My latest story “Birdheart” is now up for reading over at FUSION! I’m grateful they decided to publish my story; this one is a personal favorite of mine. I’ve been trying to find a good home for it for a while, and I’m glad it finally happened.
I originally wrote this one back in 2011, while I was working on my MFA thesis for the Stonecoast Writing Program at the University of Southern Maine. Although actually, a prior version of this story dates back to 2010. Shortly after I wrote a microstory for the Thackery T. Lambshead Cabinet of Curiosities anthology edited by Ann and Jeff VanderMeer, Jeff laid down a writing prompt/challenge for me, for what was supposed to be a 100-word story, roughly. The prompt? Take an opening line — in this case, the actual opening line of my story — and then take it from there, in any number of directions: surreal, gritty, decadent, whimsical, you name it.
What I wrote for that, back in 2010, was what became the first full section of my story: the autopsy of an old man whose body is filled with birds. Fast forward to 2011, and I’m pressed to come up with good new stories for my thesis (I had written a lot of half-finished drafts that I completely hated). I returned to that initial microstory I wrote for Jeff and decided to try and dig my fingers in to see what could possibly happen after that.
A lot of the story actually arose out of what I considered practical concerns for that opening situation: did the old man have any family? Is the person conducting the autopsy supposed to be accountable to anyone with his findings? Once I started answering those questions, I fleshed the story out from there fairly easily. Before long I discovered the heart of the story: a man whose life was more or less miraculous (keep in mind, he was a bird person), and the hole in the world his death left for the one he loved the most, with a narrator who is compelled onward, ultimately, by his own burgeoning feelings of empathy and affection.
That’s all I’ll say about it for now. My general opinion is that I’ve always got my own reasons for why I write, complete, and submit a piece of writing (and I’ve got to have reasons), but for a story to work in the long run readers have to find their own reasons to hold it dear to them. So it goes.