On Writing We Will Tell You Otherwise

My collection of short stories has been many years in the making. It took some time for me to get busy writing. I thought that I was waiting for something, but the truth was I just needed to grant myself permission.

About Beth Mayer

When I was ready, the Loft Literary Center in Minneapolis became my first writing home. There I began to learn the craft of fiction. I was just brazen and naïve enough to send my work out to places beyond my reach. With generosity, editor Wendy Lesser took a chance on an unknown writer and selected one of my stories for The Threepenny Review. A version of this first published story appears in my first book.

Later, when my two children were young, I completed my MFA at Hamline University. My professors welcomed me, treating my work with the care and seriousness it deserved. I wrote in coffee shops, YMCA lobbies, and at my kitchen table when my children were asleep. Writing and revising one story at a time, year after year as I was, felt possible with a young family. But now I think that it was also essential. Like deliberately entering and solving a troubling dream.

In my fiction, I am drawn to things that poets use: image, precision of language, musicality, understatement, an accumulation of details that point toward surprise. My stories also demand that I go searching. In service to these particular stories, I have researched elevators, smelt fishing, the Love Canal, Catholicism, aging, mental illness, chemistry, William Blake, computer science, yoga, the AAA Motor Club, photography, earwigs, Mary Kay Cosmetics, and medicine. This all takes time. Patience. More time.

After graduate school, I landed a full-time position teaching English at Century College where I established a career in higher education and helped launch a creative writing program. I am proud of this work, but you know the story. My own creative work stalled. Winning the Loft Mentor Series in fiction for 2015-16 gave me time to focus on my writing again. The chance to work with mentors and fellow writers renewed my commitment to my fiction and inspired me to consider new possibilities. During this mentorship year, I revised deeply, wrote new stories, and clarified my vision for my manuscript.

And now, I am grateful to Black Lawrence Press for selecting We Will Tell You Otherwise for the 2017 Hudson Prize and for welcoming my first book home.