Staff Q&A: Desmond Peeples

Desmond Peeples | Editor in Chief

Desmond Peeples’ fiction, poetry, and nonfiction have appeared in Five [Quarterly], Big Bridge, Goreyesque, Hunger Mountain, and elsewhere, and their original music is released independently. Desmond was born and lives still in Vermont, and they are an MFA candidate at Vermont College of Fine Arts.

Whachya been reading/watching/enjoying lately?

I recently started listening to Toni Morrison’s Beloved as an audiobook, read in style by milady Toni herself—I don’t usually like listening to audiobooks, but Toni’s performance is sorcery, just as good as enthralling as reading her on the page.

I listen to The Last Podcast on the Left religiously. Hail Satan!

Some titles from my current reading list:

  • The Collected Schizophrenias by Esmé Weijun Wang
  • Delicious Foods by James Hannaham
  • Revelations by Ruben Quesada
  • Water Music by T.C. Boyle
What do you look for in a strong submission?

A distinct and purposeful voice. A command of movement between the micro and macro. That mix of playfulness and careful measure found in a developed and daring perspective.

Part of me wants to say I also like clean copy, but another part of me wants to give that nitpicky part the finger. I do appreciate that professional polish to a manuscript—it makes the editorial process much easier—but strength of narrative and voice are my ultimate deciding factors. If I see exciting potential I want to work with it, whether it’s scruffy or polished.

What do you love about rural creative communities?

Peace and quiet! Sure, sometimes there’s too much of it, but after living in small towns and big cities across the US I’ve realized just how important the solitude of nature is to my creative practice and well-being.

I also love the senses of intimacy and discovery in rural arts communities. When a small town’s artists and arts organizations are empowered and active, they enable neighbors, peers, and coworkers to meet in the strange spacetime of creativity and rediscover each other; they can help transform the way an entire community sees and feels itself.

What’s something you wish you could change about/for rural creative communities?

We need a solution to the siloing of arts organizations across rural regions. In a state like Vermont, for example, there are some pretty practical barriers to collaboration (long distances between population centers, poor public transportation, lack of funding and support organizations). It takes active, consistent outreach and creative thinking to overcome those barriers, and a lot of rural arts organizations seem too don’t have the working capacity to maintain that kind of effort. But it’s worth the effort! For isolated rural communities in particular, collaborative organizing can drive innovation and amplify impact.

I remember asking a Central Vermont poet and publisher this question a little while back—he said he wished there were some kind of shuttle service to help Vermonters access the many arts events happening in isolation around the state. I’d like to see more rural arts organizations exploring this kind of concrete, proactive solutions to isolation.

What are your current obsessions?

Disembodied voices! I’ve noticed most of my fiction plays with disembodied voices—supernaturally nosy neighbors, spirit guides, the voice of the sea or a house—and I’m doubling down on that with a big ol’ thesis paper on disembodied voices in contemporary fabulism.

Also Mars, and I hope the interest is mutual.

More Staff Q&As

Staff Q&A: Brianna Stallings

M. Brianna Stallings | Managing Editor, Nonfiction Editor M. Brianna Stallings is a writer and editor, though she prefers the title “Professional Word Wrangler.” She has almost 20 years of experience in the newspaper industry. Her...

Staff Q&A: Jasminum McMullen

Jasminum McMullen | Editor, Fiction & Poetry Jasminum McMullen is a Sharpie pen enthusiast, a Jackson family nerd, and daughter of Oak Park, Illinois. Her poems and fiction have appeared in CRAM, Journal of Modern Poetry (JOMP), Journal of Ordinary Thought (JOT),...