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“The thing you love”: An Interview With Guest Reader Leonora Desar

Interview by Shasta Grant January 7, 2019

Happy New Year! What’s your philosophy on New Year’s resolution? Did you make any? Do you feel invigorated by the idea of a fresh start at this time of year? 

Happy New Year!! I’m terrible with New Year’s resolutions (making them and keeping them) but it’s never too late to start, right? Here’s a list:

  1. To stick to every resolution on this list
  2. To stop being late for stuff
  3. To actually finish stuff
  4. To write—cheesy as this will sound—for the sheer joy of it, even if it stinks
  5. To lock up my Inner Critic in the basement. I don’t actually have a basement, but I’m thinking of getting one, for this purpose. Which might be difficult living in New York. I’ll probably just end up leaving her with the neighbors—which also might be difficult. She’s persistent. She’s already telling me how off-track I’m getting and not to talk about the MetroCard
  6. The MetroCard— This is a thing. I usually have not one but seven MetroCards, none of which have any money on them. So my goal is to always and only have one card in my purse at all times
  7. To get a purse. A real one. (Only 11-year-olds have pink purses with ink stains everywhere)
  8. To get more glittered notebooks. Glittered notebooks rock. 

Are there certain themes or topics you find yourself returning to in your writing?

Great question. I’m thinking about a recent workshop. Here’s some feedback (loosely paraphrased).

—Leonora, you tend to write a lot about imaginary family people. Brothers, uncles, sisters

—Leonora, you seem to really like em dashes a lot

—(and lists)

—Leonora, your stories are really short

—There’s a lot of sex in this one

—Leonora, what’s the deal with you and This Is Us (*A great show. This is NOT part of the loose paraphrase)

—This one’s a bloody mess

I also tend to write a lot about weird-metaphors-turned real. Naked women showing up to the door, oppressed wives getting buried, cheating men turned to fire. 

And fantasies. I’ve given up on giving them a plot. I’m bad at that: Plot. I simply call it “In this fantasy…” In this fantasy I hang with Jack from This Is Us; In this fantasy me and Dexter are BFFs; In this fantasy I save my father from himself.

In this fantasy I can actually write a plot.

In addition to writing fiction, you’re also a journalist. I’m curious how you move between these two forms of writing – do they inform each other?

I don’t write much journalism anymore but doing it really taught me a lot. Mostly, that concision can be a good thing, and that people are always challenging your expectations of them—A professor called this the “Airplane Theory.” He said, one day you might be on a plane going to an interview. You’ll have all these ideas, expectations of how the person is going to be. These will probably be wrong.

I couldn’t wait. I’d always wanted to fly in to an interview. In my case it was more the “F Train Theory.” I met a blind photographer. A ghost hunter. I met a con artist. I met a private detective whose idea of a high-extreme stakeout was chilling in the car—

I was expecting drama and I got bupkis. But that’s ok—bupkis can be a good thing. It’s real. And in some ways more interesting. I like having my expectations challenged and I always try to remember that when writing fiction.

I think, is there enough bupkis here? Are these characters real enough?

What kind of story would you love to find in your queue this week?

Well. This is a hard one. Hard because it’s like a guy. You can make a laundry list of amazing qualities but in real life the mojo just isn’t there. My laundry list story-wise would look something like this:

  • sad
  • funny
  • both
  • so more like funny-sad, or sad-funny, or maybe sad-sad funny. Or sour-funny; depending on the whole sadness/funny ratio proportion
  • resonance (where the sad-funny thing really hits you)

I’m not doing a good job of explaining this. I tend to do that. I should probably just give you an example. But I’m also afraid that if I do that you won’t send me your best work. It’s the Laundry List Dilemma—maybe your best work, the thing you wrote with joy and off-the-cuff while banning your Inner Critic; doesn’t fit these rules.

In that case ignore me. Send me the thing you love, the one that breaks the rules, the thing you wrote with feeling.*

*a.k.a. with your Inner Critic chained up in the basement. But let out for good behavior later, of course; for editing.

PS I already broke two of my New Year’s resolutions. I won’t say which—

About the Interviewer

Shasta Grant  is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest and the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellowship. She has received residencies from Hedgebrook and The Kerouac Project and was selected as a 2020 Aspen Words Emerging Writer Fellow. Her work has appeared in cream city review, Epiphany, Hobart, wigleaf, and elsewhere. She has an MFA from Sarah Lawrence College and divides her time between Singapore and Indianapolis.


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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.