We recently published C.B. Auder’s ethereal “In the Dream Version, There Are Baby Goats.” Here, we ask them two questions about their story:
1) This story is all a dream, but it doesn’t feel like a cheat — the emotions and the situation are so real. Do you have really vivid dreams like this, or is this all just writer’s imagination?
Thank you! And what an interesting question. As it happens, the first draft wasn’t even about dreams–this flash began as a semi-surrealistic piece that focused on learning to drive as a metaphor for a child’s distressing state of independence after a caregiver’s premature death from lung cancer. You know, light comedy.
To be honest, I’m not normally one for dream stories–I disengage pretty quickly when a narrative starts to feel random–so it was only after several drafts that it finally occurred to me key elements could be developed if the bulk of the piece became a sort of tragic fantasy. Then your terrific editing suggestions helped me cut most of that crap back out again (stone soup!) and find the right ending note.
I’m not sure what’s “normal” for dreams, but my own are extremely detailed and 3D, and I’m present from many points of view: I’m both on the ground gnashing my teeth at a conga line of nemeses, as well as regularly popping up above the multiverse in order to keep tabs on how much farther I’ve drifted from my destination. Although I’ve had some good ones lately. Diane von Fürstenberg recently sidled up to me at a cabaret show to discreetly suggest I join her design team! Isn’t that fabulous? I mean, not being a fan of the fashion industry, I had to decline–but I was bursting with pride when that alarm went off!
Getting back to the goats. This whole setting is as vivid to me as a memory, though the story is entirely fabricated (beyond the emotional truths I was capable of tapping into). The story seed came from a photo of a vintage car chuffing through Havana. One morning, as I was opening the curtains and checking out the birdbath, I thought of that green Oldsmobile and snap. The soggy catbirds disappeared and I was in a passenger’s seat headed for rolling hills filled with adorable ungulates. It was a rare moment when a story has pulled me forward, rather than my having to plod around its moat to figure out where I put the damn drawbridge.
2) I love how much of the natural world you bring into this story: the baby goats, the beach, the osprey. Is nature an important part of your writing?
Holy mackerel, the natural world is the single most important part of my life–and not just because I’m fond of breathing. I have always loved muck. If I were unattached and independently wealthy, I would spend all day eating gorp and rolling around in the forest with newts. I would literally never bathe. Then I’d die alone at my keyboard of dengue fever or a staph infection….
Anyway, I’m delighted to hear that you enjoyed the nature bits! As a reader and editor, I think a lot about what elements make me thrill to the stories I thrill to. I’ve noticed lately I’m becoming less intrigued by pieces that keep a tight focus on anthropocentric conflict. So, to better answer your question: Yes, I’ve been trying to steer my own writing towards linking human dramas to their larger environmental context. I’m also keen on exploring characters’ own relationships to the natural world, while still trying to avoid sailing over the cliff of Thinly-Disguised Eco-Rants. It’s tricky (particularly with so many planetary catastrophes to choose from) but I think stories that become didactic end up shutting more people out than letting them in, and that seems to me to be a recipe for solving no sustainability problems at all. I’m hoping the slightly oblique approach might keep readers engaged enough that the natural-world context I find so compelling will also filter into their lives in some subtle but meaningful way.