In April 2015, B.K. Stevens debuted the blog series “The First Two Pages,” hosting craft essays by short story writers and novelists analyzing the openings of their own work. The series continued until just after her death in August 2017, and the full archive of those essays can be found at Bonnie’s website. In November 2017, the blog series relocated to my website, and the archive of this second stage of the series can be found here.
This week I’m thrilled to welcome another of the four finalists for this year’s Edgar Award for short story: Joseph S. Walker, writing about his story “Etta at the End of the World” from Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine. Earlier this year, even before the awards were announced, James W. Ziskin reflected on his story “The Twenty-Five-Year Engagement” from In League with Sherlock Holmes, and last week, Leslie Elman discussed her story “The Summer Uncle Cat Came to Stay” from Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. It’s truly an honor to have these finalists share some thoughts on craft as part of the blog series! (The full list of finalists in all categories is here.)
I’ve followed Joseph Walker’s career for a long time—and I’ll admit I feel a kinship of sorts with him, since we’re both college professors—and I’m thrilled about the attention now coming his way. Joseph’s previous stories have appeared in Alfred Hitchcock’s Mystery Magazine, Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine, and Mystery Weekly, with more recent stories in Mickey Finn: 21st Century Noir and the anthology Peace, Love, and Crime: Crime Fiction Inspired by the Songs of the 60s. You can find out more about his work at his website here, and do make sure to connect with him on Twitter as well.
It’s maybe worth mentioning that Joseph and I “saw” one another this past weekend at a short story presentation I was making for the Coastal Cruisers Chapter of Sisters in Crime. As soon as I caught sight of him and a few other great short story writers on the Zoom call, I thought, “What can I possibly tell them that they don’t already know?” But later, he made my day by commenting on Facebook how my talk had helped him with a new draft he was struggling with. And in a tip of the hat his way, I’ll add now that I gained some fresh insights as well—about process, about first drafts, about serendipity—from his essay below. I hope you’ll enjoy as much as I did.
Please use the arrows and controls at the bottom of the embedded PDF to navigate through the essay. You can also download the essay to read off-line.Walker-Etta
I never miss a First Two Pages post, and this one was exceptionally good. Thank you.
Wonderful essay, Joseph. Don’t you love it when characters walk in and take over? My Florida story ended up in AHMM too, and we weren’t the only ones. 🙂
Funny to hear about all the Florida stories! My own Florida story was too long for me to submit (I’m bad at word counts!) but it ended up in EQMM!
Thanks, Art and Joseph! I love the way you unfold the process for us. I can’t wait to get my copy to read on into the sunset, as it were. Congrats, too! That’s huge!