up in southern California and is now a director of the Program for
Writers at the University of Illinois at Chicago. She has written
over a dozen books including the short story collections
Former Virgins (1997) and Is It Sexual Harassment Yet?
(Red Hen Press, 2009)
by Loree Westron
Former Virgin (1997)
Revalation Countdown (1993)
Is It Sexual Harassment Yet? (1991)
Animal Acts (1989)
with Cris Mazza
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Cris Mazza: This question is almost impossible for me to answer, due to the unusual
way this book came into being. See the answer to #3!s
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
CM: Trickle-Down Timeline was only the
2nd collection I've done where I did know I was writing a
collection. (The first was Revelation Countdown, for which I
collaborated with a photographer). I believe writers of short
fiction have begun to, more and more, compose their collections with
complete cognizance that they are doing so, unlike my first 2 collections
when I basically looked back at the last 10 to 12 stories I'd written and
called them a book. Luckily, something about where I was
mentally/ emotionally at the time made those collections have a subtle
cohesion I couldn't have planned.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
CM: About 10 years ago, I had a manuscript of stories- plus-novella that I was
trying to place. I found a publisher who wanted to publish the novella by
itself. So I had five stories cut loose. I hadn't written a
short story in at least a decade, so I decided I would take a hiatus from
novel-writing and write five more stories to complete a new
collection. But when I looked at the five "original" stories, which
had mostly been written as long before as the 80s, I knew I
couldn't put them in a "new" book as though they were "new" stories, and
I couldn't update them to fit the 21st century (everything from
technology to slang had changed). So I decided to date-stamp them
and let them be "period pieces" and write five more stories that take
place in the 80s. Slightly later, I decided to have each story be
assigned a year from the 80s, therefore how to arrange them was
does the word "story"
mean to you?
CM: A student asked a related question the other day, which may also answer
this question. "You write both novels and stories, what's the
difference -- in how you feel about them, and in how much pleasure you
get from each?"
Writing a novel is like a marriage. You live very closely with it
for a long time, sometimes you feel pretty good but sometimes struggle
with it, sometimes don't like it or need to get away from it, but you
know it intimately, its flaws, characteristics and qualities, and when
you're done (and it's gone), you miss it more, your loneliness is more
profound, your grief darker. A story is like a lover. The
satisfaction and pleasure more immediate and intense, but you don't mind
so much moving on to the next.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
Actually my view of short fiction is not quite so flip. But stories
are a glimpse of life in a way and with an effect that can never be
“realistic,” because of how every element in a story should contribute to
the total package -- it's a work of art -- not the messy, incoherent way
life can be made of true non-sequiturs.
CM: I don't think I imagine a reader. Of course I
know I'm writing something that someone will (hopefully) read. But
in a way there's another me who is the first reader (while I write) – the
reader me – so maybe I let myself stand in for the eventual reading
audience the book will have.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
CM: I'd like to ask (or just have a mutual recognition moment): "Isn't it
uncanny – and in not a happy way – how the economics and politics and
under-represented lives of the 80s are being repeated now in this
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
CM: I don't think about this very often. If I do,
it's to feel that a part of myself -- the thing I do & think about
alone at my keyboard -- has been brought into the lives of other people,
whether they buy or borrow.
What are you working on now?
CM: The "now" of this answer is fall 2010, and I'm
between projects. I have a new novel, Various Men Who Knew
Us as Girls, being released in 2011, and finished a 2nd nonfiction
book last May. Authors participate so heavily in promotion and
marketing these days, time between projects is filled with doing things
like interviews and scheduling readings.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
CM: The Plated Heart, Diane Goodman,
Little Pockets of Alarm, Kat Meads,
Slut Lullabies, Gina Frangello.