Friday, October 10, 2014

Amy Reed

Amy Reed is the author of the gritty Young Adult novels Beautiful, Clean, Crazy, and Over You. Her new novel is Damaged.

Not so long ago I asked the author about what she was reading. Reed's reply:
What I’m reading right now is George Saunders’ award-winning collection of short stories, Tenth of December. Actually, I should say it’s what I’m not reading right now. The book has been sitting on my bedside table for a couple of weeks, and I’ve only been picking it up once every few days. Part of this is because I have a toddler and my reading time is limited. When I read short stories, I prefer to read them in one sitting, and that is nearly impossible these days. However, much of my reluctance in picking up the book is because, frankly, I have a hard time with short stories, even when they’re as brilliant and perfect as George Saunders’.

I started out writing short stories like many novelists, but after completing my MFA program seven years ago, I have not written a single one. As both a writer and a reader, I find it difficult to commit to a whole new world and set of characters when I know I will only be with them for a short while. I want to be with them for the long haul. I want to spend a whole novel with them. And because short stories are so condensed, every single word must be infused with weight and meaning, which makes them that much more challenging to read. I enjoy the spaciousness of novels, the room to relax. Honestly, short stories make me anxious. I find their expectation of precision and perfection quite stressful.

Does this make me a lazy reader? Maybe. I find that as I get further away from being a student, the less I want to work when I read. Not that I want to read “bad” literature. Bad writing and cliché still make my stomach turn as much as they used to. But what I appreciate now is writing that appears effortless, writing that doesn’t need to be noticed, writing that is subtle and humble and at the service of story and characters.

Are short stories more about the writing itself than the story and characters? I don’t know. But for me personally, I have a harder time connecting to them. After I read a great short story, like those in Tenth of December, I often find myself blown away by the craft and style. But after a few days, I won’t remember much about what happened or who did it.
Visit Amy Reed's website, Facebook page, and Twitter perch.

Writers Read: Amy Reed (October 2009).

Writers Read: Amy Reed (August 2011).

Writers Read: Amy Reed (July 2012).

--Marshal Zeringue