English at Northwestern University and has a PhD from Brown
University. She taught in the MFA in Nonfiction Writing program at
the University of Iowa and is the chair of the Writing Program at The
School of the Art Institute of Chicago. She has previously
published a novel entitled Treasure
with Sara Levine
How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?
Sara Levine: It's hard to say, not only because I write
slowly but because I wrote them over a long period of time. I know that
I wrote the earliest in 1996 when I was in graduate school and that I
wrote the latest in 2008. Which means a gestation period of twelve
have a collection in mind when you were writing them?
I thought of them as my apprenticeship, or exercises in
sentence-making. It was hard to get my mind around the idea that they'd
ever be a book at all.
you choose which stories to include and in what order?
SL: The order was largely intuitive, I think. I
sent Caketrain a manuscript and they re-ordered, re-titled, suggested
several compressions, and cut two stories entirely. If the book reads
coherently, I think it's because of their editorial care. For example,
they moved Psychic--a tiny piece that was floating in the book's
middle--to the front and retitled it Oracle, which was a superb edit.
does the word "story"
mean to you?
yearns for something and the status quo is disrupted. Something changes.
That said, a lot of my stories don't follow this formula; they work
closer to prose poem, essay or meditation.
Do you have a reader in mind when you write stories?
SL: Not a
specific person. The audience is an idealized reader—probably a smarter,
less tolerant, ruthless version of me. Someone who's tapping her toe
and saying, "What ever made you think I would be interested?"
anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your collection,
anything at all?
SL: No. Well, maybe, if you liked Short Dark Oracles, would you check out my novel Treasure Island!!!?
TSR: How does
it feel knowing that people are buying your book?
It feels great and amazing and lucky and weird. But sometimes I
just want to forget it ever happened and be back at my desk, mulling
What are you working on now?
SL: A novel.
the three most recent short story collections you've read?
SL: Adam Levin's Hot Pink, Helen Simpson's In-Flight Entertainment, and Gary Lutz's Stories in the Worst Way.