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Introducing our longlisted authors: Elizabeth McCracken

McCracken, Elizabeth (c) Edward Carey.jpgView larger
Elizabeth McCracken. Photograph by Edward Carey

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


Elizabeth McCracken is the author of seven books, most recently a collection of stories called The Souvenir Museum. Her stories have been published in The Best American Short Stories, The Pushcart Prize, and The O Henry Prize. Her last collection, Thunderstruck won the 2015 Story Prize. She lives in Austin, Texas, where she teaches at the University of Texas at Austin.


Because Jack didn’t drive – not stick, not on the left side of the road, not at all ever – Sadie piloted the rental car from the Dublin airport to the wedding, grinding gears and scraping along the greenery and – for a few miles – creeping behind a tractor on a winding road. It was 10PM and raining. If Ireland were emerald she couldn’t say. The tractor was a comfort, lit up with white lights. She planned to follow as long as she could. Till dawn if necessary.

“Pass him,” said Jack.

“You pass him,” said Sadie.

“I’m not driving.”

“That’s right,” said Sadie.


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

The characters are entirely imaginary. The events are a grab-bag of highly autobiographical anecdotes that it took years of visiting Ireland and England to accrue, boiled down into one weekend.

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

In novels I can misstep, digress, change directions, and it’s all part of the book. Short stories feel more exhilarating in some ways – riskier, but that means I might as well take more risks.

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

This is what I do: I acquire nice pens – I like Kaweco fountain pens a lot – and notebooks in a variety of sizes and with a variety of interiors (unruled, grid, lined). I also am drawn to legal pads. With great internal fanfare, I write three sentences in a likely notebook. Then I end up going to my laptop and typing, goddammit, though over and over again.

Which short story collection by another author would you recommend?

So many. Too many. But Judy Budnitz’s Flying Leap is one that I love that I think more people should have read.

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

Of all time? Heavens, I don't know. I think about A Rich Man by Edward P Jones more than any other, maybe.

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

I am terrible at casting. Perhaps the late Eve Arden.

What are you reading now?

Milk Blood Heat by Dantiel Moniz.

The Souvenir Museum: Stories by Elizabeth McCracken is published run paperback on June 3 (Jonathan Cape, £11.65)

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