We recently published K.A. Nielsen’s fabulous “Let Me Bake You a Circus, My Love.

Here, we ask them two questions about their story:

1) I love the combination of the fantastical circus with the act of baking bread — there’s something so lovely about the smell of fresh-baked bread and so magical about visiting a circus. How did you decide to combine these two experiences?

I must credit Writers’ HQ for the inspiration for this piece. Along with offering courses and fostering a supportive writing community, they host a weekly Flash Face-Off where two topics are presented, for example, SHINY vs. DULL. Writers can then write a flash story inspired by one or both of the words. The topic that inspired this particular story was BREAD vs. CIRCUSES. Being a rather literal person, my immediate thought was of a circus made out of bread, perhaps like a showstopper on The Great British Bake-Off but life-size. Once I had the image, I built the story and characters from there.

2) But of course the real story here isn’t this magical circus, but the relationship between the narrator and the character they are creating this beautiful world for. How long do you think they have been waiting for this (imagined) smile?

What a beautiful question! I absolutely agree that the real story here is between the narrator and their love. In fact I wrote an earlier draft which didn’t include a relationship. That draft had a third-person description of a person baking a circus. Some of the surreal imagery was present, but I got bogged down in the mechanics of how you’d bake something that big. Would you need a firehose for the water? A crane to knead it? That version ended up being rather flat, both because I was trying to impose logic on something so illogical and because there was no motivation for the character to bake the circus. Perhaps this is cliché, but love is a powerful motivator. Once that motivation was in place, the story flowed easily.

As far as how long the narrator has waited for this smile, I can see several answers to that. I think as I wrote this, I imagined the narrator already being well-acquainted with their love’s smile. They know this smile well, but they’d still do anything for it. I can see though how this breathless whimsy might be associated with new love. Perhaps the narrator has seen this smile before, but they’re longing to be the cause of it. Even though the details of the relationship are sparse, my hope is this leaves room for the reader to draw connections between the story and their own experiences with love.