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Smoke & Mirrors with Melissa Beneche

Interview by Mick Parsons (Read the Story) September 27, 2021

Melissa Beneche

Melissa Beneche

Demonstrating a sharp sense of language and storytelling in “No Special Need” in the most recent issue of Bennington Review (issue 9), Melissa Beneche also shows us some of what flash fiction can do in “The Thought of Roux.”

Why do you like flash? How is it different from longer form short stories?

I love the kinetic energy of flash. Its urgency, its intimacy, the way it shows a universe (of absurdity, of darkness, of joy) in a moment, or vice versa—how a generation can age in a blink. Of course, short stories can also have and do all these things, but I think flash more eagerly handles them.

I’ve been in workshops where trigger warnings were almost discussed as much as the drafts. Do they serve a purpose in the reading and appreciation of a work? 

That depends on the specific reader, I think. In my workshop experience, trigger warnings were not discussed often. What mattered was the quality of the work. And including trigger warnings does not hurt the work. I sometimes view them as film ratings. For my own mental health, I prefer knowing that a certain film is rated R for violence. However, that rating alone will not inform my appreciation or dislike of said film. At the end, was the film a great work of art?

What writers draw you in as a reader?

Too many to name! I can be drawn in by any good writer. Any writer who has something unique and important and urgent to say and does so in a beautiful way. I do love lyricism, like in the works of Edwidge Danticat, Toni Morrison, and Jesmyn Ward. Most people would not call Jhumpa Lahiri a lyrical writer, yet I love her works, too, being so effortlessly perceptive to each character’s every heartbeat.

Who are you reading now?

I’m finishing Dana Spiotta’s wonderful new novel, Wayward. Just started Mona Awad’s All’s Well, which is both funny and painful. Kaveh Akbar has published his lovely poetry collection Pilgrim Bell. The great poet Rita Dove recently released Playlist for the Apocalypse, and that is next on my list (so excited to read it).

What are you working on now?

More short stories (one—“No Special Need”—appears in the current issue of Bennington Review), and maybe a novel.

About the Author

Melissa Beneche is a daughter of Haitian immigrants and grew up in Florida and Haiti. She holds a BA in Creative Writing from Florida State University and, as of 2021, an MFA in Fiction from Syracuse University. Her work is forthcoming in Bennington Review.

About the Interviewer

Mick Parsons is the author of the poetry collection 92 Tanka, (2021, Basement Books.) and the chapbook God’s Tired Plumbers (2020). His work will or has appeared in SmokeLong QuarterlyImpspiredMoon City ReviewCajun Mutt PressUnavoidable DisasterContemporary Haibun OnlineThimble Literary MagazinePoetry FlashThe New SouthernerPegasusAntique ChildrenThe Smoking PoetThe Dispatch LitaReviewThe American Mythville ReviewThe Licking River Review, Inscape, and on semantikon.com. He also is the author of two other poetry collections, several other chapbooks, a collection of short stories, and a novella. He’s organized open mics and readings all over the Midwest. He publishes new work often on Instagram (@dirtysacred). He is also the host and producer of the travel story podcast, Record of a Well-Worn Pair of Travel Boots.

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

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SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Next Date to Join: January 1!

On September 1, SmokeLong launched a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop is happening right now on our dedicated workshop site. If you choose to join us, you will work in a small group of around 10-12 participants to give and receive feedback. Each Monday, you will receive a new writing task (one writing task each week) designed by the senior editor team of SmokeLong. The core workshop is asynchronous, so you can take part from anywhere at anytime. We are excited about creating a supportive, consistent and structured environment for flash writers to work on their craft in a community.