“‘Ginny,’ I whispered into the darkness. ‘Ginny.’ I was no longer Mother Adalbert, Addie, superior of a community of two thousand women. Drunks and hordes of mosquitos were my community now. One landed on my arm. I let it pierce my flesh, drink my blood–my contribution to the world for the day.” ~ from “On My Knees” in The Collected Stories
If you’ve been a subscriber to this blog for a while, you know I love to introduce you to new books, spotlight up-and-coming authors, tempt you with good stories. Today’s Author Q&A is no different, except in format.
Carol Wobig is local author who published her full collection of short stories with a local publisher, Lisa Rivero at Hidden Timber Books, and she worked with a local editor: me. The three of us, then, constitute a Wisconsin triad of literary strength, bringing these wonderful stories into the literary light 🙂 Because of that, I’ve invited both Lisa and Carol to talk about Carol’s new book of short fiction entitled, The Collected Stories.
Carol Wobig writes with unfailing sensitivity and empathy and in language that rings clear and true. In these seventeen stories and monologues, Wobig introduces us to grieving widows and questioning nuns, daughters intent on saving their mothers and mothers unsure how to save their children, each of whom faces the question we all must ultimately ask: how to save ourselves. Her characters and their experiences will live in the minds and hearts of readers long after the last page is turned.
Sensitivity, empathy, language clear and true. All those things make for easy editing. But it’s the stories themselves that make this project memorable. Running through the pages of the collection is a thread of humility and grace, soothing as much as it is satisfying, with characters whose dialogue and inner thoughts pull at you in familiar ways and whose subtle humor eases any heartache.
Read the Q&A, enjoy an excerpt from the collection below, and–as always–there’s a giveaway (courtesy of Hidden Timber Books). Enter the giveaway HERE (deadline: Tuesday, December 26th).
Christi Craig (CC): Lisa, what drew you to Carol’s stories?
Lisa Rivero (LR): I first heard Carol read from her stories at a Red Oak Roundtable, and I fell in love immediately with her memorable characters, her authentic voice, her clear-eyed and compassionate perspective on the world. She makes what she does look easy because there is nothing fancy or extra, no misplaced or awkward words to stumble on, but that clarity is the result of many, many drafts and close attention to detail. Her stories are mesmerizing.
CC: Carol, when you wrote these stories, were you inspired first by character, setting, or theme?
Carol Wobig (CW): This was a question that led to some thinking on my part, and in the end I realized that I often start from a person or object I’ve seen in passing. The piano in the snow I saw years ago in my neighborhood on my way to work. At the time thought I would use it in a story one day. And Marge arose from a woman I saw on a Sunday morning in the coffee shop where I write. She was dressed for church, I guessed, in a hat and sensible heels, and was in an intense conversation with a young man I imagined to be her son. Later on, they came together for the story.
My settings are always small-town and rural Wisconsin, the place I love. I grew up here, moved to San Diego for twenty years, but moved back when I was forty-five; I missed the trees and seasons so much.
When I started writing, I read what I think might have been hundreds of how-to books. The advice in one I’ve always followed is start your story with the day your character’s life changes. My themes grow out of that.
CC: Lisa, this collection is full of memorable characters. Two of my faves: Sister Beatrix in “What Choice Do We Have” and Marge in “The Piano” and “Shoulder to Shoulder.” I’m curious, which character(s) would you love to read more about?
LR: All of them! I mean it. But if I had to choose, I agree with you on Marge (of course!) and Sister Beatrix (did she stay in the convent?) . And Alice (does she find reciprocated love?). And Kenny (please tell me he turns out alright). And Gwen…
CC: As a writer, Carol, which of the character(s) would you love to explore further?
CW: When I was re-reading the stories, I felt like I wanted to continue on with all of my people, see what happens next. They become like friends for me, eventually.
On Upcoming Works
CC: Lisa, what is next on the publishing front?
LR: I’m going to take a break from new projects for a year or two and am looking forward to getting the word out about Carol’s book and a new poetry chapbook by Yvonne Stephens: The Salt Before It Shakes.
CC: What about you, Carol? What are you writing these days?
CW: Right now, I’m working on Marge. And in the future, maybe something about my caretaking experiences, and about a rare disease I have, acromegaly, that there isn’t much written about.
Excerpt from “Shoulder to Shoulder” (Marge)
Looking at herself was a trial. She’d always been large, big-boned her mother had said, and now her skin, rippled and crinkled, hung from those bones. And the teeth. Always the teeth. There never had been the money for braces. Now there was life insurance money, but she should keep that for house repairs, if she didn’t do herself in. No, she wasn’t going to do herself in. Irene needed her, and Freddie was coming to visit. He’d called last night. She turned away from the mirror, switched to her patent-leather purse and dusted off her black flats. Better to be overdressed than under.
She’d thought about asking Melody to take her to the airport to pick up Freddie, but while her daughter was over her snit about not getting the piano, she and her brother didn’t always get along. And Freddie didn’t sound—she couldn’t put her finger on it — just didn’t sound like Freddie. Had he lost his job? Was he homeless?
At the airport — how’d she found it and parked without an accident she wasn’t sure — Marge stood like an island amidst the rush of travelers laden with backpacks and rolling suitcases, all wearing jeans. She read the screen telling her where her son would arrive, but did not realize she couldn’t go through security without a ticket. So she waited where the agent told her to and kept pressing the folds of the skirt close to her thighs to minimize her width. Why had she worn this dress? She felt like a float in a parade.
People hurried towards her up the ramp alone and in bunches, and after a long gap Freddie appeared. Ah, yes. Her son, looking older, tanned, thin, too thin. She waved to him, was surprised by the tears that threatened. He strode toward her and hugged her, a maneuver so unexpected that she stood there, engulfed in his arms like a statue. They weren’t a hugging family.
A younger man stood to Freddie’s left, smiling.
“This is my friend, Jeff,” her son said.
“Nice to meet you,” she said, and shook his extended hand. Did he need a ride, too? She wasn’t running a taxi service.
“Jeff wants to see the Midwest,” Freddie said. “I hope it’s okay that I brought him along.”
“Oh, sure. We have lots of room.” How like her Freddie. To take in a stray, to not tell her. Was the roast in the crock pot enough for dinner?
He had driven home, much to her relief. She sat in the back seat, to give Jeff a better view. As she mentally inventoried the refrigerator for ingredients for side dishes to add to dinner, she worried about Freddie. His ears looked huge, stood out from the tight skin on his neck and jaw.
“Sure smells good,” he said, as they walked up the back steps into the kitchen.
“I’m going upstairs to change,” Marge said. “We’ll eat in a minute.” In the bedroom, she unzipped the dress, hung it up, pinned a note to it that said “Burial Dress.”
Inspired by the stories of Alice Munro, Carol Wobig started writing when she retired from making sauce in a pizza factory. Her award-winning work has appeared in Rosebud and other literary journals, and her monologues have been performed in community theater.
Learn more at carolwobig.com.
Don’t Forget! Enter the giveaway for a chance
to win a copy of The Collected Stories.