Sara Rauch is an author, editor, book reviewer, writing coach, and teacher based in Western Massachusetts. Her prose has appeared in several literary magazines, including Split Lip, Gravel, So to Speak, WomenArts Quarterly, Hobart, and Luna Luna, as well as several anthologies. A long-time book reviewer for Lambda Literary Review, she’s also written reviews and author profiles for Bitch Media, WBUR, Bust, Curve Magazine, The Rumpus, The Establishment, and more. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Pacific University and teaches at Pioneer Valley Writers’ Workshop.
Q: What inspired you to write What Shines From It?
A: It took me a long time to come around to short stories – I resisted learning the form forever. But in 2012, I was working with Christine Sneed, who really loves short stories and recommended I try writing some to help open up the novel I was drafting. As it turned out, I liked stories so much I dropped the novel (though two of the novel characters appear in “Seal” in What Shines from It). I didn’t really set out to write a book of short stories, but I kept writing them, and then, eventually, when I wrote “Kintsukuroi” (which was originally the title story) I knew I had a full collection. Most of the stories are about human relationships, and the pain and beauty of connection, because I think I’m always trying to understand that particular collision.
Q: Did you have to do any particular research for this book?
A: I don’t do any research during my early drafts, because I find it slows me down too much. I stay with the characters and plot, and mark places in brackets where I need to find out more information. Once I have a story in place, I then set out to dig into specific details that help lend authenticity. Several of the stories in What Shines from It take place in the late 1990s and early 2000s, and some of the moments within were things that I had hazy memories of and needed to clarify, and I had many fun trips down memory lane via Google.
Q: When you’re not writing, how do you spend your time?
A: I have two young kids, so when I’m not writing, I’m usually with them. But beyond being a mom, I love to read, be outside, explore new cities, browse bookstores, do yoga, sit in the sun and drink coffee, have long conversations with my husband, snuggle my cats. I’m all for the simple pleasures in life.
Q: What does your writing routine look like?
A: When I wrote What Shines from It, I had the luxury of writing almost full-time. I remember those days fondly! Now, though, my life is much busier, and I write for a half-hour every morning (in bed, with a cup of coffee; I write all my first drafts longhand, and I cherish this particular ritual) while my husband hangs out with the kids, and then, depending on where I am in a project, I write again after bedtime. As much as I miss the long, blank days of my pre-kid life, I am far more productive in these constricted bursts. I know I don’t have time to waste and I use every minute as best I can.
Q: Can you tell us a little bit about your journey to publication?
A: It was a long one! I spent two years on the manuscript, and then another two years shopping it around. It was rejected a resounding 33 times, and I was very close to giving up when I saw Alternating Current Press’s call for submissions and decided to give one last push. I was thrilled they accepted! After that, it took about three years for production. I definitely had my moments of impatience, but now, holding the finished product, I know it was worth the wait!
From the publisher, Alternating Current
The eleven stories in Sara Rauch’s What Shines from It are rife with the physical and psychic wounds of everyday life. In “Beholden,” girl meets boy meets the unsettled spirits of post-9/11 New York City, but her future can’t hold them all. In “Kitten,” a struggling veteran and his wife argue over adopting an abandoned kitten, deepening their financial and emotional rifts. In “Abandon,” a ghost-baby ravages a woman’s body following a late-term miscarriage, marring her chances for new love. And in “Kintsukuroi,” a married potter falls for a married geologist and discovers the luminosity of being broken. What Shines from It is populated by women on the verge of transcendence—brimming with anger and love—and working-class artists haunted by the ghosts of their desires. Abiding by a distinctly guarded New England sensibility, these stories inhabit the borderlands of long-established cities, where humans are still learning to embrace the natural world. Subtly exploring sexualities, relationships, birth and rebirth, identity, ghosts, and longing, Rauch searches for the places where our protective shells are cracked and, in spare, poetic language, limns those edges of loneliness and loss with light.
What Shine From It won Alternating Current’s Electric Book Award, and Christine Sneed has called the stories “lit from within: they glow with intelligence, pathos, and startling insights into the human tragicomedy.”
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