Flannery O’Connor Award for Short Fiction winners Nancy Zafris and David Crouse were on tap at the second and final reading we attended.
As much of this year’s festival centered around remembrances of Andre Dubus, Crouse and Zafris both gave theirs. Zafris told the touching story of her first encounter with Andre Dubus and how it changed her life. I had read this essay of hers before and was deeply moved by it.
Each read from a short story and then took questions (again, many of which started out with, “This isn’t really a question, more of a comment…” Ahhhh! FUCK! People, are you so in need of hearing yourselves speak?). And there was one guy who posed his question to Zafris in a really assholey way, which I’m not even going to repeat other than to say she handled herself gracefully in the face of his tactlessness.
Both had many interesting things to say about writing short stories. In particular, I was struck by what Zafris said that short story–that there is the story you’re telling and then there’s the real story underneath which eventually emerges and how your ending should seem surprising and inevitable (even to you as the writer).
She also discussed how it is difficult to write a story by concensus and how a lot of times a writing group is trying to get you to write the B+ story (the one that appeals to the most people) as opposed to the A+ story (that one that is less easily absorbed). She seems like an excellent teacher and I’d love to go to one of their workshops (indeed, am already saving my pennies for next year).
Now, here’s the embarrassing part. Brace yourselves.
So, I had decided that I wanted to introduce myself to Nancy Zafris and thank her as an editor at The Kenyon Review for the acceptance of my story. Anyway, suffice it to say that I was intimidated and emotional and so I got red in the face and almost cried (in fact, I said, “I’m going to cry”!!!!!!!!) and I stammered and as Allen put it he felt like he was with his 13 year old daughter meeting a boy band.
Ohhh, the humiliation! But she was kind and gracious to me and so I’m glad I did it even though I am still blushing.
Okay, that’s it for the festival.