From Our Current Issue: Q&A with Jessica Van Devanter

Little Patuxent Review just released its Winter Issue (available for purchase at this link). Each week we’ll highlight some of the content from this issue. For this week, we’re looking at Jessica Van Devanter’s short story, “Bolo Tie.”

Van Devanter is an emerging writer living in San Diego, California. She is currently enrolled in the creative writing program at University of California San Diego Extension, working toward a Professional Certificate in Creative Writing. In addition to LPR, her stories have been published in Gone Lawn Journal and The Ocotillo Review.

Van Devanter was among many of our readers who traveled long distances for our launch in Columbia, Maryland two weeks ago. We don’t take that for granted and are very grateful. We look forward to reading more of Van Devanter’s fiction in the future.

Q: What a trip the bolo tie takes you and us on in this story. Can you describe your writing process a bit?

The process of writing “Bolo Tie” was not so different from the experience of the main character. I was feeling hemmed in, and looking in my closet. My Grandpa actually did have a bolo tie, though not like the one described in the story. I was imagining it, imagining wearing it. I was laying on my bed and watching the ceiling fan, and the fantasy began to spin out in front of me and before I could lose myself in it I thought “I have to write this down!”

Q: Why did you decide to come to Maryland for the LPR launch?

When I received the email from editor Steven Leyva that “Bolo Tie” had been accepted for publication, he also invited me to the launch party. When I had finished my celebratory flailing and cheering, I took another look at the LPR website and was impressed by the professionalism and strong cohesive vision that came across. I knew I wanted to meet these people, and I was not wrong. The LPR is an impressive publication because it is made up of impressive people. The warmth and creative spirit that filled the room during the reading were the likes of which I will not forget.

Q: What was it like for you to give the reading?

The LPR launch was my first reading for a publication, and to say I was nervous might be an understatement. But once Stephen Leyva and Susan Hobby took the podium, I was glad I came. They gave an air of comfort and familiarity that told me I was in the right place. What more could a burgeoning writer ask for than a group of encouraging and inspiring artists with smiles and infectious laughter?

Q: Did the piece sound any different to you from before?

As I prepared for the reading (reciting aloud the first five minutes of the story to myself in my bathroom) I had the pleasure of going through the seven phases of being a writer: reliving the emotions from writing it, pride, self doubt, pride again, “is this really happening? They must mean a different Jessica,” excitement, and a mix of pride and terror that is similar to the really spicy hot sauce that only the authentic Mexican restaurants have. Maybe those are not the phases for every writer, but they are for me. The piece sounded different in the way an old friend sounds different when you haven’t spoken to them for a while: you recognize them, but notice subtleties that you hadn’t remembered.

Q: What other readings did you like?

I was consistently wowed by the other works read, and as the party went on I found myself more flattered to be included. I still find myself thinking about the true meaning of remodeling a bathroom after hearing Daien Guo read her fiction piece “A Bathroom Renovation.” And I am reminded of Katy Day’s poem “People Who Push Other People Out of Cars Don’t Get More Cake” when I see children squabbling with siblings or when I am smugly eating cake in my apartment.

The art piece by Paul Rucker was eye-opening and disturbing. He brought to the front of my awareness the massive quantity of prisons in the United States, a topic that is vital to bring into popular discussion.

I also enjoyed the readings from the Black Ladies Brunch Collective. They surely stole the show. My favorite was celeste doaks’ “A Harley Dream,” in which she fantasizes about running away with a man on a motorcycle. I am always fascinated by these escape fantasies, which seem universal in their existence but unique in their details.

Q: What’s next for your writing?

The same week as the LPR launch, my flash fiction story “Jokers” was published in The Ocotillo Review, and another flash fiction story of mine will also be appearing in their Summer 2018 issue. I am currently applying to graduate school for an MFA in creative writing. I am grateful to the LPR for being a part of this exciting new chapter in my writing career.

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