Behind the Words: Deborah Crook

Posted by on Jan 11, 2022 in Uncategorized | Comments Off on Behind the Words: Deborah Crook

Deborah Crooks is a writer and performing singer-songwriter living in Alameda, California. She’s released a number or records under her own name and with the band Bay Station. Previous publications include No Depression, Kitchen Sink and in the anthology “The Thinking Girl’s Guide to Enlightenment” (Seal Press).

Here, we discuss her issue 11 flash piece, “Animal Time.”

Cathy Ulrich: This is such a great opening: “It was our last day of the week of no thinking.” I know I personally have trouble shutting off my mind and just being. Was this week an escape for this couple? Or a struggle?

Deborah Crooks: It was an escape, but that’s the catch isn’t it? It’s exactly what you mention regarding quieting your mind. It’s often a struggle to truly get to an intended destination, even if the intent and mechanisms are in place. How to shut off certain thoughts when you’ve been set to one channel and then find yourself in another landscape?

You choose this one moment from this one week for this piece — one of their last moments before going back home. What made you pick this particular moment to focus on?

I’m always interested in endings and beginnings. Often it’s not until we’re at that edge that we truly realize where we’ve been and understand how an experience or place has influenced us. And also the bittersweet preciousness of moments I think I write sometimes so I don’t forget a feeling, even if I’ve taken liberties with details.

The description is so powerful in this piece, “Nothing ever completely dried,” it just pulls the reader into the scene. You write with the authority of someone who has experienced this kind of place — have you visited the setting in this story yourself?

Yes, I’ve been to the Caribbean Islands, and other tropical destinations, and that heaviness of air combined with warmth in those places always surprises me. It’s easy for me to get in the actual water in those places, which impresses and delights me as I have a harder time doing that where I live in California, even though I live near the water. It’s just rarely warm enough!

At the end, the narrator says they “wonder who we were.” During this no-thinking week, was this couple very different people from the ones they are in their day-to-day existence, do you think?

Yes, the people in the story are caught up in a different world of work, and urbanity, away from the elements, and their focus is more on mind than body. I think most urban, modern landscapes require a different focus just to move through them, connect with others, and, you know, pay the bills.

The narrator seems to be feeling some regret when the piece ends — is this because they were so different there? Or because they are so different here?

Here. When you know a different way of being you automatically have to compartmentalize it or reconcile it with your present state. I deeply love the natural world and how my being, all my senses, establish a different rhythm when I’m staying in a rural area, or camping or staying in a warm place with time and space. At the same time, my mind is very trained for media and highways and commerce, and I rarely have the guts to completely unplug anymore. Writing this was my way of exploring that reckoning with that feeling of longing for something else even as one is engaged in the current reality. In the meantime, I’m trying to maintain a connection in my day-to-day living in a metropolitan area – whether it’s noticing which birds are flying overhead or getting my feet on unpaved ground as much as possible.


Cathy Ulrich is a writer from Montana. Her work has been published in various journals, including Wigleaf, Passages North and Black Warrior Review, as well as being included in Best Microfiction 2019.