Storyglossia Issue 38, February 2010.

An Interview with Anne Leigh Parrish


Anne Leigh Parrish's short story, "Pinny and the Fat Girl," appears in Storyglossia 38. Here, Anne takes a few moments to discuss her characters, their mothers, power and identity within the story, and what she's currently working on.


Anne Valente: In some ways, Pinny and the fat girl seem jealous of each other—envious of each other's homes, each other's personalities and physical traits. How do these two possibly work as inversions of each other?


Anne Leigh Parrish: Pinny and the fat girl are a case of opposites attracting. Pinny is shy, reserved, and tends to put up with the abuse of others, while the fat girl fights back, and speaks her mind. Pinny pretends to be something she's not—stupid—while the fat girl doesn't hide her weight or even try to remedy it, until the very end. The girls pull each other through the story because of their differences, and become an inspiration for each other.


AV: Parents—particularly mothers—play a large role in this story as well, and Pinny at one point directly ties her mother's absence to her own feelings about Carl Pratt. How does Pinny's relationship with her mother affect her own teenage life, once her mother leaves?


ALP: Pinny continues to suffer from the low self-esteem her mother caused through her constant criticism, and yet finds a degree of freedom in the mother's absence. Her mother is the kind of person who never would have found the fat girl a suitable friend, for example. Nor would she have approved of Pinny's interest in someone like Carl Pratt.


AV: Pinny relinquishes a lot of power in this story, letting Carl Pratt get away with things he shouldn't. How does insecurity, or lack of agency, underscore many of the events that unfold?


ALP: Again, it's something of a double-edged sword. Pinny uses Carl's attraction for her to control him in the matter of the fat girl. She makes him pay attention to the fat girl, and build her up. But when Pinny realizes that she, too, has feelings for Carl just the way the fat girl does, her degree of control slips. She's on the verge of letting Carl have sex with her—after his silly statement that she won't get pregnant because she's thin (or that it takes thin girls longer to get pregnant) when her father comes home, ending the possibility.


AV: At the end of the story, Pinny and the fat girl resolve to become Penny and Eunice. How crucial are names to their identities? Do their nicknames serve to distance them from who they are, right up until the end?


ALP: My goal was to demonstrate the power and harm of names. What we're named is what we are, or become. Pinny's name is given to her by her fellows, as is the fat girl's. These two begin their relationship recognizing each other as they're called, and think of each other that way. Each girl finds an identity in her nickname, even though that identity is pejorative. When they decide to go by their own names, they are, in essence, putting an end to being seen as others see them. They are making their own identities, and declaring their independence.


AV: Your fiction has appeared in a number of journals, and you've also completed a short story collection, All the Roads That Lead From Home. What are you currently working on?


ALP: I'm working on another set of stories about unlikely alliances. One piece features a woman meeting the ghost of her dead mother, for instance, and in another a young woman falls in love with an elderly man. I'm also working on a novel based on the characters of Penny and Eunice as they grow up, become adults, and face more than their share of tough choices.


Anne Leigh Parrish has published stories in The Virginia Quarterly Review, Clackamas Literary Review, Carve Magazine, Eclectica Magazine, Amarillo Bay, River Walk Journal, The Pinch, American Short Fiction, and issue 31 of Storyglossia. Other works have earned awards from Glimmer Train, Meridian, Arts & Letters, So To Speak, Salt Flats Annual, and Painted Bride Quarterly. She is a mentor for the DZANC Creative Writing Sessions, and the author of the story collection, All The Roads That Lead From Home, which is currently seeking a publisher. She lives in Seattle, Washington with her husband and two teenage children.