Midge Raymond's collection, Forgetting English, received the Spokane Prize for Short Fiction. Her work has appeared in American Literary Review, Ontario Review, Indiana Review, North American Review, Bellevue Literary Review, Passages North, the Los Angeles Times, and other publications. She is on the editorial board of the literary journal Green Hills Literary Lantern. Midge taught communication writing at Boston University for six years, as well as creative writing at Boston's Grub Street Writers. While living in Southern California, she held writing workshops and seminars at San Diego Writers, Ink, where she also served as vice president of the board of directors. Midge now lives and writes in Seattle, where she teaches at Richard Hugo House. Her current projects are supported by an Artist Trust/Washington State Arts Commission Fellowship.

Short Story Collections

Forgetting English
(EWU Press, 2009)

Winner, 2008 Spokane Prize for Short Fiction

reviewed by Majella Cullinane

Interview with Midge Raymond

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

Midge Raymond: The stories in Forgetting English were written over a period of about five years.

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

MR: Not at first, but when I began to notice a theme emerging — that of Americans traveling abroad, discovering themselves in ways not possible while on their home turf — I began to gather the stories together until I felt had enough for a collection.

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

MR: The stories I chose to include all had a travel element to them, as well as an element of discovery, or rediscovery, on the part of the narrators. Having a common theme made it pretty easy to decide what to include. And actually, I don’t remember how I chose the original order of the stories — while I tend to focus on each story as an individual work, there’s an art to creating a collection, and I worked with the editors at Eastern Washington University Press to re-order the stories in a way that helped the collection flow as a whole. For example, we put a little distance between the stories that have foreign languages in them, and we made sure we didn’t have two stories in a row about couples or about single career women. One of the comments I often get is that despite the common theme, the stories are all feel very different, which I think is due in part to getting the order just right.

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

MR: As both a writer and a reader, what I love about stories is the way they plunge you into fictional lives and situations with an intensity that you don’t necessarily get with a novel. With a short piece, a writer doesn’t have the luxury of creating a lot of backstory, and the result is a sense of immediacy that I really enjoy. For me, a good story offers both a sense of the temporary and the permanent — you’re with these characters for such a short time, but if a story is told well, you remember them long after you’ve turned the page.

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

MR:  I usually don’t have a reader in mind when I begin a story — I think that first and foremost the author has to be intrigued — and so I’ll run with it awhile before asking myself whether it’ll interest anyone else. Then, of course, I’ll have to consider its appeal to readers, but usually by then I’ll have a strong sense of whether the story is going to work or not, and I think it’s important to find that place in the process before worrying too much about what anyone else might think.

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

MR: I’m always curious as to which stories are favorites — I’m fascinated by how this differs so much from reader to reader.

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

MR: It feels wonderful. I’m always especially glad to hear from readers who are discovering or rediscovering the short story genre.

TSR: What are you working on now?

MR: I’m working on a novel, and in the meantime, of course, I’m working on new stories.

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

MR: I’ve recently read Antonya Nelson’s Nothing Right, James Salter’s Last Night, and Sam Ligon’s Drift and Swerve — all amazing.
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