"Genetically Modified Courtship"

by Anita Brey


find out more about:

Miriam N. Kotzin

Bill Turner



here's what they say about themselves:

Our collaborative flash fiction is published or is forthcoming in Monkey Bicycle, Hobart, Somewhat and The Beat. Each of us has established a publication record in print and on-line. Bill's fiction has appeared in
Underground Voices, Thieves Jargon, Riverbabble, Rumble, The Beat, Whim’s Place, Storied
World and Bewildering Stories. He is also the cover photography artist for
October 2004 in Edifice Wrecked. He is a former columnist for the Virgin
Islands Daily News and The Virgin Islands Source Online. Miriam's fiction has appeared or is forthcoming in ELF: Eclectic Literary Forum, Slow Trains, Smoke Long Quarterly, Pindeldyboz, Thieves Jargon,  Littoral, Storied World, The Glut, Toasted Cheese, SaucyVox, HiNgE, The Beat, Yankee Pot Roast, edifice WRECKED, The Rose & Thorn, Rumble, Salome, The Quarterly Staple, Southern
Ocean Review, Dead Mule, and Carve.

Her poetry has appeared in print venues such as Boulevard, for which she is
contributing editor, The Iron Horse Literary Review, The Painted Bride Quarterly, The Mid-American Review, The Southern Humanities Review,
Pulpsmith, and Confrontation. Online her poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in the Small Spiral Notebook, Drexel Online Journal, the
Vocabula Review, Three Candles, the Poetry Super Highway, For Poetry.com,
Word Riot, The Front Street Review, Open Wide, Segue, edifice WRECKED!,
Shampoo, Eclectica, FRiGG, Flashquake, Circle Magazine, Branches, Plum Ruby
Review, Gator Springs Gazette, Blaze, The Green Tricycle, Riverbabble,
MAG:Muse Apprentice Guild, Mini Mag, Snow Monkey, Maverick Magazine, Poems
Niederngasse, Carnelian, Facets, Another Toronto Quarterly and Valparaiso
Poetry Review.

Miriam teaches literature and creative writing at Drexel University in Philadelphia, PA USA where she directs the Certificate Program in Writing
and Publishing and is faculty advisor to Maya, the student literary magazine. Bill is a freelance web designer when he is not writing his
fiction or plays.

 back to Miriam and Bill's stories


Of Fitting Parts

Miriam N. Kotzin & Bill Turner on their particular collaboration

“Although it may be technically accurate, ‘Insert part A into slot B’ is an entirely inadequate description of sex. Similarly,” say Miriam N. Kotzin and Bill Turner, “a mechanical description of the techniques we use to write together is entirely inadequate to describe the collaborative writing process that occurs.”

Kotzin and Turner explain that they write in tandem, using email and telephone. One writes a passage and the other builds on it responding to and upping the emotional ante. Sometimes before writing they confer about process and content, and sometimes the writing is punctuated by discussions. Editing consists of sequential reading and revising, and more discussion. One constant in the writing is an agreement about who will take it home, that is, end the piece.

Kotzin and Turner first became acquainted with one another in late May of 2004 when both were in Zoetrope’s on line writing workshop. Turner reviewed one of Kotzin’s flash fictions, which he thought, “was splendidly written.” She was impressed by his detailed analysis, “the kind of specific comments that a writer lives for.” She did a reciprocal review of several of his flashes and was “awed by his ability to find the telling detail, and present striking psychological portraits in the constraints of flash fiction [1000 words].”

They soon began to exchange line edits of one another’s work through email rather than the formal review system, and, Turner says, “discuss theory and practice.” Their individual work appeared simultaneously in ezines, and they would meet online to toast their mutual success with diet coke and iced tea.

Kotzin joined a workshop on collaborative writing at the invitation of Carol Novack, and worked with Novack and Keith Olsen. She enjoyed the experience, and also wanted to work with Turner. He reluctantly agreed. Their first two attempts ended in the trash, but fortunately, there was just enough of a spark in the work for them to try again. So at the end of July their writing partnership got off to a slow start, but then it took off like a rocket. “We got lots of support and encouragement from other writers on Zoetrope,” Kotzin says, “and questions about how we work together when we’ve never met.”

Kotzin’s style was influenced by her decades of writing poetry. Turner’s style and subject matter was far edgier, influenced by his personal struggles and his background as a newspaper columnist. Since they have been working together, their styles have become more fluid, so that sometimes Kotzin writes in what was Turner’s voice, and vice versa. “It just happens,” Kotzin says, “we don’t think about it until afterwards. And then we laugh. Maybe someday we won’t even notice it.” Turner describes it as ”an emotional siphon that flows both ways.”

They agree that their work together has influenced their individual writing, bringing the strengths of their collaboration to their separate work. “Thanks to Bill’s influence I’ve gotten much edgier and bolder,” says Kotzin, and Turner says, “I’m beginning to see a polish in my writing that wasn’t there before. Miriam has added another dimension to my individual work.”

Kotzin and Turner began their collaboration with a solid admiration for one another as writers and editors. Kotzin remembers emails she wrote to Turner, saying, “Edit me.” Their work together is built on mutual trust and respect.

In an addition to their flash fiction, they also write longer literary short stories. They are also at work on two longer projects. They are working on a novel, and are over halfway through a series of short stories revolving around a newlywed couple.

“I can’t believe my good fortune in having Bill as a writing partner,” Kotzin says. “We’ve written wonderful things together that I would never have thought of doing alone.” Similarly, Turner is enthusiastic about the partnership, “I was worried in the beginning that we wouldn’t be able to push through on more complex work, but we’ve written some flashes and short stories that have surprised me. We write everything from romantic comedy to dark, complex literary short stories.” He says, “Oddly, we could read each other pretty well through the emails, but hearing each other’s voice has added a new dimension. We feed off each other emotionally. If one is intense, the other soothes. If one is on the edge, the other slows the pace and becomes more methodical. This evolution has led to some amazing results. We are actually writing at a level that we hadn’t expected.”

Turner looks back at a statement that he made about their collaboration about a month after it began, “That we started without really knowing each other well gave us an edge in being willing to experiment emotionally. Because we didn’t bring a load of preconceived ideas about one another to the work, we just accepted what was on the page at face value. That makes writing intense. I have to deal with the character, not my partner.”

Asked how is it now that you’ve been working together, Kotzin says, “Even better. It just flows. To quote one of Bill’s stories, ‘We do what we do.’ And like it. Lots.” It is, after all, far more complicated than part A and slot B.