Friday, December 18, 2009

An Interview With Mimi Vaquer

Mimi Vaquerís short story, ďCreative Handwriting,Ē appears in STORYGLOSSIA 37. Here, Mimi takes a few moments to discuss the origins of the story, establishing tone and mood in fiction, writing both poetry and fiction, and forthcoming works.

Anne Valente: Where did the premise of this story come from?

Mimi Vaquer: I work as an 8th grade English teacher, and this story idea actually came from one of my students. I had given a poetry-writing prompt where the students had to combine columns of nouns and verbs to generate interesting juxtapositions. One of my students came up with ďThe hand sits on the sofa and watches TV.Ē After praising him for his creativity, I thought to myself that it was actually a pretty good idea for a story. I coupled that with my unlikely, morbid fascination with decomposition and exhumations, and the idea was born.

AV: How did the elements within this story come together for you, in linking the discovery of a hand with a sixth-grade student?

MV: I thought it would be fun to not only use my studentís idea, but to include him in the story as well. I changed all of his details of course, and I even let him read the story before I sent it out to anyone. I was a little nervous because I didnít want him to get the wrong idea concerning the ending and think I was really my character who had it in for him! He was a good sport and proud of being my inspiration.

AV: The tone of this story is quiet, yet so filled with tension. It haunts the reader afterwards. How did you establish mood in this piece?

MV: I tried to bring the reader into the womanís mental and physical environment as much as possible. She speaks to the reader as a confidante, as though the reader understands what she is experiencing and would think that her reactions were natural. I hoped to almost make the reader feel complicit in her actions and definitely a bit sullied.

I tried to emphasize the womenís de-sensitivity to things that should have been alarming or out of the ordinary. Hearing voices from the hand, sucking on the fingers, extreme paranoia Ėthe woman seems to have no self-awareness that lets her know that things have gotten out of hand (pardon the pun). This and the quiet tone all added to the deliberateness of everything the character does, which I hoped would create a sense of foreboding in the reader.

AV: You write poetry as well. Does your poetry ever influence your fiction writing? How do the two forms work together for you?

MV: I really like being able to go back and forth between the two creative outlets. Iíve written poetry for years, but fiction writing is actually a newer venture for me. I feel like Iíve wasted so many years when I could have been churning out so many stories!

In a lot of ways, poetry and fiction writing serve opposite purposes for me. Poetry magnifies and fiction minimizes. I like to take a small idea and make it grow in my poems, while in my stories I try to boil an event or a situation down to its essence.

AV: What are you currently working on? Any stories forthcoming that we can point readers to?

MV: I currently have a story in Up the Staircase called ďBreadcrumbsĒ that Iím particularly attached to, and many different poems soon to make their appearances in places such as Ruthless Peoples Magazine and Poetry Quarterly, which is a lit journal new to the scene. Iím always working on something new, so Iím sure youíll see lots of me in the coming year.

Mimi Vaquer lives in Savannah, GA where she is a graduate student at Armstrong Atlantic State University who also teaches 8th grade English. She is a poetry and fiction writer who has previously been published in decomP, Emprise Review, Foundling Review, Boston Literary Magazine, and Ouroboros Review, among others. She is also an Associate Editor for Oak Bend Review.

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