How does Anthony Varallo find time to write? He has a two year old at home, teaches fiction full-time at the College of Charleston, and looks at every single short story submitted to Crazyhorse, the college’s lit mag, which works out to be about 5,000 stories a year.
Considering Crazyhorse publishes only a dozen or so stories annually, that’s a lot of rejection slips. Still, Varallo, 36, should be able to relate. He once had a story of his own get 31 no’s.
Replacing Bret Lott at the College, Varallo starts his second academic year here this fall. He composes directly on the computer, either at his office or in the laundry room at home, trading time there with his wife, Malinda McCollum, a Paris Review-published writer.
As for that oft-rejected piece, “The Miles Between Harriet Tubman and Harry Truman” did finally get accepted. It’s now in Varallo’s collection, This Day in History, published by the University of Iowa press.
While many of the stories have children as narrators – which he says a few critics found redundant, “like a Chuck Berry album” – the thrust of the collection is more a look back at the past in general than specifically childhood.
Not that it’s grand historical fiction.
“Often, when I’m working on a story, if I think, ‘This is kind of dumb … this is too silly, no one would want to read about this’, that’s usually a good sign,” Varallo says. “It’s those kinds of things that a reader is interested in, those embarrassing things you wouldn’t admit, or something that seems too ordinary to even mention. The way a door creaks, or someone watching The Price is Right on TV.” –Jonathan Sanchez