Good things do come in small packages, as evidenced by our final web exclusive of 2010. Jen Gann’s pocket-sized “Miniature Buffalo” is funny, magical, and surprisingly poignant. Read the story, then check out our brief interview with the author, below.
1. Tell us about the genesis of “Miniature Buffalo.” Where did the idea for the story come from and what kind of evolution did it go through to get to us?
I thought I had pulled the idea of miniature buffalo from thin air. Then I realized that there was a tiny buffalo stuffed animal in my bedroom. I’d been staring at it for months and months. As for the story, it was much longer in its original form. Then an editor I sent it to wrote me that he liked it but that the ending was horrible, so I chopped the ending off.
2. These buffalo may be tiny—but they’re no My Little Ponies; they’re powerful, fierce even. Similarly, you pack a lot of powerful images and emotion into this very short piece. Can you tell us a bit about the process of writing very short fiction? Do you think of it as a kind of miniaturization?
Wow, thanks for your kind words! I think I feel a lot freer when I write short fiction. When I was in an MFA program, my stories in the 10-20 page range were really unpopular. Everyone in workshop was like, “What is the ‘story’?” I still feel totally mystified by the idea of “story.” I like writing very short fiction sometimes because it feels like I can do whatever I want. I like small things in general. A prominent and recent exception being The Instructions by Adam Levin. That book is so long and so great.
3. The woman in the story believes the buffalo stand for something larger than they are, that the closet is a metaphor for America. Her husband is skeptical. Whose side are you on?
Oh, boy! Can I say both? I like the idea of creating convenient or melodramatic metaphors but recognize that it’s silly.
4. Do you always check your coat pockets for wildlife? Have you ever found anything good in there?
Not recently. But I do remember being about thirteen and taking off my coat at school and a bunch of hay fluttering out of the pockets. A girl sitting behind me announced this really loudly. I grew up around a lot of animals and was always muddy and covered in animal hair and fur.
5. What are you working on now?
Over the summer I finished a novel based on this story, actually. The point of view is different but the miniature buffalo are the same. Currently, I’m working on another novel about twins named Jelly and Jam. Someone said I could not name them Jelly and Jam but I feel really set on it. She’s probably right. I really want to call this work in progress “Toast” but that’s taking it too far, I bet.