I have a new short story up at Another Chicago Magazine. Called “Sabbatical Dog,” it’s one of those stories that looks super autobiographical given it’s about a creative writing professor with a dog similar to mine and an illness I’ve experienced. But trust me, it’s not about me at all.
It’s hard to explain to people who don’t write fiction that even when writers replicate identifiable details of our lives in our work, we are not necessarily writing autobiographical fiction. “Is that supposed to be me?” my father used to ask about every single father in my work when not a single solitary father I wrote about, at least in my fiction, was about him at all, not even the father who shared his love for certain kinds of Jewish delis.
And I once had an acquaintance ask me how my sister was doing. When I told her I didn’t have a sister, she told me she was certain I did. Later I realized she’d read a story I’d written in first person about two sisters. I suppose I should be pleased that the story was so real to her that she’d remembered it not as words on a page but a day in my life I’d told her about. But it was also one of the odder conversations I’ve ever had. She remained steadfast in her conviction that I had a sister even when I promised her that I honestly knew all the members of my family. Readersplaining, I guess you’d call it.
Anyway, it’s true that most fiction writers, even those writing fantasy or from the point of view of animals or what-have-you, mine their own lives for the kinds of details that give our work specificity and authenticity. And that sometimes–autofiction, for example–we actually are writing about ourselves. And I also know writers who say they’re not writing about themselves when they are. So I do get why people think our work is autobiographical when it isn’t.
But me, my fiction is hardly ever about me. I’m too boring to sustain a short story or novel. I save my boring reflections for my personal essays.
So again, at the risk of being accused of protesting too much, this story is not about me. It’s not about my dog. Still, because I cannot resist any opportunity to share Josie’s perfect face with the world, I’ve included a photo of me and my girl–the two beings this story is NOT about.