May is short story month.
When I was having lunch at the Random House author event earlier this week with Elizabeth Hay (who is as lovely a woman as you are ever likely to meet), she asked me a few questions about the Kobo and e-readers in general, and one of the points that came up was how I quite liked that now it is becoming more and more possible for me to follow short fiction authors and gather their stories via e-format. I can, in a way, make my own anthologies or collections by one author or catch up on the ones I may have missed.
This isn't to say it's not a catch-22 - many of the authors I love I have met through anthologies bought for other reasons. But I do, overall, think that the e-ink world is a good thing for novellas and short fiction.
If you remember me mentioning the Saints and Sinners Short Fiction contest a while back, and my joy at being a finalist, I've got an update. The anthology - which launches in the next couple of weeks - does indeed include my entry, "Hometown Boy."
I haven't really talked out "Hometown Boy" much, for a couple of reasons. One, I hadn't actually realized it was going to be in the anthology. Two - and more centrally - "Hometown Boy" has more than a little of my life in it.
It might not be cool to admit that, and I'm sure I should immediately back step and qualify: I'm not Reuben, the main character, by any stretch. We've had some life events in common, and I built the story around that - but I added a healthy dose of revenge, too.
When my oldest friend Rachel visited Ottawa, we had an animated - and mostly joyful - time explaining to her friend and my husband that for us "Romy and Michelle's High School Reunion" didn't seem far fetched. I was luckier than Rachel - I got to escape in the middle, and returned to graduate. We went to prom together - and I can honestly say that most of the young men were very jealous of me. Rachel had been taunted in the early years for being "flat as a board, and not nailed yet" but by graduation, she was gorgeous.
And hadn't forgotten those boys or their taunts at all. When she said yes to me, I was thrilled - and also thrilled that she seemed genuinely pleased to be my date (she was one of the few in the know). We went in period costumes - 1920's stage magician and assistant. It was awesome. And at the after-party, people who'd been awful to us spoke to us like we were human beings, and we told them to go to hell.
When Rachel was visiting, I asked her if I could use her name in a story. She was thrilled - again, she always made me feel so honoured to know her - and agreed. She only asked that I didn't forget to mention her nose (she had what she happily admitted was an aquiline nose). We had a good laugh. When she passed away, I remember standing in the store - where I found out - and remembering that laugh.
"Hometown Boy" is about a man coming back to the town he hasn't seen since graduation. He ran away from it, and has had a massive (lucky) success, and even that isn't quite enough to make him feel good about it.
But it's also about how two friends who survived high school reconnect instantly. Rachel was like that with me, and I miss her terribly and randomly. I hadn't realized how much it had meant to me to put "Hometown Boy" together and send it off, nor how happy it would make me to see it survive. That it goes to the Saints and Sinners Festival is all the better - Rachel was an artist above all else, and I think that would have made her very happy.
So. I broke my own rule. I often use names of friends in stories, but am careful to make them nothing like the person they're named for. With Rachel, I used her name, but made the character appear and act as much like her as I could imagine her doing in the circumstances of the tale - especially when she gives the main character a smack - though I could never capture enough of Rachel with words.
Stories are too short.