Flash Fiction: for writers, readers, editors, publishers, & fans


Wednesday Writing Therapy: Mary Gaitskill’s Advice to a Young Writer

If I had any kind of “genius” as a kid, it was as a reader. In third grade, I read books out in the hall while the rest of the class filled in blanks in early read­ers and slid their mark­ers down the mar­gins. Or some­thing like that. 

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I wrote, too, sto­ries and poems, and after col­lege for a cou­ple of years, too, where, in Chicago, I ended up man­ag­ing a resume writ­ing office, so I wrote those too along with cover & fol­low up let­ters. Around 1991, I stopped, went into teach­ing and never went back to writ­ing until 2004. From 2000 to 2004, I suf­fered from 24-hour undi­ag­nosed panic attacks, and I’ve not until recently made the con­nec­tion between finally get­ting a diag­no­sis & panic-man­age­ment plan and return­ing to writ­ing.

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Recently, I came across a signed copy of Mary Gaitskill’s Two Girls Fat and Thin. My room­mate in Chicago worked with, I think, her sis­ter or some other close rel­a­tive. She signed it, it would seem, in 1991, right around the time I stopped writ­ing for thir­teen years and turned else­where.

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Mary Gaitskill.jpg

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That’s the title of this book I’ve begun: The Rip-Snortinest, Ass-Kick­inest, Sniff-n-Scratchi­est Book Ever. It is, as it seems most of the things I set out to do, such as get­ting up each morn­ing, begun by set­ting myself against that panic. Although I in no way con­nect Gaitskill’s wish for me (to write such a book) with my own choice in 1991 not to write (ever) again, I do won­der about these two events, and as I, 19 years later, redis­cover this wish for me, I come (finally) to this Wednesday’s Ther­apy: Go back and find some note that you’ve for­got­ten from some­one you admired. Find within that note a title. And write to it the way you’ve always dreamed you might.

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For fur­ther read­ing, check out FlashFiction.Net’s sug­gested read­ings of flash fic­tion and prose poetry col­lec­tions, antholo­gies, and craft books, by click­ing here.

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One comment

From susan buchler

I’m a big fan of Mary Gaitskill’s sto­ries. I was first intro­ced to her at a writ­ing con­fer­ence, and I quickly read every­thing.

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