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Q&A with Amber Krieger

We recently featured Amber Krieger’s “It Was So Long Ago” for a Story Spotlight, and this time it’s the author’s turn to talk about her work, which was named “Editor’s Choice” back in 2010.

Carve: Can you tell us what inspired “It Was So Long Ago?”

Amber Krieger: This story came together over a number of years. It started with the image of Henry, newly retired, sitting in front of his computer, looking at a news site and hitting refresh, hoping for a break in a local tragedy. That eventually became a different story, with a much different character, but Henry and his wife Helen stayed in my mind. In recent years, I’ve become very interested in the idea of culpability and individual responsibility. For a little while there as a lot of news about a young woman jogger who was killed in a hit and run in the Columbia River Gorge. The driver was at fault and he fled the scene but I started to think about what would happen if it were an accident. It turns out that sober drivers are rarely charged for pedestrian deaths, at least in Oregon. If you’re following the rules and someone steps out in front of you—it’s not your fault. There’s something even more terrible at the heart of that, having to hold that guilt inside you, or within your family. I’m not sure when I realized that this was the background that Henry needed, but once I did, the story took off from there.

C: What was your reaction like to your story winning Editor’s Choice for the 2010 Carver contest?

AK: I was thrilled! I’m a big fan of Carve and had been submitting stories to the magazine and contest for a few years. It was such an honor to receive the award. Also, the year before, I’d had to withdraw another story from the contest, and Matthew had responded with a nice note, saying he liked the story. So having him select another of my stories as Editor’s Choice felt like, wow, here’s an editor who likes my work! I’d heard about that happening from other writers, but hadn’t experienced it myself. It was a great feeling.

C: Has the contest affected your writing or the direction of your writing career in any way? If so, how?

AK: When you’re doing a lot of submitting and getting a lot of rejections, you start wondering if that story you thought was done really isn’t. I do, at least! People talk a lot about carrying on in the face of rejection, but I think part of getting tough is also learning to trust your instincts about your work and not keep retooling something based on every little reaction from your writing group or your mood that day. At the same time, sometimes a story isn’t done—and you need to be able to figure that out, too. Getting the Editor’s Choice award was a great confidence boost for me and helped me set that internal bar for my stories.

C: Can you give us an update on your writing since the contest? Any recent or forthcoming publications/projects we should be on the lookout for?

AK: For the last couple of years most of my creative energy has gone into mothering, but I have a flash essay in Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life, which is a really great collection of interviews and essays on craft from Oregon writers—including other Carve authors like Yuvi Zalkow, Gina Oschner and Stevan Allred! And my story “Night” just received an honorable mention in Glimmer Train’s Very Short Fiction contest. No home for that one yet, but I’m hoping to find a place for it soon!

About the Author: Amber Krieger’s award-winning writing has appeared in Carve Magazine, cream city review, The Adirondack Review, elimae and in Brave on the Page: Oregon Writers on Craft and the Creative Life. She lives and writes in Portland, Oregon.

The 14th annual Raymond Carver Contest is now open until May 15th.