Website: inspirationalsports

Mary Hamilton is a writer, teacher, and optician living in Chicago, where she is also the co-host and co-founder of the QUICKIES! Reading Series. Her work has been published by Smokelong Quarterly, Storyglossia, Pindeldyboz, Eclectica, Dogzplot, and Thieves Jargon, among others, and has been included in the Best of the Web anthology. She blogs about inspirational sports movies at inspirationalsportsmovies.

Short Story Collections

We Know What We Are
(Rose Metal Press, 2010)

reviewed by Angela Readman

Interview with Mary Hamilton

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

Mary Hamilton: The oldest story -- at the time I submitted the collection -- was probably about 3-4 years old, the newest story was about 2 months old. Each story has it's own pattern of time, but usually I work a story in my brain for about 3-4 weeks before writing it and then the writing itself takes about 2 hours.

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

MH: No, I'm really terrible at thinking big picture. I write a story to write that story and when it's done I move on. So, when I decided to figure out something to send to Rose Metal for their contest, I looked at a big group of stories to narrow down. When I was looking at my stories, trying to think of how to have a collection, I noticed that this group had a similar feel or idea behind them.

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

MH: I write the names of all my stories on post-it notes and stick them to the wall in my office and occasionally rearrange them. That way I can see everything around me. And, since I don't take the post-it off the wall, it's a constant way of thinking about how the stories react to each other and what should come next.

TSR: What does the word "story" mean to you?

MH: It's sort of the undefinable thing. I don't put any rules around what makes a story a story, I think that kind of defeats the soul of the thing. So I actually don't think about the word or the concept much.

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

MH: No, maybe I should? When I'm writing, it's pretty much because I have a stomach ache and the only way to feel better is to tell the world why my nervous system is in knots. Only I don't say it in so many words. A lot of my stories are apologies for my own stupid behavior, but I have too much pride to just call someone and say "Sorry." So I write a story and hope that maybe they'll read it and get my meaning.

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

MH: No. I say that because I think a writer needs to have the ability to let go of their work and let it be interpreted. Once it leaves my hands, it's not my story any more. It belongs to someone else and how their own experiences will influence their interpretation of the words.

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

MH: Pretty great. I'm not getting a big head about it though, I still buy soap at the dollar store.

TSR: What are you working on now?

MH: I'm knitting a sweater --really, it's consuming me. I'm also almost done with the book Don't Sleep, There are Snakes. iI's about a linguist living with an indigenous tribe in the Amazon and I'm trying to figure out how to write a story that mimics the way they tell stories.

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

MH: I used to be more secretive about this, but the truth is, I don't read a lot of fiction. I read a lot of non-fiction and biographies. I'm almost finished with Don't Sleep, There are Snakes by Daniel Everett which is about his experience as a linguist living with the Piraha tribe in the Amazon. I just re-read some parts of Can't Stop Won't Stop by Jeff Chang which is a comprehensive history of Hip-Hop. I also just re-read Lincoln's Melancholy by Joshua Wolf Shenk which is the perfect book to read if you're feeling sad.
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Find out what other authors, from Aimee Bender to Sana Krasikov, said about their collections, what the word "story" means to them, and how it feels to know that people are buying your books! More interviews >>>