In my own work, I tend to cover a lot of time and to jump back and forward in time, and sometimes the way I do this is not very straightforward.
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'Royal Beatings' was my first story, and it was published in 1977. But I sent all my early stories to 'The New Yorker' in the 1950s, and then I stopped sending for a long time and sent only to magazines in Canada. 'The New Yorker' sent me nice notes, though - penciled, informal messages. They never signed them. They weren't terribly encouraging.
I got interested in reading very early, because a story was read to me, by Hans Christian Andersen, which was 'The Little Mermaid,' and I don't know if you remember 'The Little Mermaid,' but it's dreadfully sad. The little mermaid falls in love with this prince, but she cannot marry him because she is a mermaid.
I was a grade B housewife, maybe a B minus. But when I got time to write, I would be unable to finish a sentence. I had anxiety attacks. Partly it was a way of personifying the situation because I couldn't breathe. I was surrounded by people and by duties. I was a housewife and the children's mother, and I was judged on how I performed those roles.
I was a housewife, so I learned to write in times off, and I don't think I ever gave it up, though there were times when I was very discouraged because I began to see that the stories I was writing were not very good, that I had a lot to learn, and that it was a much, much harder job than I had expected.
I've often made revisions at that stage that turned out to be mistakes because I wasn't really in the rhythm of the story anymore. I see a little bit of writing that doesn't seem to be doing as much work as it should be doing, and right at the end, I will sort of rev it up. But when I finally read the story again, it seems a bit obtrusive.
In those early days, the important thing was the happy ending. I did not tolerate unhappy endings - for my heroines, anyway. And later on, I began to read things like 'Wuthering Heights,' and very, very unhappy endings would take place, so I changed my ideas completely and went in for the tragic, which I enjoyed.
Naturally, my stories are about women - I'm a woman. I don't know what the term is for men who write mostly about men. I'm not always sure what is meant by 'feminist.' In the beginning, I used to say, 'Well, of course I'm a feminist.' But if it means that I follow a kind of feminist theory, or know anything about it, then I'm not.
Some of the stories I admire seem to zero in on one particular time and place. There isn't a rule about this. But there's a tidy sense about many stories I read. In my own work, I tend to cover a lot of time and to jump back and forward in time, and sometimes the way I do this is not very straightforward.