Person of Interest: Laura Thomas

. November 1, 2017.
Department Head and Lecturer at U-M’s Residential College Creative Writing Program
Department Head and Lecturer at U-M’s Residential College Creative Writing Program

Congratulations on your newest and highly praised short fiction collection, States of Motion (Wayne State University Press, 2017). Tell us about some of the themes within your stories?
Thank you! In the stories, the characters often make choices, or chase desires, with the goal of forcing a reaction from their families or their communities. Some characters, like Marlin in “The Lavinia Nude” or Moor in “State of Motion,” don’t see, or won’t admit, their goal isn’t to change themselves or their circumstances, but to shift troublesome energies onto others.

The stories also question whether laws of the heart are as inevitable as physical laws. Many characters come to learn that love, or hate, are neither created nor destroyed, but only change form once they are set in motion. Another glue that connects these stories is Southeast Michigan. The great recession and its aftermath is definitely a recurring character too.

Why do you think the story of the “small midwestern town” is an important contribution to the literary world?
Ever since Hester Prynne’s town forced her to wear that scarlet letter, America’s stories have been small-town stories. Our great Midwestern authors— Laura Ingalls Wilder, Willa Cather, and Theodore Dreiser— continued this tradition of planting storytelling roots in townie soil. We wouldn’t have the same American literary tradition at all, much less Midwestern lit, without narratives that spring from the complicated, vivid and entertaining social enterprise of living cheek to jowl in a small community.

How long have you lived in the Ann Arbor area?
Most of my life. When I was 6 months old, my family moved to Ypsilanti from New Hampshire when my father landed a job with Ford Motor. My mother was taking evening classes at Eastern Michigan University at the time of the so-called “Michigan Murders.” In fact, we lived in the neighborhood where one of the murders took place! I’m a U-M graduate, from the LSA Residential College, and I now teach creative writing in the RC. My students are terrific, dedicated writers who write beautifully and devote themselves to artistic, challenging lives.

What are some of your favorite ways to relax in Ann Arbor?
I browse Literati Bookstore and Nicola’s Books, and never, ever leave empty-handed. I also relax by being that oddball who drinks red wine in the new craft beer breweries around town. I love the wheaty amber and burly aroma of specialty beers, and the brewing process is endlessly fascinating. Concerts in Hill Auditorium and the Michigan Theater are also amazing fun. And I just like walking around town, or along the Huron River. In so many other cities, you really have to plan ahead to have fun. In the Ann Arbor-Ypsi cultural powerhouse, you can figure out what to do and get there pretty darn quick, not squander the fun in traffic.

Trending

Detroit Gallery Crawl

Explore the art scene As the weather in Michigan turns cool, if you are curious about Detroit’s art scene and in the mood for a short 45 minute road trip, now is a great time to head downtown. When I began exploring Detroit several years ago, my hunt for significant art and artists was more

A Place to Co-Operate

The CoOp’s community-focused approach is music to our ears “The vision was, honestly, to bring people together,” says Frances Master, one of six UM students who operate The CoOp, a space inside Openfloor Studio (231 S. State St.). Undeniably, it is refreshing to hear that motivation for creating opportunities to experience live music, as that’s

Constant Buzz

Dominick’s boasts a long history (and an even longer menu) If you ask the townies, “Ann Arbor has changed over the years.” If you ask the busy and bustling crowds of U-M freshmen, they’ll ask: “What?” So, who’s right— the aging hippies who complain about the changing times, or the young newbies eagerly awaiting the

A Wicked Good Time at The Michigan & State

Halloween season is upon us, and the Michigan and State Theaters are offering up treats with hardly a trick in sight. Those who revel in all things Halloween should start marking calendar dates because there’s a lot to scream about all month long— after all, Halloween comes but once a year, at least officially. Don’t-miss