Lynn Sloan: Coast to Coast with Ollie

Lynn Sloan
photo courtesy Lynn Sloan

Lynn Sloan recently had a story from her debut collection, This Far Isn’t Far Enough, chosen for inclusion in the acclaimed radio series Selected Shorts. It’s a potentially huge boon for an emerging writer, and I hope it helps introduce readers not just to “Ollie’s Back,” but to other fantastic stories like “Call Back,” in which an aging actor struggles to take care of his wife as she goes through dementia, or “Nature Rules,” which starts out as a story about a woman dealing with a bear rummaging through her garbage cans but takes a sharp detour into family drama. In this guest essay, Sloan talks about what it’s like to have your work showcased in what just might be America’s most widely recognized reading series.

“VIP parking at the Getty,” my friend exclaimed.

I had just her told that a story of mine that she’d read five years ago in messy draft form had been chosen for Selected Shorts on Stage. Selected Shorts! She and I often talked about the outstanding short stories read by notable actors we’d listened to on this long-running NPR show. I thought she would be wowed by my news. My story, “Ollie’s Back,” chosen for this fabulous literary show—amazing. The program, “A Feast of Fiction,” would also include stories by Donald Barthelme, Stephen Tobolowsky, Annie Proulx, and Willa Cather (Willa Cather! I read Willa Cather in eighth grade!). Such luminaries and me—astonishing.

This Selected Shorts, which usually performs at Symphony Space in New York City, would be at the Getty Center in Los Angeles in March, which is way better than New York City in March, and I would be there. None of this impressed my friend more than the fact that I would be given a VIP pass to park at the Top of the Mountain at the Getty.

Two months later, as I stood on the plaza of the Getty an hour before the performance I understood why: VIP, Very Important Person anything, doesn’t enter the normal writer’s life. But here I was an hour before my story, “Ollie’s Back,” would to be read by the actor Nate Corddry on the plaza of one of the world’s most beautiful museums with a view that overlooked Los Angeles and reached to the Pacific Ocean. It doesn’t get better than this.

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18 June 2018 | selling shorts |

Paige Cooper on Peter Carey’s Fantastic

Paige Cooper
photo: Adam Michels

The short stories in Paige Cooper’s Zolitude are dark and uncanny, and it takes a while to get adjusted to her world. Even a story like Moriah, which starts off with a woman driving a bookmobile to a remote community of registered sex offenders—a premise that’s odd, to be sure, but still within the bounds of the plausible—may end up taking a sudden turn into fantasy, leaving you to sort out what’s just happened. In this guest essay, Paige talks about discovering another author with a flair for the fantastic, Australia’s Peter Carey. But this is no simple panegyric; Cooper’s nuanced appreciation of Carey’s short stories helps us see certain “gaps,” as she calls them, that we can learn to recognize (as both readers and writers) and face head on.

When we were nineteen my new friend said, “What about Peter Carey, though? Did you read the one where he goes ‘EVERY TIME WE FUCK A HORSE DIES’?” We knew each other from our undergraduate fiction workshop. She was the best writer at the table. This was because she was the best reader. We’d go for spring rolls and cokes at a Vietnamese place off-campus. I never mentioned the demolished copies of George R.R. Martin’s A Song of Ice & Fire in my dorm room. Maybe I alluded to the uncracked copy of War & Peace. Mostly I wrote down names she mentioned.

“Uh, no,” I said. I cared about fucking, I cared about horses, I liked capslock. I wrote PETER CAREY in my student agenda. A few weeks or months later I was at the discount bookstore downtown where everything was always remaindered or crap and Collected Stories was sitting on top of a bin of low-fat cookbooks. It became the first book of short fiction I’d ever purchased. Plausibly, it became the first contemporary short fiction I’d ever read (despite having already written two or three short stories in order to get into a creative writing program so that I could, presumably, write more.)

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4 May 2018 | selling shorts |

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