A Writer’s Tale: Birth of a Short Story

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It’s hard to believe, but it’s been a tad over three years since I self-published my short story Reunion via Amazon’s CreateSpace  Independent Publishing Platform. Originally written in 1998 at a time when I was feeling nostalgic about my teenage years and, among many things, prompted by the recent death of one of my high school classmates, Reunion was my first serious attempt at writing a work of fiction.

The cover art for the print copy of Reunion: A Story. (C) 2018 Alex Diaz-Granados and CreateSpace Independent Publishing

The story of Jim Garraty, Martina “Marty” Reynaud, and Mark Prieto began as a writing exercise for a creative writing course I took in 1986 at what was then called Miami-Dade Community College. It wasn’t a short story then; it was just a sequence in which my “I-Guy” – Jim Garraty – fantasizes about a teacher he has a crush on. As I recall – I no longer have the original exercise – it was my first attempt to write a story with, ahem, adult content. (Nothing too graphic, since it was for a class assignment, but still spicy. It earned a B+ from Prof. David Schroeder, my creative writing instructor.)

As I recall, I wanted to author a story about a man in his mid-thirties who looks back at his past – especially the path not taken – when he gets news about one of his classmates from high school. Not long before, I had read in the Miami Herald about the death of Jennifer Houghton, a woman who had sung in one of South Miami High’s choral groups while I did. She had moved out of state and was living in North Carolina when she died in a car accident. She was 33 then, I think, and even though I didn’t know her well, her death made a strong impression.

To this day, I don’t know why Jennifer’s death inspired me to write Reunion. I think that the fact that I had known her – if only tangentially – when we were kids in high school got me to think about some of the girls that I had liked from afar but never asked out for fear of rejection. What if, I mused, somebody told me that the one girl I ever had a candlelight dinner with when I was at South Miami had died in a car crash? How would I react?  

It is February 1998. 33-year-old Jim Garraty is a respected history professor and bestselling author who lives in New York City. Popular with both students and readers, Jim seems to have it all. Fame, a nice apartment in Manhattan, and a reputation as one of the best World War II historians in the U.S. But when he gets a cryptic email from his best friend from high school, Jim is forced to relive his past – and a trip to his home town of Miami reopens old wounds he thought had healed long ago.

Reunion summary on Amazon

Another source of inspiration was the fact that 1998 marked the 15th anniversary of the Class of 1983 graduation. I had not gone to the 10-year reunion in ’93 because it was a pricey affair, and also due to embarrassment; I had not earned my AA degree in journalism and mass communications from Miami-Dade, and though I was working at the time, it was mostly every-once-in-a-while freelance consulting and business writing gigs, and not a steady, well-paying career job. 

Back cover of Reunions paperback edition

I really wanted to go to the 15-year class reunion, but when I saw that the price for attending the three-day get-together was close to $300, I thought, Would have liked to go, but can’t afford it. 

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 At first, I had no idea what kind of story I wanted to write. I knew I had to choose something that would not require a lot of research or time-consuming prep work; this ruled out anything in the science fiction or military fiction genres. I also don’t do horror stories well; I have read a lot of Stephen King novels and stories, but it’s not a genre that I think I could write comfortably in. I’d come across as a second-rate King imitator. And because a lot of Gaude’s stories were sappy “happily ever after” romances with lots of magic and supernatural beings, I did not want to write a “chick lit” story, either.

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In desperation, I went through my college notebooks and folders to see if there was anything from either my college course on satire or CRW-2001 that I could use as a foundation for a short story. Luckily, I did…the strange “dream sequence” that had earned a B+ from Prof. Schroeder 12 years earlier.

Of course, I only kept the atmospheric “Back at South Miami High” stuff and changed the “sexy” material into a less steamy and more bittersweet scenario. However, having the detailed descriptions of classrooms, hallways, and the cafeteria that I’d written in 1986 saved me time and energy when I authored the story of Jim, Marty, and Mark.

I enjoyed the book very much. The author has written a coming-of-age story about older teens and the regrets some may have because of missed opportunities. Even though it is a short story, the characters come alive on the page, and you find yourself caring about them and identifying with their feelings. A collection of short stories by Alex Diaz-Granados would be a treasure.

CSB, Amazon Customer, in his five-star review

 A huge creative influence – in terms of structure, characters, and themes – was Billy Joel’s Scenes from an Italian Restaurant. I liked the way that the song is essentially “The Ballad of Brenda and Eddie” – which Joel wrote first – with a melodically different “frame story” added on later so that the song would have a proper beginning and end. 

Now, the stories in Reunion and Scenes from an Italian Restaurant are different, but I deliberately followed the structure and narrative technique of Joel’s song when I finally sat down to draft my story. 

There’s more to this, of course, but that’s the basic story of Reunion’s genesis. 

What Readers Say: Reviews

(C) 2018 Alex Diaz-Granados

Here are some of the reviews by Amazon customers who bought and read Reunion:

Betsy M writes:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Reunion: A Story is a sweet, sometimes bittersweet story of days gone by. It takes the reader back to the last day of high school and tells the tale of teen love and missed opportunities. Several years pass and success and time don’t always dull those feelings you had as a teen. Mr. Diaz-Granados captures the awkwardness of young love and how it can influence the rest of your life.

Meg Learner writes (all the way from across the Pond):

Rating: 5 out of 5.

A lovely lyrical book and excellently written. It makes use of flashbacks, yet these are expertly woven into the story so that you always know where you are and how they contribute to the tale. This is quite a short read (I downloaded it to my Kindle and read it on my train journey) but it certainly packs a lot into the story and the idea is fresh and novel. I have not read a story like this before. It’s not my normal type of reading material, as most of my reading these days is factual or business-related but I really enjoyed it and was sorry when it was finished.

The book basically makes the point that it is better to be sorry for sins of commission, rather than regret sins of omission, yet it also shows how the angst of high school and teen fears get in the way of true love. One point I would make – I would LOVE to see a sequel to this, written from Marty’s point of view. PLEASE?

CSB writes:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

I enjoyed the book very much. The author has written a coming-of-age story about older teens and the regrets some may have because of missed opportunities. Even though it is a short story, the characters come alive on the page and you find yourself caring about them and identifying with their feelings. A collection of short stories by Alex Diaz-Granados would be a treasure.

And finally, Thomas Wikman writes:

Rating: 5 out of 5.

This relatively short story underscores how different a teenager and an adult view life and themselves, leading to the many “what if” scenarios in life. It is a sad love story about regret and loss as well as friendship. The author describes the feelings and thoughts of the characters in a manner that is realistic and easy to relate to. The story has something to tell us, especially young people.

I was planning to read it over a couple of days, but after I started reading it, I couldn’t put it down, so I read it all at once. It is very well written, emotional but not too sentimental. It is easy and quick reading and one of the best short stories I’ve ever read.

Published by Alex Diaz-Granados

Alex Diaz-Granados (1963- ) began writing movie reviews as a staff writer and Entertainment Editor for his high school newspaper in the early 1980s and was the Diversions editor for Miami-Dade Community College, South Campus' student newspaper for one semester. Using his experiences in those publications, Alex has been raving and ranting about the movies online since 2003 at various web sites, including Amazon, Ciao and Epinions. In addition to writing reviews, Alex has written or co-written three films ("A Simple Ad," "Clown 345," and "Ronnie and the Pursuit of the Elusive Bliss") for actor-director Juan Carlos Hernandez. You can find his reviews and essays on his blogs, A Certain Point of View and A Certain Point of View, Too.

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