We recently published Abigail E. Myers’ delightful “First Time at a Waffle House, As a Hurricane Approaches.”
Here, we ask her two questions about her story:
1) I love the way this story combines the Waffle House phenomenon with the sense of impending danger — it feels both so of-the-moment and timeless, all at once. What was it that inspired this piece? And that feeling?
I didn’t grow up with Waffle House, but they’re everywhere in Texas, where my husband grew up and my in-laws still live. My mother-in-law and her husband lost their home in Port Arthur during Hurricane Harvey in 2017, and although she’s since moved slightly inland, it’s hard not to think of the storm, undoubtedly exacerbated by climate change, when driving along the Gulf Coast and seeing all the oil infrastructure there. There’s a Waffle House just down the road from where she lives now, and a gun range just down the road from there, so for me, this place that feels so cozy and kitschy and fun sits right alongside these places that feel very ominous. We had breakfast there at the end of our visit right after Christmas, when that Waffle House video had just gone viral, so all of those images and feelings were brewing together in my mind. I often sense my readiness to write a story when that brew starts to feel like it’s reached a bubbling point. I wrote the first draft of the story while we were driving down US-90 towards Houston to fly back north.
2) The anaphora of “They won’t tell you this” is so effective as it transitions from the staff not telling you things that will make more work for them to something larger. What made you choose this particular effect for this story?
Perhaps because I didn’t grow up with it, Waffle House and its menu still feel like a bit of a secret to me. I’ll be wondering if I can swap out certain items in combos and my husband and mother-in-law will be assuring me that, yes, I can do this or that. I never want to make a nuisance of myself! So it started with that very concrete experience, and then wondering what else people who live and work in this culture know that I don’t, particularly the ones in this climate that feels very fragile to me. Tommy Dean recently posted a great piece about setting as catalyst in his Substack and it’s something that seems to work well for me, so who knows what beloved restaurant chain I’ll explore next!
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