Sunday, April 19, 2009

Cote Smith's "Hurt People"

Just finished reading the latest issue of One Story: "Hurt People," a debut story from Cote Smith.

The story is amazing. Eerie, elegant, chilling, a tale of two brothers in a town "with more prisons than restaurants." Smith's interview on was very interesting as well. He talks about refining stories on the sentence level, going for the understated instead of the over-the-top. Here's a snippet from the interview:

"I had been writing stories that I didn't really like and I couldn't pinpoint why. Thinking about the stories, I liked the ideas, but I didn't like the actual story. I finally figured out it was the over-the-top, sentence-level writing that turned me off. How I figured this out was I read two short story collections, Twenty Grand by Rebecca Curtis, and The First Hurt, by Rachel Sherman. Those two books showed me how someone can write beautiful, engaging, and surprising stories using nicely measured sentences with basic syntax and structure. So I decided to write a story in which I just showed as much as possible, in simple, hopefully beautiful sentences. The first sentence I wrote was, 'The town had more prisons than restaurants.' The story took off from there."

I think that this "over-the-topness" is something that often happens in my writing. I'm going to check out the collections from Curtis and Sherman and want to experiment with a more measured approach in the new Spork project I'm working on.

Can't wait to read more from Cote Smith.

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