Guest editor Monet P. Thomas organized and ran the Big O Challenge, four stories from which she selected for publication in Issue 42 of Jellyfish Review. She speaks here to Meghan Phillips. If you want to read Meghan’s story, When You First Meet the Telepath, go here.
How did you feel going into the Big O Challenge and how did you feel once the challenge was over?
I was a mess. My son was born the second week of August. At our first check-up, we learned that he’d dropped a significant amount of weight because I wasn’t producing enough breast milk to feed him. So when the Challenge started, I was working with a lactation coach to try to increase my supply and pumping after every feeding, pretty much every two or three hours, every day. I was taking supplements, eating foods that are supposed to increase supply. I mean, I’m pretty sure I wrote most of this story while pumping. After? Still a mess. Nothing I’d done increased my supply. I was never able to pump more than a few milliliters. But I was able to write a story. I did that. And it helped a little.
Your story is one long sentence: What challenges did you have to overcome to pull that off?
This story started with the pick-up line, which I carried around in my head for most of the month. I knew early on that I wanted the shape of the story to feel like an orgasm. So it made sense to me that it would be one long sentence that kind of ramped up and digressed until it reached its climax (!!!). The most challenging part was getting the rhythm of the story right. I had to make sure the digressions and asides didn’t throw off the momentum. Everything had to work to move the story toward the final image.
What do you think sexual elements, such as the orgasm, add to literary stories?
I live in my head, which is probably why I enjoy reading and writing so much. They’re such cerebral activities. If I’m really into a book, or if I get in that sweet spot where the writing just pours out, I don’t notice my body. I’ll come up for air sore and hungry. I will probably have to pee. Reading about sex, especially reading orgasms, is a visceral experience. I mean, my first experiences with arousal were reading romance novels as a young teen. Reading about sex reminds the reader that they have a body. It reminds the reader that the characters have bodies. I think sex – consensual sex – in literature is kind of underrated in its ability to create empathy for characters. It can show us characters at the most corporeal and at their most vulnerable.
Image (pinked): Pxhere CC0
Monet Patrice Thomas is the Interviews editor at The Rumpus. Her writing can be found online and in print. She currently lives and works in Beijing, China.
Meghan Phillips is the editor in chief of Third Point Press and an associate editor for SmokeLong Quarterly. Her flash fiction chapbook, Abstinence Only, is forthcoming from Barrelhouse. You can find more of her writing at meghan-phillips.com and her tweets @mcarphil.