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Smoke & Mirrors with Patricia Q. Bidar

Interview by María Alejandra Barrios (Read the Story) March 23, 2020

Patricia Quintana Bidar

Art by Katelin Kinney

What inspired this story? How was the process of writing it?

I was in CVS and a woman a little like Charles was at the counter with the cashier, who was getting impatient with her. I was next in line, and the cashier called me to the counter. I asked the woman if she knew what kind of charger she needed. She said yes, her brand-new charger had just been stolen. I’d worked in homeless services for many years, so I asked if she was staying at the local shelter. She said, No, she was staying at a shelter fifteen miles away. In the time it took to have the conversation, the cashier was ringing me up. I looked to see if a line had grown, half expecting folks to be irritated at me. Instead, I saw only sympathetic smiles. I took my purchases and cash, palmed the twenty to the woman who needed a charger, and left. Then I went home and wrote notes about what had happened. Part of the energy that spurred me was the feeling that I’d given a few bucks to someone in desperate straits, then got to go home and live my life. My contrition over my unearned pride propelled the draft.

How did you get started with writing? Is your preferred style of writing short stories, if so, why?

I do love short stories. My guiding lights—Alice Munro and my thesis advisor, Elizabeth Tallent—write LONG short stories. It has been said that short stories are like an arrow to the target. If so, flash is like … what? A blow dart to the neck, I guess! I am pretty old and have been writing forever. Being accepted to UC Davis’s graduate writing program in the early nineties was an amazing gift. Then the turns and twists and obligations of family life led me mainly away from writing for twenty years. I began writing very small narratives, never calling them anything in particular. When our kids left for college, I was able to think about what could be next. I learned there is a name for the style of my fledgling efforts: flash fiction. I found a highly recommended teacher and began. That was Meg Pokrass, in 2017. I work full time and also run a freelance business, writing for nonprofits, so I have all too little time to write fiction. Flash makes every minute count!

I’ve read other stories of yours where you mention siblings and family. Do you often write about family? What interests you about this?

Sometimes it is siblings and family. Other times it is old friends, workmates, or even strangers. A topic that is constantly on my mind is the responsibility we have for others who are struggling. I grapple with this every day. It is one of the reasons I have worked in human services for so long, for certain. But I struggle with this in every single relationship, including online connections! I worry so much people will count on me and I will let them down. Let’s say boundaries are of great interest to me.

There are so many beautifully crafted sentences in this story. What is your revision process like?

Um, never ending. I’m not awesome at taking my own advice of letting things simmer. I’ll be super excited about a new story and send it out. Then with each round of rejections, I revise and polish and deepen more, and send it again.

What are some of your favorite flash fiction writers?

Gee, I read so much outside of flash, plus discover new flash writers every day through the magic of Twitter. Recent works by Marcela Fuentes, Tara Lemma, and Maddy Raskulinecz come to mind. Two books I’ve recently devoured and felt ignited by are Dan Crawley’s recent flash chapbook, Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction) and This. This. This. Is. Love. Love. Love. by Jennifer Wortman (Split Lip Press).

About the Author

Patricia Quintana Bidar is a western writer from the Port of Los Angeles area. Her work has been featured in Wigleaf, SmokeLong Quarterly, The Pinch, Little Patuxent Review, Flash Fiction America (W.W. Norton), Best Small Fictions 2023 (Alternating Current), and Best Microfiction 2023 (Pelekinesis Press). Her book of short fiction, Pardon Me for Moonwalking, will be published by Unsolicited Press in 2025. She lives with her family and unusual dog outside of Oakland, California. Patricia is also a submissions editor for SmokeLong Quarterly.

About the Interviewer

María Alejandra Barrios is a pushcart nominated writer born in Barranquilla, Colombia. She has lived in Bogotá and Manchester where in 2016 she completed a Masters degree in Creative Writing from The University of Manchester. She was selected for the Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program: Performing Literary Arts for the city of New York in 2018. Her stories have been published in Hobart Pulp, Reservoir Journal, Bandit Fiction, Cosmonauts Avenue, Jellyfish Review, Lost Balloon, Vol.1 Brooklyn, El Malpensante and Shenadoah Literary. Her poetry has been published in The Acentos Review. Her work has been supported by organizations like Vermont Studio Center, Caldera Arts Center and the New Orleans Writing Residency.

About the Artist

Katelin Kinney is from the hills and fields of Southern Indiana. She attained two BFAs from the Herron School of Art and Design in Indianapolis, IN. Her portfolio consists of fine art and commercial freelance work.

This interview appeared in Issue Sixty-Seven of SmokeLong Quarterly.
SmokeLong Quarterly Issue Sixty-Seven
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