Smoke & Mirrors with Avra Margariti

by Leigh Camacho Rourks Read the Story December 16, 2019

Your title, “The Sugar That Comes from Funerals,” is so beautifully striking as both a title and a key resonate image in the piece. It does so much work in opening up emotion, culture, sensory experience, and memory. Did this image of funeral sugar come first (as some titles do) or was it something you found as you wrote the piece?

I was working with dark and light subject matters when I wrote this story, so I wanted to achieve a balance of opposite and complementary forces. In my mind, Greek funerals always taste like sugar because of the food and sweetened coffee served after the service. The sugar of funerals is offset against the salt of the sea. I played around with these concepts until I came up with my title after I’d written this piece.

One of the things I love about your story is how both tender and fierce it feels. In fact, it reads like a study in contrasting emotions. Did telling this story in flash aid in creating such a delicate picture of the chaos that is emotion, especially teen emotion (or make it more difficult)?  

Flash fiction has come to be my preferred method of storytelling. I’m attempting minimalism, which is something I never thought I’d introduce into my life. I like how flash can be conscious and concise, but also dreamlike and introspective, and I wanted to weave those qualities into my story.

I love stories like this one that build a strong sense of place, that are very planted, not just in a geographical zone, but in the complicated meanings that we people overlay on spaces. How does a sense of place inform your work?

This is one of the few times I’ve written a piece set in a concrete location. I usually set my stories adrift in space and time. This time, however, I drew inspiration from my grandparents’ seaside village, where I used to spend my summer holidays for the first eighteen years of my life.

Sexuality is such a complicated space and this piece embraces that, giving us no neat boxes or bows. It feels so important, as if this piece gives us a moment of pure truth. Do you actively search for these blurred spaces in your own art and in other people’s art? 

Absolutely. I prefer blurred spaces to crisp lines. The human experience is difficult to compartmentalize, although there are cases where labels are liberating and bring people together instead of dividing them.

What is a word you really, really love?

My current favorite is the word “liminality.” I also like the concept of liminal spaces, which tends to appear a lot in my writing.

About the Author:

Avra Margariti is a queer Social Work undergrad from Greece. She enjoys storytelling in all its forms and writes about diverse identities and experiences. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Daily Science Fiction, The Forge Literary, The Journal of Compressed Creative Arts, Argot Magazine, The Arcanist, and other venues. You can find her on twitter @avramargariti.

About the Interviewer:

Leigh Camacho Rourks is a Cuban-American author and professor. She is the recipient of the St. Lawrence Press Award, the Glenna Luschei Prairie Schooner Award, and the Robert Watson Literary Review Prize, and her work has been shortlisted for several other awards. Her writing has appeared in a number of journals, including Kenyon ReviewPrairie SchoonerTriQuarterlyDecember Magazine, and Greensboro Review. Her collection of short stories, Moon Trees and Other Orphans, is forthcoming from Black Lawrence Press (Sept. 2019).

About the Artist:

Paul Bilger's photography has appeared at Qarrtsiluni, Brevity, and Kompresja. His work has also been featured on music releases by Dead Voices on Air and Autistici. When not taking pictures, he is a lecturer in philosophy and film theory at Chatham University. He is the art director at SmokeLong Quarterly.