14: Nancy Jo Cullen, "Valerie's Bush"

It's December 14. Nancy Jo Cullen, author of Canary, never lets her gift certificates expire.

How would you describe your story?

NANCY JO CULLEN: My story is a break-up story that explores how a person might say goodbye to her feelings of betrayal, and to her lover.

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

NJC: I wrote the story in 2010. I’d been regularly attending a hot yoga studio and the opening image was sparked there. I wrote it fairly quickly and felt pretty good about it--it’s very short and came pretty much in a piece. Later, when Plenitude Magazine picked up the story, Andrea Routley (Plenitude’s editor) suggested that I give a few more details about the esthetician in the story and I think that’s when the story really clicked. Just a few more lines and I think the story fell into place.

What, for you, are the essential elements of a good short story? 

NJC: Voice is important to me, and tone. I want to be pulled into the universe of the story so that I experience the delight of reading, of entering a world I may or may not be familiar with and getting lost. I like a story to move at a clip, which doesn’t mean it has to be short but that the telling somehow has an urgency to it. I was gripped by Shaena Lambert’s story, "Oh My Darling," which I found ominous and impossible to stop reading. I love it when stories pull me in and let me enjoy such a focused engagement.

Did this story require any research?

NJC: I didn’t research this story.

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

NJC: www.nancyjocullen.net.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

NJC: Every year I love to read the Journey Prize anthology and I really look forward to getting my copy. I am also delighted to receive the annual Best American Short Stories. This year I’m asking for the collection A Manual for Cleaning Women by Lucia Berlin, who I’ve just learned about.