Monday, February 16, 2015

My Short Story in The Collagist! Set at a Famous Writers' Conference! So Excited!

Oh, wow…I am SO thrilled that this story found a fancy home: “One True Thing” has just been posted in The Collagist, a wonderful online journal.  I worked on this story for more than a year, and it nearly undid me, trying to figure it out and make the whole darn thing come together.  I had thought it was complete and then while walking through downtown Nebraska City, Nebraska, I had a sudden realization of one last component that was  needed, something so crucial that your mouth would drop open in disbelief if I told you what piece was missing until the very, very end.

While it’s a stand-alone story, I considered it integral to the success of the forthcoming collection of linked stories, so I was very motivated to find a way.  But here’s what I was dealing with:

 1)     a story told in the form of a craft lecture about point of view; and
 2)     10 different types of point of view.

Whew.  For the record, omniscient and interior monologue (verging on stream of consciousness) were the hardest, though objective was no picnic.

Also, a confession: this story is 40 pages long. BUT—before you despair, it is also set at a writers’ conference that bears ABSOLUTELY NO RESEMBLANCE WHATSOVER to any other famous writers’ conference.  So, it’s a little gossipy, and perhaps that will sustain weary readers through the whole 40 pages.

Here’s where I pledge eternal gratitude to The Collagist and Gabriel Blackwell, its fabulous fiction editor, for taking on this story.

And here’s a short excerpt from just about the beginning:

COLLECTIVE FIRST PERSON: we We were all young back then, or so it seemed to us. If there were old people—"old" meaning anyone older than us—at the MacBride Writers' Conference in 1996, we didn't notice. We were busy with ourselves, and no world existed beyond us, our egos, our writing, our dreams and hopes, our gossip. Some of us were on working scholarship to the conference as waiters, and some of us earned scholarships because our poetry was published in a literary journal deemed important, and some of us—though we were so, so young—had published our first book, which was the holy grail: publish a book. Those people were luckiest of all, coming to the writers' conference on a fellowship, which was the golden ticket. None of us paid. Paying was what regular people did, not us. 

We were obnoxious, toting bottles of crummy red wine into dinner and toasting ourselves in loud voices, clustering at the back of the room during craft lectures to lean and whisper in each other's ears. We mocked the famous poets who taught us, their voices lilting in mind-numbing sing-song as they read their famous poems. We cock-teased the wrinkly, bad-bald, über-letch fiction writers and faked shock when they assumed they would get to fuck us. In workshop, we pontificated on theories of narrative distance and rolled our eyes when the lady from Pasadena who wore the "Book Power" T-shirt raised her hand, and we sighed gustily when our teacher quoted that turd, Hemingway. We organized an invitation-only séance to channel poet James Merrill, and some of us knew tarot, and each of us, when confronting the cards, asked, "Will I be a famous writer?" and a lot of us didn't like what was revealed, though we pretended not to care and called tarot "stupid." …  


DC-area author Leslie Pietrzyk explores the creative process and all things literary.