Brent van Staalduinen, "Skinks"


It's December 11. Brent van Staalduinen, author of Saints, Unexpected, is always up for splitting a root beer.

How would you describe your story?

BRENT VAN STAALDUINEN: A kid who hasn’t yet figured out that his step-hero won’t be around to help him finish the delicate process of growing up.

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

BVS: I wrote it for a UBC fiction class in fall 2014, so the story has just had its third birthday. It began as many of my short stories do, with an image—in this case, a boy hanging out with his mom in a hospital staff smoking area and looking up at the windows. Unlike my other work, though, as I revised I intentionally removed any indication of a particular location—it was first set in Hamilton and then Australia when the skinks skitch-skitched their way in—because I wanted Dilly’s experiences to be the focus, and for readers to feel as though the story’s events could occur anywhere. (Anywhere one might find skinks, of course.)

What kind of research went into this story?

BVS: None, apart from digging into my memories: when I was little, my brother had a pair of lizards and the meal-worms he fed them were the grossest, coolest things.

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

BVS: I’m particularly drawn to stories that really explore a moment, a brief but intense episode in the lives of one or two characters—I enjoy the economy and intimacy that the form can lend to this approach, where every word and phrase is essential. I don’t think other forms can’t do this—poetry often does this really well—but with longer works I tend to enjoy a more drawn-out, expanded narrative.

Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?


What's the best gift you've ever been given?

BVS: Grace. Life. Marriage. Fatherhood. Time to write.

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Michael Hingston