“As strong as espresso:” An Interview with Guest Reader Monet Patrice Thomas
You lived and worked in China recently. Can you tell us a little about that experience and how it influenced your writing?
I lived in Beijing for just over year, from Nov 2016 to December 2017. I left one week after voting for Hillary Clinton in Payette, Idaho where I was living at the time with my boyfriend and his mother. I went to China, not necessarily because of the current President, but more because of the environment that had allowed a man like him to become President. And because I had always believed I was a person who would travel the world, but had never followed through. Living in China was a pivotal time for me. I discovered I loved teaching, especially younger children and I had time to commit to my writing, which I did. That commitment bore more fruit than I could anticipate and I had a banner year of publishing and gaining new opportunities to be an active member in the literary community. It was also mentally exhausting to be in a place where the learning curve just never let up. But I grew so much while I was there and I recommend everyone do their best to travel and experience different ways of life.
What themes do you find yourself frequently writing about? What themes are you drawn to when reading?
I love to explore power dynamics, between friends & lovers, but also between strangers. I also like to allow readers access to the minds of women — the kind men find frustrating or difficult — who don’t often get the voice in the story. I like to turn that around. My favorite thing to do is create tension between the interiority of the main character and her outward reaction to absurd circumstances. If I’m honest, my impulses are sex and murder and I often have to rewrite a story where neither are pertinent subjects.
What do you think flash fiction can do that longer stories can’t?
I truly believe flash fiction is closer in form to a poem than a novel. Someone is going to fight me over that, but hear me out. When I went to graduate school to study poetry it seemed like prose poems were the new wave in form and we spent so many classes arguing over the difference between a prose poem and paragraph. I never fell on either side of the argument, because I’d read examples that could be perceived as both. But then Melissa Kwasny’s prose poems from her collection Pictograph were brought forth for discussion and she so perfectly captured how a poem without a line break could & should exist, that now I know one when I see it. It is a concentration of language, of necessary details, of movement both emotional and physical. And in that way, it’s like flash, which should be a distillation of emotion as strong as espresso, nothing extraneous.
What kind of story would you love to see in the queue this week?
I want to read stories that move. I want to start in one place, metaphorically or literally, and end up very far away. I’d love to hear a voice so distinct I’d know the person if I heard them talking on the street. I want to read language that makes me take a sharp breath and burn with envy that I hadn’t thought of it myself.
About the Reader:
Monet Patrice Thomas (@monetwithlove) is a writer and poet from North Carolina. She earned her MFA in Poetry from the Inland Northwest Center for Writers at Eastern Washington University in Spokane, Washington. Her writing has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize, as well as several best-of-the-net competitions. Her story, Ring of Salt was chosen by Aimee Bender to be included in the 2018 edition of Best Small Fictions. Monet's poetry, short fiction, and essays can be found online at such places as Hobart, Off Assignment, Cosmonauts Avenue, and Split Lip Magazine. She currently interviews first time authors for The Rumpus and is a reader for the Wigleaf Top 50. At the moment she's writing a memoir about her year living and teaching abroad in Beijing, China. A full list of her publications can be found on her website.
About the Interviewer:
Shasta Grant is the author of the chapbook Gather Us Up and Bring Us Home (Split Lip Press, 2017). She was the 2016 SmokeLong Quarterly Kathy Fish Fellow and she won the 2015 Kenyon Review Short Fiction Contest. Her stories have appeared in Hobart, matchbook, MonkeyBicycle, wigleaf, and elsewhere.