Peter Turchi & Andrea Barrett

"The Story Behind the Story: 26 Stories by Contemporary Writers and How They Work"

(Reviewed by Hagen Baye OCT 5, 2004)

Students of literature, aspiring authors and short story aficionados will enjoy The Story Behind The Story, edited by Peter Turchi and Andrea Barrett. This is a collection of 26 short stories by 26 writers who are on the faculty of the Warren Wilson College MFA Program for Writers, including writers Charles Baxter and Robert Cohen. What distinguishes this anthology from other short story collections are the short supplementary essays in which each author/teacher-of-writing comment on his/her respective story. They variously address what went into writing the story (and each touch on a different aspect) and/or the choices made that resulted in the story’s final form. The collection provides a unique insight into the writer’s mind and creative process.

The stories themselves vary widely with respect to styles and subjects. There are several types of experimental writing styles; for example, one is based on a collage, another on stream of consciousness, still another written in be-bop fashion. One author even purposely violates all the laws of narration. There is a science fiction story, a couple that are historically based and plenty that have autobiographical roots.

Then there are the essays. They cover different aspects of writing and vary as much as the stories themselves. Some detail the sources of the author’s inspiration: whether experience or imagination, or both. One author was “given” a story to write by another. One writer follows Robert Carver’s example of writing a first sentence, then seeing where that leads. The inspiration for another author’s story was a photograph.

Still other writers discuss the technical aspects of writing and the role they play in their story, such as voice, narrative, setting, point of view, conflict, plot and so on. Also, thoughts and theories about writing abound, a common theme being writing as an act of discovery.

This is an extremely instructive collection of stories and accompanying essays, which reveal the writer’s secrets that usually stay unspoken (or unwritten) and much about the creative act of writing. This collection is a veritable writing seminar, and at $16.95 an extremely reasonable one at that.

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About the Author:

Peter Turchi received his MFA from the University of Arizona, and taught creative writing at DePaul University, Loyola University, Columbia College, the College of DuPage and Northwestern University. In 1993, he moved to Asheville, NC, to teach in and direct the MFA Program for Writers at Warren Wilson College. His stories have appeared in Ploughshares, Story, the Alaska Quarterly Review, Puerto del Sol, the Colorado Review and other magazines. He has been the recipient of an NEA Fellowship, an Illinois Arts Council Literary Award and North Carolina's Sir Walter Raleigh Award. He lives in Asheville, North Carolina.

Andrea BarrettAndrea Barrett is the winner of the National Book Award for Ship Fever and Other Stories. She lives in Rochester, New York. About Us | Subscribe | Review Team | History | ©1998-2014