Mini-Interview with M. M. De Voe
What’s more important the writer’s intent or the reader’s discovery?
Since the reader’s discovery is entirely outside the writer’s control and I am a writer, I have to say the writer’s intent is more important. But not to the reader. As a reader I don’t care what the writer intends, I only care about what I get out of the story.
What are your favorite things to write about? Those topics or items you can’t stop thinking about!
I can not get my hands off the third rail. I am always looking at the third option, the non-binary, the middle ground. As a Texan-born Lithuanian -American, I have always been an outsider, and the outsider-lens is what I bring to the table. That and a deliciously dark sense of humor honed on cautionary tales.
What’s your favorite point of view? Why are you drawn to this particular voice/perspective?
I love second person but I rarely write in it. Some mean workshop teacher told me no one wants to hear it. I love second-person because it is the language of the first video games, the language of D&D, and the language of scary fireside ghost stories. I love the gripping feeling of someone else being in control when reading stories in second person. Second person is a rollercoaster ride. A nightmare. Great sex. Childhood. The perfect restaurant experience.
What’s your favorite craft element to focus on when writing flash? Is there an element you wish you could avoid?
I have never thought in such detail about my craft - I think I love details though. In flash, you can show such lovely details and that’s my favorite thing about it: the sharp clarity of a single moment. What do I wish I could avoid? Rhetorical questions. I overuse them.
How do you know when a story is done or at least ready to test the submission waters?
Frequently I submit prematurely. The first two rejections tell me what edits the story needs. Or when I am very lucky I get a great editor and they just tell me the edits I need to make and buy the story.
When looking for places to submit your flash, what are your priorities for finding a good home for your work?
I like to get paid, and barring getting paid, I love a beautiful layout.
What do you know now about writing flash or other forms that you wished you had known from the beginning?
There is no “right” way of telling a story but any boring or self-aggrandizing way is always wrong. It took a long time to realize how obvious it can be when one is trying too hard to look smart.
What resource (a book, essay, story, person, literary journal) has helped you develop your flash fiction writing?
Hosting a decade of writers that read four to eight-minute excerpts at the Pen Parentis Literary Salon made it clear to me that tight and gorgeous flash stories are far superior to longer literary pieces in live readings, particularly online - and to me, that meant that if I do not have time to write a sixteen-page short story, I could still get the same professional satisfaction from just creating a gem of flash. This saved me when my kids were little and I didn’t have the mental stamina to keep a longer piece whole in my head.
I was further surprised that not everyone is able to write flash. There’s a magic to it that I was delighted to discover.
What’s your favorite way to interact with the writing community? Do you have any advice for writers trying to add to their own writing communities?
I suppose I should say that I love running Pen Parentis best, but to be honest, I love doing public readings - there is nothing like losing yourself in a narrative and feeling the audience hanging on to your words. I definitely do recommend joining a writing community (whether a class or a workshop or a reading group or a book club or a residency or a Facebook group or a Twitter hashtag) - you must have colleagues. These people need to be honest and you have to trust them. In the best cases, at least one of the group will be smarter or more talented or more experienced than you. In the very best cases, that person will also be kind–or at least tactful - but still honest.
A novel, a micro, and a poem go to a bar together. What happens?
The light is too low and the time too short for the novel to be truly appreciated, so she just sits there looking intelligent and feeling lonely and judged. The micro gets a lot of play to be sure, but ultimately it’s the quiet poem that goes home with the person, never to be forgotten.
If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?
Megan Pillow and Jennifer Fliss write some fierce flash fiction about sexuality and being female. Meanwhile, I’m not sure anyone is funnier than Audrey Burges in the parenting realm. Her Tweets are so clever and full of narrative they frequently feel like flash. Is it a coincidence that each of them won mention in the Pen Parentis Writing Fellowship for New Parents? I do not think so.
What story of yours do you want us to read?
This one: https://www.ellipsiszine.com/a-house-on-baltic-avenue-by-m-m-de-voe/
BIO: M. M. De Voe writes short fiction that defies genre. In 2020 she was included in Twisted Book of Shadows, an anthology that won a Shirley Jackson Award, since then she has published in Gargoyle, A Fire to Light our Tongues, The Santa Barbara Review, The Baltimore Review and many others. She is also the founder of the literary nonprofit, Pen Parentis. She lives in Manhattan. mmdevoe.com She’s also on Twitter: @mmdevoe on Substack and on Facebook.