The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work

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9780393325324: The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work

In a splendid display of show-and-tell, 26 writers tell a story and lift the curtain to reveal how they did it.

This big, beautiful anthology of short fiction is for readers, writers, and anyone curious about the mysterious processes of literary minds. All contributors have been recent faculty members of the prestigious Warren Wilson Low Residency Program, including such literary favorites as Margot Livesey, Charles Baxter, Robert Boswell, Jim Shepard, Antonya Nelson, David Shields, and the editors themselves.

Each writer was asked to submit an original story, accompanied by an essay describing the challenges of the story and how they were met. Since writers resist herding, the editors were happily surprised by the wide range of essays―"fiction writers, when given the space, think about their work very differently." We learn about the genesis of a story, how story evolves, what was eventually relinquished and why, and how a story―surprisingly―might "insist" on changing.

Arranged alphabetically by author, and beginning with Richard Russo's cogent introduction, this volume is a treasure throughout.

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About the Author:

Andrea Barrett is the author of The Air We Breathe, Servants of the Map (finalist for the Pulitzer Prize), The Voyage of the Narwhal, Ship Fever (winner of the National Book Award), and other books. She teaches at Williams College and lives in northwestern Massachusetts.

Peter Turchi, director of the Warren Wilson M.F.A. Program, lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

From Publishers Weekly:

Though students of literature or writing are often told to stick to the text-to avoid guessing at authorial intention and process-the dictum doesn't squelch their curiosity. Fledgling writers, especially, wonder how the pros get the job done, where they find their inspiration and how they can tap into those creative wells. This rich anthology, which offers shrewd insight into writers' approaches-thereby sating our desires for their secrets while validating our own eccentric quirks-reassures all lovers of good writing that there is no one correct way to craft a good tale. The contributors, all recent faculty members at the Warren Wilson Program for Writers in Swannanoa, N.C., offer model short stories followed by informal mini-essays on how they came to fruition. Antonya Nelson credits the seedling of "Strike Anywhere" to a student; Jim Shepard owes much of the title story from his new collection, Love and Hydrogen, to a flurry of research; while Tracey Daugherty cagily tips his hat to both imagination and autobiography, admitting only of his story, "City Codes," "it's all true except for the parts I made up." Writers' experiences couldn't be more different, with Robert Cohen "cackling" his way through the feverish high-speed ride of composing "The Varieties of Romantic Experience," while Ehud Havazelet took years to pen "Pillar of Fire." By sharing their stories as well as their struggles, their risk-taking and rule-breaking (Charles Baxter claims to have "violated most of the narrative norms" he tries to instill in his own students), these authors remind us that writing is a messy, fascinating and highly individualized process. This collection is a treasure trove of literary encouragement and wisdom.
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