24: Marina Endicott, "Being Mary"

It's December 24. Marina Endicott, author of Good to a Fault and Close to Hugh, raises a glass to the understudy.

How would you describe your story?

MARINA ENDICOTT: A Christmas ornament, a glass-shard of memory. 

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

ME: This is the first story I ever finished. It is also the shortest story I've ever written. I wrote it in an afternoon, then fiddled with it for a while, not very long. On the advice of the writer-in-residence at the Saskatoon library, I sent it to Grain Magazine, and they took it, and a cheque came in the mail for $90—I was rich! I assumed that would be the regular process for publication. Reader, I was wrong. 

What kind of research went into this story?

ME: A life of crime—I still feel bad over that eraser. And my mother getting cancer when I was six. The easy research, you know.  

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

ME: A good short story is better than a novel. (Treason!) Unlike novels, the story form is capable of perfection. It is itself in a nutshell, a nut to be consumed whole. A story can be read in one sitting, taken in and understood; a poem can, too, but poems have an almost stingy reserve—tell me more, I sometimes find myself thinking at the end of a poem. Never at the end of a good short story. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

ME: http://marinaendicott.com (I'd better update it!)

What's on your Christmas list this year?

ME: I got Poppy Barley boots last year, so I'll fall back on world peace, and a recount in the U.S. election. Maybe they are interconnected.

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23: Padgett Powell, "The Lunacy of Gumbo"

It's December 23. Padgett Powell, author of Cries for Help, Various and The Interrogative Mood, has a spice rack for the ages.

How would you describe your story?

PADGETT POWELL: A half-assed recipe, half-assed Life Adventure Taking 35 Years.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work? 

PP: I don’t know, I don’t know.

What kind of research went into this story? 

PP: Empirical.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

PP: It is special in that most are woefully undercooked as per Modern Tastes dictate. Cf. Trevor and O’Connor, William and Flannery, resp.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

PP: A kind fellow suggested I operate a web page, largely to capture domain name, and he framed it up for me, and as a Webfudd I have not added a thing to it. Will Amato is the Samaritan what hepped me with it and it is at padgettpowell.com, I think. But just Google me up. To paraphrase that criminal in The Thin Blue Line, Google is the one what knows.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

PP: Well, I’ve been wanting a Patterdale Terrier but don’t have to juice to go out to Floyd Boudreaux’s to get me one, even after calling him twice to tell him I was coming. Lafayette is a long way from Florida and I am trying to avoid becoming a dog lady. I did get my bulldog a spring-pole tug made of high-grade firehose from Stillwater Kennel Supply, and this is a good Christmas present for about anybody who wants something indestructible that will fit in a stocking.

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21: Laura Trunkey, "Circumstances of Hatred"

It's December 21. Laura Trunkey, author of Double Dutch, keeps a keen eye on expiry dates.

How would you describe your story?

LAURA TRUNKEY: It explores the impact of cryogenically frozen (or more specifically defrosted and alive) Nazis on an already unstable marriage.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

LT: I wrote this story in 2006, for my first summer workshop of the UBC Optional Residency MFA Program. Essentially, it was my introduction to my classmates. Like all my stories, I wrote a messy draft and revised endlessly. The general plot is the same, but the characters have had personality adjustments and only a handful of original sentences remain.

What kind of research went into this story?

LT: I drew solely from personal experience. Well… not really. But my husband and I did move from the west coast to Halifax. And I did complain about the wind funnel at Spring Garden and Barrington. We Victorians can’t handle that kind of cold.

In contrast to most of my fiction, I did very little research for this story.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

LT: In a short story each word has to serve a purpose—and I appreciate the attention that the best short stories pay to language. What’s better than a really phenomenal sentence?

Admittedly, as a reader, I also appreciate the practicality of the form. I read once my son is in bed, and with a good novel I can always convince myself to read “just one more chapter.” Whereas, at the end of a good short story, a pause feels required—some time to let it sink in (and to finally go to sleep).

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

LT: lauratrunkey.com

What's on your Christmas list this year?

LT: Snow, maybe? Not a lot, but a little skiff. Can Santa Claus take care of that?

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20: Shane Jones, "Defamer"

It's December 20. Shane Jones, author of Light Boxes, enjoys every sandwich.

How would you describe your story?

SHANE JONES: I don’t know. 

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

SJ: I wrote it in October of 2015. It took two weeks. When I say it took two weeks (sometimes people think that’s fast) but all I did for two weeks is work on the story. The writing process was similar to my other work.

What kind of research went into this story?

SJ: I did a Google image search for “Bud Light 30 pack.” Not sure I did any other research. I don’t keep notes or old drafts. 

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

SJ: It’s a very sinister and mean form. I don’t understand stories that are like 30 pages or more that are subtle and calm and kind of develop slowly. To me, the DNA of the short story form is designed to obliterate the reader just before it obliterates itself. It would be unfair to compare it to other forms.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

SJ: Twitter (@hishanejones).

What's on your Christmas list this year?

SJ: Medium-size dog.

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19: Missy Marston, "Baby's On Fire"

It's December 19. Missy Marston, author of The Love Monster, has learned not to stand directly in front of the speakers.

How would you describe your story?

MISSY MARSTON: This is the story of a menopausal woman buffeted about on gusts of hormones. It is about rock and roll and middle-aged romance. And teacups.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

MM: I wrote this story this spring in response to a request. My first book, The Love Monster, has a few serious fans. They really are few but they are mighty and they have ideas. One of their most dearly held ideas is that I should write another book with the same characters. There is a bit of a love story in the novel and they want to know how it works out. I wrote this story to explore what the characters’ lives might be like now, about 14 years after the original story took place.

At the same time, I was writing a story called "Urge to Kill" for a comedy project about a woman in the throes of postpartum madness. The two stories are a kind of set; the lunatic bookends of female fertility.

What kind of research went into this story?

MM: Absolutely no research went into the writing of this story! I have never written anything that borrows details so shamelessly from my own life. I own those teacups. All but December and January. But it won’t be long. I am coming for you, teacups.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

MM: As a reader, I love short stories. They can be so potent and precise. As a writer, it is a form that has intimidated me. There is no room for approximations. It is only in the last few years that I have felt that my short stories are reasonably successful. I use them as a way of testing out voices or characters for novels. To see if things can come to life and grab some attention.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

MM: People can find me on Twitter, and I have a blog where I am supposed to write about writing but mostly write about music. 

What's on your Christmas list this year?

MM: For Christmas this year, I would like the December and January teacups from the Royal Albert Flower of the Month series, and some red-hot middle-aged lovin’. Thanks, Santa!

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18: Sheila Heti, "A Follower of Aeromat"

It's December 18. Sheila Heti, author of How Should a Person Be? and Ticknor, deals from the middle of the deck.

How would you describe your story?

SHEILA HETI: It’s about trying to write from a place of inspiration in a time of Twitter and the internet, when all sorts of voices are in your head, telling you to stop writing what you’re writing, that you’re bad, that you’re going to upset this person or that one, and how this voice gets insides your head and becomes a part of you, and conflicts with what, deep down, it seems like writing should feel be like—a kind of unimpeded flow and, at least in the moment of creation, untroubled by those concerns.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

SH: I wrote it when my boyfriend and I were living beside a frozen lake, in a cottage, outside the city for a month. He had work to do in the area. The process was the same as it always is: I write quickly, in a burst, then edit later, maybe months later. I wrote this story upon waking up in the middle of the night.

What kind of research went into this story?

SH: None, but I was partly inspired by a wonderful lecture the writer Tova Benjamin gave the month before at Trampoline Hall.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

SH: It can do the same things as novels and poems. I don’t think it’s a special form, necessarily.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

SH: www.sheilaheti.net

What's on your Christmas list this year?

SH: Turning forty (God willing). My birthday is on Christmas day.

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17: Daniel Handler, "I Hate You"

It's December 17. Daniel Handler, author of Adverbs and All the Dirty Parts, always leaves a forwarding address.

How would you describe your story?

DANIEL HANDLER: The story sprang from three sources, near as I can tell:

  1. Borrowing someone else’s apartment and collecting a large pile of their mail.
  2. The end of a dinner party, lingering over the last of the food and drink—I’ve recently learned the word sobremesa for this time—talking about the worst thing you can say to someone.
  3. Thinking about the importance of missing information in fiction.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

DH: I wrote it in one large rush and then put it away for about a year and then returned to it. I have learned to put things away for awhile. It took some training but it is good for the work I think.

What kind of research went into this story?

DH: I kept my eyes open.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can’t?

DH: I read once someplace that a short story is like a kiss from a stranger, and a novel is the whole affair. I’ve never been good at kissing strangers but I understand the quick breathless rush, the slipping away, the occasional lingering fantasy of how else it might have gone.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

DH: I believe some information can be found in libraries and the internet, but I think reading literature is more fun than investigating it. I’m reading a book by Mei-Mei Berssenbrugge currently; she’s good.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

DH: Being grateful I’m Jewish, and thus can hole up with my family in a rented cabin away from the juggernaut.

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16: Mireille Silcoff, "The Heaviest Dress"

It's December 16. Mireille Silcoff, author of Chez L'arabe, knows a guy who knows a guy.

How would you describe your story?

MIREILLE SILCOFF: It's not often I go back to youth for stories. I find it frustrating to think about how I thought as a teenager. The older me wants to tell the younger me how wrong she is; wants to say "it will get better." This is a story about that period between youth and adulthood, where you make decisions that might impact your life for a long time to come, and yet you don't know why you are making these choices—you are swayed by emotion and a knee-jerk brand of instinct. The protagonist looks at her older relative—a woman who made many "bad" choices—and can't figure out if she is the saddest or most interesting woman she has ever known. Like so many stories I write, this is one about inheritances: what gets passed down, whether you like it or not.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

MS: I wrote the first version of this story in 2009, over the entire year, and it simply would not come together. I then sliced it into two stories, and worked on each separately, and ultimately aborted one half and sent the other half—which became this story—to my agent, for possible inclusion in my story collection Chez L'arabe. He told me to put it in a drawer and leave it there. So I did that, but it scratched at me. I knew this was a story I liked and a story I wanted to tell. The image of the heavy, once-glamorous dress depleted of all powers, and of the garment bag like a bodybag, stayed with me, and kept on coming up in other writing. After Chez L'arabe was published, I pulled this story out again and chipped away at it for three months until the themes came to surface. I still think of it as a rangy relative to some of my more careful stories, but I love it for that reason, too.

What kind of research went into this story?

MS: There was a woman in my extended family a bit like Elainey. I had to hold her memory in my mind with tenderness.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

MS: I am writing my first novel now, so I am living these differences. For me a story always begins with a feeling or an atmosphere—in the case of "The Heaviest Dress," it could have been the still-warm smell of Giorgio perfume and Benson and Hedges cigarettes on an older woman—and every other element flows out from there. With the novel, I find that I like to create a frame for a chapter: "it begins here and ends there," or "this is where this idea happens." Once I have that frame, I go about filling it in. It's an approach that feels less dreamy than the way I write stories.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

MS: I've been a newspaper columnist in one place or another for more than twenty years, so readers can always go online and find things that way. I am a technological lazybones/curmudgeon. I am not on Twitter and I am terrible at Facebook and I don't have a website or a blog or anything that makes this question an easy one to answer. I suppose the best way to know my writing would be to read my books.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

MS: No Christmas for this big Jew, I'm afraid. But my Hanukah list includes:

  1. Guerlain "Apres Londres" cologne
  2. One of those vibrating electric toothbrushes that cost $150 and give you a bit of a headache. Nothing says clean like a little pain!
  3. Money into my 2017 Upholstery Fund. I have a toddler and a five year old and there is not a soft surface in my house that has not been markered, apple juiced, or worse. Every morning, when everyone is still asleep, I creep down to the living room to get some writing done, and I look at my furniture, and I die a little.  

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15: Jedediah Berry, "Minus, His Heart"

It's December 15. Jedediah Berry, author of "The Family Arcana" and The Manual of Detection, is standing outside with a boombox right now.

How would you describe your story?

JEDEDIAH BERRY: It’s your average boy-gets-abducted-by-the-neighborhood-wassailer story. There’s also a stolen mixtape, a playground betrayal, and an evil zookeeper.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

JB: I wrote it years ago, in the midst of a heartbreak, and I wrote it very quickly. I had no real plan for how it was supposed to go, so I was surprised when the plot turned out to have the structure of a noir crime story. I felt I was taking risks with the sentences, and this felt joyful despite the hurt I was channeling at the time.

What kind of research went into this story?

JB: Conversations with old drunks over the course of several decades, having nightmares set in playgrounds, going to zoos and not feeling good about it.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

JB: It can be made to last just as long as a mug of good tea.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

JB: They can meet me for a beer in Amherst, Massachusetts, or they can visit my website at www.thirdarchive.net. I’m also on Twitter.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

JB: The family homestead needs its chimney fixed. Till then, no Santa and no crackling fires—but maybe some old fashioned wassailing.

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14: J. Robert Lennon, "Blue Light, Red Light"

It's December 14. J. Robert Lennon, author of See You in Paradise and Broken River, occasionally watches television unsupervised.

How would you describe your story?

J. ROBERT LENNON: It’s a cautionary tale about parenting told largely from a child’s point of view.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

JRL: I wrote it a few years ago, and the process was typical for the very short fiction I write; I scribbled it really quickly into a notebook, then revised it later, as I transferred the text into the computer. I think I wrote it in a single sitting, in a bar at the Jersey Shore.

What kind of research went into this story?

JRL: I’d heard an anecdote, presented as evidence of clever parenting, about a couple who calmed their anxious toddler by lying about the function of a glowing blue night light. My thoughts immediately went to all the ways this could backfire. I think our kids tend to be more perceptive than we think; they can detect a lie and will go out of their way to expose it.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can’t?

JRL: I think a story can be really good at honoring the integrity of a particular moment in a way the novel can’t. Or rather, a novel could, but its priorities usually lie elsewhere. A story is great for experiments in form, too. Here, I was trying to keep the third-limited point of view distant enough so that the reader could understand what was going on, even though the protagonist didn’t. This combination of tone and distance eventually made its way into a novel, actually, which is coming out soon.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

JRL: jrobertlennon.comtwitter.com/jrobertlennon

What's on your Christmas list this year?

JRL: A real nice skillet!

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13: Caroline Adderson, "Obscure Objects"

It's December 13. Caroline Adderson, author of The Sky Is Falling and Ellen in Pieces, only steals office supplies discretely.

How would you describe your story?

CAROLINE ADDERSON: It’s an experiment in form.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

CA: This isn’t a new story. It was originally published in The New Quarterly in 2004, but not included my next collection, Pleased to Meet You (2006). The process was accidental. I had a dear friend, a teaching colleague, who died of a brain aneurism at the age of 45. She wasn’t Renata, but a little like her—funny, outspoken, unflappable. So unflappable she once hitchhiked to university with a man who wasn’t wearing any pants, an incident I use in the story. Even though I meant the story as something of a tribute to my friend, I worried that people would think she’d also done the more outlandish thing that Renata does. I also felt in a quandary because I couldn’t get my friend’s permission to use a true incident from her life. The easiest way to deal with these problems was to change Renata’s ethnicity so no one would recognize my friend. I tried Italian, but she still seemed too real, so I tried another. Before I knew it, I was writing metafiction—my first and likely my last attempt.

What kind of research went into this story?

CA: I was an ESL teacher for more than a dozen years. Vancouver is full of ESL “colleges,” some of them appalling, scams nearly, others decent places. In either case, they are story troves. This is loosely based on a school I worked in.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

CA: It allows a fiction writer to feel like she could be a poet.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

CA: www.carolineadderson.com

 What's on your Christmas list this year?

CA: No presents please. Just parties.

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12: Aimee Bender, "Oneness Plus One"

It's December 12. Aimee Bender, author of The Color Master and The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake, knows that if you've got time to lean, you've got time to clean.

How would you describe your story?

AIMEE BENDER: Existential trash talk. 

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

AB: A number of years ago—maybe 2012? My usual process, which means following whatever seems to have some life in it (including lint).

What kind of research went into this story?

AB: Cleaning and not cleaning.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can’t?

AB: Everything! It can do everything! There’s no budget, it can go internal and external, it can span time and also slow time, it is stunningly flexible. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

AB: flammableskirt.com

What's on your Christmas list this year?

AB: I’m Jewish, so no Christmas list for me. Being part of an advent calendar is pretty fun that way. Novel.

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11: Lou Mathews, "Crazy Life"

It's December 11. Lou Mathews, author of L.A. Breakdown, has a getaway driver around back, just in case.

How would you describe your story?

LOU MATHEWS: I side with Flannery O’Connor, who said, “When anybody asks what a story is about, the only proper thing to tell him is to read the story.” My version of that is, If I could say what the story was about, I wouldn’t have written it. If I’m forced to answer, I have an all-purpose reply that I developed for my first novel, L.A. Breakdown, “I think it’s about life and death and love in the streets of Los Angeles, but everybody else seems to think it’s about illegal street racing.”

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

LM: “Crazy Life” was written in 1986. It started with a voice in my head, Dulcie Gomez’s voice, and for most of the first draft, I felt as though I was taking dictation.

What kind of research went into this story?

LM: I like Carolyn Chute’s line, “This story was involuntarily researched.” Dulcie is based on a couple of amazing high-school girlfriends, the rest on how and where I grew up. I knew a lot of Chueys and Sleepy Chavezes, growing up, and if I’d come along a decade later, when the weaponry became more lethal, I probably wouldn’t have survived it.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

LM: I don’t think any other literary form can touch you the way a great poem does, but a great short story can come close. A great short story holds a kind of magic, the kind you might feel if you were around a fire, deep in a cave, ages ago, listening. I also like St. Flannery’s line, “A story is a way to say something that can’t be said any other way…”

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

LM: You can find stuff on Google and there’s a Wikipedia page that seems to think I’m primarily a playwright and that I vanished around 2001. I probably need to update that. I’m not very good at promotion, I just like to write.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

LM: A bottle of forgetfulness. It’s been a tough, divisive year in the U.S.

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10: Manuel Gonzales, "Two Minutes, Five Minutes, Ten"

It's December 10. Manuel Gonzales, author of The Miniature Wife and The Regional Office Is Under Attack!, always has one eye on the exit.

How would you describe your story?

MANUEL GONZALES: It's a bit of an adventure story based loosely on the world and characters from my novel, The Regional Office Is Under Attack! What I enjoyed playing around with in this story was speculating into the future for this character, casting forward as far as I could, and then offering a small glimmer of a chance that the future I laid out wasn't the future that would happen. Also, I like this woman—she's funny and a badass and I want her to win—and in the novel I don't focus very much on the operatives working for The Regional Office—I focus on peripheral non-operative characters—and it was great fun writing this woman.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

MG: I wrote this a couple of years ago for a friend who was looking for new fiction to feature in the Aston Martin magazine, which was a magazine I didn't even know existed, but it does! (Or it did.) And she gave me the criteria that the story should somehow reflect power, beauty, and soul, which is also a weird conglomeration of criteria for a story, but this made me think of any one of the women who worked for the Regional Office in my novel—the Regional Office trains at-risk young women to fight the forces of darkness that threaten the destruction of the planet—and so I thought of one of these women on assignment, but an assignment that potentially goes wrong. And so it was different in that it was an assignment, and I haven't written too many assignments. 

What kind of research went into this story?

MG: None, no research, I'm horrible at research, like, research is the last thing I think to do when writing anything, which is why I stick to fiction.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

MG: The story is so plastic and malleable but also, counterintuitively, so much more contained than a novel, which can go sprawling all over the place, can take turns and languish and twist around. The story can do that, but has to be so precise in how it does these things because there's only so many pages, only so many words in which to capture everything you want to capture. The story, too, can expand to encompass an entire life or, as in this story, focus on ten minutes, on the action of one ten-minute sequence. There's something thrilling about this. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

MG: People can go to everythingisunderattack.com to find out more about me, or follow me on Twitter where I say dumb things sometimes: @hrniles.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

MG: I just gave my Christmas list to my wife and it includes a nonstick omelet pan, gloves, and new sunglasses because every summer by the end of the summer, my sunglasses flit away never to be seen again, as ephemeral as summer vacation itself.

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9: Katie Coyle, "Dream Girl"

It's December 9. Katie Coyle, author of the Vivian Apple series, tried to sleep it off, but that only made things worse.

How would you describe your story?

KATIE COYLE: My story is kind of like a Russian nesting doll containing several different varieties of manipulative teens.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

KC: I wrote “Dream Girl” in my second year of graduate school using the same basic formulation with which I write any story—a premise comes to mind, and following it to its conclusion eventually reveals a deeper emotional thread. I think of it kind of like I’m telling myself a joke: “What happened when the immature teen trapped his ex-girlfriend inside his own brain?” The story itself is the punchline. I remember really enjoying writing Winston’s dreams. I know a lot of people don’t enjoy hearing about dreams in real life or fiction; I am not one of those people.

What kind of research went into this story?

KC: None.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

KC: My favorite short stories are the ones that resemble dreams—small, contained worlds in which you find yourself without context, where the moment you learn the rules you’ve reached the final sentence. Novels are, to me, about immersion, where short stories are like having your head dunked in very cold water for a second and feeling invigorated when you come up for air.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

KC: katiecoyle.com, or @krcoyle on Twitter.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

KC: I write this shortly after the United States election, so my answer should be obvious: a radical feminist moon colony.

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7: Chris Bachelder, "Deep Wells, USA"

It's December 7. Chris Bachelder, author of U.S.! and The Throwback Special, has cut the mayor just about enough slack.

How would you describe your story?

CHRIS BACHELDER: "Deep Wells" is a loud, restless, manic play, featuring quick cuts and childish shouting. Many voices swirl satirically around a quiet center. In this center is grief and pain and fatigue.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

CB: I wrote "Deep Wells" in 2000 or 2001. It's one of my earliest stories. Though I was a much more antic and unrestrained writer in those days, I think my general mode was similar. Once I found my form and premise, I attempted to do two things: 1) Generate comic material; 2) Try to locate heart and feeling beneath the satirical storm.

What kind of research went into this story?

CB: I lived in the USA for three decades.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

CB: I regard the short story as a revelation machine. It's a kind of brutal technology. In its form it applies so much pressure that something invisible is suddenly made visible.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

CB: www.suppliescloset.com

What's on your Christmas list this year?

CB: I'm having a lot of trouble with raccoons, so I'm asking Santa for a large cask of predator urine.

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6: Gina Ochsner, "Cure"

It's December 6. Gina Ochsner, author of Hidden Letters and People I Wanted To Be, can tell if an object will float just by looking at it.

How would you describe your story?

GINA OCHSNER: I would describe my story as brooding, haunted and a tinge creepy. I think the Pacific Northwest and, in particular, Oregon’s north coast, being so wet and socked in fog so much of the year, makes a great setting for an odd, creepy story.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

GO: I wrote this story almost ten years ago. As a girl I had visited the north coast many times to see my grandparents. They often regaled us with tales of ghostly encounters, creatures rising up from the mists of the lakes and sloughs. Their stories shaped this one and the writing process moved much more quickly than it usually does when I’m writing a story. Once I knew who the characters were (primarily the two brothers and the grief-stricken father) and that they would have some otherworldly encounter, the narrative shaped itself.

What kind of research went into this story?

GO: I did a little research on life jackets in the 1930s, local lore and legendry of coastal Oregon, demographics, and little on plants and vegetation.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

GO: I love the short form. It’s so malleable and at the same time capacious. In it no time might pass or centuries. Scenes allow a stop motion feel to the narrative while exposition can whisk the reader though and over large amounts of time and space. In short stories the curtain can rise anywhere on the action or setting and a great amount of freedom and mobility is afforded in character development (or lack thereof). The only “rule” that I’ve ever encountered or imposed upon myself is that in a short story something significant  must happen. That’s it. And what fun!

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

GO: Please stop by and visit me at www.ginaochsner.com.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

GO: On my Christmas list this year is a pair of puppy-resistant slippers.

5: Deb Olin Unferth, "Pet"

It's December 5. Deb Olin Unferth, author of Vacation and Revolution, buys the fancy food but still isn't convinced the pet knows the difference.

How would you describe your story?

DEB OLIN UNFERTH: It’s sort of an underdog story, about failing in so many ways that the law of averages says you've got to have a win.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

DOU: Most of my work takes years. It sits around in drafts that I pull out and work on for a few days and put back for another six months. This one I wrote very quickly, in maybe two or three drafts.

What kind of research went into this story?

DOU: I didn’t do research exactly, but the two turtles featured in the story were based on two turtles that I took from my aunt's basement and kept in my small Chicago apartment. A few years later my boyfriend (at the time) and I drove to a turtle pond in southern Indiana and set them free. The next day we rented a canoe and went out hoping to spot them among the hundreds of turtles lined up on the logs.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

DOU: A good short story places an entire world in your mind in a matter of minutes. 

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

DOU: I have a story collection, Wait Till You See Me Dance, coming out in March 2017. And I have a graphic novel, I Parrot, co-written with Elizabeth Haidle, coming out in November 2017. 

What's on your Christmas list this year?

DOU: My Christmas list is bare. It’s nonexistent, an anti-list. I don't want anything. I'd rather someone read me story. I'd rather someone make me big promises and have every intention of keeping them.

4: Thomas Wharton, "Bestiary"

It's December 4. Thomas Wharton, author of The Logogryph and Icefields, pities both the ants and the fungus.

How would you describe your story?

THOMAS WHARTON: "Bestiary" is a collection of short anecdotes drawn from true stories about unusual, usually tragic encounters between humans and other animals. I think maybe it's my elegy for the vanishing wild things of this planet.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

TW: Worked on it over the last couple of years. It's a completely different sort of beast, pun intended, from what I usually write. I cried a lot more than usual over the pages. Don't know whether that's a good sign or not.

What kind of research went into this story?

TW: A lot of delving into historical texts for curious true stories about animals, although some of the anecdotes are drawn from current events. Like Eduardo Galeano in Children of the Days, I'm looking for an image or moment out of the past, or out of the present, that can deliver a short sharp shock to the reader.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

TW: Poe said it best when he talked about a short story delivering a complete "effect" in one sitting. Kafka said a story (well, okay, he said "book") should be an axe for the frozen sea within us. Which means a great short story, I guess, is a single precisely aimed axe blow. If it wakes or loosens something in the reader it's done its job.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

TW: www.thomaswharton.ca

What's on your Christmas list this year?

TW: Santa, please bring me a book contract.

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3: Vanessa Hua, "Just Like Us"

It's December 3. Vanessa Hua, author of Deceit and Other Possibilities, always follows the posted speed limit. 

How would you describe your story?

VANESSA HUA: A coming of age, mother-daughter road trip.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

VH: Awhile ago, after my husband and I went camping in the redwoods. A summer weekend for us, but a form of housing for others, I soon realized. The writing process didn't differ my usual process: submitting drafts to my writing group and trading it with my critique partners. Revise, revise, revise.

What kind of research went into this story?

VH: I incorporated the landscape I've seen in my travels, and I also looked into the particulars of truck campers.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing (novels, poems) can't?

VH: The precision and economy, and how it can turn on a moment or gesture and yet still bear a narrative power.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?

VH: www.vanessahua.com

What's on your Christmas list this year?

VH: Time to read the great works I've picked up while on book tour, and possibly our children's first trip to Disneyland.

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What did you think of today's story? Use the hashtag #ssac2016 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to check in with your fellow advent calendarians.