Robin Bissett is a teaching artist and writer from Central Texas. She enjoys sharing stories and strengthening literary communities.
We got the chance to ask Robin a few questions and are also happy to re-present her story “Kids” which first appeared in Burning House Press. “Kids” is a touching look at the tensions of imagination, growing up, and learning about loss.
The Monsters were happy to hear that you teach flash to middle and high school students in Austin. Flash seems to be well suited for the growing minds and the ones possibly distracted by other things like hormones!!! Wondering if you could share some thoughts on how you approach teaching them flash and what great a-ha moments have they had?
I have loved teaching Flash Fiction to middle and high school students! This past August, I led a Flash Fiction workshop over Zoom for the Austin Public Library Foundation through the Badgerdog Creative Writing Camp program. My youngest student was twelve, and my oldest student was sixteen. We read pieces by Lydia Davis, Deb Olin Unferth, Zora Neale Hurston, Stuart Dybek, and Amy Hempel, among many other phenomenal flash fiction authors. I first introduced my students to the standard word counts of other forms of fiction before asking them to try their hand at writing flash pieces between 250 and 1,000 words. My students were quick to spot similarities between the poetry and flash fiction genres, and they paid careful attention to the language they used in their prose. Following the prompt “Lost and Found,” one of my students wrote a brilliant piece about an airport traveler whose flip flop flew off and disappeared somewhere while they were frantically sprinting across terminals to catch their flight.
This December, I am leading a one-session Flash Fiction and Story Starter course over Zoom for The Writing Barn. I look forward to teaching participants ages 17 and older. I would love for the members of the Flash Monster!!! community to join me for some flash fiction writing!
Speaking of A-ha moments, what have been some of your favorite discoveries as a reader and writer?
One of the best things I learned recently is that no time spent writing is wasted time. Although some pieces may turn out differently from how the author originally anticipated, all writing is conducive to one’s creative process. There is a chance that bits of the author’s unfinished piece(s) may resurface in a different work later on, whether consciously or subconsciously.
I recently finished reading Alexander Chee’s How to Write an Autobiographical Novel. His dedication to his craft and persistence in writing in times of difficulty has also inspired me recently. I highly recommend his book for writers and other artists.
Our other favorite Monster topic is kind a two-part thing. We like finding new movies or shows to watch and when that goes dry we like talking about the ones we cant stop re-watching or we work into conversations so many times with our friends it gets a little awkward. What are your favorites on those two fronts?
My favorite movie is Adaptation, and my favorite tv show is Fleabag.
Ah, yes. Flash Monsters!!! talk a lot about Adaptation and Charlie Kaufman. What are you working on now? Any hopes and dreams you want to share or do they keep secret until they come true?
Right now, I am working on a collection of short stories and am planning to apply for an MFA in Fiction this fall. I am currently reading A Burning by Megha Majumdar and The Nonexistent Knight by Italo Calvino.
Thank you for taking the time to interview me! I really appreciate the chance to share my love of reading and writing Flash Fiction with the Flash Monsters.
Kids by Robin Bissett
I became a widow at the tender age of nine.
My betrothed, Yuri, and I were both seven years old at the time of our wedding. We married on a cool fall evening in the backyard of my childhood home. We didn’t invite many guests, just our parents, who agreed to help us by overseeing the ceremony. As the sun began to set, my father walked me down the homemade aisle I had designed from cardboard paper and silver glitter. Our mothers feigned their cries as Yuri took my small hands in his and leaned forward to kiss me. His lips were soft and tasted of sugared plum, his favorite snack; sweet with an edge of bitterness.
After that night, we remained blissful for two years, during which we kept attending elementary school and watching anime at his house and pretending things were okay, even though they, things, weren’t okay. Yuri was sick. I was in love. I stayed by his side until the end. The earth continued turning and the sun rose and set each day, unaware of our pain.
Yuri died of leukemia. His parents moved away to a different city to begin a new life with better memories. I lost my husband and best friend and time moved like a sluggish liquid as I slept and woke and swam through the remainder of my school days.
(Originally published by Burning House Press)