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Introducing our longlisted authors: Mark Jude Poirier

Meet the authors longlisted for the 2021 Sunday Times Audible Short Story Award


Mark Jude Poirier is the author the novels Goats and Modern Ranch Living, as well as the story collections Naked Pueblo and Unsung Heroes of American Industry, all published by Bloomsbury in the UK, and Hyperion and Random House in the US. His fiction has appeared in Tin House, The Southern Review, BOMB, Subtropics, The American Scholar, The Iowa Review, and many other literary magazines. His books have been named New York Times Notable Books of the Year, as well as Barnes and Noble Discover and Waterstone’s Editor’s picks, and for his short stories, he recently won both an O.Henry Award and a Pushcart Prize. Other honours include a James Michener Fellowship and a Chesterfield Screenwriting Fellowship through Paramount Pictures. Feature films he has written have played at The Sundance Film Festival, The Toronto International Film Festival, The American Film Festival of Deauville, MOMA (NY), and in theatres all over the world. Poirier has taught at Columbia University, The Iowa Writers’ Workshop, and Harvard University, where he was a Briggs-Copeland Lecturer on English. He was raised in Tucson, Arizona, and now lives in New York City with his partner, Edward Cahill.


‘Clearly my internalized homophobia is fueling my bad attitude, but as I emerge from the Pines Pantry and hear a particularly adenoidal muscle queen bemoaning the jockstrap ban at the Friday night underwear party in Cherry Grove, I decide to cut my losses and leave Fire Island a few days before my share is up. There are other reasons. I hate my vapid housemates, who recycle puerile sex jokes and blast tired dance music at all hours. Four out of five of them sport that shaved-on-the-sides, long-on-the-top haircut that’s flattering on exactly no one. This morning, my request to join them at the table for breakfast was met with a few eye rolls, and they were unmoved by my fun T-shirt, its felt letters reading more library less gym. To be fair, I haven’t set foot in a library in years, and if I had even a hint of a sex drive, I’d much prefer sex with a gym rat over sex with a bookworm.’


What inspired you to write the story? Is it drawn from personal experience?

I was inspired by trips to New Hampshire and Fire Island, and by my own insecurities and pathologies. I heard the narrator’s voice and then I lived with him in my head for a while before I found the right story for him.

How does writing short stories differ from writing full-length fiction, and what do you enjoy about writing in the genre?

I love the revision process of short stories. The first draft is gruelling, but the subsequent drafts and the ease with which I can manipulate 5,000 words as opposed to 100,000 words brings me great joy.

How do you write? Longhand or typed? Why does your chosen method work for you?

Because of migraines, I’ve recently returned to longhand for jotting down notes, outlining, and free writing. The actual writing of fiction is done on my headache-inducing laptop.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

Two somewhat recent ones – admittedly by two friends – have moved me: The Surprising Place by Malinda McCollum and Fraternity by Benjamin Nugent. I don’t know Emma Cline, but her collection, Daddy, is amazing.

What’s your favourite short story of all time? Who would you cast to read it?

My favourite story of all time is Rick Bass’s The Legend of Pig-Eye. I read it in 1991, and it made me want to become a writer. Matthew McConaughey would be the perfect person to read it because of his slight Southern drawl.

Who would you cast to read the story you have entered?

Jonathan Groff would be good because I think he understands the rhythms of campy humour and he would know how to present this self-absorbed, lost soul of a narrator to the world.

What are you reading now?

I’m working my way through Shirley Hazzard’s stories and I’m reading the new draft of a friend’s novel.

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