LPR wouldn’t exist without the incredible team of readers who help select the pieces we publish in each issue. One of our fiction readers, Dan Crawley, recently learned that his short story collection, The Wind, It Swirls, has been picked up for publication by Cowboy Jamboree Press!
To celebrate, Dan shared some thoughts about his own writing and what he looks for in fiction submissions.
Q: Congratulations on having your story collection picked up for publication! Can you describe the collection for us?
A: Thank you so much! I’m grateful that my collection is being published by the amazing Cowboy Jamboree Press. The book is a mix of flash fiction and short stories, representing the last few decades of my writing.
This is how I’d describe the collection as a whole: in these thirty stories, many of the characters find themselves blown about by the rough winds of financial and/or relationship difficulties, some by their own making. Others find themselves in places they never imagined they would land. Struggle and hope and abandonment and grace permeate these stories. And some characters realize that letting the wind take them is best. Others, not so much.
What story in the collection are you most excited about, if you can pick just one?
I’m very excited about all the stories in this collection. But if I had to pick, it would be a tie between “Avoiding Mr. Screamerhead” and “Won’t You Please, Please Come Home?” Both of these stories have endings that I’m really proud of. In fact, the latter story makes me fall apart when I read it to others. Like the day I read it to a group of students in an intermediate fiction workshop at a university where I taught years ago. I loved everyone in that course, truly. And respected their opinions. They were stellar workshoppers, so I had them help me with this particular story and then brought in a revised draft, with the new ending, toward the end of the semester. I was doing fine reading it until the last few paragraphs. Then I lost it, tears flowing, my voice giving out, and handed the story to the student beside me to finish it. They were very kind, watching me fall to pieces. And everyone was moved by the last lines, too.
I usually vote yes on stories I wish I’d written: strong images, strong characters, and resolutions I’ll remember days, weeks, after the initial read.
Where do you get inspiration for your stories?
Images fuel my inspiration for most, if not all, of my stories. And characters that I want to follow and live with while drafting a story are essential. The seed for another story in this collection, “Into the Den of God,” came from a childhood memory. I had gone over to a friend’s house when his parents weren’t home and saw that he’d lit dozens and dozens of candles in the dark living room. Candles everywhere, on the floor, coffee table, on the couches in saucers. I never forgot how the flames flickered all over the room. Then a character developed within this image, relaying his own childhood memory, and I was hooked.
What’s your writing process like?
An image is a brick that I start building other bricks around. Usually what comes quickly after an image, or a setting, is a character wanting something. Then the character takes over: conflict, actions, dialogue. These elements are my mortar (to keep the metaphor going).
Decades ago, I’d write a story in under a week, sometimes in a few days. Now I find myself drafting and revising a story over a long period of time. For instance, I’ve been working on a flash fiction since the end of July. It is a fully written draft, but I keep tinkering with it. Once I feel a cog inside me finally mesh with a chain, I know it’s ready. It’s hard to describe this feeling, this knowing. I chalk it up to my subconscious mind catching up to my conscious overthinking. Of course, I am fortunate to have a small group of beta readers, helping me immensely as I draft stories.
You’re also a fiction reader for LPR. What are you looking for in the stories you read?
I usually vote yes on stories I wish I’d written: strong images, strong characters, and resolutions I’ll remember days, weeks, after the initial read. I’ve recently found a few stories in the queue that I love. I hope they get into the upcoming issue.
What’s your favorite piece of writing advice?
“Sometimes a cup is just a cup.”
This was said by a workshop student of mine when I was going on and on in class about symbolism. I love it!
Dan Crawley is the author of the novella Straight Down the Road (Ad Hoc Fiction, 2019) and the forthcoming short story collection The Wind, It Swirls (Cowboy Jamboree Press, 2021). His writing appears or is forthcoming in a number of journals and anthologies, including JMWW, Lost Balloon, Tiny Molecules, and Atticus Review. His work has been nominated for Best Small Fictions, Best of the Net, and the Pushcart Prize. Along with teaching creative writing workshops and literature courses, he is a fiction reader for Little Patuxent Review.