainly I donít write all my stories that way, but I get a lot of pleasure out of going around the corner of a classic story that Iíve lived with for many years.

C: I think thereís something about re-reading particular pieces of literature that you get to know it really really well, and it starts to actually do things in your back brain. Because when you read it the first time, youíre still really engaged in the narrative, by the time youíve read it for the tenth or twelfth time, you kind of start extrapolating from it, I donít think you couldnít do that.

R: Another story that I did that with - and you talk about stories that donít sell - this was a story that was called Wyrd Times, it was about Wiglaf, the guy who helps Beowulf with the dragon, the only person who did, he tries to hold the kingdom together. That story got rejected 32 times.

C: Ouch!

R: It was close several times. And thatís something that I think any beginning writer should keep in mind, that itís a crapshoot. Youíll send a story thatís good to somebody, but they can only take so many and maybe they werenít in the mood for your story when they read it, or maybe you got an editor that wasnít, wouldnít like that kind of story. That sorta thing happens a lot.

C: The one thing Iíve noticed that seems to be somewhat strange, is that when I get a rash of stories, it seems like thereís a particular trend. So I may get five stories, back to back, that are all about death. So by the time I get to the fifth one, Iím like ďOkay, Iím done. I donít wanna read about this anymoreĒ. I certainly - coming from this project - I have a whole new appreciation for myself as a writer, going ďOkay, they didnít like it. That doesnít mean it was a bad storyĒ. It may be that there were six stories submitted today that had a similar voice. Iíve had to turn away stories that were super fun, but I already had six humor stories and I couldnít say yes to another one.

R: Itís important to have a thick skin with that and not take it personally.

C: Do you find, when you get an acceptance, when you get a re-write request, that thereís a lot of in detail edit change, or is it more of a ďNope, just didnít fitĒ? For myself, Iíve submitted something where people say, ďOh, I really like it, but itís too longĒ, or ďthereís this continuity error that needs to be fixedĒ, or something like that and thereís very little back and forth. Itís either about ready to go, or itís rejected.

R: I donít get a lot of requests for re-writes. In the last nine years, maybe four or five in all that time. One of the ones that I got, I misunderstood what the person was saying and I made the story worse. I donít think thereís a lot of requests for re-writes going on. I think part of that is that thereís so many stories that the editors are getting that donít need to be re-written. I donít think thereís the relationship that supposedly writers and editors had in the past today.

C: Not on the short story front, anyways.

R: Right.

C: Every teacher Iíve ever spoken to - Iíve got two kids, so there was a fair number of teachers - every teacher I spoke to, they take a great deal of pride in having made some connection with a special student or two or three or every year, sometimes. Do you have any stories to share?

R: Iíve been teaching for over 30 years, so what stories I have to share I probably donít remember the name of the student at this point, sadly. But I had a student who, his background was totally different from mine. I was teaching at a vocational school and he was from Queens, New York. African American kid and he loved to write. He wrote all the time. And not too many of the people at the school, of his peers, were impressed by that. As a matter of fact, they thought that it was unmanly. I think for him, I really made a difference because I read his stuff, I gave him feedback, when I went to Brazil he sent me a manuscript of a novel he wrote. I praised it and pointed out things that could improve it, but I lost track of the kid. One time I was, couple of years after I got that manuscript, I was at Kennedy airport and I had some time so I gave him a call. I talked to his mother, his mother didnít know where he was, who knows what happened to the kid.

C: Oh, thatís unfortunate.

R: It was a weird phone call with the mother though, sheÖ it felt like something bad had happened.

C: Ouch. Well, hopefully heís listening and maybe heíll get in contact with you. That would feel good. When youíre starting out a story, do you create characters based on people you already know and then shape them into their own individuals after youíve gotten started, or do you start with characters that you draw from plot and then make them fit?

R: Once in awhile Iíll borrow a trait from someone I know, but I donít usually take people that I know and put them into my stories. One of the liberating things, for me, about speculative fiction, was that it got me away from tracing my life. Being an English major and English teacher, I was prejudiced against science fiction for a long time. I didnít think it was serious compared to literary fiction. Slowly, I got away from that. But then, while I was in Brazil, one of my colleagues had a friend who sent down VHS tapes off the TV of Star Trek: Next Generation, and weíd watch them together. I hadnít watched Star Trek since The Original Series. I started getting science fiction again, reading it, and writing it. Before I was writing New Yorker type stuff, not quality-wise, just the plots were very subtle. To be able to get away from, just writing about something that had happened to me, instead writing about something that couldnít happen to me, that was liberating for me. It forced me to use my imagination more.

C: When you were saying it forced you to stretch a bit, did you find that you started veering into themes that you didnít normally go into?

R: Yeah, because before it would be themes that were affecting me directly, and that was limiting. One of the stories that I wrote, one of the comedies I wrote, I based on a quality that one of my friends had. He told me once, he was a shy guy, and he told me whenever he went out on a date, he wrote out all the questions and answers he was gonna say.

C: Oh my gosh, okay. So, every introvert in the world has done this.

R: Yeah, so, I wrote a story about a really intelligent guy who had that kind of insecurity and tried to impress somebody that he had no business trying to impress, so thatís about as far as I took it, but it wasnít him.

C: Right

R: That character, it wasnít him at all. It was just that insecurity - which he doesnít have anymore.

C: Well I think what interesting is that when you choose an aspect of a person like that, it becomes relatable to, suddenly, millions of other people, right? Because everybody shares something with someone else.

R: The irony is this friend of mine is one of the most articulate people I know. Heís very good at talking. But he didnít-- in this situation, when he was young, he didnít have the confidence to be himself. When heís himself heís a very interesting guy, but writing down everything he was gonna say probably shackled him completely.

C: That is actually a super cute story. Thatís something you tell at a wedding. So you mentioned, earlier in our conversation, is that some of the places that you draw inspiration from when youíre coming up with story ideas and how to follow through on them, how much work does it take when you start with that kernel? Is it something that comes easily for you, is it something that you have to have a bunch of ideas that you pull out of a pot?

R: It usually doesnít come easy for me. My process is pretty regular. Iíll get an idea, a problem, a place, something I wanna write about, and Iíll force some kinda plot out of it. Iím not capable, at this point, at coming up with a really great idea. So then I force that story out of me, and thereíll be stretches that come easier, and stretches that donít, and while Iím writing it, Iíll see that the plot that I wrote wasnít very good and Iíll change something here or there. Usually Iíll tighten the theme of the story, the message of the story. I donít usually have a clear message of the story early on. That usually solidifies when Iím into the story down and dirty.

C: Right.

R: And then I send it off to Critierís, I get my critiques, usually about 20 or so, I will read every one of them, and I will make a list of all the things suggested that I think might not be a bad idea, either to add or to subtract. Then Iíll sit down and go through them, as much as I can, and make those changes or decide ďno, Iím not gonna make that changeĒ, and then I send it to Daily Science Fiction, or Azimovs, or something. They reject it. Then I fix it a little bit more and then I send it out. Itís a long process. Some stories I might sell as quickly as three months after I got the initial idea, but most of the time it takes longer - six months, a year. It just takes a long time for me to build the story.

C: Iíve noticed that many of your pieces have a voice style thatís very similar to the 1940ís pulp crime novels. Is that a favourite genre of yours? And if it is, what are some of the favourite authors? And why that genre? Thatís an unusual...

R: Iíll tell you why. Itís not so much because of the writers, itís because of the 1940ís movies. Bogart, James Cagney, Edward G Robinson, those kind of movies. The film noir. Thereís something magical to me about that universe - the detective is conflicted, trying to be good but tempted to be bad. The bad guy is somebody like Sydney Greenstreet, who is very articulate and interesting, and the woman is mysterious. Everyone in the film noir movies were cool. And I just kinda liked that. I think itís misnamed in a way, because ďnoirĒ means ďdarkĒ, but those movies, there was never any blood in those movies. The darkness was a stylized darkness that I grew up with. When I was a kid, you could watch old movies on the TV any time of the day, and I did, and when VHS tapes appeared, I taped a lot of them and watched them over and over. I think thatís why a number of my stories are like that. As far as writers, the same writers that some of those movies were made from - I like Raymond Chandler, but I wouldnít say heís one of my favourite writers. He had a way with a phrase that I liked. Dashiell Hammett, those guys. I also was affected by the Universal Studio monster movies, which were about the same time.

C: Right, and that actually really comes through in That Was So FunnyĒ, with the Bwaftians and the confrontation with the robots. I thought that was really quite fun.

R: Yeah, itís a similar thing in that theyíre horror movies but theyíre not scary in the way that horror movies are today. Today, you see a horror movie and it scares the heck outta you, and two days later youíre still scared. You canít get rid of it. Whereas the Universal monster movies, as a kid, yeah, I mightíve been scared at the moment, but then you move on and itís not something like a sore that stays with you.

C: Itís not the stuff of nightmares, thatís for sure.

R: Yeah. I also have written some stuff like that. I have a series that combines my love of film noir and Universal monster movies where the main character is the monster of Frankenstein, and in the novel, the Shelley novel, heís a very intelligent guy, well read. So I have him survive his trip to the Arctic fighting Victor, and he comes back and re-invents himself as a consulting detective. It sounds ridiculous, but thatísÖ

C: It sounds fun!

R: It IS fun. Iíve sold three stories in that series. The challenge is to - a lot of things I write - the challenge is to take something that sounds funny or absurd to me and to try and make it believable in the world of the story. So yeah, my style comes from old movies. I used to be quite a movie freak. I was a big fan, as I said, of Star Trek: Next Generation. It was not cutting-edge stuff, and a lot of my early science fiction stories had some of the impossible things that they had, in my stories. It didnít hurt my writing because it kindled my interest in the genre but I had to be-- Iím not really scientific, at all. Itís an irony that I write science fiction. The only science that I particularly like is Astronomy. I watched Star Trek: Next Generation because I liked being with those characters. Although you watch Star Trek: The Next Generation now and it seems pretty stilted and talky.

C: So obviously Star Trek was a big influence for you. Where there any other big science fiction franchises that has really impactedÖ?

R: The things that affected me were the original Twilight Zone, the original Outer Limits. And with Twilight Zone, that, like Star Trek: Next Generation, gave me a lot of pitfalls to fall into. To write a Twilight Zone type story today, where at the end itís a complete surprise ending, is a cliche.

C: Yeah, itís not well received. Itís really funny when you look at someone like Philip K. Dick who is wildly respected and admired, to write in that style now is a no-go.

R: I think part of the reason heís highly regarded now is his ideas were so off-the-wall, that gives filmmakers stuff to work with, but you know the finished product of his novels was not very well finished at all. Almost all his novels, I think, are a mixed bag. My favourite Philip K. Dick novel is Scanner Darkly.

C: Iím actually kind of surprised, because That Was So Funny I Forgot to Laugh had a - I wouldnít call it an anti-machine, but aÖ ďthey can go ahead and take over the planet but theyíre not gonna be very successful with itĒ kind of feel to it. And told in a really fun way, but it was really ďyeah good luck with thatĒ kind of feeling, or kind of vibe at the end of the story.

R: Well, that came from two things. One, I am not a very tech person at all. Obviously I depend on computers, tablets and stuff like that, but I donít own a cell phone. I worry about how many times every day I check my e-mail, I worry about my students being totally addicted to their phones. I guess being an older person, Iím somewhat intimidated by it all, by how quickly things change, and also I wanted to write about the importance of humor. Which is a pet peeve of mine in that there are certain markets that I canít send my stuff to because they donít want humor at all. They want serious science fiction. Scientific discoveries took a lot of fun out of science fiction.

C: Yeah, out of hard science fiction for sure. What getting really fun now is when you start getting into whatís called science-fiction-fantasy. So the cross-genre. And itís fun, because Iíve read a couple of your pieces that kinda delves into that, where thereís elements of fantasy and thereís elements of science fiction and theyíre all just kinda mish-mashed together, and Iím seeing more markets pop up. I think theyíre a great deal of fun, and I think thatís where Star Wars really contributes into that, and I think the resurgence of Star Wars is where weíre starting to see a stronger blend. So I think thereís some interesting stuff thatís being opened in a way that I think traditional science fiction markets are almost closing themselves off to it in a purist way. Iím not sure whether thatís true or not, but it feels that way.

R: Yeah, I think we have to do things like these mash-ups, otherwise weíre gonna paint the genre into a hole. And youíre gonna lose people too.

C: Right. So comedy is your natural home, and you had touched on that. Can you describe any experiences that youíve had with writing more serious or dark pieces?

R: Iíve written some stories about isolation of space, being stuck out in space, and trying to keep your sanity. My favourite type of comedy, I think, is within the boundaries of a serious story. Like my favourite example - itís not speculative fiction, but Moby Dick is about as serious and heavy as you can get. But when Ishmael is waiting for Queequeg, who heís never met, to show up because theyíre sharing a bed, thatís a hilarious scene. Thatís my favourite way to use humor.

C: I think thatís a great way to actually touch the audience and to get them really thinking.

R: Thatís the way life is. Life is serious with some humorous interlude. If itís too absurd, if itís too humorous, then you donít care about the characters. Thereís gotta be something at risk. With That Was So Funny I Forgot to Laugh, I tried to make it as funny as I could make it, but I wanted there to be a sense of feeling, the relationship between the robot and his creator at the end, otherwise, I think, the story would be less.

C: Whatís funny is that- itís a fun story, but what I- the overwhelming feeling that I walked away from when I first read it was almost a melancholy.

R: Yeah.

C: The one line that really stood out for me was ďevery day he had been asked how he was operating, but not once had he been asked how he was, or how he feltĒ. But that was the one that really stood out, and then that really poignant moment and this emotional connection that really a machine shouldnít have, but he does have, it really touched me, I think, and for me that was the winning, ďgotta have this pieceĒ. But I thought that search for connection- thereís more to connection than connectivity. It was a strong message that came through, and it really impacted me.

R: Teaching I feel the same way. Weíre all about data and evaluation. Thereís gotta be more humour and fun in the class because, I think, data only takes you so far. Weíre always trying to figure out different ways to evaluate the students and get a truer evaluation but we need to spend more time talking about getting them engaged. One of the things that engages people is humour and fun.

C: Have you ever tried your hand at novel writing? If not do you plan to do it? You mentioned that youíre close to retirement, is that something you plan to pursue post full-time, working outside the home?

R: Yeah, I hope I can do that. I know most writers do their best work before theyíre 60. I will keep writing as long as I can when I have the time to do it. I hope I still get ideas. I sold about 50 stories, so it seems to me I definitely should make a serious attempt to write a novel. I havenít since I started selling stories. Maybe 2004 I challenged another English teacher over the summer, said ďletís both write novels and see what happensĒ, and she said ďokay, sure, sounds like a great ideaĒ. So every week I send her an e-mail saying how many word Iíd done that week, and she didnít write back. Not a good sign.

C: Nope.

R: Eventually she wrote back and said ďI havenít written anythingĒ. I wrote a 50,000 word novel. And maybe she was the smart one because my 50,000 word novel wasnít very good. But I didnít know what I was doing. I know a lot more now, although itís so different writing a novel from writing a short story, Iím sure.

C: It is, yes.

R: And itís just really hard to sell books of short stories. They donít sell well. I self-published Walden Planet and Other Stories, my first collection of short stories. They were all stories that sold, but I didnít even try very hard to find a publisher that would take it on.

C: There arenít very many. I think traditional publishers donít really want to go with short stories, and I think itís because most of those short stories are either re-prints or they werenít solid enough to sell in the first place. Thereís very few publishers who wanna touch something thatís been published anywhere before.

R: Itís too bad, because some writers are better short story writers than novelists.

C: It is a little easier to be daring and to really risk wildly on a short story and I think itís because thereís so much less, well, time, blood, sweat, investment in them. When you look at a novel realistically, most writers are somewhere between a year and five years to complete a novel. Thatís a long to go. The juice to get all the way through to the end is youíve gotta be made of pretty stern stuff to complete a novel. In closing, whatís your earliest memory of sharing or telling a story that you created?

R: My earliest memory was when I was, maybe, eight years old. We had a blackboard in our home and my younger brother, he used to get a kick out of me telling stories on the board that I made up on the spot. I could feel the power of his attention while I was doing that and I was kind of impressed that I could do it at all because Iím not the most spontaneous guy in the world. Thatís my earliest memory of telling a story.

C: And how do you think that impacted you going forward?

R: I always thought I was going to be a writer, at least from a very young age because I had no idea what else I could possibly be. I wasnít mechanically oriented at all, my father was a carpenter, very good with his hands, and I was the opposite. I was a total klutz. He would make things and I would break them. But my mother was very into reading. Once I was born she quit her job as a secretary and she was the reader. My father was not. It was my motherís influence that made me wanna be a writer. I wanted to add to the books that were in the world.

C: Gotcha. Well, Richard, thank you very much for chatting with me today.

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Centropy comes from the term centration, which has been introduced by Joseph Bois to indicate what happens when there is a pooling of human energies. It is a concentration of a sort; a uniting as exemplified by a group engaged in a cooperative venture.
- Irving Simon



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