In my last post, I discussed the challenge of writing “Vocations,” and my story “On the Hi-Line” also stretched me as a writer. It found a home in issue 2.1 of Driftwood Press, and in the issue’s Q&A, I share some of the writing history of the story.
The story is from the perspective of a female college undergraduate. Half of the twelve stories in Measuring Time & Other Stories (forthcoming from Wiseblood Books this fall) feature female protagonists, but this is the only one in which I use the first-person.
Over the successive drafts of the story, I worked on crafting a voice for the narrator, striving for authenticity, knowing I had a tough task. And as I mention in my Q&A, the story derived partly from an abandoned first novel in 2004. Furthermore, some events in the story are scenes I observed. My wife and I rode the Empire Builder five trips between Minnesota and the Pacific Northwest, so the story draws upon my familiarity with the route: the scenery, the towns, the barrenness.
But as is the case with fiction based loosely on a few observed details and a smattering of personal experience, the goal is to shape these elements into a narrative that invites the reader into the world and keeps the reader there. Even though it appeared in print nearly five years ago, I’ve since strengthened the sentence-level writing further in preparation for its inclusion in the new book. It’s become an even better story.
Revisiting this story was a pleasurable experience, a delight, leaving me at times wondering how I even wrote it in the first place. Was the story even mine? Yet, a search through my filing cabinet reveals the previous versions of the story, from that initial rough sketch and its many iterations to the version I’ll soon be sharing with in the wider world.