Leave a comment

How writing a short story collection is like starting a zoo

(From Lit Hub. Link to the complete article given below)

People are always saying, “I have an idea for a story.” But if a story starts in an idea it might as well give up and be a novel. I think ransacking your mind for story ideas builds up an immunity to the mysterious form itself. At some point you have to bow to the story’s elusiveness and refusal of paraphrase, that is, of expression as an idea. As Lucia Berlin said, “Thank God I don’t write with my brain.”

You saw something—even a word in somebody else’s story misread at first. You heard something. For a moment an awareness was yours, and you want it again, you want the words for it. It’s a kind of apparition.

Walter Benjamin says, “It is half the art of storytelling to keep a story from explanation as one reproduces it.” Reproduces!  Perfect word. Somewhere, the story already exists. You glimpsed it, you have to find it.

And then—it’s in the door like a stray cat. Then, for me, comes an occasional deceiving fondness, followed by the wish, in the middle of cooking or talking to somebody, to go get the story and grab it by the neck and be rid of it. This is after weeks, months. It’s my cat by then.

The very short ones are what I’m most interested in now—or most pressed to do. My stories have always been long, and now I want compression. The short shorts in my new book Terrarium (Counterpoint, August 2018) aren’t what I’d call flash fiction, maybe because the word “flash” is too—bright. Also, in our moment, it seems to be at the fingertips of anyone who write stories or wants to. I think readers believe it’s easy. Instead, like any short story, it requires concentration from the reader. And it’s not an invention of our period. I consider what’s now called flash fiction to be one manifestation of an art that goes back as far as we can see. Always, stories have been short and they’ve been long, depending on what overtook the storyteller and/or what the audience cried out for.

Read more at the Lit Hub link here

Advertisements


Leave a comment

The loneliness of long-distance writing

(From Lit Hub. Link to the complete article given below)

“You are alone out there,” my college track coach said, pointing to the farmland that stretched to the horizon. Years later, I know his words also describe writing a book.

We were stretching on the hot track, and would soon head out on the country roads for a long-distance route. Coach Taylor didn’t want us talking during our runs. He said it slowed us down. Track is a team sport on paper, but in reality, running is an individual struggle. You against the rest of the field. You against yourself. You against time.

I liked running in the heat. Growing up, I never followed my parents’ advice to run early or late in the day—I loved afternoon runs in open fields, under the wide sun. The heat warmed me up, and it also wore me out, but it was a comfortable type of exhaustion. I was a middle-distance runner, a sprinter who wasn’t fast enough for the 100 or 200, a little slow for the 400, and without enough wind for the 1600. But the 800 was just right for me. There was a symmetry to it, a distinct first and second act.

Coach Taylor sold me on the idea that you have to train further than you race. I began running ten miles past the Amish selling rugs and pies, past old homes that were an arm’s length from the road, past tired cows and lazy pigs. Running is an acquired taste, but at some point I tricked myself into enjoying it. I fell in love with the silent drift of long-distance. I liked to be out there, hot and tired, and alone.

Read more at this Lit Hub link