I started calling myself a writer this year. It happened after completing a short story. The two paragraphs explained how an alcoholic journalist could reconcile his addiction with art. Instead of drinking to forget about the past he painted it. This led him to a community where people use art to make political statements. In the end, he uses them to become mayor of a small town in Orlando.
This story made me feel good, like it healed a wound or cooled a burn inside. My fingers stopped twitching throughout the day. A story laid behind them now. They could carry on with their daily tasks while I thought up new ideas. A planet called California that harbored an evil stepmother. Mermaids that ate pizza. These things I looked forwards to the same way a runner looks forward to their next marathon. I am a writer.
Junot Diaz on writing (well sort of). Great pieces aren’t ready after one session of writing and if they are well praise be to you. One session means you haven’t enjoyed the adventure (I think.) Spending quality time with my characters and plots is truly a gift. I’ll try not to remember the imaginary awards of writing. Instead I’ll focus on the voice that comes from my papers.
You edit fiction for The Boston Review. What do you look for in a great short story? And what would make you want to immediately slip a story into the paper shredder?
Ha! Well, nothing calls for the paper shredder like a story that the writer clearly hasn’t sat on. A story that hasn’t been rewritten, or rewritten enough. So many writers that I encounter send their work in so soon. It shows, it really does. In the end all of us are subjective when it comes to what we’re reading for. As an editor you try to expand that, become a little bit wider, because you’re publishing for a readership larger than yourself. In the end what I’m looking for, which I think is what everyone looks for, is something that sings. More technically, something that is aesthetically beautiful and that challenges people’s sense of the form, and of the world that they live in. We all want to be arrested, to walk away turning over a good piece of fiction in our head. That’s my guide.
Today’s Daily Prompt was about anything I wanted to discuss. I chose a short-story by the looks of it. Please read, comment, and most of all enjoy. Oh, also subscribe!
She found me when no one else was looking. In the paper, three weeks back, the headline read DEATH BY POPULAR DEMAND. There were quizzical looks everywhere from the grocery store to the inside of college libraries. Neither man nor scholar could figure out what the title meant by first glance. So on they read.
The story told of a dead twenty-four year old boy and his ultimate demise. He wasn’t special by the looks of the newspaper photograph but the words on the outside spelled A-r-t-i-s-t. Five years of art school had instilled in him a kind of confidence not found in books. “He loved the world and so himself.” became a popular quote from the printed piece. The boy had said this to practically all the university professors.
It was a tragic story of how he was found on the fifteenth floor of the Heart Studio Apartments. Paint mixed with blood on a canvas that framed suicide. I think that’s when people decided to stop looking for me. Another artist gone too soon by his own doing.
“But I knew that you wouldn’t leave.” she said upon finding me. My consciousness was barely stable and so I thought her an angel. A real angel with fluffy wings when later I’d discover it was hair.
“They took you away because what you had to offer was something much bigger than a mural or scholarship. On your canvas was a theory of worlds. Universes hidden in bristles, disguised as brushes. I think you broke the laws of time. My dear sweet Amin.”