@PhatypusComics asked: How do you personally know when you’re done revising a page/story?
My stories have all (100 percent of them) surprised me, so the endings have been surprises too, and somewhat mystifying. When I wrote the last line of “Zanduce” it felt like I’d stuck the landing in a gymnastics meet.
Other times, you circle the mystery without answering it, move the needle above 89 to 90—or so you think—and call it done. It goes in a drawer until all of the affection subsides and you can design an ending. No story comes in at 99 or 100. We’re not going to live and die by a single story, but by the call of the next one.
Something like that.
@ink_teef asked: How do you partition parts 1,2 and 3? When you compare The Hotel Eden, a story that’s almost ghostly with a fantastic and suddenly dangerous character like Porter, with something as skewed and satirical as What We Wanted To Do, it’s hard to find a thread that puts them in the same collection. Can you elaborate on that?
A writer gets to be a lot of people, sort of has to be. You write stories over a few years and they’re unified by what? I’m not sure.
I’ve been so lucky to have been met by readers tolerant of the different worlds/modes of my prose. A notion like “A Note on the Type” appears and I treat it with everything I’ve got. I don’t look at it and say, that doesn’t fit the them; that doesn’t seem like a Ron Carlson story. (It sort of is the quintessential RC story). I like to say I’m a regional writer but I haven’t really settled on my own region.
@s0delightful asked: What seed do your stories start with? A feeling, a character, a scene, a turn of phrase?
All. I love to start with an image, or an event; I write from what I know toward what I don’t. Porter in the title story was based on one of my dearest friend, when he turned in the story and it opened to show him darker than anyone I’d ever written I was shocked, but I did what a writer does: kept typing.
@smwat asked: What is the process of tying these stories together?
Grouped them in this book (as in the previous two collections) with the whimsey (not the right word) in the middle.
@tommygents asked: Who in God’s name are your influences?
A great question, but hard to answer. I’m high school class of ’65, so luckily a lot of that music, then Cheever, then my dear teacher David Kranes, then the thousand stories I’ve read, and of course old movies, all the universal monster movies.
“Keith” was written after a Wilber Daniel Steele story, an ancient story titled “How Beautiful with Shoes” and I carried the collected Emily Dickinson around in a thrift store sport coat for the great year I was twenty. Richard Brautigan with “Trout Fishing” and now Annie Proulx and the early Anne Beattie, and Mr. C. McCarthy, and Fitzgerald—my first novel is “Betrayed by F. Scott Fitzgerald”—and Hemingway.
And probably the Rand McNally Atlas from where I take names as well as the Yellow Pages and the Joy of Cooking.
Hemingway remains a giant.
@ink_teef asked: Most of your stories in this collection deliver the turn, the jolt or the realization via some romantic connection. Do you feel that drive for human connection is a theme you try to work a story around, or is it just a natural take for you as an author ie. does it result from a world view you hold based in human connection?
You’re onto something with this and I’m not sure of the answer, but I think the longing for connection is shot through the work. I have never worked for theme or toward it, but from event and I write as closely as I can trying to get lost in the inventory and survive the draft. This doesn’t mean there isn’t a yearning in me for connection, for memory, for the other side of the echo. Is that even phrase?
@dianakimball asked: I’m interested in your perspective on “kill your darlings” as applied to prose writing?
I hear that phrase and I’m not sure at all that I’ve applied it. I’m an includer and I can see looking back at the stories that I have spilled left and right at points, but I work to make the story function first. In my first novel, you can see the writer saying “Look Ma! I’m writing!”
I’m not interested in that now at all. A story needs to be dense and have the proper number of threads per inch, but I’ll forgo a witty note if it is a sideshow. I’m a good editor and not precious about my work.
Thanks to all who read and boozed and tweeted today. We had a wonderful time.
Oh, and from Ron: “I so appreciate taking part of your day for this book.” We did, too, Ron.
Did “Nightcap” take an abrupt turn from melancholy to macabre for anyone else? #24hourbookclub— Rebekah Heacock (@rebekahredux) June 7, 2014
I can’t help but picture Zanduce on like the fourth killing, where he’s just like, “Ah, shit. I guess this is a THING now.” #24hourbookclub— Tommy M (@tommygents) June 7, 2014
i wondered when the 90s would show through — “a thousand-dollar watch and a real nice Walkman” — there it is. #24hourbookclub— Ed Cormany (@ecormany) June 7, 2014
"Dr. Slime", The Hotel Eden by Ron Carlson,
"Our enemies are manifold and voracious and generally rude." Welcome comic relief in story six. #24hourbookclub— Rebekah Heacock (@rebekahredux) June 7, 2014
“She held on as he took the corners too fast…but all the way home she didn’t put her chin on his shoulder.” A distant ache. #24hourbookclub— Diana Kimball (@dianakimball) June 7, 2014
#24hourbookclub also I want to go back and find the pivot sentence in each of these stories— Sara M. Watson (@smwat) June 7, 2014
After each story I feel very full and satisfied but also so hungry. I guess I’ll go make a baked potato before story #3. #24hourbookclub— Amy Lou (@symphyotrichum) June 7, 2014
I have really enjoyed reading and contributing to Uncommon this year, so I was honored when Brian asked me to write one of the year-end essays for the dispatch. Each one looked at listening, watching, and reading in turn. Here’s what I shared on reading:
Books are the things we reference to start a conversation. They are shorthand for complex ideas, characters, images, contexts. They are the nodes that connect us. They offer common ground.
I realized how important a sense of place in reading was to me when I joined a “flashmob” of internet friends reading books together with 24-Hour Bookclub (spearheaded by Diana, who incidentally also introduced me to the Uncommon community). Sharing glimpses of our reading environment felt like we were all reading together, no matter where we were geographically distributed. And in our tech book club gatherings here in Boston, I’m always fascinated to see the variety of artifacts placed on the table when we come together to talk about our reading experience. The words we read are the same, but our contexts are different.
The books we love are artifacts that tie us together. They are units of culture and of commonality. We just have to look up from our paperbacks and our iPads every once in a while to catch who else is reading along with us.
We’re chatting with Kate Losse, author of The Boy Kings, our pick for today’s 24-Hour Book Club. Come join us right now.
I first discovered Readmill in January as I was searching for a way to take part in 24-Hour Bookclub. As far as I could tell, Readmill was the most beautiful, quiet way to read while also sharing highlights and participating in the discussion. Soon enough, I was reading everything I possibly could with Readmill on my phone.
Just a couple of weeks ago, I moved from Atlanta to Berlin to join the Readmill team as Community Manager. And, as it turns out, I’ve arrived just in time for the one-year anniversary of 24-Hour Bookclub.
This Sunday, October 20, I’ll be reading along with 24-Hour Bookclub from the Readmill headquarters in Berlin. We’ll be reading The Boy Kings by Katherine Losse, and anyone can join.
I’d love to read together from 4 to 7pm, if you’re here in Berlin, and throughout the day with Readmill from anywhere. Just send me a note at email@example.com if you plan to stop by.
P.S. Please be in touch about all things reading and Readmill too. I love notes (especially when they contain book recommendations), and I can’t wait to hear from you.
If you happen to live in Berlin, swing by Readmill HQ tomorrow to read with me and Lisa!