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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoke & Mirrors
with Annette Pearson

Interview by Audra Kerr Brown (Read the Story) September 19, 2022

Annette Pearson

Annette Pearson

Did you set out to write “My Mother’s Breakup Story” as a micro, or did you reach that decision during the editing process?

Always a micro. When I was growing up, my mother would tell me and my sister stories about our father, and most of what I know about him came from those secondhand tales. In my retelling of this particular one, I wanted to capture my mother’s dramatic flare in as few words as possible, so I kept whittling away at the word count. At one point, I think I had it stripped down to a very terse fifty!

Micro-stories often rely on implication. Tell us about the role of subtext in this piece and how it relates to the final, resonating image of the rotary sprinkler.

My mother’s fierceness around protecting her home and her two daughters was always obvious to me, but what I didn’t realize until many years later was the pain she was never able to let go of. I was an infant when this event occurred, but I always knew the very spot in the front yard where my mother dragged the black trunk she’d packed with my father’s clothes. The repeated slap of the water from the sprinkler onto it personifies both her continued resentment of him and regret for her impulsivity.

I get the sense the narrator has thought about this story over and over, but this is their first time sharing it.  So, even though there’s a feeling of distance (in both time and emotion), there’s also intimacy.  To whom do you envision the narrator speaking?

It was years before I wondered about the accuracy of this story of my mother’s. I think I wanted to use her as narrator of the events—which belonged to her—and then to find my place in the legend by situating myself there, too.

What are you working on now?

For a few years, I’ve been working on a book-length project, and so flash pieces provide some much-needed relief from running that marathon. Here’s a quick three-sentence summary of that work-in-progress, which is now in the revision stage:

After my father’s death, his widow summons his three disconnected families to a “viewing.” My journey will wind across Texas and through memory and story, to a much-earlier loss and its continued conflicts. This Is Where I’ll Be is a memoir about ambiguous loss, displacement, and finding one’s way home.

About the Author

Annette Pearson is a former college writing instructor living in Austin, Texas, and on Galveston Island. She is currently working on a memoir about ambiguous loss, displacement, and finding one’s way home, titled This Is Where I’ll Be. Excerpts from that have been shortlisted for the 2022 Writers League of Texas Manuscript Contest and the Bellingham Review’s Annie Dillard Award for Creative Nonfiction, and will also appear this fall in Kaleidoscoped.

About the Interviewer

Audra Kerr Brown lives at the end of a dirt road in Iowa. Her work has been selected for The Best Small Fictions and Wigleaf’s annual Top 50 (Very) Short Fictions list. She is the founder of The Flashtronauts! YouTube channel, and her chapbook, hush hush hush, is available at Harbor Editions. Follow her on Twitter at @audrakerrbrown and @flashtronauts

This interview appeared in A SmokeLong Summer 2022 — Special Issue of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly A SmokeLong Summer 2022 — Special Issue
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The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction

Deadline November 15!

The SmokeLong Quarterly Award for Flash Fiction (The Smokey) is a biennial competition that celebrates and compensates excellence in flash. The grand prize winner of The Smokey is automatically nominated for The Best Small Fictions, The Pushcart, Best of the Net, and any other prize we deem appropriate. In addition to all this love, we will also pay the grand prize winner $2500. Second place: $1000. Third place $500. Finalists: $100. All finalists and placers will be published in the special competition issue in December 2022.