Caroline Adderson, "Obscure Objects"

It's December 13. Caroline Adderson, author of The Sky Is Falling and Ellen in Pieces, only steals office supplies discretely.

How would you describe your story?

CAROLINE ADDERSON: It’s an experiment in form.

When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?

CA: This isn’t a new story. It was originally published in The New Quarterly in 2004, but not included my next collection, Pleased to Meet You (2006). The process was accidental. I had a dear friend, a teaching colleague, who died of a brain aneurism at the age of 45. She wasn’t Renata, but a little like her—funny, outspoken, unflappable. So unflappable she once hitchhiked to university with a man who wasn’t wearing any pants, an incident I use in the story. Even though I meant the story as something of a tribute to my friend, I worried that people would think she’d also done the more outlandish thing that Renata does. I also felt in a quandary because I couldn’t get my friend’s permission to use a true incident from her life. The easiest way to deal with these problems was to change Renata’s ethnicity so no one would recognize my friend. I tried Italian, but she still seemed too real, so I tried another. Before I knew it, I was writing metafiction—my first and likely my last attempt.

What kind of research went into this story?

CA: I was an ESL teacher for more than a dozen years. Vancouver is full of ESL “colleges,” some of them appalling, scams nearly, others decent places. In either case, they are story troves. This is loosely based on a school I worked in.

What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?

CA: It allows a fiction writer to feel like she could be a poet.

Where can people go to learn more about you and your writing?


What's on your Christmas list this year?

CA: No presents please. Just parties.

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Michael Hingston