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Pia Z. Ehrhardt

Website: Piaze.com

Pia Z. Ehrhardt’s stories have been widely published in magazines including McSweeney's Quarterly, the Mississippi Review, Oxford American, and Narrative Magazine, and anthologized in the 2006 Norton Anthology Sudden Fiction: Short-Shorts from America and Beyond. She is the recipient of the 2005 Narrative Prize and a Bread Loaf Fellowship.

Short story collections

Famous Fathers and other stories (MacAdam/Cage, June 2007) 

Reviewed by Liz Prato

Read one of the stories from this collection on NarrativeMagazine.com

Interview with Pia Z. Ehrhardt

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

Pia Z. Ehrhardt: I started writing Running the Room in graduate school in 2001 and I was still working on the last story in the middle of 2005.

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

PZE: Not when I started out, but after a file-full of stories, some of which had found homes in lit mags, I thought, why not?

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

PZE: I worked through the order with my editor, Karan Mahajan, who was then at MacAdam/Cage. There's a kind of emotional arc that runs from the first story through the last, and he helped me realize this. He also knocked out a few stories that he didn't think were strong or ready enough.

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

PZE:  For me, a good story is a kind of uneasy, fetching trip that has a beginning middle and end, which doesn't mean anything gets resolved, but an event or a worry gets worked through in an illuminating and, hopefully, generous way and you walk away knowing more than maybe you meant to.

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

PZE: Not my mother, although, wait, that's a lie. Some of the stories are worried love letters to her. I figure readers are really smart and really busy, so I try to stay a few steps ahead of them and not tell them anything they already know or explain too much. I try to get down to the gist and then not leave them - or my characters - stranded.

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

PZE: Did I leave you stranded?

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

PZE: Great. Just great. Having a book on a shelf that's written by me is something I've wanted since I was seven and down in my grandmother's basement, making a Dewey Decimal System library out of forgotten books in boxes.

TSR: What are you working on now?

PZE: I'm re-keystroking my novel because I had my laptop stolen and I hadn't recently backed it up. (I'm trying not to cry.)

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

PZE: The Gateway - T. M. McNally; Some Fun: Stories and a Novella - Antonya Nelson; Like You'd Understand Anyway: Stories - Jim Shepard. All brilliant.