Five Questions with Marcella Vokey

Sophie Rosenblum: We’re publishing your piece, “Donor,” in the next issue of NANO Fiction. There are some very surreal moments in this story. Can you tell us a little bit about where this piece came from?

Marcella Vokey: I think often about the people for whom it is easier to give themselves away than it is to understand and go after what they want. And because I tend to write in the body – I like limbs, blood, skin, hair, guts, and I like them as physical touchstones – what better way to make my narrator’s sacrifice material than by sacrificing her hands?

But there isn’t enough conflict if she exists alone. Instead, she shares the consequences of her choice with her husband. Those consequences affect their life together. As surreal as it may seem, then, to write about soup slurping in juxtaposition to a woman giving her hands away, I thought it was quite natural. The world goes on and, dammit, they are having soup for dinner.

So actually, the piece doesn’t feel that surreal to me. Which is very much the point. When you’re forcing something like that, it’s probably gratuitous.

SR: What do you do when you’re not writing?photo-on-12-28-15-at-7-12-pm-4

MV: When I’m not writing, I’m trying to fix the U.S. healthcare system one data query at a time. I’d say more but it gets less impressive the more I talk about it.

SR: Who are some of your favorite writers?

MV: The only favorite I know with absolute certainty is favorite food genre: Ethiopian.

But I will gush about Christine Schutt. She is the gold standard. One sentence by Christine Scutt can accomplish more than anothers’ paragraph. She is accurate like a laser and ruthless, too, confronting readers with ugly realities. And in so doing, she turns them beautiful. Christine, call me.

SR: Are there any writing or editing rules that you follow?

MV: I don’t follow any specific rules.

Each world or character I create comes with its own logic. Logic that takes shape with every detail put on the page. I rely on my instincts to follow that logic and recognize when something doesn’t belong. There’s no room for sentiment, though. A “well-written line” isn’t enough. It must have a place.

In “Donor,” the narrator has a husband. But what sort of man is he? That is my choice as the writer but only within the parameters defined by my universe. He could have been indifferent or ignorant, though that would have made for a completely different story, wouldn’t it?

SR: What can we expect next from Marcella Vokey?

MV: More stories. But don’t hold your breath on the healthcare thing.

Marcella Vokey currently resides in Cambridge, Massachusetts. She was once described as “a balloon with a lead weight,” which she takes as a compliment. Her work has recently appeared in *82 Review and Temenos Journal.