I: I was curious to read in your The New Quarterly interview that part of your education in short stories was learning to read them as well as to write them. What did that education entail?
AJ: I think it was just reading a lot of them. One of the first short story books I read was Barbara Gowdy’s We So Seldom Look on Love and I read it the way that a lot of people who don’t read short stories would, [thinking] “No! I wanted it to keep going. I wanted to find out what happens next.”
I had to retrain my brain to consume a short story. I think of short stories as more akin to poetry, or like art. A painting, instead of something that goes on and on. You know, I look at that painting on the wall and I take it in for what it is–
I: It was done by an elephant.
AJ: You’re kidding.
I: So maybe it’s not the best example.
AJ: No, but I see it for what it is, I get from it whatever emotion or story I think it’s telling. As opposed to sitting down and watching a movie, or reading a novel. But when I started reading short stories, I thought they would be like novels, but shorter…
So I read [the Gowdy book], and then I read The Broken Record Technique by Lee Henderson. A friend of mine gave it to me when I first started writing short stories and she was like, “You should read this if you want to write short stories.” And I read it, and I really didn’t understand how to read it. And now, it’s one of my favourite short story collections. Same with the Barbara Gowdy one.
I had to learn to slow down, I think. When I read novels, and I’m still guilty of this, I have this really bad habit of jumping to dialogue and racing through descriptions and not really savouring every single word that comes along. But in short stories, every word is so weighted that you have to spend more time with it.
For the rest of the interview please go here.