SmokeLong Quarterly

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“Layers of meaning”: An Interview With Guest Reader Eva Wong Nava

Interview by Shasta Grant February 11, 2019

Eva Wong Nava will be giving away a signed copy of her book, Open: A Boy’s Wayang Adventure (Ethos Books, 2018) which won the bronze medal at the Moonbeam Children’s Book Award in 2018.


You have an interest in art (as well as an M.A. in Art History). Can you tell us about how your interest in art and flash fiction intersect?

As an English teacher, I used to teach creative writing using images as prompts. They could be any type of images, not necessarily ones that have an art historical value (yet).  We are surrounded by images on a daily basis and these images — moving and still — find their way into our minds where they are embedded into our unconscious. In fact, I would go so far as to say that the human experience is one lived in imagery and images. Every image we see or live through tells a story. Every image prods us to seek meaning in its (back) story. Art and Flash intersect at the juncture where, as writers, we pull those story threads from the canvas onto the screen or paper where they unravel into a new story. Since gaining a Masters in Art History, I have been writing Flash from works of art.

What does an ideal writing day look like for you?

I wish I had an idea on what a typical writing day looks like — my writing life is so atypical because I am always working on different projects at a time; these projects don’t always require me to write fiction. What I do know is that my day begins early and as soon as my younger daughter is out the door to school, I sit at my favourite spot in the living room and begin to write. Writing could take the form of blog posts, reflections, rewriting story ideas as well as working on drafts of stories in my cache. If I am working on a project — ghostwriting or writing for art journals — then I stay focused on these which means that I have to leave my own stories on the back burner. Sometimes, they could stay on the back burner for months. I recently finished a story which I’ve submitted to several journals. This was a story that I’d been working on for some time in between projects; it’s a story that materialised from an image that popped into my head while I was waiting at the hospital. It took several re-writes as I allowed the picture to morph and forge its way as the imagery meandered unconsciously in my head.

Is there a writer/book/story that you continually return to for inspiration or guidance? 

Raymond Carver is a favourite go-to; I am still trying to find the layers of meaning in his stories — do meanings exist? I love F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night which I think I will read again soon. Gabriel Garcia Marquez — Love in the Time of Cholera — is another because I love Magic Realism as a genre in writing. Isabel Allende is a wonderful storyteller and I love how she intersects politics with Magic Realism. Currently, I am reading the delightfully titled book — Memoirs of A Polar Bear –by Yoko Tawada translated from the German. I am inspired by translated works for their ability to stay close to their original versions. I am also inspired by diverse stories written about other cultures and from different cultures. At the moment, I am interested in historical fiction written in Flash.

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

Magic.Realism. Historical.Fiction. Diverse.Stories. Fiction under 1000 words. Entice me!


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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