This week the guys discuss Keith Lee Morris’s story “Ayudame,” which is in his collection Call it What You Want. Also recommended: His novel The Dart League King. Here he answers a few questions about the ’60s, his short story “exit strategy” and his latest project.
WITTScast: Where did the idea for this story come from?
Keith Lee Morris: Most of the stories in the collection started with dreams. In this case, it was just a dream of being in a record store like the one described in the story—bead curtain, patchouli, etc. Having grown up in the 70s and graduated from high school in ’81, the beginning of the Reagan era, yuppies, bad corporate rock music, and all that, I always felt like I’d missed out in being too young to get anything out of the ’60s (of course, I wasn’t sorry to miss getting drafted). And I had a friend in high school whose dream was to move to California and open a record store. And I had another friend who’d recently fallen off a roof. It all just came together. Continue reading
In episode 7, we discussed Marie-Helene Bertino’s charming story “North of,” which is in her debut collection, Safe As Houses, which received the 2012 Iowa Short Fiction Award and was published last fall. She kindly answered a few questions about her story and Bob Dylan, that “banty rooster.” For more about her, visit her website here.
WITTScast: Where did this story come from?
Marie-Helene Bertino: I was fired on Bob Dylan’s 60th birthday, then drove up to the mountains to meet my friends. I wasn’t broken up about being fired, but it was a surreal experience I spent the ride mulling over. Philly radio played nothing but Dylan all weekend. You do not realize how many songs Bob Dylan has about leaving a job until you get fired on his 60th birthday. Later, I told people I spent the weekend driving around with Bob Dylan. Then, I thought, what if I made that figurative sentence literal? Everything else took years. Continue reading
In episode 4, we discussed Roxane Gay’s excellent story “Glass,” published in the Atticus Review. She answered a few questions via email about that story and writing in general. Her short stories have been published widely, including in Best American Short Stories 2012, and her debut collection, Ayiti, is now available. For more information, visit her website.
WITTScast: I think what we admired most about “Glass” is your ability to be experimental with form while also writing with a remarkable amount of heart. The risk of experimentation seems to be that a piece loses heart. How do you prevent that? Do you find that “experimentalism” and “heart” go hand in hand for you?
Roxane Gay: Writing and heart go hand in hand for me, whether I am writing a traditional narrative or something experimental. I want to make people feel, no matter how I go about doing that. When heart gets lost in experimentalism, it’s because there’s not enough method to the madness. It’s an easy trap to fall in, to get lost in the experiment for experiment’s sake. We’ve all been there. Continue reading
In episode six of What I’m Trying to Say, the guys will be discussing the opening chapter of Holly Goddard Jones’s new novel, The Next Time You See Me, which is available online. She graciously answered a few questions via email about her novel, and about the transition from short-story writer to novelist. Jones is also the author of an excellent story collection, Girl Trouble. Learn more about her at her website here.
WITTScast: To start with, where did the idea for this novel come from?
Holly Goddard Jones: When I was little, the body of a local woman was found in a wooded area near my family’s home, by a person my parents knew a bit—a man who worked for the telephone or cable company and had been out checking on lines. And for years after that, when I’d go into the woods to explore, or play make-believe, a part of me would wonder, What if I find a body? It seemed like a terrible thing that could happen but also sort of an exciting thing. So the book began in that way for me, with the thought, What if a kid did find a body? And this girl who finds it—what intrigued me about her is that she would be weird and isolated but perhaps more troubling for the fact that she’s an exaggeration of that odd, selfish, borderline-sociopathic quality that most kids have at least a dose of. Continue reading
In the next episode of What I’m Trying to Say, the Wittscasters discuss Freight Stories #8, the latest issue of this exciting online journal. To prepare, we sent a few questions to co-editors Andrew Scott and Victoria Barrett.
WITTSCASTERS: How would you describe the FS aesthetic?
FREIGHT STORIES: In our submission guidelines, we say: “We wish only that your work be driven by the exploration of the lives of believable, compelling characters, and that it help to illuminate, broaden, or in some way enrich its readers’ perspectives.” That sums up our aesthetic nicely. We want excellent prose, or prose that’s close enough that we can push it into excellence; we hope for characters with rich inner lives, rendered in a compelling and vivid fictional world. None of this means we’re closed off to formal experimentation, by any means, as long as the formal play truly serves the story. It’s hard for us to become interested in a story without a character, or one that’s only concerned about its ninja linguistics. Continue reading