New Short Story Published: Excerpt
|Wallowa Mountains, Oregon|
I’m delighted to share this news and link with you today, via the very fine literary publication, Consequence Magazine. From the notes on their website, Consequence is an “international literary magazine published annually, focusing on the culture and consequences of war.” Their editor reached out to me a while back, seeking new work. I was delighted to share my short story “What the Water Teaches” with her, and although I wrote it before Flashes of War, to me it represents one of my more heartfelt explorations of writing about place.
I set the story in an imaginary county in Eastern Oregon, inspired by Wallowa County (a place near and dear to my heart). I wrote the story in Oregon during the spring of 2011 while in residence with Fishtrap, splitting time between the tiny towns of Joseph and Imnaha, chasing a love that had died, eating lots of Arrowhead Chocolates, accruing rejections for Flashes of War by the dozens, and growing firm in my belief that–no matter what else came my way–I would be perfectly content to write stories for the rest of my life. I hiked, ran, and pedaled daily through the slopes around Hell’s Canyon and the high peaks surrounding Wallowa Lake. I leaned on friends for inspiration and advice. And I kept writing. It was one of the quietest, freest, deeply introspective periods of my life (second only to working on Flashes of War in Alaska). I was lucky to have it.
I have three or four stories from before Flashes of War that include scenes during the Vietnam War. “What the Water Teaches” is one of them. The inclusion of the Vietnam War helped my story align with Consequence‘s mission, but what strikes me most about the experience I had writing this story is that it enabled me to truly experiment with landscape. Little did I know that my main character’s connection to that Wallowa-inspired Oregon landscape would come into play many years, scenes, and pages later in the story when he makes it to Vietnam. More than anything, I felt that this narrator’s relationship to the land was what was going to save him, even halfway across the world in an entirely different ecosystem. Read to the end of the story, and you’ll find out whether or not it did…