maMy favorite questions involve food so let’s start there. What did you have for breakfast today?

My husband and I have been going to this diner in Eagle Rock since I moved to LA in 2011. They have traditional diner fare, but they also have a Thai section of the menu (the place is run by Thai women). Our favorite thing to order is a dish called Dr’s Special. It’s basically a stir fry with chicken, mushrooms, onions, green peppers, and tomatoes, and it’s really really good. It comes with two ice-cream scoops of rice. I like to add a combination of Thai chilis and fish sauce to this and spice myself out. I also had a glass of apple juice and a coffee.

 

What about the guy next to you at the counter?

He had a waffle, two pork chops with two ice-cream scoops of rice, and a 7-Up.

 

You just had a book come out.

Yes, Sing the Song is out now from Future Tense Books. It’s a collection of mostly flash fiction. There are stories about babies, drugs, a ham, a peep show, spaghetti, and more. Many stories are on the surreal side. Others exist on firmer ground.

 

Did you have fun writing it?

Many of the stories were already written by the time I signed a contract for the book, and those just needed some edits. Kevin Sampsell (of Future Tense) then encouraged me to write as much new stuff as I could in the time before the deadline, and then we’d pick out which stories to include from that new group. We ended up including everything except I think two. It was fun to work on those new stories and also put fresh eyes on the stories that were already done. It was also stressful though. I felt the pressure of the approaching deadline and I wanted everything to be perfect.

 

What’s perfect?

Every time I think I know what perfect is, my definition changes.

 

You seem kind of Type-A.

I am in some ways, but I’m actually pretty disorganized and can be on the lazy side. You should see my drawers (you have, ugh). The drawer where I keep all of my t-shirts and other shirts that don’t need to be hung is insane. It looks like someone took a whisk to it. I’m also bad at cleaning. Like if I go in to tidy up a room, I’ll do a half-ass job. I’ll dust a table, but I won’t move stacks of books — I’ll dust around them. That said, when someone needs to take control of a situation, I’ll jump in. Like if a group of friends is making dinner plans, I often end up coordinating. I’m good at those types of tasks, but if you take a wide look, there’s a lot of dust in the corners.

 

That was cute.

Thanks.

 

So what are you going to have for dinner?

I feel like Indian food. Kadai Lamb, Mushroom Matar, and Baingan Bartha.

 

Didn’t you used to be vegan?

Yeah. One time when I was vegan I was on a road trip with some vegan friends (lol) to go to a wedding in the Upper Peninsula, and we stopped at a gas station and I got us Chicken in a Biskit crackers because I read the label wrong and thought they were vegan. We ate them and they tasted just like chicken because of the dehydrated chicken* in them. People were mad.

 

What was the first thing you ate when you stopped being vegan?

A diner grilled cheese.

 

What books have you read recently?

I recently finished Bruja by Wendy C. Ortiz and it is beautiful and magical, just like Wendy. And before that I read The Book of Endless Sleepovers by Henry Hoke, and now I’m forcing him to be my friend.

 

That’s a little weird.

I loved his book so much. Smart and funny and sad too. And we live in the same city and whatever, please don’t judge me.

 

But I’m good at it.

I know.

 

*Editor’s note: In 2010, Australian chemists found no traces of animal protein in Chicken In A Biskit crackers.

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MEREDITH ALLING is a writer living in Los Angeles. Her collection of stories, Sing the Song, is out now from Future Tense Books. Her website is meredithalling.com.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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TNB FICTION is proud to showcase book excerpts and original short fiction from some of the finest writers in the world. Features have included work by Aimee Bender, Dan Chaon, Stuart Dybek, Jennifer Egan, Bret Easton Ellis, Roxane Gay, Etgar Keret, Antonya Nelson, and hundreds of other internationally acclaimed and emerging writers. Spotlighting a recent book release each week, TNB Fiction helps bring awareness of new literary fiction, from both trade and independent publishers, to readers around the world, providing a global, free-access arena for spotlighting the genre in an era of shrinking coverage among mainstream print publications. TNB Fiction has its finger on the pulse of a vibrant new generation of writers, as well as established literary greats whose work continues to shape the future dialogue of literary culture. Fiction Editor Rachael Warecki lives in Los Angeles. Her work has appeared in The Los Angeles Review, The Masters Review, Midwestern Gothic, and elsewhere, and has received residency invitations from the Wellstone Center and Ragdale. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles and is currently at work on a novel.

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