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Winner of the Goldenberg Prize for Fiction, 2014
Selected by Nathan Englander
What inspired you to write “Pediatricology”? Did you have to do any research to lend truth to the narrator’s experience as a Pediatrics resident?
The experience of having a child suddenly brought me into frequent contact with doctors. (The number of pediatricians visits in that first year alone!) This story was partly the result of all those new medical interactions and my growing curiosity about doctors and their worlds. I was also working out some thoughts about gender, motherhood, and careers—those concerns were a little less present in the final version of the story, but they were part of the energy that got me started with this piece.
I am very grateful to have a couple of good physician friends who are willing to answer my medical questions, something that came in handy for this story. I consulted some online medical resources for a few details too.
The narrator’s voice is distinct, and we feel like we are immersed in her mind and memory as we read the story. Did her voice come to you first, or did you work on developing it during the writing process?
Some of the general tone of her voice was present at the outset, but like so much in writing, much of her voice was developed/deepened through the actual writing process.
You skillfully and naturally move around in time—from the present to moments remembered—and in doing so play with tenses. How do you decide to structure a story? Do you think about structure before you start writing?
While I occasionally begin a story with a set structure in mind, more often the structure develops alongside the story. This latter approach was true for “Pediactricology,” although structure became one of the main elements I focused on during the revision process. (The story became less and less rooted in a traditional narrative timeline with each draft.)
What is your biggest challenge as a writer?
I always need to remind myself to keep my eyes open to the physical world of my stories. I’m always trying to get that type of concrete, material description to be more elemental and less of an afterthought.
Which writers have influenced you? What are you currently reading?
For sure, one of the most exciting parts about writing is getting to draw on/respond to other people’s work when creating your own. My own influences are always varying, but for the most recent story I worked on, I was looking a lot to the works of Jeanette Winterson and Matt Bell.
As far as my bookstand: I just finished Elena Ferrante’s My Brilliant Friend, which lived up to the adjective in its title. Now I’m in the middle of Peter Matthiessen’s In Paradise and an epic novel by the twentieth-century Yiddish writer Der Nister.