word craft


Story Behind the Story: What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?

What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?
What Do Fish Have to Do with Anything?

A good num­ber of years ago I had accept­ed the invi­ta­tion to speak at a lit­er­ary con­fer­ence, in Seat­tle, if I remem­ber cor­rect­ly. It was only after I had agreed to be there that I was told of a some­what unusu­al require­ment; Each year of the con­fer­ence a lit­er­ary vol­ume was put togeth­er. All attend­ing writ­ers and illus­tra­tors were asked to con­tribute to that col­lec­tion. That is why I sat down and wrote the sto­ry, What Do Fish Have to Do With Any­thing? 

The inspi­ra­tion? The notion of writ­ing about a lone­ly boy and a home­less man are sub­jects that are, alas, every­where to see. 

It was hard­ly the first short sto­ry I had writ­ten, and when they come about they do for a vari­ety of rea­sons, not con­nect­ed. Thus, in the same vol­ume, The Good­ness of Matt Kaiz­er came to mind because I knew a teacher who was also the wife of an Epis­co­palian min­is­ter. She told me how the chil­dren of such folks often have a hard time try­ing to estab­lish them­selves (in school) as dis­tinct from their par­ents’ reli­gious con­vic­tions and moral­i­ty. I found an iron­ic twist to that situation. 

Talk to Me came to me when I expe­ri­enced a phone mes­sage I kept check­ing only to learn it had sim­ply nev­er been erased. 

What’s Inside was writ­ten for a col­lec­tion of sto­ries about guns that a friend of mine was assembling. 

And so forth. 

This par­tic­u­lar anthol­o­gy came about when the edi­tor I had been work­ing with for a num­ber of years fell into dif­fi­cul­ties such that I could no longer work for him. At the same time, an edi­tor for whom I had writ­ten a sto­ry for anoth­er short sto­ry group, asked me if I’d put togeth­er a new vol­ume of my own short sto­ries. Since I had already writ­ten and nev­er pub­lished a few I agreed, and we worked togeth­er to cre­ate this collection. 

Short sto­ries, I find, are hard to write, but both fas­ci­nat­ing to work on, and when suc­cess­ful, enor­mous­ly sat­is­fy­ing. It was Edgar Allan Poe (a major writer of short sto­ries) who first tried to delin­eate what the short sto­ry form was. In the Twen­ti­eth Cen­tu­ry, the short sto­ry became a sta­ple of Amer­i­can lit­er­a­ture and was pub­lished in an aston­ish­ing array of mag­a­zines for a huge readership. 

Those days are gone, but hap­pi­ly short sto­ries are still being writ­ten and enjoyed. 

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