FP: Give us some background on The Lesson.
JW: This story partly pokes fun of a real-life wedding DJ I had the pleasure of meeting once (though the character is a composite of various DJs I’ve encountered over the years), and also partly pokes fun of me. Yep, I am one of those annoying drunk chicks who bombards the poor DJ with requests—and who thinks she knows better than the professional how to get a dance floor hopping. (But dammit, I really DO!)
FP: Who/what/where/when do you draw inspiration from?
JW: I love seemingly meaningless exchanges that contain a ton of meaning beneath the surface, incidences of blatant passive aggression, and people with a complete lack of self-awareness.
FP: You’re a new mom. How has that changed you as a writer?
JW: All of my new writing now involves a lack of sleep in some way. Har. But seriously, sleep deprivation probably will be the subject of at least one story…and babies seem to be creeping more and more into my fiction, even if they’re just in the background. Also—I used to poll writer-parents and ask them how they did both, and the majority told me that when they have time to write, they actually use it. And it’s true! I used to fritter away oceans of free time, but now when my daughter is asleep, or she’s with her dad or her grandparents and I have an afternoon at a café with my notebook, I relish that time and take advantage of it.
FP: What are the advantages of writing short stories? What are the challenges?
JW: I’m a details person, and short stories are powered by details. There’s so much going on in the microcosm of a single moment, and the short story form gives me license to explore that stuff. So that’s a huge advantage for me. (Details are important in novels too, sure, but the larger picture usually takes precendence.) The main challenge, I think, is convincing the reader to be just as interested in that moment as I am.
FP: Last question. What excites you most about online/digital storytelling?
JW: Its immediacy and instant accessibility, and the possibility of reaching a lot of people at once. But I have to say that I’m still a fan of actual paper and actual bookstores. And I don’t get excited about the potential for links and other fancy electronic doodads to be embedded in online writing. I’d rather just read the story and go where the narrative takes me—I don’t want to jump around to different places outside of it, even if they happen to be related in some way. My brain will short-circuit with that kind of overstimulation.
stories by Jessica Westhead