Sue Staats Interviews May Stories on Stage Featured Writer Peg Alford Pursell

Peg Alford Pursell earned her MFA at the Warren Wilson MFA Program for Writers. She founded and curates the Marin reading series “Why There Are Words,” is the incoming fiction editor at the online literary journal Prick of the Spindle, teaches writing workshops both in her home and at the College of Marin and lots, lots more. Here’s a link to her website

Just listing all these passions and commitments and accomplishments has me heading to the couch for a nap, but Alford Pursell thrives on it. In a recent interview on, Alford Pursell shared this insight into how her teaching feeds her writing: “There’s a relationship between being able to do or provide some sort of literary services for other people – that’s what makes it possible for me to keep doing my own work. It took me years to figure that out.”

Two of Alford Pursell’s stories, “This Guy,” and “Guardian,” will be performed as part of May’s Flash Fiction Extravaganza at Stories on Stage.

You teach a course entitled How to Write Flash Fiction and Why You Should Want To. I’m curious – is there a special reason one should want to write flash fiction?

The short—flash—answer is, if you can write with the precision necessary to create a universe readers inhabit in 250-500 words, anything you write will be better for that precision.

How did you become interested in writing flash?

Having started as a poet, I had what feels like a natural inclination. Or at least a wide-open embrace. My other writing projects are “big” ones, novel-sized ones (with a memoir-ish thing bumping around in the box asking the lid e cracked,) and they have occupied me for years. Flash has kept me going in the meanwhile – (it’s a source of) new life (in my writing.)

You do so much—when do you have time to write?

I write early in the morning and late late at night, and in between times, and it’s still never enough. I’m working on taking some time off to immerse myself in one of my projects soon.

Tell me a little about your stories being read this month – “This Guy,” and “Guardian.”

“This Guy” subsequently became a novel but the genesis was, like many of my stories, an interest in how people in close situations can miss one another so entirely. Come to think of it, that obsession has its part in “Guardian” also. In “This Guy,” the protagonist is more aware—she sees the other character misreading her and is trying to figure that out, that and how intimacy can mean something so different for that other character, the guy of the title. In “Guardian” the protagonist is shocked to find out what her husband thinks, which comes as a revelation at story’s end, and if it’s working it’s epiphanic for the reader as well.

After having read “Guardian” myself for an event, I’m very excited to hear it read at Stories on Stage.

 You began a reading series in Sausalito, “Why There Are Words.” How did that come about ?

When I moved to Sausalito, I found myself going into San Francisco every night for the lit—so many wonderful reading series—and I felt I should make something like that in Marin. As fas as I’m concerned, there can never be too many places to hear good writing and hang out with great writers.

I’ve noticed more than one similarity between you and Valerie Fioravanti—in addition to the monthly reading series, there’s the teaching, the writing workshops, the love of flash fiction, the profusion of literary honors. Is it just a coincidence that “Stories on Stage” and “Why There Are Words” were launched around the same time? Are you two secretly plotting a literary renaissance in Northern California? If so, what’s your master plan?

It’s a conspiracy, yes, You know, for your own safety I can’t tell you any more than that.

Noted. I’ll keep my mouth shut and watch developments. And on a related topic: you and Valerie also studied with Kevin (Mc) McIlvoy in different MFA programs. He’ll be leading a weekend workshop in Sacramento in October. How would you rate him as a teacher and as an influence on your writing?

No rating exists—it’s too astronomical—for Mc as a teacher, influence, or human bean. That workshop? Anybody who can get into it must. That simple.

Anything else we should know about you?

That I’m thrilled to have my stories selected to be read at “Stories on Stage,” and I think Valerie Fioravanti is the coolest. Sacramento is lucky to have her, but I’m sure that’s no secret.

Sue Staats lives and writes under the shade of the Curtis Park sycamore trees in Sacramento. She recently completed her MFA in Fiction at Pacific University. She has published fiction, non-fiction, and poetry in the Suisun Valley Review, Susurrus, and Sacramento News & Review. Her favorite quote on writing comes from Wallace Stegner: “A good writer is cocked and aimed like a gun…if he isn’t a little dangerous both to himself and others, he isn’t living up to his calling.”

1 Comment

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One response to “Sue Staats Interviews May Stories on Stage Featured Writer Peg Alford Pursell

  1. Peg

    Thanks, Sue, for the interview. This was a lot of fun. I’m so looking forward to SOS tonight.

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