Jedediah Berry, "Minus, His Heart"

It's December 15. Jedediah Berry, author of "The Family Arcana" and The Manual of Detection, is standing outside with a boombox right now.

How would you describe your story?

JEDEDIAH BERRY: It’s your average boy-gets-abducted-by-the-neighborhood-wassailer story. There’s also a stolen mixtape, a playground betrayal, and an evil zookeeper.

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

JB: I wrote it years ago, in the midst of a heartbreak, and I wrote it very quickly. I had no real plan for how it was supposed to go, so I was surprised when the plot turned out to have the structure of a noir crime story. I felt I was taking risks with the sentences, and this felt joyful despite the hurt I was channeling at the time.

What kind of research went into this story?

JB: Conversations with old drunks over the course of several decades, having nightmares set in playgrounds, going to zoos and not feeling good about it.

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

JB: It can be made to last just as long as a mug of good tea.

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

JB: They can meet me for a beer in Amherst, Massachusetts, or they can visit my website at I’m also on Twitter.

What's on your Christmas list this year?

JB: The family homestead needs its chimney fixed. Till then, no Santa and no crackling fires—but maybe some old fashioned wassailing.

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What did you think of today's story? Use the hashtag #ssac2016 on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram to check in with your fellow advent calendarians.

Michael Hingston