Ah, Life in a Postcard

Even though I’ve submitted my thesis (and I defend in less than a month!), I still have two more to write for workshop–two more stories before I graduate. And as I’ve forced myself to write the first story, it’s never been more clear to me just what a luxury it is to be in an MFA program. Or to put it another way, what an amazing benefit it is to have to write even when I don’t feel the impulse. Because after finishing revisions on my thesis collection, all I really want to do is simultaneously not think about those stories and think of nothing else. Though I feel in many ways “done” with them, I still have hopes of publishing them individually in magazines and hopefully as a collection. And so in that way, they’re still with me, swimming around in my mind. I have submitted three of the five stories in my thesis to journals/magazines, but that only extends my time with them because now I have to wait the few months to hear how they’ve fared.

And so I’m working on a new piece, and I’m realizing that it might be the start of something much longer, a novella or novel even. And that’s both frustrating and exciting. It’s frustrating because I’d like to be able to workshop a complete story so that I can get the invaluable feedback on the ending, since I’ve only recently really been able to address my tendency to end my stories too early, relying on a false, safe ending. Also, feedback on an incomplete piece is harder for my workshop compatriots to give because every suggestion must always be prefaced with “Well, I don’t know where this is eventually going, but you could have this character do such and such.”

It’s exciting because before entering this program, I couldn’t conceive of how I could ever write something longer than seventeen pages. Since then, I’ve been consistently writing stories well over twenty pages and one in my collection is a solid thirty. And now I think I could write a novella, or maybe even a novel. Which is a good thing since apparently publishers aren’t interested in short story collections. They want novels because people don’t want to read short stories outside of workshops or literary journals/magazines. In fact, I keep hearing the same story of different people whose agents said, “I like your short story collection, but do you have a novel?” or who finally got their collection into an editor at a publishing house who said the same thing.

One last thing about the new piece I’m working on (“Life in a Postcard”): It’s set in Florence, Italy, which means that if I do continue working on it as a novella/novel, I just might have to go to Italy for research 🙂

(Oh, and I’ve finished One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich, and it was wonderful. I’d recommend as a quick, informative read, especially to those in my generation who don’t know much about the Soviet work camps and the Soviets in general.)


One Comment

  1. So much growth over the last 2 years!! It is a blessing. And thanks for the publicity for “One Life….” The first book I read by Solzhenitzen was Cancer Ward, and the intro and preface, and then a copy of his speech regarding the Nobel Prize for Literature included in the edition I read, were what really captured my interest in the vast cultural differences between the West and Eastern Europe, particularly Russia. And the story itself captures those differences.

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