When I was ten I wrote my first story. It had percolated since my father's death three years earlier and by fifteen, I was hustling for an interview with a journalist for The Gleaner, the largest newspaper in Jamaica. I didn't get it. Later, though, I was awakened to the differences between journalism and fiction writing and stayed with fiction. I don't regret it. After spending years trying to practice a great art, now I concentrate on a second selection from my short stories—for readers to decide whether or not they are fresh and alive. Whether the characters, often unsatisfied with their lives and jobs, have helped readers make sense of their own.
As I pore over my collection due for release late Spring 2016, I am aware of how I've strayed from my earlier style and vision. By earlier I mean undergraduate school in Long Beach, California where my stories are preposterous, and self-indulgent. Beside me is my scratched-up bookshelf where I store my short list of authors whose perfectly worded imagery will stay with me a lifetime. At the top of that list is Ann Beattie. This collection is deeply personal and I think of what a teacher once told me: be appreciative, keep a sense of humour and memorize Jedi Master Yoda's words: "Do or do not. There is no try."
A strange thing happened with the first collection, Rising from the Mire (October 2015). An editor said, "Call me when you have something else." Her words did not ruin the magic, spook the muse, and demystify the process. I continued to chip away at the stories until, as Michelangelo said, "I saw the angel in the marble, and carved until I set [her] free." When the collection was completed, I submitted.
The result was a star from Kirkus, a feature in their November 2015 magazine, and Kirkus editors chose it as one of their Indie Books of the Month for December 2015. How I started the book is that I ignored the market and went at the work freely, with heart. I understood (finally after many years) that, like a music album, paintings or dance numbers, short stories were made for readers to consider each one on its own terms. At the end was the natural pause to look at what I trusted—what popped into my mind in the moment and followed.
As with all literature there are no definitive answers to what goes into a collection and how to organize it. There is only exploring the frontiers of language and creating work that feels authentic to lived experience while retaining a sense of wonder.