Carys Davies’ Brief Drama of the Soul

Carys Davies
photo: Emily Atherton

The Redemption of Galen Pike, the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award-winning collection from Carys Davies, takes readers to a lot of different places. The title story is set in a Colorado frontier town, where a virtuous Quaker woman comes each day to the cell where a murderer awaits his execution; other stories show readers a tense encounter between two isolated souls in the early days of Australian settlement, a lonely man who tells Queen Victoria the lurid story of his marriage’s end, a tragic scene played out in a Siberian hostel… Davies’ dramas are already stark, but they stand out even more aggressively in these settings, each one hitting home with unerring effect, even if—as will be the case with that title story—you think it’s veering into genre stereotype. In this guest post, Davies explains how she learned to identify the moments in her characters’ lives that make for great short stories.

People ask me all the time what it is I love about short stories, and why I write them.

It all began for me back in the mid-1990s. I was living in Chicago, working as a journalist. I had four small children, life was very busy, chaotic, and one day for a breather my husband and I took the kids to Powell’s bookshop where I came across a copy of Eudora Welty’s Collected Stories. It had a brown 1960s-ish cover and while the children ran amok in the aisles I sat down on the floor and read one of the stories: “Death of A Traveling Salesman.”

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16 May 2017 | selling shorts |

Life Stories #90: Barbara Schoichet

Life Stories: Barbara Shoichet

Barbara Schoichet got hit with a triple whammy just before her fiftieth birthday—she lost her job at a movie studio in Los Angeles, her girlfriend left her, and then her mother died. Don’t Think Twice is the story of how she pushed back against all that by learning to ride a motorcycle, then flying out to New York to buy a Harley Davidson and ride it back home across the country. Almost immediately, she got first-hand experience of the camaraderie that exists between Harley drivers, through random acts of kindness on the road… and that was something she wasn’t entirely prepared for:

“To be honest with you, I kinda had a death wish. I didn’t care whether I came back. I just wanted to divert my mind from all that was going on in my life. And one of the best ways to divert grief is to focus on something else. I focused on staying alive. It’s interesting, because I had a death wish, but I was really searching for a life wish. I mean, the great thing about this trip was all I had to think about was staying upright and getting to the next town I was going to stop at, and looking at every nook and cranny in the road, making sure I didn’t hit something. It really healed me, because by the time I got back, I thought I could do anything.”

Listen to Life Stories #90: Barbara Schoichet (MP3 file); or download this file by right-clicking (Mac users, option-click). Or subscribe to Life Stories in iTunes, where you can catch up with earlier episodes and be alerted whenever a new one is released. (And if you are an iTunes subscriber, please consider rating and reviewing the podcast!)

photo: Nancy Borowick

2 May 2017 | life stories |

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