I grew up in Northern California’s wine country and have since bounced around North America with stops in the (North) American states of Alaska and Florida, among others, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. In June of 2021, I moved to the Mexican state of Oaxaca, with the intention of staying permanently. That didn’t quite work out, so at the moment I am back in Alaska. I’ve got a plane ticket south for mid-May, however, and am all the more determined to make my move to Mexico permanent this time.
What is the greatest thing about the place you call home?
Even though I’m not there now, I call the beautiful city of Oaxaca de Juarez home, and the people who live there are far and away the best thing about it. They are kind, funny, compassionate, and welcoming. One of my favorite things about Oaxacans (or Mexicans generally), is that when I tell people I am a writer, they often talk about their own artistic interests, works of art they’ve loved, or a relative who is a creative. This is infinitely more pleasant and interesting than the typical North American response of “good luck making a living doing that,” which I’ve heard so many times.
What turns you on creatively?
Sometimes a word or a phrase will strike me and spark a story. Other times I’ll get a picture of a scene in my head and wonder how the characters arrived at that point. These days, I am writing a lot of prompt-based flash fiction. I solicited prompts on my Instagram and Substack, Jim’s Shorts, and readers are submitting three-words: a living thing, an inanimate object, and a location. I publish one piece of flash a week. (My friend Jimmy Doom, who writes Jimmy Doom’s Roulette Weal publishing daily flash fiction, turned me on to that prompt format).
What is your favorite word, and can you use it in a poetic sentence?
I don’t have a favorite word in English, but my favorite word in Spanish is murciélago, which means bat (the animal, not what baseball players use to hit a ball) and derives from Old Spanish meaning “blind mouse.” My Spanish is advanced conversational, but I doubt I can produce poetry anyone would want to read, so I’m ducking this question (the action, not the animal).
What is your pet peeve?
I really, really don’t like it when an author comes out and TELLS me what I’m reading or supposed to feel in a story. Earlier this week I was judging a flash fiction competition and was absolutely over the moon about a story until the final line when the author flat-out stated the emotion that up to that point had been driving the piece beautifully. It ruined everything for me. The editor of the publication running the contest told me three other judges picked that story, which makes me think this could be a pet peeve on my part. Doesn’t matter. I’m sticking with it. I like when, as a reader, I have to do some work to figure out what is going on.
I also don’t like unrealistic dialog included in a story to educate the reader/audience—like when two experts discuss something basic to their field. Sure the reader needs to know it, but don’t expect me to believe that two doctors would pause in the midst of open-heart surgery to discuss the anatomical fact that the heart is located on the left side of the chest. Find a better way to impart the information.
What defines Jim Latham?
Well, jeez, I honestly don’t know. It took me 45 years to realize that every time I stray from basing my life around Spanish, writing, and hiking, things end up going sideways. I’ve whittled my possessions down to what will fit in two suitcases and a backpack and am focusing on keeping the three things I love most—Spanish, writing, and hiking—front and center in my day-to-day. I’m hoping that if I stick with that I’ll end up writing the book I hope to one day write, even if I don’t know what it is yet.
When he's not hiking Mexico's volcanoes, Jim Latham lives and writes in Cholula, Puebla. His stories have appeared in The Drabble, Spillwords, Better Than Starbucks, Eunoia Review, and elsewhere. He publishes free flash fiction every Wednesday at Jim Latham on Substack.