Post two of our re-attention to Short Story Month for 2018!
EWN: Your short story collection, I Brake for Moose and Other Stories 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?
GEETA KOTHARI: “Her Mother’s Ashes” was my first published story. I began it in New York, where I was born and raised, and finished it in Pittsburgh, where I still live. The story is close to thirty years old, and was rejected 37 times before The Toronto South Asian Review accepted it. I only knew about TSAR because I was seeing someone from Canada, and he brought it back for me as a gift. The story went on to be reprinted several times. No surprise, then, that I married him a few years later.
EWN: How did the publication of this particular collection come about? Were you solicited by the publisher, win a contest, agent submission, etc.?
GEETA KOTHARI: The collection was rejected 14 or 15 times over the course of two years of submitting it to contests and open calls from small presses. In 2013, it placed as a finalist in the 2013 Flannery O’Connor Award, and when I mentioned this to Jeff Condran in passing, he asked to see it. Then I waited a year before sending it to him because…. I have no idea. I suppose didn’t think the book would be the right fit for Braddock Avenue Books, but that was for the editors to decide, not me. It took a nudge from my friend Bill Lychack for me to finally submit it.
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 …?
GEETA KOTHARI: I wrote several of the stories in this collection at the Kenyon Review Writers’ Workshops, but I don’t consider the short story my primary form. I write them usually when an idea hits or to take a break from nonfiction. They’re a way to enter other people’s lives, imagine improbable settings.
EWN: Where do short stories fit within your life as a reader?
GEETA KOTHARI: I read several collections a year and also individual stories published in literary journals. I love stories that surprise me in some way, and the more I read, the more I fall in love with the form. I think it’s important to be aware of what’s being published, not only for myself as a writer, but also for my students. For example, I recently read a story by Karin Lin Greenberg in the New Ohio Review, which did exactly what one of my students was trying to do in his work. She is so good with taking an absurd idea and turning it into a story that is compassionate and deeply humane.
EWN: How will you be celebrating National Short Story Month this May?
GEETA KOTHARI: I’ll be finishing Anjali Sachdeva’s wonderful collection, All the Names They Used for God, rereading Mavis Gallant’s Paris Stories (which put me in the mood to write) and reading a galley for a new collection from Chaya Bhuvaneswar, White Dancing Elephants.
EWN: Thank you very much for your time!
GEETA KOTHARI: Thanks for the great questions!
Geeta was born and raised in New York across the street from the city morgue and ten blocks south of the United Nations, but grew up calling India home even though she’s never actually lived there. She has lived in England and Western Massachusetts, neither of them home, and she now lives in Pittsburgh, which sometimes feels like home.
This search for home is reflected in her nonfiction and fiction, including her essay, “If You Are What You Eat, Then What Am I?” and her recent collection, I Brake for Moose and Other Stories. She’s the nonfiction editor at the Kenyon Review, and teaches at the University of Pittsburgh, where she also directs the Writing Center.