Short Story Collections by (and About) Women
Riding down to the Weymouth Center on Saturday, I heard two bits of news from Press 53 publisher Kevin Morgan Watson.
One, that he was not going to publish any more novels or memoirs, so that he could focus on short story collections (his first love) and poetry. I'm happy he's making this move, even though it means I'll be back in the hunt for a publisher and/or agent for my next Southern/crime novel Backwater, now in the writing - because short fiction deserves its champion.
The other bit of news is that Darlin' Neal, author of Rattlesnakes and the Moon from Press 53, will be back soon with another collection of short fiction.
I love Rattlesnakes, an unflinching look into the lives of blue-collar woman that take us into the truck stops and trailer parks, but doesn't showing women at the hardscrabble end of things as simply victims. Her heartbreaking stories of the road and hard times are set in small places of the South and West. In “Lafayette,” a woman leaves behind a friend’s tragic death and a man’s love, heading back to New Mexico, where “the rocks and trees and sky will give memories to her,” but the way out of Plaquemines is a slow journey by bus that takes her only as far as Lafayette for that first crucial night.
Loved ones in prison, rape, heroin addiction, aging – Neal’s women face challenges very close to heart and home. At the end of “Piercings,” 15-year-old Stella demands the right to dress, to be, as she chooses. “She has some brass knuckles. She walks outside. She crosses Fortification into Belhaven Heights. If anyone threatens her, they better keep their distance because she will smash their faces. She keeps crying. She walks for hours, over there, defying all those dangers and they do not touch her.”
Neal's next collection will be one to look for. In the meantime, check out Diane Simmons' collection Little America that also features gutsy women living on the edge.