Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with L.W. Nicholson

by Michelle Ross Read the Story March 25, 2019

There’s much to love in this story. One of my favorite lines is that image of moving the frogs’ eggs as being like “capturing and releasing stars.” And then maybe my second favorite moment is how the story shifts from this lovely image to the startling-in-a-different-kind-of-way line, “Bee quit coming to my house soon after that day.” Why that shift right there at that particular moment? And did these lines come quickly and easily or only after revision?

I liked the way it felt to have that abrupt shift, and I like a little choppiness. That said, it could also be attributed to the fact that I’m bad at transitions— both in life and in writing.

In regards to your second question, I’m not sure at what point in the process certain lines emerge. I’ll tinker with a thing in spurts over a long expansion of time. I don’t like to visit a story for too long because I don’t enjoy listening to myself talk. I’ve thrown away every diary I’ve ever tried to keep. This is why flash fiction works best for me. When I’m choosing word after word, I often feel like I’m playing hopscotch with wobbly legs. So I give a story a bit of my attention in small doses, and I can’t pinpoint exactly when the sentences pop up.

Have you ever transported or handled frog eggs yourself? I would totally believe that you had.

I have a distinct memory of doing this exact thing—“rescuing” frog eggs—when I was a kid; my arms looked like they were covered in translucent raspberry jam. I’ve lived in the rural Ozarks my entire life. I’m usually either sweaty or sticky. I fell in love with my husband when he told me about a pet raccoon he had as a child. I am both Tucker and Dale.

I’m struck by the mother claiming not to remember Bee. Do you think she really doesn’t? If so, why do you think that is?

There’s that scene in Fahrenheit 451 when Montag asks his wife, Mildred, if she remembers when they first met ten years ago, and she laughs off the fact that she cannot recall it. The whole thing is about distraction as a means of control and what that does to memory. Real Chomsky stuff. Memory is an interesting beast. I also know that there are things about childhood which feel large and significant that are, to an outsider, even a parent, inconsequential. From the narrator’s perspective, this was a big deal—this moment of heroism and this friend whose life was so different from her own. From the mother’s perspective, her daughter’s friend came over and she may have served them both sandwiches. Probably on white bread. Probably with bologna.

I wonder, if Bee were to tell this story, what would her version look like? How would she describe that spring day?

I’m sure she would have been happy to have a moment in which she felt she had some control. This is especially true for Bee, but it’s also true for all people—young and old. A little autonomy is important and necessary.

Do please tell me, for I am so completely ignorant here other than I catch that it must involve the Spice Girls, about Spice World.

I can remember reading a Christian parenting magazine when I was in the fifth grade—because that is the kind of thing you do when you are a very weird kid—and there was an article about how the Spice Girls were terrible role models. Therefore, it was understandable that I was anxiously keyed up when my friend asked me to a sleepover to watch Spice World. It was directed by Bob Spiers, who also directed cinematic classic That Darn Cat. Meat Loaf makes an appearance, and I distinctly remember a lot of faux leather and an alien abduction. Jackie Zebrowski would call it “a romp.” My eleven-year-old self gives it one million out of five stars.

About the Author:

L.W. Nicholson is a writer, librarian, and homesteader in Southeast Missouri. Her work has appeared in Sundog Lit, Moon City Review, Passages North, among others.

About the Interviewer:

Michelle Ross is the author of There’s So Much They Haven’t Told You, which won the 2016 Moon City Press Short Fiction Award. Her fiction has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Electric Literature’s Recommended ReadingTahoma Literary ReviewThreadcount, TriQuarterly, and other venues. She is fiction editor of Atticus Review.

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.