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Wednesday, December 13, 2023

Starting with 'one good sentence'


“Journalism taught me how to write a sentence that would make someone want to read the next one.   I do feel that if you can write one good sentence and then another good sentence and then another, you end up with a good story.” – Amy Hempel


Born in Chicago on Dec. 14, 1951 Hempel spent her formative years in California, the setting for much of her fiction.  She has written for numerous magazines and newspapers while also teaching – currently as Professor of Creative Writing at the Michener Center for Writers at the University of Texas.


One of only a handful of U.S. writers to build a reputation solely on short fiction, she jump-started her career by producing what has arguably been one of the most anthologized short stories ever written, "In the Cemetery Where Al Jolson Is Buried.”  That 1985 story and nearly every other one of her first 20 years’ efforts are in her award-winning The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel.  It’s truly a primer on how short stories should be written.   Hempel’s most recent book is 2019’s Sing to It.

“I'm not first and foremost interested in story and the ‘What-happens?’, but I'm interested in who's telling it and how they're telling it and the effects of whatever happened on the characters and the people,” she said about her writing style.


“I’ve always known when I start a story what the last line is.  It’s always been the case . . . I don’t know how it’s going to get there, but I seem to need that destination.”

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