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Smoke & Mirrors with Jasmine Sawers

Interview by Karen Craigo (Read the Story) June 21, 2021

Jasmine Sawers

Jasmine Sawers

Peer suspiciously out your window. What is your own sketchiest neighbor up to?

Real talk: This was born out of the common suburban experience of witnessing the comings and goings of one’s neighbors, even if one doesn’t intend to (to say nothing of those for whom this is a hobby). The guy across the street, whom I rarely if ever see come out, has four—count ’em, four—garages. Five if you consider that one of them is a two-car garage attached to another single-car garage. It’s a very small house on a very small plot of land, and this dude has four or five garages, one of which looks bigger than the house itself. The garages have air conditioning units built in. I don’t know what he’s up to, but my porch is right there, and I have a frail, elderly dog who can’t get in or out of the yard without my help several times a day. I can’t not see it; I can’t not wonder.

Interesting progression here, how some random notions sort of gel into a single theory. How did the story unwind for you?

What could my elusive neighbor possibly need all those garages for? One answer was obvious: all the bodies. I went into the piece thinking I would make this list of increasingly outlandish possibilities, that it would be mostly humor and then I’d come in with the gut punch at the end, perhaps about the anguish and toll of hoarding, and the idea of his being a serial killer would be just one ridiculous thought amongst many. However, it became clear pretty quickly that all these bodies languishing on his property was at the heart of the piece, which meant I had to take more care with building to it and then breaking on an emotional climax. So what’s emotionally devastating to him personally? What breaks the spell of his own arrogance and delusions of invincibility? And what about this narrator, an outside party who cannot know all this? Do they in fact know something they shouldn’t and are about to act on it, or do they simply have an imagination that rollicks off the tracks at any provocation? Whose story is it, really?

What do you love and hate most about flash?

Love, in my favorite examples of flash: economy of word, the necessary muscularity of the sentence work, getting in and out like a stab wound, empty spaces that allow the reader’s imagination to bloom rather than shutter, ye olde gut punch, an entire satisfying narrative in a single abuse bouche.

Hate, in flash that doesn’t work for me: deflated moments without depth or tension, arclessness and inertia, thought without action, limp sentences that don’t carry their own weight much less the weight of what’s unsaid.

About the Author

Jasmine Sawers is a Kundiman fellow and graduate of the MFA program at Indiana University. Sawers serves as Associate Fiction Editor for Fairy Tale Review and has work in such publications as Ploughshares, SmokeLong Quarterly, and The Offing. Originally from Buffalo, NY, Sawers now lives and pets dogs outside St. Louis.

About the Interviewer

Karen Craigo is a reporter for the Springfield Business Journal in Missouri, where she was the state’s fifth poet laureate.

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

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