Monday, September 21, 2009

Time for Some Fiction

About a year ago, I made the decision to stop producing academic writing and to concentrate on other genres: fiction, creative nonfiction, editorial, memoir, and so on. Many factors contributed to this decision, including my sense that academic work, no matter how intellectually stimulating and personally satisfying, was simply not reaching a wide enough audience to justify the time and labor I poured into it. (It was also, frankly, beginning to lose its stimulation and satisfaction.) I started out years ago as a fiction writer, produced a couple novels in college (one of them agented but never published), won a short story award, attended writers' conferences, all the usual. Grad school and career intervened, and I was itching to get back to the writing I'd once loved--not necessarily to become rich and famous (though that wouldn't hurt), but simply for the love of it. I was guided, too, by a statement Thoreau makes at the end of Walden, as he's describing why he abandoned his cabin after a two-year residence: "I left the woods for as good a reason as I went there. Perhaps it seemed to me that I had several more lives to live, and could not spare any more time for that one." I've had a nice life as an academic writer; but now it's time to live another.

So I resumed writing in the genres I'd deserted so long ago, took a class to get myself back in trim, produced lots of stories and essays, got some of them published, left others to languish on my hard drive. It's been a wonderful experience, and though occasionally I feel a pang when I turn down some request or other to produce more academic work, on the whole I'm convinced that veering off in this new/old direction was one of the best decisions I've made.

In today's post, I want to link you up to one of my more recently published stories, "Mishap," which came out earlier this month in the online magazine The Battered Suitcase. It's a quirky little story, using some old characters I'd first invented in college, so in some ways it was an experiment in seeing what had happened to them in the years since then. But it also, I think, has a certain melancholy to it, and that certainly reflects what has happened to me in those twenty-some years.

So here it is. Enjoy.

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