Interview with M. M. De Voe, Second Place Winner in the Q2 2024 Creative Nonfiction Essay Contest

Sunday, May 05, 2024
M. M. De Voe
M. M.'s bio: M. M. De Voe can be read in various anthologies, literary magazines, poetry collections, horror magazines, sci-fi dailies and on her free weekly Substack called “This is Ridiculous.” All this and the “masterfully conceived” fiction collection A FLASH OF DARKNESS (Borda Books 2024) and first-prize winning productivity guide for creative writers with kids (BOOK & BABY) can be found on her website at (it’s worth it) or just follow her @mmdevoe on Twitter. She is the founder and Executive Director of Pen Parentis, a literary nonprofit for writers who also are parents. She is frequently on Twitter @mmdevoe.

(Photo credit: A. Mathiowetz)

----- Interview by Angela Mackintosh

WOW: Welcome, M. M.! I'm thrilled to chat with you today about your dynamic, award-winning essay, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez didn’t have to do laundry." We all loved the one-sentence format with the extra bonus paragraph. Why did you choose this structure, and do you have any tips for writing a one-sentence essay? I know they are hard to pull off, and you did it beautifully!

M. M.: I love that essay too. It came to me fully formed. I just had to write it down. Sometimes the universe bestows little gifts on us. Honestly? I needed to feel seen.

WOW: It's such a gift when an essay comes fully formed! I'm also intrigued by your humorous title, "Gabriel Garcia Marquez didn’t have to do laundry." Why did you choose this particular author?

M. M.: I’m actually re-reading The Cave by Jose Saramago—I’m reading it aloud to my daughter and it’s just so brilliant—it puts my tiny one-sentence to shame. But I didn’t think enough people had heard of him. Marquez also wrote long, winding, inter-threaded, domestic narratives, though he wrote in Spanish not Portuguese—hm. I probably should apologize if Marquez actually did laundry and helped his wife raise their two sons. What do you think the chances are? Both Marquez and Saramago also happened to win Nobel Prizes in Literature. Just saying. 

WOW: You're right, I haven't heard of Saramago, and now I'll have to check out The Cave because I love domestic narratives. Your essay accurately captures that overwhelming feeling of being a writer with kids and many distractions and trying to focus on the writing at hand. I'm curious how you tackle this in real life. Your book, Book and Baby: The Complete Guide to Managing Chaos and Becoming A Wildly Successful Writer-Parent sounds like a much-needed guide! Can you share a couple tips from it? How do you find time to write?

M. M.: Oh wow, thanks so much for this question! My book is a collection of advice and anecdotes that I collected and distilled over years of running the nonprofit Pen Parentis—we help writers stay on creative track after having kids. It’s divided into the ages of kids from infant to grown and flown. It’s not a “how to” exactly—more like a fun read about how others managed. I have never liked didactic nonfiction. I was so lucky that many of the authors we interviewed were willing to have their interviews published. That said, some great advice was to write in the car during swim lessons, to write early mornings or late nights depending on your kids’ sleep schedule, or in my own case, I made a little nest on my work table for my sleeping infants so I didn’t have to get up and walk over when they needed me. Every word counts!  

WOW: Finding those pockets of time to write can help so much! You're also the author of a flash fiction collection, A Flash of Darkness (Borda Books), which Kirkus called "masterfully conceived," and Tommy Dean described as "wickedly fun, deeply cutting, and as creepy as a funhouse mirror." That sounds like my kind of book! We have a lot of writers who are interested in putting together a collection. Please tell us more about the flash compilation and how it became published.

M. M.: It’s a great story. The publisher came to me! Over time, I had written four stories that they had published and when later they conceived of a series of single-author collections by “Bold New Voices” they invited me to submit my stories. The irony is that when I submitted my literary collection, they rejected the manuscript and asked instead for my “weird” fiction. It was a pleasure to collect all the nonconforming oddities together and it has been very well received!

WOW: To have a publisher invite you to write for them is so rare and such a compliment! You're one of those talented writers who write both fiction and creative nonfiction. I have an ongoing debate with a friend about which genre is harder to write. She says CNF is harder because you have to include all the wisdom and takeaways, and I think fiction is harder because there are way too many possibilities. Which came first for you, and which do you think is harder?

M. M.: Despite winning prizes for it, I don’t consider myself much of a CNF writer. My heart is in fiction. I love a good story and I hate it when truth gets in the way. But I’m also always afraid someone will get embarrassed or offended.

WOW: "I hate it when truth gets in the way" - love that! You're the founder and Executive Director of Pen Parentis, a literary nonprofit for writers who are also parents. That sounds like a fantastic resource for writers in the WOW community. How did you start it, and what do you provide for writers?

M. M.: It is such a wonderful community! The story of how it began is actually in my Book & Baby book. We offer an annual fellowship to inspire writers to create new work, monthly literary salons featuring famous writers who have kids—these are open to anyone—your community is warmly invited to check them out on and a Cycle of Support which blends mentorship, membership and weekly accountability meetups.

WOW: Those salons look inspiring and it's great they are available to everyone! You're so busy and yet still manage to remain productive in writing and publishing. I'd love to know what you're working on right now. Did you ever write the essay about being the eldest daughter and taking care of your baby brother?

M. M.: I did not! When my brother read the essay he commented and made me self conscious! So I’m back to working on a novel about a woman who feels destined to be an opera star. New York City eats her alive.

WOW: Great premise! Thank you so much for chatting with me today, M. M. Good luck with that and all your literary projects, and congrats again on your second place win!

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Anonymous said...

Such great questions and interesting answers! Thank you.

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