Day two of National Short Story Month 2018 and it's been nice seeing some others out there playing along this year again. Today, one mini-interview from Edie Meidav, whose Kingdom of the Young was published by Sarabande Books in April 2017.
EWN: Your short story collection, Kingdom of the Young, was published in 2017. What story within the collection had the earliest publication history outside of being in the collection, and what was that history?
Edie: The title story, which was written as a response to the following conundrum:
At an artist's colony, my first daughter a little tadpole all of a week old inside your correspondent, I was at a campfire at which a well-known male writer came to sit next to a younger visual artist wearing ostentatious headphones. What are you listening to? the writer asked the artist. Nothing you would know! the artist said. And then the writer sized up the artist, took a pause in which centuries could have transpired, and said: you know, one day you'll be 30 too!
This writer had also mentioned the form of a 20-minute story, a means of cheating your writerly superego: you swear you will only write a story in 20 minutes and never again touch it. That morning, recalling the campfire scene which became in my imagination a kingdom of younger artists, in some 20 minutes transpiring after eight in the morning, I wrote the story that begins the collection. This appeared in a small publication at Bard College before it was published by the wonderful Fifth Wednesday Journal.
EWN: How did the publication of this particular collection come about? Were you solicited by the publisher, win a contest, agent submission, etc.?
Edie: I have a novel on boxing and Cuba which has been in some ether of nonpublication for a bit, and then decided this collection might go out, with its nonfiction coda. A wonderfully energetic writer and artist, Kristen Radtke who was an editor at Sarabande, met with my agent at the time and Kingdom became the dessert of that lunch!
EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as an author? Primary form to work with, or something you write when an idea hits, or …?
Edie: A necessary and wonderful outlet, a chance to have another canvas upon which I'm working. Milton said something about the lyric poet being able to drink wine while the epic poet must drink water slowly from a wooden bowl. The short story is my chance to abjure that slow water, to enjoy the pleasure of immediate satisfaction rather than deferral.
Yet, strangely and also true, short story as a form can be more demanding: one must invent a whole world, compress a life. The novel can be a generous medium, much like writing for film: the characters await you.
EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as a reader?
Edie: I go to them for inspiration and reminders, for the sweet sharp jolt of empathy they offer. If we think of them as technologies, and apologies for the ever-present computer infiltrating our contemporary habit of metaphor-making, poetry offers eye-opening insight, a whole new color tonality; novels offer virtual reality, a kind of travel you truly cannot get anywhere else; and the short story has the quality of imagining the life of the person seated next to you, right now, as you read this. What is the hunger, haunting, and burden each person bears? How does a person grapple with a beast in the night of the soul? How do we make meaning in a world of determinism? These are the questions short stories are uniquely equipped to answer.
EWN: How will you be celebrating National Short Story Month this May?
Edie: Reading this column! Writing one, perhaps, in light of these questions.
EWN: Thank you very much for your time!
Edie: Your work reminds all of us about how best to spend it.
Edie Meidav is the author of Kingdom of the Young, a collection of short fiction with a nonfiction coda, as well as the novels: Lola, California (FGS), Crawl Space (FSG), The Far Field: A Novel of Ceylon (Houghton). She is a senior editor at the journal Conjunctions and teaches in the UMass Amherst MFA program.