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Smoke & Mirrors: An Interview with Eleanor Pearson

Interview by Karen Craigo (Read the Story) December 17, 2018

Eleanor Pearson

Eleanor Pearson

I’m not familiar with this box riddle. Do you happen to recall how you encountered it? And what is your answer to it?
I actually encountered it in the exact same way as the narrator! It was one of many puzzles and jokes that got passed around my school ad nauseam between about 1st and 3rd grade. To everyone else, the box riddle was just a bad pun disguised as a logic puzzle, but it stuck with me past the punchline.
The story is ultimately an inquiry into the limits of knowing, especially as it relates to what happens to us after death. What’s your personal heaven/box/reincarnation notion?
I’m a committed agnostic (as much as that’s possible), so I can’t give anyone a satisfying answer here. I think that, ultimately, we are all left where the narrator is: holding a belief that may be considered “silly,” but one that’s our own.
I like the feathers-on-dinosaurs smarty-pants mischief-making. You were clearly a smart kid; tell us about a time you were a headache for your teacher.
In fourth grade, I had a teacher whose response to most questions was, “Because I say so.” I wrote a story for her class in which the characters used a word in their language instead of ours. (You knew this because one sentence was literally, “X? No, we call that Y!”) My friends understood what I meant, but my teacher was confused. She claimed that my friends couldn’t possibly understand something that she didn’t, since she was a grown-up, implying that one or all of us were lying. I argued with her for days!

That was only one of many incidents. We did not get along.

Whose writing excites you at the moment?

I am continually in awe of how Nathan Ballingrud blends the fantastic or supernatural with the textures of everyday life. For almost the opposite reason, I love how David Mitchell twists language to make ordinary experiences fresh. And I am an eternal fan of Ursula K. LeGuin. I find something new and profound each time I return to her work.

How do you know if an idea lends itself to flash fiction?

For me, it depends on how complex the idea is. Flash is like a story bubble: very self-contained. Any movement or change, and the piece grows into a short story or beyond.

About the Author

Eleanor Pearson lives in St. Paul, Minnesota, where she supports her writing habit with a variety of jobs. Her fiction has previously been published in Syntax & Salt.

About the Interviewer

Karen Craigo is the author of two full-length poetry collections, Passing Through Humansville and No More Milk, both published by Sundress Publications, and of three chapbooks. She also writes fiction and essays. Professionally, she is a reporter in Springfield, Missouri, for Springfield Business Journal. She is nonfiction editor of Mid-American Review and poetry series editor for Moon City Press, as well as Prose Poetry Editor for Pithead Chapel. She served as the fifth Poet Laureate of Missouri (2019-21).

This interview appeared in Issue Sixty-Two of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Two
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