Your story is about a woman's attempt to get rid of a statue. Where did the idea come from?
Like most things I write, this story is a basket weave of many experiences over many years. First, it was inspired by time I spent in Chile in the 1990s as a consultant for the Center for Reproductive Rights, researching cases of women who were imprisoned for having abortions. Yes, imprisoned! Many of these women were Catholic, and I have had a religious character contemplating abortion percolating in my mind ever since. Second, I must thank the late Lana Ferguson, a beloved librarian at the Guilford Free Library, for telling me what a hard time she once had disposing of a Virgin Mary statue. (Every writer needs a fairy godmother like Lana who’s full of story ideas she doesn’t want to write herself). Third, the story comes from my own experiences with prenatal testing and CVS. And, finally, the setting is my dad’s hometown, Henry, Illinois, a place that I keep returning to in my writing for its novelistic mix of pathos and comedy. I stitched these threads together while reading Nicole Krauss’s History of Love. Not sure why her book was the flint against which my match struck, but I’m in her debt.
What do you find appealing about the short story form?
Compression. I love that every image, every word should be there for a reason. I fail at this over and over again, but I appreciate the challenge. I also love the challenge of trying to make a character real and a story emotionally engaging in such a tight space. Sometimes novels feel flabby and bloated, while poetry can seem too thin. Starving even. The short story sits perfectly in the middle; though I enjoy writing all three genres.
What’s your writing process?
I’ve always written by stealing time from other activities—from my work as a student, then as a lawyer, now as a mother. I work at odd hours in odd spaces. The only constants are a cup of tea and a sore neck. I try to read, go for walks, eavesdrop, and observe the world as much as I can to feed the idea pool. I tend to write a first draft rather quickly and then edit forever. I played with “Chorionic Villus Sampling with the Virgin Mary” over the course of several years. I have a love/hate relationship with everything I write that makes it difficult for me to say goodbye.