Short Stories Dwell In Possibility

BLOG on the short-short

What I love most about the short story is that you can do things that you can’t in a novel.  Especially the short-short.

Italo Calvino’s “All At One Point,” is one of my favorites.  Who would read a whole novel about the fact that all matter and creation used to exist in a single point?  But a book of linked stories that each takes a scientific fact and builds an imaginative story around it?  Sign me up.

While the story is short it must go to great lengths to make itself important.  It doesn’t have time for the conventions of the novel—there aren’t pages enough to make the reader fall head over heels in love with the characters.  Instead the language, the ideas, the plot of the short story have to dazzle, and quickly.  Urgently.  The short story is an affair, a quick fling, a one-night stand.  The short story dwells in the biggest of all worlds, that of possibility.

Month One of Being a Published Author: Three Things I’ll Do Differently At Future Events

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As anyone who has looked at my facebook author page over the last month can see, I’ve had a ton of support and a lot of fun since SINNERS AND THE SEA was published one month ago, on April 2nd. Still, I’m always looking for ways to improve. Here are a few I’ve found so far:

1. When doing a Q&A with over 100 people in the audience, repeat questions before answering them. A couple of people gave me this advice after my Magers & Quinn reading.

2. When at a book fair, bring something of interest for people to look at. At the St. Peter Book Festival, there were lots of authors. I took the organizer’s advice and brought candy. But bringing a large picture of the ark found on Mt. Ararat would have been good too.

3. Have someone write peoples’ names down before signing their books. I feel bad having to ask someone how to spell their name when I’ve known them for years and I don’t want to mess up anyone’s book. I’ll probably be adding to this list in the future. Stay tuned!

A Little Lump

A couple of weeks ago I listened to a rabbi talk about God from a Kabbalistic perspective. God as Ein Sof. Ein meaning “without,” Sof meaning “limit.” The God that Rabbi Glaser spoke of was one I’ve always wanted and have struggled to believe exists, a God that is love. I’ve heard “God is love” so many times it’s like water off a duck’s back. God manifests in the goodness between people, etc. But at the end of the lecture he said something that stuck with me. He said that there is enough love in the world, but we don’t let it in.

The Monday before I’d gone to the doctor for an annual physical. During the breast exam the doctor had put my hand on my breast. My left hand was behind my head, making me think I must look rather glamorous, and he brought the right one across my body, below my nipple, and moved it in a circular motion. “Do you feel that?” he asked.

a little lump mammograph machine

I assumed he was showing me how to do a breast self exam. “Yes, use a circular motion.”

“Do you feel that little bead there?”

It still didn’t register that something was wrong. Breasts aren’t always perfectly smooth and I’ve always been healthy. “Yes,” I said.

He left the room and came back with a piece of paper titled Diagnostic Breast Imaging Physician Order.

I’ll just get this over with, I thought, I’ll do it without hardly noticing. I’ll be untouched by it.

But I wanted someone to care. I told my friend Inna and she offered to go with me. “No, that’s not necessary,” I said immediately, instinctively. Several other friends offered and I said no to all of them.

The Sunday after listening to the rabbi’s talk I was in yoga lying on my back in Final Savasana and I started thinking of Ein Sof. I splayed my arms out and felt, as the cliché goes, embraced by the light. I lay there after everyone else had said Namaste and put away their mats.

I told Inna I wanted her to come to my appointments. And she did. To the mammogram and the ultrasound and the biopsy. In the waiting room we told dark jokes and drank tea and laughed so hard we scared the other women in white robes and surprised the radiologist who said uncertainly, “It’s good you guys are still in good spirits.”

The day after the biopsy the doctor called to say it was benign, it was nothing. I had a moment of relief followed by thoughts of the women I know whose ordeal with breast lumps didn’t end this easily. My own ordeal is over but it wasn’t nothing. I wasn’t untouched. I’d been given the opportunity to feel some of the limitless goodness in the world. I’m grateful I was able to let it in.

Jack of Few Trades, Mistress of One

I’ve spent the last few years dreading events and gatherings where I might meet people who would ask: “So, what do you do?”  When I told them I was working on a novel I could see it in their eyes, they were looking at me and thinking “Unemployed.”  Except for those who believed me. The next time I would see one of these believers—be it a year, a month, a week later—they would inevitably ask if I’d finished my novel. When I told them no, I was certain they too were filing me under “Unemployed.”

After a while it starts to become uncomfortable.  The person feels sad for you, or disgusted that you don’t look for real work.

jack of few trades mistress of one contract

But luckily I had no other skills, so I didn’t have to wonder Should I have been a stockbroker?  A firefighter?  A ballerina? I write, I edit, I teach, and anything else I do at the risk of some peril to mankind. Even cooking is dangerous for me. I often don’t remember I’ve got something on the stove until the smoke detector goes off.

So I kept plugging away. By a string of what I thought was bad luck (the subject of a future post), I was able to finish my novel and get a good publication contract.

I’ll talk more in depth about my journey to publication and my writing process in future posts. But for today I’ll just say that I’m grateful to be a jack of few trades, mistress of one.