Maile Meloy, "The Age of Doubt"
It’s December 25. Maile Meloy, author of Do Not Become Alarmed, believes in a thing called love.
How would you describe your story?
MAILE MELOY: It’s about Christmas Eve, and childhood, and belief. And it’s very short.
When did you write it, and how did the writing process compare to your other work?
MM: I wrote it a while ago, and it was so short and so holiday-specific that I wasn’t sure there’d ever be a home for it. But I thought someday someone might ask me for a short Christmas story, and I would just happen to have one! Like that thing in your closet that comes in handy for some very specific party. And along came the advent calendar.
What kind of research went into this story?
MM: Being a child, with a stocking. Santa used to visit us in person on Christmas Eve, before the rest of his rounds, and it made me a firm believer. It took many, many years for me to confront my mother, and still she waffled for a while. My sister was sneakier, when her time came to ask—she led with, “Mom, if I asked you a question, would you promise to tell me the truth?” But we all still get stockings, as adults, so I don’t think any of us have let go of it completely.
And being on the other side—watching my nephews and other kids hang stockings and put teeth under pillows—has made me think about the will to believe, and the way kids (and parents) invest in the magic.
What, to you, makes the short story a special form? What can it do that other kinds of writing can't?
MM: I love the way everything needs to count in a story: no digressions, no wandering off. You can read a short story in one sitting. (Ideally, at least. Some are too long.) You can have one complete mental and emotional narrative experience in that time, one act of engagement with another mind; your imaginative involvement is part of the art form.
Where should people go to learn more about you and your work?
What's the best gift you've ever been given?
MM: My husband is really good at gifts. But last Christmas I was feeling very anti-stuff, and I said I wanted nothing. He gave me a box to unwrap, but I didn’t want a box to unwrap. And then inside was a t-shirt from Homeboy Industries, which went with a donation to the wonderful Father Gregory Boyle’s program for people who’ve been incarcerated or involved in gangs. You should steal that gift idea and do it, too.
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