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Exploring the art of prose

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Author: Puloma Ghosh


Author’s Note

I didn’t actually realize “In the Winter” was a piece of flash fiction until I had written all 1,000-ish words of it and realized I had nothing more to say. Of all the stories I’ve submitted to publications, this is the least polished and the least worked on. I tweaked and cleaned the sentences, but I had this feeling that it was something tender and very breakable, and might fall apart if I dug into it too hard. This is the biggest lesson I learned in my process of writing this: Sometimes feeling is more important than tightness, and being messy and vulnerable on the page has value. Every story has its own needs that I have to relearn each time I sit down to revise, but at the end of this I thought, sometimes trying to assert too much ambition, intellect, and control on my work will get in my way.

The feeling of this story comes from something I remembered in early 2020, when I spent a month on a college campus as a TA before the pandemic sent us home. It was a very liminal space, being neither student nor truly part of the faculty, in rural Vermont far from most things. It reminded me of the most isolating, lonely parts of being an undergrad. The meals eaten alone, the classes skipped, the people I was in bed with but not with. In photos from then I have a different look to me, what I thought was pretty but now find a little scary. That feeling, that version of myself at my lowest point, is something that I don’t think has ever left me, or will ever leave me.

I learn the most about both what and how I want to write when I read. I wrote this right after finishing a lonely, lyrical book that reminded me of my days as a TA, remembering that feeling. Often, when I write I channel my worst moments, not because I like being dreary (or maybe I do, I don’t know) but because those are the feelings that linger and chase me around. I had no end in mind when I wrote this, no quotations, no real plot, just a few scenes strung on the loneliness of “back then,” and it ended when that feeling ended.

Also, I had just bought a cypress candle, and burned it while I wrote. The little things always find their way in.

 


PULOMA GHOSH is a writer of lonely creatures & fierce magic with an MFA from Bennington College, where she was the Spring 2020 Residential Teaching Fellow. Her work has appeared in The Cantabrigian and Another Chicago Magazine, and her story was a finalist for the 2020 CRAFT Short Fiction Prize. She lives in Chicago, IL.