Mini-Interview with Thad DeVassie

Why do you write flash? What makes it different for you?

Until recently, I have always described my writing life as that of a poet who gravitates toward prose poetry. But I’ve always felt like a fish out of water with my writing – not really a formal poet, not quite a fiction writer capable of longer formats. That meant falling into that murky, in-between place until I discovered writers such as Russell Edson, James Tate, Charles Simic, Matthea Harvey, and Matthew Zapruder to name a few. They were writing these paragraphs and bits of dialogue that were surreal and absurd, funny but also touching, and it spoke to me like nothing else I had read before. My writing teeters between prose poetry and flash, and the growth and acceptance of flash has influenced the way I write. It has released me from rigid ideas about form and style, affording me to simply write with conviction and outside of convention. Now the challenge is when it comes time to submit. Is this prose poetry? Flash fiction? A hybrid or something else? I think it just is. That sounds like a cop out, but it’s just this little thing I created. 

What’s your writerly lifejacket: character or plot?

I’ll say plot, but I think scene might be better word. I think that’s the poet in me trained on the economy of words. My characters are more like navigators. I prefer to parachute readers into these micro stories with the navigator and get to the scene at hand. I want the reader to be swept up in the spectacle, to embrace their role as curious eavesdropper at the bar. Plot ends up being something either highly relatable, so the reader can connect even with a vague character sketch, or something ridiculously absurd, sometimes infusing historical characters who need little by way of introduction, and telling untold stories of peculiar happenings (Evel Knievel, Paul Bunyan, Matthew Brady, Ron Popeil). Either way, the goal is to create a thing that evokes feeling, and for me that’s driven by the experience.   

Writing style: Quick and messy or slow and precise?

Quick and somewhat precise. I sprint toward an end point with an idea, but rarely does it hold up as finished concept. Time away from a piece always makes it stronger, when thoughts on a different day bring new and hopefully better ideas to the table. I’ve recently had a few stories picked up that I’ve reworked after they sat dormant for a decade or more.   

What element or part of your “real life” do you think most influences your writing?

That part about eavesdropping at the bar…that! I’m constantly listening for language, sending up an antenna on conversations around me. I also search for quirky twists of phrase or peculiar word choices in things I read. Sometimes a single word, spoken or in type, is enough to hijack the imagination. I’m also working through a series of flash nonfiction pieces about my mother’s illness, which is a challenge. I’m grappling with writing in a way that is much more vulnerable. 

If you could recommend a few flash stories or writers, who/what would it be?

In addition to the prose poets above whom I love and highly recommend, even for flash writers, I’d vote for Ben Loory. Couldn’t we all use more Ben Loory stories in our lives?   

Given my recent dabbling with flash nonfiction, I am locking in on stories about memory of family. Recent standouts include Eulogy by Dina Relles (Passages North) and Misty Urban’s My Sister Passes Me on a Bench at the Zoo (River Teeth). I want more of what both of these women are writing right now.    

What story of yours do you wish got more recognition? 

I fly under the radar, so my expectations are well-tempered. But I would say a piece that appeared in FLASH: titled Let’s Call This… was a joy to see in print and speaks to my writing style well. Also, the first FNF piece about my mother that landed in Lunate at the start of the year. I was tremendously grateful for their love and care of that piece. It’s the fuel to keep writing the hard-to-write stuff. 

BIO: Thad DeVassie’s prose poems and flash fiction pieces have found their way into numerous publications including New York Quarterly, North American Review, West Branch, NANO Fiction, PANK, Unbroken, and Poetry East, among others. His chapbook, THIS SIDE OF UTOPIA, is forthcoming from Cervena Barva Press, as is his work in Flash Nonfiction Food – an anthology from Woodhall Press, arriving in Spring 2020. A lifelong Ohioan, he is the founder of a brand messaging and storytelling studio in Columbus, and is the co-founder of JOY VENTURE, a podcast and platform for sharing stories of unlikely and risk-taking entrepreneurs. You can find him on Twitter @ratchetstrategy. 

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