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SmokeLong Quarterly

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Smoke & Mirrors with Melissa Bowers

Interview by Shelly Weathers (Read the Story) June 21, 2021

Melissa Bowers

Melissa Bowers

“Undergrowth”: lovely study of the unsaid. A teacher once called that “cloistering the deets,” wherein everything is seen through surrounding events or conditions of character. What is created by cloistering (hard borrow) key information?

I think your teacher got to the heart of one of the best things about flash—both writing it and reading it. The form allows so much room for different people to fill in those intentional blank spaces, which gives it a kind of shapeshifting ability. As readers, we get to assign some of the details and create meanings that are personally relevant, so we’re able to inhabit the story the way we choose, on our own terms.

I think of flash fiction as the naked selfie of writing. Nowhere to hide. Nothing to distract or soften. Is your process in this form a stripping away or a building with exactness?

Oooh, I love this question. When I first tried writing flash, I took a few of my longer stories and chopped them down to fit inside tiny word count parameters. For me, this doesn’t usually wind up being super successful. I have better luck—and more fun—building something I know from the start will be small. I’m also a big fan of repetition and segments and odd forms: sometimes I can see the structure first, and then the story jigsaws into place afterward.

Times are strange, aren’t they? What writing do you find yourself most drawn to in the pandemic/perhaps-post-pandemic days?

In this particular season of my life it seems I can’t stop writing about parents and children, especially all the beautiful and terrible ways our kids leave us. They grow up, they move away, they become full human people you need to learn and relearn forever. The last bit of this micro has echoes of my first SmokeLong story, and it feels really meaningful to me that both pieces get to live side by side in one of my favorite journals.

Recently, I’ve also been writing a lot about space. My kids go through these almost-obsessive phases of interest in random things—world flags, fossils, animal defense mechanisms—and right now they’re dropping solar system facts all over the place, all day long. Sometimes I pick one up and try to wrap it in fiction.

About the Author

Melissa Bowers is the winner of the Breakwater Review Fiction Prize, the F(r)iction flash fiction competition, and The Writer’s inaugural personal essay contest, and her stories are featured as prize-winners in Lunate, Barren Magazine, and Pithead Chapel. She has been shortlisted for the Bridport Prize, nominated for The Best Small Fictions 2021, and selected for the 2021 Wigleaf Top 50. Melissa’s work has also appeared or is forthcoming in The Cincinnati Review, The Greensboro Review, Atticus Review, Fractured Lit, Pidgeonholes, CHEAP POP, and The Boston Globe Magazine, among others. Find her on Twitter @MelissaBowers_.

About the Interviewer

Shelly Weathers lives and teaches in the Southwest. Her short stories have appeared in Moon City Review, The Adroit Journal, Tahoma Literary Review, and elsewhere, and has received the John Steinbeck and Beacon Street prizes for fiction.

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

May 30-Aug 28!


From May 30 to August 28 2022, SmokeLong is going to host a superworkshop. We want to spend the summer with you, the flash community. Our workshops take place on a devoted website where you can create a profile, interact with the flash community, and take part in group discussions on craft, but A SmokeLong Summer will be much more.