Tagged with davy mcnell

“Place de Stalingrad”: The story behind the story

In both Paris and Brussels, there are metro Image of the rotunde at Place de Stalingrad with a fountain in frontstops called “Stalingrad,” a fact I found fascinating, especially since the city of Stalingrad was renamed Volgograd in the wave of de-Stalinization under Nikita Krushchev. On my last visit to Paris, I decided I had to see what was at the stop with this name so one evening while my pregnant wife convalesced in our AirBnB I headed out to the 19ᵉ arrondissement to see for myself.

The immediate environs of the metro stop are not particularly interesting. It’s a nondescript neighborhood of shops and Hauptmann apartment blocks. But turn a corner and you find yourself at the actual plaza that gives the station its name. Situated at the southern end of the Bassin de la Villette, and far from the tourists who congregate in the lower-numbered arrondissements, it’s a place of tranquil beauty with movie theaters and restaurants facing the water.

With this place in mind, I started wondering what sort of story might come out of the place and thinking about the artists selling their wares out of stalls at the top of Montmartre, I came up with my characters and their mysterious and absent classmate. It took a fair amount of rewriting and reorganizing to get the story in the shape that it finally took, but I am pretty happy with the end result. You can read it here.

Feedback on drafts of the story came from Barbara Richstone, Gerald Winter, Robyn Ringler, Steven Thomas Howell, Travis Kiger, Maaza Mengiste, Monica Zarazua, Dan Portincaso, Davy McNell and Lori Barrett, 

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“The Norton Anthology of Self-Destructive Behavior”: The story behind the story

This story was one that unfolded itself gradually over time. It started with the title which came to me one day during a residency NewImage for my MFA. I wrote down the title and even got so far as writing down a list of self-destructive behaviors, but put it aside for a while after that.

I picked it up again a year later and wrote the first draft pretty quickly and painlessly. The “zeroeth-person” point of view of the story was something that just evolved as I wrote the story when I was about halfway through and realized that I hadn’t written in first, second or third-person, exactly. Pretty much everything emerged from my subconscious in the writing process.

Then I put the first draft away and didn’t look at it for three years. When I worked on the rewrite, I found my self thinking that I had something really good here and I worried about ruining it. I spent some time revising it and then in May of 2018 I sent it out on submission.

It got rejected, but it had a very high level of positive responses. I let it lie fallow for a while longer, and then pulled it back up once I was back in a writing group. Probably the single most important thing was identifying one of the sections, “Violence towards others” as problematic. That was enough to, I thought, make the story perfect or at least close to it. It garnered a few more rejections, but now I was getting personalized rejections from journals who had only ever sent me form letters before. Eventually, it was picked up by Meniscus, the Journal of the AAWP.

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“Saint Anthony in West Hollywood”: The Story Behind the Story

My newest story, “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” is up now at The Rappahannock Review.

I began with a vague notion of a saint in the modern world, or perhaps someone who was delusional and just thought he was the saint, leaving the trStatue of Saint Anthony holding the Christ Childuth purposefully indeterminate. I had no idea which saint or where. Then little by little, things came to me. Saint Anthony, the patron saint of lost things, and West Hollywood, which gave me some idea of the other protagonist of the story.

I have a bizarre fondness for second person, partly because my first published story was in second person, and partly because for this piece, it’s planned as part of a collection where the POV has a subtle coding to something about the story and “Saint Anthony in West Hollywood” fits into neither category. Just as well, I think that the second person fits it nicely.

There’s an interview with me (my first ever) accompanying the story.

Thanks to those with whom I’ve workshopped this story, Aaron Frankel, Paul Gee, Diane Gilette, Davy McNell, Laura Nelson, Gwen Tolios and Matt Zakosek. The first draft of this was begun at a writer’s retreat hosted by Sister Julia Walsh where, for the first time, I read in public an unpublished excerpt of my work, in this case, the opening scene of this story.

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