In this “Origins,” Sheldon Lee Compton, editor of the journal Wrong Tree Review, discusses the origins of the story “Pitch Meeting.”
In the spring of last year, Robin Stratton was kind enough to publish a story of mine called “Pitch Meeting” at Boston Literary Magazine. I was happy Robin enjoyed the story, but felt odd about it in many ways because, like many flash pieces do for me, it came quickly. It seemed to me then I might have cheated in some way because the origins of this story, the inspiration, came from something I had just read and more or less used as a template and the story took less than an hour to finish. I had just read an article in Paste Magazine that was more or less a parody of what several different directors would say when pitching Cormac McCarthy’s novel THE ROAD as a film. I liked the voice and style, the rapid-fire breakdown of an entire storyline in just a few minutes. I liked how a serious subject was fashioned into something humorous and fun. About an hour after reading this article, I decided it would be nice to adopt a similar tone and give a single life the same kind of attention. The decision to make that summary of a life a dark one, full of failure and problems with a tragic father thrown in for good measure, was a default position for me as a writer. I had written a lot of stories and one unpublished novel about strained father-son relationships and so this came about naturally. About halfway through the piece, I became aware that my original goal had been to write a lighter story in the same way the Paste article had approached the McCarthy film pitch. This kept me, I think, from falling into a more serious tone. Likewise, it kept the process of writing the story engaging and challenging for me. It wasn’t as easy to write about the heavy stuff while keeping it light. When I finished, I worried over the last two sentences for a long while. The story, the actual writing of the story, came quickly. But those last two sentences – “Or we could just start with a stillbirth. Same difference.” – kept me second guessing myself. Did the ending seem punchy? Did I undermine the humor at the last minute? I worried until finally I gave up, sent the story out, and heard word back from Robin. Her acceptance letter relieved me. It seemed she had found the fun that had first inspired the story in her reading. For the longest time, though, I neglected talking about how I cribbed from some Paste writer to find the blueprint for this story. I’ve now come to terms with my thievery and made my confession public.
great stuff, shel. wow, fascinating to see this came from something written about the road.
Hey, Big D…glad you liked this. I think hearing about the beginnings of stories is just as much fun as a writer can have. I guess it plays to my biographical nature or something.
But, yep, it is strange that this came from a segment about The Road. It comes from odd places, right bro?