So there was this road in Fairbanks, Alaska. About a mile long, dirt, bursting with fireweed in the summer and sealed within a hard shell of ice in the winter. I may very well have walked up and down this road five hundred times.
At the end, a cabin I rented sat tucked between a bend in the road and Goldstream Valley. There was also a mysterious little community of cabins, abandoned in the 70s. Rusting trucks, molding mattresses, and pile upon pile of miscellaneous junk-that-once-wasn’t-junk.
A disorderly ghost village, yet in hidden corners, reminders of intention had been preserved. A Joy Division poster tacked to the inside wall of a van. Two snowshoes nailed, crisscrossed, on the outside wall of a cabin that no one had entered in thirty years. A moose antler tied to a birch, the rope no longer needed, antler and tree embracing one another.
This road told me many a story. It was, by its own right, a story and many stories.
I recently entered a writing contest voted entirely by the writers who entered. I thought it was a neat idea (and it is) but I hadn’t anticipated the kind of writerly self-awareness that would come from having to put into words my own interpretation of what makes a story a good one. I certainly don’t have the definition in a neatly packed box, and I like it that way — amorphous — but the exercise was a much-needed one I hadn’t done in a long time.
And, I was lucky enough to take second. Have a look at the neat project that is Sixfold, Summer 2013 and read some great short stories.