short story collections step into the

find something to read by:

Claudia Smith

Website: Claudiaweb.net

Claudia Smith lives in Austin, Texas, with her husband and son. She attended Bard College, the University of Texas, and the Writing Seminars graduate program at Johns Hopkins. Twice nominated for the Pushcart Prize, her fiction has appeared in Redivider, The Mississippi Review, Juked, Night Train, Elimae, Failbetter, Opium, Word Riot, among others. She is a contributing web editor for Hobart. Her stories have been anthologized in Norton's New Sudden Fiction: Short-short Stories from America and Beyond and So New Media's Consumed: Women on Excess.

Short story collections

The Sky is a Well and Other Shorts (Rose Metal press, 2007) 

Winner: First Annual Rose Metal Press Short-Short Chapbook Contest.

Reviewed by Stefani Nellen

Interview with Claudia Smith

The Short Review: How long did it take you to write all the stories in your collection?

Claudia Smith:I wrote them all over the span of about three years; several of them were written when my son was a baby. During his infancy, I wrote nothing but short-shorts; I found I could nurse him, and then write a first draft as he napped. That year is a lovely blur to me; I remember it well, but I was outside of the sun-up, sun-down schedule so I honestly can't tell you the exact order in which they were written. "Cherry" is probably the oldest one.

TSR: Did you have a collection in mind when you were writing them?

CS: I think I always have the idea of a collection in the back of my mind when I write stories or short-shorts. But I grouped these stories later, when I was getting together something to send Rose Metal for the competition. I looked over my work to see if I had a collection and I actually discovered I probably have a few short-short collections in my desktop.

TSR: How did you choose which stories to include and in what order?

CS: I did not group them in chronological order. When I grouped them, I wasn't thinking of the order in which I wrote them. I wasn't thinking of time in a linear way when it came to the stories, either. I strove to link them thematically; the stories are not about one single character, and they are not linked by common characters, or places. But I do think they are takes on similar situations, and themes. I was pleased with the placement of the stories, and very happy when Rose Metal agreed with all my choices. I hope that last story has a way of informing the rest; I hope it invites my readers to go back, and read the collection again.

TSR: Do you have a "reader" in mind when you write stories?

CS: I don't. I used to try to write for agents, or certain readers I imagined impressing, and I think that got in the way. I write for the story, for what feels true to me as I am writing it. I think my work improved once I learned to do that, and it took me years to find my voice. I do workshop many of my short-shorts with an online writing group, and I know that has influenced them immensely. I have written with these writers for years, so I trust them.

TSR: Is there anything you'd like to ask someone who has read your
collection, anything at all?

CS: What did you think of it?

TSR: How does it feel knowing that people are buying your book?

CS: Sometimes, I still can't quite believe that strangers are reading my work. Writing is an intimate process for me. That's something I love about it. When I write, I'm not thinking of it out there in the larger world. I'm usually at my computer, and the rest of the house is asleep. If I thought about the students or Internet surfers who might come across what I'm about to write, I'd probably stutter and stammer and stop. But whenever I get a thoughtful email from a stranger, or read someone else's insight into my stories, it feels delicious. Getting published has been good for me; I am a more productive writer because of it.

TSR: What are you working on now?

CS: I'm working on a novel, called Crumb Island. A small section of it appears online in Juked, and another section is going to appear online in Storyglossia. I have a lot of research ahead of me, but I'm in love with two of the characters already. I wrote a novel when I was in my mid-twenties and I'd never want to see it published now. But this, I think this is the one. I have it in me, now. And, of course, short-shorts. I write them whenever can.

TSR: What are the three most recent short story collections you've read?

CS: Aimee Bender's Willful Creatures. Jim Tomlinson's Things Kept, Things Left Behind. I checked one of The Best American Short Stories out of the library, an old one from the 60s, I think, but I can't remember which one. I know I was just talking about the way I ordered the shorts in The Sky Is A Well, but I have to confess, when I read story collections I often skip around. I haven't finished this one yet. The Best American Short Stories edited by Stephen King is on my list; Roy Kesey has a story in it, and I'm a Roy Kesey fan.