Meet Monidipa "Mimi" Mondal: our newest intern, blogger, and slush reader! Mimi joined the Lanternfish team in April. You'll be reading a lot more from her in this space, so we thought we'd share a little about who she is and what does.
I first met Mimi at the Clarion West Writers Workshop in Seattle, in the summer of 2015. Mimi had just arrived from India and was the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholar at the workshop. Soon after, in the fall, Mimi moved to Philadelphia to pursue her MFA at Rutgers University. Now she divides her time between New York and Philadelphia, writing and editing.
Hi Mimi! What do you like to read?
Hi! If you catch me unawares, you will probably find me reading a Wikipedia article. But, more seriously, I read a lot of fiction, and usually the fiction is speculative, although I read less of high fantasy or very technical science fiction. I feel oppressed by flat-out realism, though, and it makes me really glad that flat-out realism has become unpopular in literary fiction as well. Things like dreams, mythology, religious training (or lack thereof), cultural memory, neurodiverse perception, and individual trauma and experience are as real and relevant as – if not more than – that narrow band of reality that's true for everyone.
I also read a lot of news and personal essays, especially from underrepresented voices. I'm fairly broke but I make a tiny monthly donation to Wikipedia, because I read hundreds of articles all the time about completely random things. Ask me all you want to know about deep-water fish (including the lanternfish), dinosaurs, or ancient civilizations! I know a little bit about a lot of things. I was a quiz-competition kid before the Internet became so easily available to everyone, and since then it has been Wikipedia all the way.
How did you become interested in publishing?
I was interested in publishing long before I knew much about publishing houses, how they worked, or anyone who worked there. I went to college at Jadavpur University in India, where I was an English major, so all of my friends were aspiring writers to some extent. Way back in 2008, some friends and I started an online magazine called Ex Nihilo, which ran for about a year on a WordPress blog, and later on a website that no longer exists. That beloved magazine folded because we could not figure out a way to monetize it, either for ourselves or to pay our contributors. I went on to intern at a quirky independent press called Blaft Publications in Chennai and then to work as an editor at the big, shiny offices of Penguin Random House India in Delhi.
In 2013, I went off to do an MLitt in Publishing Studies at the University of Stirling, Scotland, which I finished in 2015. The UK has a fantastic literary scene, filled with delightful children's literature (Harry Potter only scratches the surface of it!) and cheerful, grotesque humor – both of which I have inherited in my bones. Surrounded by the rain-soaked hills of Scotland, separated by a forested ridge from an ancient cemetery, I wrote my thesis and graduation project on the publication of science fiction magazines, which was probably my first step towards the United States.
What are some of your latest editorial projects?
My last big editorial project was an anthology called Luminescent Threads: Connections to Octavia Butler, which I edited with Alexandra Pierce. It is forthcoming from Twelfth Planet Press in Australia this month. This is a collection of people writing posthumous letters to Octavia Butler, along with some academic essays and interviews. It was a deeply emotional and inspiring project, probably the book I am the most proud of having worked on so far.
Also: these are not strictly editorial projects, but I have been reading and selecting submissions for the Octavia E. Butler Memorial Scholarship for the past two years (a privilege of being a former Scholar). This year, I will also start reading submissions for the Speculative Literature Foundation grants.
Finally, what are you writing right now?
I never thought I would say this, but in the past few months I have mostly been writing nonfiction about identity, race, immigration, and so on. I see myself primarily as a fiction writer. At first I was writing these nonfiction pieces mostly for myself and my friends – long rants, not even meant as essays but as online conversations on Facebook. They were a natural response to the currently unstable political situations in both India and the United States.
The first of those essays was solicited and published by Uncanny Magazine in May. Uncanny is a science fiction magazine, and the editors knew me because of my prior fiction writing. But then I sent that essay to the New York Foundation for the Arts and was selected for their 2017 Immigrant Artist Mentoring Program, so I hope I will be writing more of those essays in the next few months.
That's all for now! You'll be hearing more from Mimi soon in our upcoming blog posts.