I'm so happy that Gravel published my short essay "What's He Doing in My World." The year my father died, I wrote a handful of essays about him and nothing else. Under ordinary circumstances I often wait quite a while before editing or sometimes even completing a piece. However, the essays I wrote after my father's death sat for longer than usual before I could bring myself to complete them. Some of them I still haven't edited, and it's been three years since his death.
I can't remember what inspired me to write about my Dad's music preferences. I was just thinking of him one night, and this essay came out.
I'm always on the lookout for great settings. Sometimes I go to a location and instantly realize I want to set a story there. A visit to the San Francisco wave organ became "Secret San Francisco." Other times, my fiction is inspired by an object, such as a hidden avocado in "Dear Squirrel."
My new story, "I Used To," published in Gravel, was a combination of the two. I instantly liked the retro Shell Shop I visited in Morro Bay. What a marvelous location! And they had such interesting little knickknacks made from shells. I was captivated especially by the ships made from shells. I knew I also wanted to include one in the story, so I bought one.
I set my characters loose in the shop, looking at the shells and tchotchkes, and "I Used To" came out.
Ann Hillesland writes fiction and essays. Her work has appeared in many literary journals, including Fourth Genre, Bayou, The Laurel Review, and Sou’wester.
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