New year, 2015. I take stock in my completed short stories. A total of fifteen for 85,000 words. Holy crap! It’s already bigger than Dogmeat, my first book, and we don’t have an intro, acknowledgements, and other trimmings that fatten the word count. I e-mail Mim.
Mim Harrison is my editor. We’ve never met face-to-face, but I consider her a good friend and a terrific editor. We have a certain special rapport, almost all by e mail, a bit by phone. Carpe diem, she responds. I look it up. Seize the moment. With that, I set my second book, my anthology of short stories, onto the runway.
I’ve been writing short stories since the 1990’s. Many are bad. There are only two old ones that have withstood the test of time and the harshest critic of my stories, me.One is entitled Unlikely Friends and tells the saga of a neurosurgeon who has a most unusual lunch with one of his patients. The other, Surabaya is a story that places the reader into the hectic craziness of this populous Indonesian city, contrasting it with Istanbul and in the process describing the personal growth of the main subject.
These two are well worked out, revised multiple times and ready for publication. They go to Mim first.Three others, newer ones, will join these antiques. They are also somewhat older , completed around 2011-12, already well revised via feedback from my readers.
Portofino is set in this scenic Italian Riviera town. It tells a quirky story that detracts from the glamor of the Ligurian coast and features a most unusual, unsexy sex scene. Will Mim like it?
Kayseri is partially autobiographic, about a trip to Cappadocia, and explores an unusual theme: the subjectivity of the concept of savage. At 9000 plus words, it is a long short story. It took me two years to complete.My Turkish readers liked it. What about Americans?
Testicle Talk is my flagship story that I would like to title the anthology with. I consider it one of my best. It is compact, economical, eccentric and packs a one-two punch towards the end. It is about, you guessed it, testicles, two couples talking about them. Will Mim like it as much as I do?
In the meanwhile I am furiously writing new stories and revising old ones. I just finished one that I am most excited about. It is called Plastics Circus and features Jarvis, a character I recently created, whom I already love. He is an irreverent, streetwise intern in a Chicago teaching hospital of the 1980’s. His amazing tales are bound to shock and disturb. It too is 9000 words plus, but to my delight the story poured out of me in ten days. My O.R. staff love it, so does Ellen Nichols M.D., neurosurgeon in Joplin Mo and good friend, one of my regular readers.I think I can write a whole book narrated by Jarvis.
Hold on Moris, I tell myself, one project at a time.
I have some failed projects too. The biggest flop of 2014 was a story I set in Alberobello, a cute little hilltop town in Puglia, Italy that I visited in June that year. I did a lot of research for that story and spent six months writing two different versions. I knew how it was to begin – I’m pretty good at catchy beginning – and for once, I knew how it was going to end – I’m not so good with endings. The problem with Alberobello was that I could not come up with a middle.
Shall I have another go at it?
I would like to present Mim with approximately twenty stories. She is likely to reject a few for publication. Better give her more than we need. Now that the project is off and running I no longer have the luxury of leisure time for reviews, reader feedbacks and revisions. I am a line chef now. My plates have to emerge from the kitchen fast and ready to eat. Better stick to another story by Jarvis.
I do. I am almost 4000 words into it already and not even half way through. I write early in the mornings before work, on days when I don’t have a 7 30 a.m. surgery start. I reserve the evenings for revision of already written stories.
In the meanwhile I eagerly await the return of my first batch from Mim. She usually sends back line-edits and comments, including her overall impressions and emotional reactions. Will she even consider my stories worth publishing? Stay tuned.