Monday, November 28, 2011

TCR Story of the Month for November: "The Time of Plenty" by Judith Slater

The Committee Room is pleased to inaugurate its Story of the Month series with Judith Slater's lively and wise "The Time of Plenty."  The story takes us back to small town America on Election Night 1960. Opposing social and political forces that would explode later in the decade were gathering strength, even in friendly middle class neighborhoods.  Seen through the eyes of a child, "The Time of Plenty" subtly depicts the adult characters' feelings of optimism in the midst of regret and of discontent while surrounded by comfort.  

Judith Slater's work has appeared in many publications including the Greensboro Review,  Redbook, Seventeen, Ascent, Story Quarterly, and A Different Plain: Contemporary Nebraska Fiction Writers.  

"The Time of Plenty" was published in Carve Magazine (Spring 2011).

Slater's collection of short stories The Baby Can Sing, winner of the Mary McCarthy Prize for short fiction, was published by Sarabande Books.

To read "The Time of Plenty" click here

TCR Chats with Judith Slater

Judith Slater
Q: How long have you been writing?
A: I've been writing since I was a child -- the result, I think, of growing up as an only child.  I had to rely on reading and my own imagination for entertainment.  That more than anything else shaped me as a writer; I certainly wasn't encouraged to be a writer.  I come from a family of practical, hard-headed business people who were a bit suspicious of the creative arts. My parents wanted me to be a legal secretary so I'd have a secure job.

Q: Where and when did your first story appear?
A: My first published story was in Seventeen magazine, back when they published a story a month; that was a huge thrill, and the editor was wonderful, helping me shape what was certainly not a polished publishable story when it came across her desk.  I was in my twenties.  I'm still proud of that story, and grateful to that editor for taking a chance on me.

Q: What inspired "The Time of Plenty?"
A: I don't consider myself a political writer by any means, and "The Time of Plenty" is probably as close as I'll ever get.  Everyone, of course, is fascinated by the Kennedy mystique, and I wanted to find a way to approach it from a different angle -- small town politics set against the larger political culture of the time.  Also, when I was a child, my parents -- those practical, hard-headed business people -- had an unlikely friendship with the couple next door who were very much like the Matt and Irene in the story, social workers, liberal Democrats.  That's rare -- and even rarer now in these divisive times -- for people with such different beliefs and politics to be able to forge a friendship.

Q: Who are some of your favorite "classic" writers?
A: The writer who has most influenced me is John Cheever -- I suppose because he explores the culture of the 1950s, which is a subject I'm interested in, but also because he writes those beautiful, glorious sentences.  I have three copies of his collected stories -- the one with the red cover -- and reread them all the time.  He's influenced me as a writer since I was an undergraduate.

Q: Who are you favorite contemporary writers?
A: There are so many wonderful contemporary writers that it's hard to choose just a few.  I really love the work of Julie Orringer, a young writer whose story collection How to Breathe Underwater is just wonderful.   I love writers who are able to combine humor and sadness -- George Saunders, John McNally, and my late husband Gerry Shapiro, whose collections From Hunger and Bad Jews have the funniest, wisest stories I've ever read.  Tobias Wolff, Amy Bloom, Andrea Barrett, Richard Russo. That hardly begins to scratch the surface.