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Segue 9: Fall 2010  ||  Jonathan Cardew


about the author


Jonathan Cardew lives in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, with his wife and two daughters. He has had stories published in Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine and two editions of Sheffield Hallam University’s Best of... series. A collection of stories, Heal Yourself And Move, is forthcoming, if not coming soon.


about the work


In his essay “A Story-teller’s Notebook,” Raymond Carver has this to say about penning a short story, “Get in, get out. Don’t linger. Go on.” This is, for me, the best piece of advice on short fiction writing; it is everything you need to know. A former mentor of mine, E.A. Markham, would say the same thing with different words—“Arrive late, leave early”. In Markham’s case, though, I expect he was referring to his own time management skills.

Whichever way, I hold to this principle as much as I can when I write.

“Falling Up” begins a couple of hours before the end, loops back and points to a wide open future. So far so good. I get in: “The day was like any other...and they were walking the estate.” I get out: “He would wait for that.” I don’t think I linger too much. Not everything is written down. I know much more about character, place and plot than I will let slip. And that’s where the editing plays its role—the rewriting, resizing, copying, cutting, pasting, and then cutting again of what doesn’t need to be written. This was all very much in evidence in the drafting of this story.

It began with the character: Jimbo.

And his problem: falling down.

And the gang: Si, Helly 1, Helly 2.

It suddenly had a title (a borrowed title, from the electronic music artist Theo Parrish).

It was something I was investing my time and energy in.

It had a future.

It had possibility.

But it didn’t happen for me. After a few pages, I put it away.

When I looked at it again a few months later, I was a little happier with the story. The main thing that stood out for me was the heron. It resonated, and meant that I could carry on. Without the line, “Stability was its number one advantage,” I don’t think it would have been worth my while. Of course, there were other things going for the story—the narrative was simple, the characters had their reasons for being, and the prose was clear in the most part - but there had to be a hook that went beyond plot and character. I’m not sure if hook is the right word in this instance, and I don’t think it matters. Because I finished the story. The heron was an image I had carried in my mind—and it was an image rooted in reality, as was the canal where Jimbo does his fishing, a stretch of the Sheffield canal between Shalesmoor and Attercliffe—and I carried it to the end, even if the heron is nowhere to be seen in that final section.


Jonathan cardew on the Web





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