Friday, March 02, 2007

The Genesis of a Short Story

One of my older short stories, "Flying Lessons," was just published at the on-line literary magazine, Hamilton Stone Review. The story was always one of my favorites -- I had a lot of fun writing it, and I enjoyed hanging out with my characters. In 2000, Glimmer Train reinforced my good feelings about it when they picked it as a finalist for the journal's Short Story Award for New Writers. But it was long, and that made it hard to find a publisher. Most journals have guidelines limiting word count, and at 7500 words, my story was way over the average limit of 3000 to 3500 words. So I'm especially grateful to Hamilton Stone Review for being willing to publish it.

A lot of people read it and see the similarity between Ricky's family situation and the real life family of my husband Rick. In the story, brothers Ricky and Joe live with their divorced mother and their grandma. My husband Rick and his brother also come from divorced parents, and their grandma lived with them growing up. Joe is a musician; my husband's brother is a musician. But before anyone gets the idea that I've contradicted my earlier post below, and that this story isn't fiction, let me give you a glimpse into a writer's mind (or at least this writer's mind) to see how we sometimes come up with story ideas.

In "Flying Lessons," the real "story behind the story" (as I like to say) is the character of Lisa. Now, it's true that my brother-in-law dated a lot of girls with the name of Lisa (in fact, he married and later divorced one of them). My husband once told me a funny anecdote about one of these Lisas (not the one he married), about how she was um, how should I say. . . clear throat . . . noisy, and how their quiet, unassuming grandma once remarked on this trait at the dinner table. Now, moving to another family -- mine -- I also remembered one of my own brothers dating a beautiful girl who was Israeli, and who did, in fact, have to return to Israel to serve in the armed forces. So the Lisa in "Flying Lessons" started as sort of a basic composite of these two girlfriends, and then I used the relationship between the brothers as my structural foundation because I find such relationships so, so interesting. (You'll see more brotherly dynamics in Best Intentions, too). To my knowledge, neither of the girls upon whom I based Lisa was a pilot -- the details about flying come from my own experience as a pilot. And everything else that happens in the story -- well, you'll have to blame that on what goes on in my crazy little brain . . .

So that's about it. Does the story have some real life components to it? You bet. So is it still fiction? Without a doubt.

I hope you'll check it out and let me know how you like it.

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