We’re huge Amy Hempel fans at Algonquin, so we’re especially thrilled that she’s the guest editor of this year’s 25th anniversary edition of NEW STORIES FROM THE SOUTH. To celebrate, today we’re giving away a copy of her COLLECTED STORIES along with a copy of our anthology–two great tastes that go great together. To enter, just leave a comment on our Facebook page or, if you’re not on Facebook, here on our blog.
Hempel took a few minutes while at Bread Loaf to talk to us about loaning out books, her favorite Southern authors, and falling in love with New Orleans all over again.
1. Can you describe the selection process as guest editor of New Stories from the South: 2010? How many stories were originally submitted to you before you narrowed it down to twenty five? Was it a difficult process?
I don’t know the final count for the number of stories that Kathy Pories and I read, but I know that in addition to those sent in by the magazines and journals, we asked for stories, and checked to be sure that certain writers we admire greatly had not, in fact, published stories in 2009. I would have hated to miss a story by William Gay, for example, so we checked and found that he has been working on a novel. That happened several times.
Was it a difficult selection process? I didn’t feel it was hard; in most cases I knew immediately, and Kathy and I were closely aligned in our sense of the best stories.
2. Do you reread a story of your own once it’s in print? If so, what is your reaction upon reading it?
When a story of mine is published, I quickly scan it looking for typos, then don’t read it again unless I am giving a reading and want to include it.
3. How many revisions on average does it take until you feel a story of yours is complete? Do you apply the same amount of revisions to a story when guest-editing someone’s piece?
There is no typical revision process for me—the number varies with each story. Also, I did not change the stories we selected for this volume. I selected them, but did not edit them.
4. What’s the last book you loaned out that you regret giving away? Or, can you share with us the best book ever given to you as a gift and the story behind it?
I don’t loan someone a book unless I’ll be okay with never seeing it again. The best book I was given—most recently that would be the galley of Mark Richard’s memoir that comes out in February: House Of Prayer No. 2.
5. What is your favorite memory of the South?
There is no single favorite memory; there are MANY that come back and back to me. The times I visited Oxford, MS, in the ’80s and spent time with Barry Hannah—those are at the top. Also spending time with Rick Barthelme and Rie Fortenberry et al. in Hattiesburg, and a recent week in New Orleans, falling in love with that city all over again…
6. Do you have any favorite contemporary Southern writers?
Some of my favorites that are not in the anthology: Mark Richard, Rick Barthelme, Allan Gurganus, Jill McCorkle, Betsy Cox, Barry Hannah, Ellen Collett.
7. In your introduction as guest editor to New Stories from the South: 2010, you wrote, “Much of what I read from the contemporary South has a soundtrack.” As a Chicago-born writer currently residing in New York City, what are your top five ‘Southern’ soundtrack songs?
In addition to the ones I mention in my Introduction, I’d need my CD collection in front of me. But I’m writing from a writers’ conference in Vermont. There’s a Jimmy Reed recording on Verve that I’ll never get tired of, and a lot of the old STAX singles.