A Conversation With PEN America Best Debut Short Stories 2019 Author Erin Singer
“Inspiration came from the stupid pencil jar our family had when I was growing up.”
We are Tockers, descendants of thirty-six feet of long lean Saskatchewan woman: six Tocker sisters, six foot tall, exemplary ax-women all, so says our mom. At the kitchen table this morning we are mixing our Nesquik and Mom is quoting from Taking Our Time: A History of Tockers. As she cites each Tocker triumph she stabs the book with her file, showering its curling cover with fingernail dust. Tocker Trucking! Compass Sawmill! TT’s Laundromat! Stab! Stab! Stab! Mom plants the file in an old baby corn can crammed with white pencil crayons and shards of rulers and dried-out pens. She rubs her eyes until mascara moons arise underneath. Our spoons clack inside our plastic cups.
What was I saying? She sighs. Point being, summer’s coming and no Tocker ever chopped a tree indoors. Get outside and play! Tocker girls brown up good. Just godsakes don’t get a farmer tan.
That right there’s offensive to farmers, Dad says behind his cigarette smoke.
I’m going down for a nap, says Mom. She puts her Kool-Aid glass in the sink.
More by this author
“Maybe being in a disorganized, overstimulated state of mind helped me evoke the anxiety of being on the internet while undergoing a process of ruthless self-evaluation.”
“Speculative fiction at its best is outlandish at first glance, but ends up feeling immediate. That challenge is often what gets me writing—I want to take an absurd premise and see how deep it can go.”
More in this series
“I like melancholy and characters with weighty histories. I fell in love with Daniel. But I fall in love with all my characters.”
“I feel any person who has to deal with losing the one person who is their world has every right to do whatever it takes to self-preserve, even when that includes deflection and denial.”
“I think, in pursuit of truth, science and religion still have to wrestle with the strictures of human knowledge, error, pride.”