Editor Iain Higgins talks with the fiction judge for our Open Season Awards about the harmony of the short story, the hopeful act of sending your writing out, and how a great short story can satisfy a hunger for truth.
IH: What in your experience can the necessary shortness of a short story offer a writer that’s distinct from what the longer stretch of a novella or a novel offer?
BL: I think the shortness of the short story constrains the writer, which paradoxically liberates her more often than not. It’s like a kid who is overwhelmed by the vastness of a desert, but thrives when you put them in a sandbox. Any constraint can work to distract the overthinking brain and let creation loose. In writing "Naked States," tying moments or short scenes to a monthly calendar helped me duck out of the way of the story that wanted to land on the page. Adhering to this simple conceit allowed the story to become something more tender and true than it would have otherwise, precisely because I was focussed on form. In writing short fiction, we have this incredible opportunity to make words matter in very little space, like getting to tell someone who is about to leave how you feel about them over the course of a few moments, knowing you may never see each other again.
Read the rest of Ben Lof's interview.
Shazia Hafiz Ramji—issue #220 fiction contributor
Fiction Editorial Board intern Meg Hands talks with the fall issue #220 contributor about list-making, leaving a mystery at the end of the story, and the value of support without ulterior motives.
MH: How did you decide on the unusual structure of “Selvon in Calgary”? Did the structure inform the story or vice versa?
SHR: I have a habit of list-making and the mini lists before each section are parts of that big list. I didn’t think about structure, which is unusual, because I usually feel or intuit or see (in a big-picture way) the form of a story before I write it, and then I write towards that structure of feeling. With this one, I was writing to see what would happen if I placed dissonant items from that list together (for example, lumberjack shirts, which are super popular in Calgary, juxtaposed with that bit of colonial history about Madrasi shirts). The lists are like the scaffolding of the story. I typed the mini list before the scene I was about to write, since I’d given myself the constraint that the scene would involve the things and experiences from that list. I do this frequently but delete the list / lines of poetry afterwards. For this story, I decided to keep the mini lists because they were creating an alternate archive (the “intangible Selvon” archive of the story) as I was writing. It felt too integral to delete this time!
Read the rest of Shazia Hafiz Ramji's interview.