Mar 122018
 

I have a few stories in the works at the same time, and as one of characters in my short story ‘Roommates’ says: if I talk about them I can’t write them.”

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I’ll be reading the short story, “Until There’s Not,” from my latest collection, A Woman Walked into the Bar.  The story was inspired by a man with a band-aid on his hand who boarded a Metra train I was riding.  He carried a cup of coffee and a worn briefcase, and I watched as he tried to maneuver without spilling his drink.  His movements were so interesting I started writing them in the notebook I always carry, and before long his story began to emerge from my imagination.  The story was first published in Crannog magazine in Ireland.

What are you working on now?

I have a few stories in the works at the same time, and as one of characters in my short story “Roommates” says: if I talk about them I can’t write them.  I just finished a piece of flash fiction titled, “Open House,” which I’m sending to magazines now. I’m also revising a stage play.

One of the fun things I’m doing is visiting with book clubs that have chosen my book, answering questions and reading a little from my stories.

What was the last great thing you read by another author? 

Most recently Lincoln at the Bardo by George Saunders.  I put off reading this because Saunders was one of the few successful writers who considered himself a short story writer and was an inspiration because he didn’t need the “validation” of writing novels.  However, I read an interview with Saunders who said he didn’t set out to write a novel, the story just grew beyond its bounds. The novel was fascinating.

You’re organizing a literary dinner party.  Which writer, dead or alive, do you invite?

Only one?  Flannery O’Connor.

Sep 132017
 

I spent a lot of time outlining an entire novel, and when it was finished I didn’t want to write it. I already knew what would happen, so it bored me. I prefer to discover what will happen bit by bit as the story progresses.”

How did you discover that you were a writer?

In elementary school I started writing stories and plays. In sixth grade I wrote, directed, and starred in a play that was performed before the entire school. What a way to live your life, doing something fun to produce something that people like to read or watch! My mother taught me to read before I went to school, and my father always encouraged me to write my stories.

Describe your writing process.

There’s a process? Much of my work takes place in my head before I begin putting words on paper. Trained as a journalist, I am always watching, listening. Often I start with an overhead phrase, a scene, a character observed. Then I see them in other circumstances and the story forms around them or their words. I don’t outline. I spent a lot of time outlining an entire novel, and when it was finished I didn’t want to write it. I already knew what would happen, so it bored me. I prefer to discover what will happen bit by bit as the story progresses. There’s an anecdote regarding Flannery O’Connor where someone asked her when she knew a man would beat another man with his prosthetic leg. Her answer was, “When he did it.” I have the same process. I rewrite as I go, re-reading the entire work before I start the next day. As a short story writer, this is possible. As a novelist, it is impractical. Perhaps that is why I am a short story writer.

What was the inspiration behind what you’ll be reading at Waterline?

I remember reading a writing prompt about change, and I thought about how people count out change from a cash register. Not many people do that anymore; they just look at the readout on the register and put it all in your hand at once. The Spanish word for grandmother, abuelita, resonates with me because of two lovely songs titled “Abuelita” that I play often.  Richard Shindell’s song of a fierce and protective grandmother who stands and waits to catch a glimpse of her grand daughter stolen when she was a baby, and Caroline Herring’s song of a woman sitting under a tree in Costa Rica inspired this piece. The story, “Nibbling at the Bloodstains,” had a working title of Abuelita. However, since there’s no grandchild in the story, I changed it.

What are you working on now?

I am working on a stage play and and more short stories. I’ll be reading at the Dundee Library in East Dundee on September 21 at 7 p.m., and at the Other Words Literary Conference in Tampa, Florida, October 14.