I learned about Meg Tuite through Facebook. We had some friends in common. My friends posted links to her publications with frequency. I grew curious and began reading her stories and poems. I immediately felt connected to her work. Encouraged by this affinity, I submitted a couple of flash pieces to Connotation Press where Meg is the fiction editor. She urged me to send more and eventually published four of my pieces – to say I felt honored would be a gross understatement. Meg and I finally met in person at the AWP Conference in Boston earlier this year and it was love at first sight.
Meg’s writing has appeared in numerous journals. She has been nominated several times for the Pushcart Prize. She is the fiction editor of The Santa Fe Literary Review and Connotation Press. Author of Domestic Apparition (San Francisco Bay Press, 2011), Disparate Pathos (Monkey Puzzle Press, 2012), Reverberations (Deadly Chaps Press, 2012), Bound By Blue (Sententia Books, 2013), and Bare Bulbs Swinging (Artistically Declined Press, 2014). She edited and co-authored The Exquisite Quartet Anthology (2011 and 2012). She teaches a Flash Fiction Course at the Santa Fé Community College.
Her blog: http://megtuite.wordpress.com.
What in your early years inspired you to become a writer?
My mother. She was an incredibly prolific reader and took my siblings and me every Saturday to the library to pick out books for the week. We all walked around with books in our faces from an early age. She gave us the ability to transplant ourselves to all different places on the map without leaving our neighborhood. She was a brilliant woman and truly my inspiration for the love of the printed word. She bought me my first desk at a school rummage sale for five bucks and I LOVED that desk. My butt became square sitting at that desk attempting to write a novel about a girl who runs away from home. And a spattering of poetry, as well.
Literature is a common form of escapism for children, but most future writers tap into something ethereal while reading. Where did your form of escapism take you and how essential is this world to your work?
That’s an amazing question, Gessy. So much in there. When reading and escaping into other worlds as a child, I didn’t think about writing. But when I held a pen in my hand as a kid, I wrote. That’s the beauty of childhood. We so live in the moment we are in, or at least hope to, if we’re lucky and don’t have to worry if we are going to eat or if we are safe. I was blessed. I was safe and able to write whatever I wanted to. I did have a place in my house that I hid in when things were not calm. It was a really cool trapdoor inside my closet that opened into a room the size of a rowboat.
I try to throw myself into those scary places when I write. I don’t want to escape, but rather capture some kind of confined space that the protagonist is barely able to survive in. I want the reader to either feel a kinship with the underdog or be thankful for a life outside of that. I want to tap those areas that make me uncomfortable. My collection, Bound By Blue, coming out this Fall is all about that.
In your novel, Domestic Apparition, you do such a splendid job of depicting the push and pull between sin and redemption. There are lots of bad behavior on display. Michelle, your protagonist, is a willful, but also introspective participant. How much of this introspection is due to her Catholic upbringing?
I have a hard time with the word ‘sin’. People may make bad decisions or commit crimes, but ‘sin’ denotes the Catholic Church to me and that was not what my protagonist, Michelle, was all about. She was about adventure and pushing the limits. She was about breaking the rules and speaking her mind. I love Michelle for her guts and individuality. She was someone to admire. So I don’t see the Catholic upbringing as anything but a backward glance for her.
You mentioned before the idea of “confined space.” In your story, Going to Visit Mom’s Sister, Two States Over, featured in Cease, Cows Magazine (May 2013), we encounter a family stuck together on a long car ride. We see the parents up front, the brothers in the middle, and the sisters in the back. The women on this trip are in revolt. Can you tell us more about the “confined space” in this story?
I just read that story tonight at a local bookstore reading, here in Santa Fe. Very cool that you brought this piece up.
Yes, the confined space of a car and a large family traveling across country. It definitely lends itself to some kind of hellish scenario, doesn’t it? In Going to Visit Mom’s Sister, Two States Over, there are three different activities going on. In the front, the parents are arguing over the reason for the trip. Velma, the mom’s sister, is in need of an abortion. The father believes she got what she deserved and an abortion is against his religion. He questions his wife’s beliefs: “How can you call yourself a goddamn Christian…” as she does his, making fun of his friends who consider themselves pious and yet give her the “’I’d like to bend you over the pew’ smirk…”
The three sons are playing Yahtzee, oblivious to the tension in front except when their dad turns to make sure that he has an audience to back him when he needs it.
The two daughters are central to the story. The oldest sister, the renegade “has stolen clothes, albums, jewelry, candy, liquor, cigarettes and boyfriends.” She gives her thirteen–year-old sister a cigarette, lights them up when dad does. She is aware of everything that is going on in the car and is ready to take them all on. She is reenacting the subterfuge of the family dynamic, by playing it out in ways that will force the parents to deal with something that they are unable to deal with in their relationship.
This was the ideal location for this story. Packed in a station wagon, unable to escape. And still, the older sister pushes it to the limit by lighting up a joint at the end.
It’s a great ending. The patriarchy undermined, loved it. Meg, you’re quite prolific as a writer, poet, editor, and badass raconteur, tell us more about your current projects.
Thank you so much, Gessy. That means a lot coming from you. I feel the same way about your writing. You are always rocking the boat!
I have a collection of short stories, Bound By Blue, coming out this Fall through Sententia Books. This collection is all longer stories. There’s no flash in this one. Most of the stories were published in print journals. I had a few stories that were short and Paula Bomer, the publisher, had me stretch them out, adding back story and delving deeper into the characters. It’s been exciting working with her. She’s a writer I admire, who always pushes the boundaries in her work.
I have a chapbook that was just picked up by Redbird Chaps titled Pushpin a Point on a Map Until a Family Cracks Through, which will be coming out this summer. And a collaborative poetry book, Bare Bulbs Swinging, written with Heather Fowler and Michelle Reale that won The Twin Antlers Contest through Artistically Declined Press and will be published in 2014.
I’ve been writing a lot more poetry lately. It was my first love, but I’m still writing stories and also editing a novel that I wrote. It still needs a lot of work. I’m teaching a flash fiction class at the Santa Fe Community College which has been a great time. A lot happening right now and I’m extremely grateful for the opportunity to do what I love most.
Thank you, Meg!