Puritan author Andrea Grassi answers a few short questions on her recent short story “Air Show’’ from Issue XX: Winter 2013.

Aimee Bender

Aimee Bender smiles, tilts her head, and looks at the photographer.

1. Tell us the best thing you’ve read lately, or a fiction writer you’re jealous of, or a story you wish you wrote.

I wish I wrote the short story “Bullet in the Brain” by Tobias Wolff. It is so simple, and to get such an elegant idea across in a few pages is an incredible feat of language. I don’t really write “flash fiction,” but the lesson in clarity is there. I always think of this story when I’m having trouble communicating purpose—what is it that I am trying to say? Sometimes my writing doesn’t have purpose and I think that’s okay, but it is important to at least consider that it might.

Tobias Wolff

Tobias Wolff, chilling with books.

Miranda July’s writing does this to me too. And Aimee Bender. Their prose works seem so simple and obvious. You read them and think, “I can write like that.” But no, no, no. Writing that clearly is never effortless and that is where all their magic comes from.

2. What was “Air Show’’ influenced by? (i.e., were you listening/watching something when you began to write it? Were you in a meeting or class at the time? Was it after a film, art show, concert? Were you on acid?)

The idea for the air show as a backdrop to the story came from actually hearing the Toronto Air Show at the CNE. I was in an office north of Queen St. but the planes were still so loud, and I thought to myself, “this is what the end of the world will sound like.”

The character of Blanket Girl was inspired by this time I was writing really late at night and I covered my laptop and myself with a comforter and began to write underneath it. (I wish I had a reason why.) The new writing space got really hot, and dark and full of static and I thought to myself, “can you imagine if the entire surface of the world was this boring and bland and uncomfortable? I would go crazy. I would want nothing more than to get out and breath in.”

(So … Blanket Girl was inspired by a blanket, folks.)

Andrea Grassi used to work as a copywriter in advertising and for magazine until she decided she wanted to become a research librarian. She is a graduate student at University of Toronto’s iSchool. She also folds shirts and stacks books for money. Ad infinitum, she is moved by three little words: cup of coffee. You can sometimes read new things by going to agrassi.com or following her tweets (@andGrassi). Currently, her first manuscript is being read by Claudia, Jack, and Andrew. (Also, Grassi would like to give a shout-out to Kim at the Staples copy and print centre).

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