grew up in Eastern Oregon and worked as a journalist throughout the
West before moving to New York. Her novel Dreams Like Thunder
won the Oregon Book Award and her short fiction has been widely
published. She is a professor of English at City University of New
with Diane Simmons
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Diane Simmons: Not long, a little over a year. However, the stories drew on work I had done previously. For
example, the young woman found in many of the stories was developed to
play a role in an (unpublished) novel set in New York City. She was
supposed to be the con woman in from the West.
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
DS: Not in the slightest. I only thought about a collection
when most of the stories were done. I got a week at the Millay artist’s
colony in upstate New York and decided I should try to do
something special while I was there. So I began looking at my stories to see if they could work together.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
realized that most of the stories had some kind of "road" motif. People
are either on the road or wish they were. I put my favorite story, Little America,
first. It’s my favorite because Hank, reminds me of my father. My
father wasn’t a con man; he was more like the farmer Hank sees fromhis
car window. Still my dad had a wildstreak, a lot like Hank. I put my
only prize-winning story, Yukon River (Runner-up Missouri Review Editor’s Prize) last, gambling that if editors got that far, that story might close the deal.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
DS: When I was growing up in Eastern Oregon, the story was a primary means of
communicating with people you liked. Stories were supposed to be funny,
though the dryer the wit the better. People who couldn’t tell stories—or
be funny-- were considered unfriendly or perhaps a bit thick.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
DS: When I’m writing, no. I’m mostly struggling to see and hear it myself. It would scare me to think about readers at that point.
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection, anything at all?
DS: What made you laugh? What story of yours does my story prompt?
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
DS: Are they? Bless them!
What are you working on now?
I’ve just finished a book-length work
of narrative non-fiction about a young woman who was changed beyond
recognition by two adrenalin-fueled years in a World War II shipyard,and
who as a result found herself in the path of a handsome and gentle
serial bigamist. To write this, I’ve drawn on about a thousand letters I’ve inherited, as well as several years of research.
Now I’m writing stories again. While
my first collection was set in the American West, these are set all
over: Paris, Dakar and on a train across Canada. They still seem to
be mostly about people going someplace.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
Because people have been telling me I remind them of Alice Munro, I’ve been re-reading her Runaway to see what they might mean by that. Just to scare myself, I recently looked again at Louise Erdrich’s brilliant Love Medicine. And I’ve become acquainted with George Saunders whose people in Persuasion Nation talk like I wish mine would.