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Smoke & Mirrors with Rosaleen Lynch

Interview by Hananah Zaheer (Read the Story) December 20, 2021

Rosaleen Lynch

Rosaleen Lynch

This story, with so many big life things going on in such a small space, is a wonder. What sparked it and how does the title relate to your inspiration, if it does at all?

Thanks, Hananah! It’s one of the great things about flash fiction, that we get to plant all these seeds, hoping they’ll grow. A lot of my writing is around the uses we have for a woman’s body and the social, religious, and capitalist pressures. Whether it’s the commodification or objectification or how our bodies are controlled to reproduce a workforce to keep the cycle going or the effects of climate crisis. Every International Women’s Day and month I look for the seeds of such stories. In March 2020 I wrote a micro, “Other Uses for a Woman’s Body,” and in March 2021, this story, “Our Lady of Perpetual Plastic.”

I wrote it after reading a headline about proposals that attacks on statues be given longer prison sentences than attacks on women and two articles, one from Erin Brokovich, on the effects of plastics on fertility. All against a background of climate crisis and bans on single-use plastic and research showing the amount of plastic we ingest each month is about the equivalent of a Lego brick.

I always admire stories that are ambitious with the way they are structured and this one certainly dictates its own rules with punctuation. Like a single-sentence story. 

I’d write everything in a breathless paragraph if I could. I love how a first-person narrative flows like a stream of consciousness and I find it easier to read aloud carried on the tide, however, it doesn’t work for everyone, so I take editorial advice and pause, and leave some white-space stepping stones, but there is something powerful about a block of text filling an entire page like an ocean, especially if it’s justified (in both senses!).

As I read the story, I realized that it had a sort of internal rhythm and that there were words playing together in rhyme and music. Was that intentional or something the story brought up? Can you talk about the effect you meant to create?

The story always had the rhyme of fields and yield in the first line. I liked how it brought up and linked ideas around climate crisis and food production and reproduction and the other meaning of women’s bodies yielding to pressure.

I love reading my work aloud to my first reader (my partner, Tom O’Brien, another writer). I am an anxious reader for others but noticed how it was easier to read aloud when it flowed more easily, like a song or the oral tradition of storytelling. And of course writing workshop advice is to read it aloud to hear if it sounds right. I do chase patterns and symmetry. I find rhythm, rhyme, and repetition soothing, and I love how prose poetry and flash fiction overlap. A couple of weeks ago, someone told me how much they liked my poetry reading after I read a piece of flash fiction. I took it as a compliment. I admire poetry and this is as close as I get to it.

This story is an interesting mix of themes—belief in religion and motherhood and the fickle gods of plastic (perhaps consumerism?) Can you talk about how each of these came to be of interest to you?

As a girl growing up in a Catholic patriarchy in Ireland, as an immigrant mother of a girl, as a youth and community worker working with families and a peer supporter of women around their pregnancy in London’s East End, I see how women’s bodies are constantly being controlled and I know our vulnerability in climate crisis, socially, economically and culturally. Capitalism is killing women and the planet, while billionaires are taking day trips to space. Meanwhile, declining fertility rates and Gilead-type laws are giving women fewer choices. I feel a responsibility to talk about it and flash fiction is one of the places I can plant seeds.

Are you a Lego-builder and if so, what is the biggest thing you have ever made?

We have Lego at most of our youth centre sessions. It’s great for creativity and those conversations you can only have when your hands and eyes are busy.  We do “biggests” and “bests” but try to redistribute the wealth of gold stars. The biggest thing I made recently was in a challenge to build the best bridge across two chairs. Mine was the longest and to the untrained eye it might look like it was the best, but when we changed the criteria to strength by seeing which would hold an object’s weight, one of the young people’s bridge was best, and when it came to creativity, another young person’s was best. And however corny it sounds—everyone did do their best!

About the Author

Rosaleen Lynch, an Irish community worker and writer in the East End of London with words in lots of lovely places and can be found on Twitter @quotes_52 and 52Quotes.blogspot.com.

About the Interviewer

Hananah Zaheer

Hananah is a writer, editor, improvisor and photographer. She serves as a Fiction Editor for Los Angeles Review, and as senior editor for SAAG: a dissident literary anthology—a project that seeks to not only lay claim to revolutionary ideas and avant-garde traditions, but to make space for radical and experimental South Asian art and writing in the literary world. She is the founder of the Dubai Literary Salon, an international prose-reading series.

She is the author of Lovebirds (Bull City Press, 2021). Other writing has appeared or is forthcoming in places such as Kenyon Review, Best Small Fictions 2021, Waxwing, AGNI, Pithead Chapel, Smokelong (Pushcart nomination), Virginia Quarterly Review, McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, South West Review, Alaska Quarterly Review (with a Notable Story mention in Best American Short Stories 2019) and Michigan Quarterly Review, where she won the Lawrence Foundation Prize for Fiction. She was awarded a Tennessee Williams Scholarship in Fiction at the Sewanee Writers’ Conference for 2019, was a finalist for the Smoke Long Fellowship 2019, the Doris Betts’ Fiction prize 2014 and a recipient of residencies and fellowships from the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, Rivendell Writers’ Colony and the Ragdale Foundation. Her work has been nominated for the Pushcart prize.

You can find her at www.hananahzaheer.com or on Twitter @hananahzaheer

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

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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.