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Smoke & Mirrors With Nadia Born 

Interview by Mary Henn (Read the Story) March 22, 2021

Nadia Born

Nadia Born

“Checking for Ticks” leaves me with an understanding of how obsession, grief, and concern can manifest in actions, in relationships. Theo seems to be a character inhabited by the loss (or near loss) of his sister. Can you talk a little about how you capture the complexities of those emotions through characterization of Theo and in so few words?

I grew up in the Midwest and some of my first memories are pairs of hands checking for ticks in my hair. It’s such a tender, physical act of love. And if a tick is found, there’s an immediate sense of being saved. As the tick checker, Theo feels that responsibility—even obsession—to save after what happened to his sister. I think he’s best characterized by this simple action as he seeks the physical comfort of preventing loss from reoccurring.

The piece is achieved through bursts of images and scene. There’s zero interjection from the narrator about how to interpret those things. There’s no dialogue. Do you craft most [flash] pieces in that way?

Interesting question. My work is often born out of image, so I do think I lean on detail and mood while drafting. But it depends. I think the characters here are relying on tactile expression, so it’s natural they’re rather quiet. I’ve written other pieces with characters who are much “chattier” (internally and externally), though I admit image often takes on significant lyrical weight for me no matter what.

Endings are so important and can be difficult to get right. The ending in “Checking for Ticks” is quiet and shifts from the moment in the foxtails to a metaphor of a spinning globe. Can you describe how you decided on the last sentence? Were there other iterations of the ending? When did the ending feel right to you?

There were other iterations of the ending, but I kept coming back to the line of the spinning globe. First of all, I wanted to put a magnifying glass to this small act of love—of checking for ticks. But I also liked the fragility of this line: the sense that our lives are threatened every day by things big and small, yet we carry on. The world keeps spinning, so to speak.

When writing flash, do you find yourself starting with a longer draft and cutting away excess, or do you have a pretty clear conception of what a piece will be from the get-go?

I’m a chronic long drafter. I like exhausting everything in my brain surrounding a concept and then I’ll go back and see what sticks. I’ll confess that the first draft for “Checking for Ticks” was three times as long.

Where do you go to read new flash work? Which literary journals and/or writers are you reading for inspiration?

SmokeLong Quarterly, Passages North, Wigleaf, and Fractured Lit are my favorites. I’m also a fan of Cincinnati Review’s MiCRo series because of all the flash in translation they publish.

About the Author

Nadia Born is an emerging writer with a B.A. in Creative Writing from Northwestern University. Her work has been published in the minnesota review.

About the Interviewer

Mary Henn is an emerging poet and nonfiction writer and the recipient of a 2020 AWP Intro Journals Award. She is currently in the MFA program at The University of Missouri-Kansas City, where she teaches writing. In addition to teaching at the university, she teaches art to elementary and middle school students in Kansas City’s urban core.

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

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SmokeLong Fitness--The Community Workshop

Beginning September 1, 2022! Register Now!

Starting September 1, SmokeLong will launch a workshop environment/community christened SmokeLong Fitness. This asynchronous community workshop will happen on our dedicated workshop site. You will work in small groups of around 10 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.