Fractured Beauty: An Interview with Aimee Parkison

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“Broken words are a lullaby, or a love song,” writes Aimee Parkison in Snow in Thunder, one of her four new flash for Atticus Review. Parkison is a master at showing us broken pieces, broken lives, damaged hearts — and making them sing in glorious harmonies and dissonances. Her work casts enchantments like the ones you find in ancient fairy tales, pushing you into the unknown and all its terrifying terrain. She forces you to look in dark corners and behind those doors you’d rather leave shut, to stumble along with no guarantee of safety.

You will hold your breath. You will know fear. You will not necessarily get out alive. You will certainly be broken. Yet Parkison takes these shards and builds glittering mosaics that shine, even as they cut.

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Georgia Bellas: Violence, whether explicit or beneath the surface, is prevalent in much of your work. Can you talk about its role and your relationship to it in your fiction?

Aimee Parkison: Authentic writing about violence in the lives of women can cut through the lies of political correctness to uncover a truth that’s waiting to be spoken. It takes courage to write about women and violence, because this writing often flies in the face of what society typically accepts as its ideal vision of womanhood. Sometimes, writing about violence leads to telling the truth in a courageous manner because our characters can say things that we are not encouraged or allowed to say, at least publicly. Sometimes our characters will tell us a truth we need to know, something we once knew and have somehow forgotten, a new necessary truth to unlock meaning in what might appear to be the senselessness of violence in our lives.

GB: In The Self and Others, there are trunks and rooms containing things the narrator doesn’t want to see. Do you think if your character looked directly at those things it would be helpful or harmful? What do you have locked away (literally or figuratively) that you are afraid to look at?

AP: I think there are things the character doesn’t want to remember. She knows exactly what’s in the trunks and the rooms but she can’t admit that to herself. To look directly at them would mean that she would have to admit that she recognizes them and knows what they are. Something really horrifying has happened to her in the past, and she deals with it by pretending like it didn’t happen, partly because those who were responsible are still in her life, pretending like these things didn’t happen. So, she’s in a really extreme circumstance where admitting to remember could ruin her. But I relate to her, in spite of the extreme situation. Metaphorically, I think part of growing up and growing older is that there’s just too much to deal with in the past. In order to be truly in the present, we have to organize, divide, and compartmentalize the past. Metaphorically, there are boxes we don’t open and people we stop talking to, even though we don’t throw them away; they’re always with us and we live with them, a part of us, always. For instance, my house is full of notebooks I’m not sure if I’ll ever read again, pages and pages of unfinished stories.

GB: What do you consider the five most violent words? The five most tender?

AP: Violent: crazy, cunt, rot, bitch, bleed
Tender: caresses, sing, lie, smile, bleed

GB: What is your earliest memory? Can you create a writing prompt for our readers based on that memory?

AP: My first memory is a sunny day, probably a Sunday because I was wearing a church dress, tights, and church shoes. Church was over and I was still in my dress, running in circles on the patio behind my family’s house. Someone was watching me, my grandpa, I think. I was pretending to be a lion and roaring. That’s the first thing I remember, wearing an uncomfortable dress, pretending to be something I wasn’t, and having an audience.

Writing prompt: Describe your first memory, paying special attention to the setting. What were you doing? Why? What does it mean about you that this is what you remember? If you were a character in a story, what does the memory foreshadow about the future, which is now your present?

GB: You mention Sea-Monkeys in your flash The Lost Sea: Did you ever have any? On a scale of 1-10, how unsatisfying was that experience? Did you actually flush any down the toilet? On a scale of 1-10, how guilty do you feel?

AP: Sea-Monkeys piss me off, even though I barely remember having them. I think my siblings and I did have some Sea-Monkeys in early childhood, and I think my mom had to throw them away because no one could figure out what the hell they were or what to do with them. On a scale of 1-10, with 10 being the highest level, my own level of guilt on this is like a 1, which is rare for me. The product deserved the lowest satisfaction score possible, so a 1 on a scale of 1-10, if 10 is best. It was just another crazy rip-off. Right? It was total false advertising in the name, in the packaging. I never could figure them out. There was this really cool-looking picture on the package of these humanoid creatures living under the sea and I thought they were actually going to be a family of little hairless monkey mermaids living underwater — and this is what I wanted and was so looking forward to — but in the bowl of water the Sea-Monkeys were not like that at all. It was just a bunch of white, cloudy, murky water like someone had jacked off into a fishbowl and left it on the table and then all these scary white things started growing in the filthy white water. Someone should sue the company: a class action lawsuit against the Sea-Monkeys franchise would be something I could really get behind.

(Here’s a great website on Sea-Monkeys for more details.)

GB: What was the biggest disappointment you experienced as a child? As an adult?

AP: In childhood, I guess my biggest disappointment was not being an adult. In adulthood, my biggest disappointment is not being a child.

GB: What is your current obsession in writing? How about in your actual life?

AP: Writing: basements, rooms full of dirt, women, friendship, memory, pets, disease, waterfalls, rape, dance, romance, injuries, trauma, healing, sex, secrets, misunderstandings, personal truth.

Life: tea, tarot cards, cats, glass, music, trees, owls, photographs, kissing.

GB: Please describe your writing routines and revision process.

AP: I collect details and story ideas. I keep lots of notebooks, digital and hard copy. Lately, the notes have been bleeding onto my walls in the form of elaborate plotted charts and character portraits. Every day, I try to start something new and to work on something in progress, usually something I started long ago. Revision is part of the writing routine. I’m always in between that place where I’m trying to analyze the craft but also just going with the flow, to see what happens, to see where the words, images, and characters will take me. I love language and the pull of poetry. Writing is strangely exciting because you carry it with you wherever you go. It requires inventiveness but also formality, spontaneity but also planning, lying but also truth-telling, seriousness but also play. Because of that, I do and don’t have a routine.

GB: If you didn’t write, what would you do?

AP: I’d find a way to tell a story without words.

GB: What is your favorite fairy tale or myth and why?

AP: Rapunzel. All that hair and the tricks you could play with it.

GB: You are cast under an enchantment where you are miniaturized and forced to live in a snow globe but can choose the scene and all its details. Describe your snow globe.

AP: Inside my snow globe, there is no snow. I’m swimming in a lake of fire and loving it.

GB: If you were a stuffed animal, what would you be?

AP: A black unicorn.

Photo By: : : RoboSparrow : :

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About Author

Georgia Bellas is an editor and artist living in Somerville, Mass. Her poetry and fiction have appeared in Lockjaw Magazine, Synaesthesia, Sundog Lit, Cartridge Lit, Bird’s Thumb, WhiskeyPaper, The Collapsar, and [PANK], among other journals. She is one of the poetry winners for Sundress Publications' 2014 Best of the Net anthology. You can follow her teddy bear, host of the Internet radio show “Mr. Bear’s Violet Hour Saloon,” on Twitter @MrBearStumpy. If you ever meet her, she will probably tell you about her bicycle’s movie star status.

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