“Pipette: A Conversation with Kim Chinquee” — curated by Kristina Marie Darling

Kim Chinquee is the author of seven collections and the novel PIPETTE.  She’s the recipient of three Pushcart Prizes, senior editor of NEW WORLD WRITING, associate editor of MIDWEST REVIEW, and co-director of SUNY-Buffalo State’s writing major.  She’s a competitive triathlete and lives with her three dogs in Buffalo, New York

Kristina Marie Darling: How did your background in flash fiction prepare you for your work as a novelist? 

Kim Chinquee: Before writing flash fiction, I wrote longer work, and PIPETTE is actually the fourth novel I’ve written–though my first novel published. Some readers have mentioned that they see some of my previous books as somewhat novel-like, with common themes, events, characters. Initially PIPETTE was set to by published as stories, though as I was editing and revising, it seemed to me more novel-like, so I made changes to make the book more consistent, and deleting some of the repetition.

KMD:  What advice do you have for longform prose writers who may struggle with economy of language?

KC:Look at every single word. Ask yourself if the words are enhancing the work, adding, or if it weighs things down. I sort of look at it like music, too, if there are a series of words that are dense, language-heavy, or a bit much, maybe add some white space, or a bland word or two to give the reader a break.

KMD:  You write with a lyricism and compression that is all too rare in contemporary prose.  Many passages of Pipette read as prose poetry or lyrical fiction.  With that in mind, how would you differentiate between prose poetry, flash fiction, and micro fiction?  Do these categories matter at all? 

KC:I love this question! I think the categories matter, in the study of these forms. They don’t matter to me as I’m writing. As I start to write a new piece, based on my prompts, depending on the words, the things I imagine, my mood, my creative space, some pieces come out as prose poetry, some as flash fiction, some as micro fiction. I wrote an article on this which was published in The Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Writing Flash Fiction: Tips from Editors, Teachers, and Writers in the Field. Mostly focusing on the differences of prose poetry and flash fiction.

In short, prose poetry is more language based. Flash fiction is more narrative, and mostly identified by word count. Micro-fiction to me feels like a combination of these two, only shorter.

KMD:  Can you share one influence on your writing that would surprise us? 

KC:I’ve been a piano player since a young age. I’m not as practiced as I used to be, but sometimes as I write on my computer keyboard, I imagine myself playing the piano, the letters like piano keys, the songs and music and compositions in my head like stories.

KMD:  What’s next?  What can readers look forward to? 

KC:I recently finished revising a novel called I Thought of England, which is currently out with agents and publishers. I’m also revising a novel based on the Boston Bombings called Pirouette. I’ve also committed to writing a story-a-day since November 1st, 2022, and have almost 40,000 words–am hoping to turn that into a novel and/or collection that centers around the waterways and the history of where I live in Buffalo, New York.