Peace Corps Writers
Talking with Monique Maria Schmidt (page 3)
 Talking with
Monique Maria Schmidt
page 1
page 2
page 3

 
What are you working on now? Another book? A novel?
I don’t know whether it will be a novel, or rather, I should say I don’t know what form it will be in. Poetry is my first love, but I really like the format of this book with its mixture of poetry and prose. The next one might be the same format — I’ll let you know when it’s finished.
From your bio it appears you have had an interesting upbringing, being raised on a sheep farm in a Mennonite community. Have you thought about writing about your upbringing? Also, was this sort of childhood helpful for you in living in Africa?
I definitely have an interest in my upbringing . . . the older I get, the more I realize how it has shaped who I am and what I value and how I see the world. I have thought about writing more about it, but I’m not so sure that it is interesting enough for others to want to read. And yes, the tenacity that it takes to keep a small family farm going is the same tenacity that I used in Africa. My childhood rooted in the Mennonite church definitely gave me the curiosity and the compassion to establish an initial interest in Peace Corps.
You have also lived and worked in Japan, the West Indies and Latin America . . . can you tell us a little about what you were doing in these countries?
   I went to Japan while in high school on a Kikkoman/Youth For Understanding/FHA (Future Homemakers of America . . . now FCCLA) summer exchange program. I lived with a host family and went to school . . . but not often since I didn’t speak Japanese. In the West Indies I was working for an organization called Visions Service Adventures which gives high school students cross-cultural community service opportunities in the States and overseas, and in Latin America, I taught English at a University.
Where are you living now in South Dakota?

I’m on the farm right now . . . and actually really enjoying feeding the bottle lambs, even though they snot on my legs when I walk in the pen . . . “Snot” may not be a normal verb, but in lamb jargon it exists to describe the time when the lambs mistakenly think that by rubbing their wet noses up and down your legs, they will get them to produce milk . . . I don’t look at this phenomena as a sign of some lack of intelligence, rather, a sign of their optimistic whole-hearted belief in miracles.
Do you have a poetic description of life on the farm?
A poetic description . . . hmmm . . .

A silent combine waits next to stacked straw bales. Flat gravel roads quietly hold sprawling sunsets as evening breezes grow overnight into winds which make biking in the mountains seem easy . . . mourning doves, hidden somewhere in the evergreens, accompany the sleek wriggle of my parents’ puppy as she chases dragon flies through chest-high purple Canadian thistles on the banks of our dug-out.

One last request. Pick a paragraph from you book that you love. Something that you think is well written. I’ll add that to your interview so people can get a “taste” of your prose and style.
I think I like the ending of the prologue because it really sums up (I hope) how meaningful my time in Africa was . . . even though I often joke about it . . .

I usually joke about my years spent in a West African village, as if they were simply a sweaty, stinky, rat eating, tummy-cramping adventure, as if Afi and the villages hadn't given their homes, their laughter, their grooves, their children, their food, their lives, as if they hadn't given and given and given their strength, their love, their spirit — concocted with a little mango breeze, some marche dirt, and a little Nigerian palm oil — bounded and danced and lived.
     So did I. With wind wrapped around my stomach, the sun scorched freckles on my skin. I danced at night under raving stars, living in the wild with God.

Thank you, Monique.
Thank you! This was fun.
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