Every week, I’ll be doing a mini feature on my site (& blasting it on social media) on activists, artists, and educators who are doing important things in the world. Like Levar Burton says, the only thing these folks have in common is that I like them, and I hope you do too.
Today’s #badasscrushfriday is someone I had the distinct pleasure of reading with at LitCrawl last Fall. Her work was chilling and visceral, and stuck with me long after I left.
Meet Molly Giles.
Where can we find your work?
I have published five books of fiction. ROUGH TRANSLATIONS was my (many times rewritten) MA thesis in Creative Writing from San Francisco State University; it won the Flannery O’Connor Prize and was published by the University of Georgia. A novel, IRON SHOES, was published by Simon & Schuster in hardback, and by Scribners in paperback. A second collection, CREEK WALK AND OTHER STORIES, which won the California Commonwealth Silver Medal for Fiction, was also published by Scribners. BOTHERED, a chapbook of flash fiction, won an award through a short-lived press, Split Oak. ALL THE WRONG PLACES, my third collection, won the Spokane Prize and was published by Lost Horse Press. All but BOTHERED are available on Amazon. Various stories, essays, and flash fictions can be found in numerous anthologies, including YOU’VE GOT TO READ THIS, EXTREME FICTION, SUDDEN STORIES, O.HENRY PRIZE COLLECTION, MICROFICTIONS, etc.
What themes or ideas do you feel your work engages with?
I have recently noticed how many of my stories end with a woman in a car, either fleeing or approaching some new destination. I like to write stories with characters in motion, if only emotionally, as they advance and/or retreat, usually from themselves.
What were you like as a child?
Fat. Moody. Lazy. Resentful. Shy. Romantic. A liar and a bully. Bookworm. Shoplifter. Dog kisser. Just wanted to be left alone. Happiest in a tree with a book, a pet, and some stolen sweet.
Can you remember the first piece of art– performance, literary, fine, street–you saw/read that wowed you?
I saw the film “Carmen Jones” when I was twelve and I was stunned by the physical beauty of the actors – Dorothy Dandridge and Harry Belafonte—the two sexiest people I had ever seen in my life–and by the power of the music, taken from Bizet’s opera Carmen, but with lyrics adapted for the modern story. The memory of Sammy Davis Jr. belting out “Stand Up and Fight Until You Hear the Bell” still thrills me. I need to see that movie again! It had everything.
What work do you do in the world that you feel proud of?
I taught Creative Writing for thirty-two years and I’m sure I made a lot of mistakes, but whenever I hear that one of my students has published a book or story or filmed a script, my heart lifts. I am brought to my knees with gratitude if an ex-student uses “lie” and “lay” correctly and I love it when a book I have long touted (Lucia Berlin’s wonderful collections for instance) finally stars in the marketplace and gets recognition.
Tell us a story.
This is from a collection of 100 word break-up stories I’ve written called “Dumped”. Each story is named for a couple, so here’s…
Tom and Tilde
He had married the old woman for her money, so perhaps it served him right that for the next twenty years he had to wait on her hand and foot. When she finally died, her will stipulated that he would not get a single cent until he returned her ashes to Munich, the place of her birth. Learning it was illegal to bring human ashes into Germany, he carefully baked them into a loaf of black bread, wrapped it, packed it, and when the plane landed he took a taxi to the river bank and fed her to the ducks.
Molly Giles has published three collections of short stories, a chapbook of flash fictions, and a novel. She has won the Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction, the Boston Globe Award for Short Fiction, the California Commonwealth Silver Medal for Fiction, the Spokane Prize for Fiction, an NEA, two Pushcart Prizes, an O.Henry Prize, and a National Book Critics Circle Award for Book Reviewing. She taught Creative Writing for many years, first at San Francisco State University, and then at the University of Arkansas in Fayetteville. She lives in West Marin.