Aryn Kyle’s story “Copper Queen” was published in the Fall 2021 issue of The Georgia Review and was one of three stories for which The Georgia Review won the National Magazine Award in Fiction this year. Kyle’s short-story collection, Boys and Girls Like You and Me (2010), and her novel, The God of Animals (2007), were both published by Scribner. Her new novel, Hinterland, is forthcoming from Riverhead Books. She lives in New York City. Here, she discusses her experience of working with our editors to prepare “Copper Queen” for publication.
GR: Tell us a little bit about this work. Is it a part of a larger project or practice?
Aryn Kyle (AK): I started writing “Copper Queen” more than ten years ago, but—as is so often the case for me—I didn’t have much sense at the time of what the story was about or what I wanted to say in it. The last decade of my writing life has been almost exclusively focused on my current novel, and “Copper Queen” was one of a small handful of stories in various degrees of progress that I would return to here and there to see if they had mysteriously finished themselves during my neglect. Over the years, the passage of time during which I was writing the story became strangely integral to the story itself and, at some point, I realized that the story wasn’t so much about the character’s experience that summer, but about the distance between herself and that experience.
GR: Was there a moment in your editorial exchange with the Georgia Review editors during which you felt like the story started to do something new?
AK: I will admit that because this story was the first new work I was putting into the world in many years, I felt a bit . . . shaky about it. The story was important to me, but one can’t really help but wonder if a short story about a writer at a writing residency is really something the world needs. But the notes and questions I got from Gerald and CJ helped me to think about the story in different terms. I ended up cutting some things that surprised me and adding some things that excited me and I remember feeling when I was done that particular thrill of knowing that the story was better.
GR: Since this publication, what other Georgia Review piece(s) have you enjoyed? How has your experience with TGR helped you think about your future writing and reading?
AK: I was really overwhelmed to discover, when the issue came out, that it included a poem—“Grand Tour, 1992”—by Paul Otremba, who died in 2019. I didn’t know Paul well—we met many years ago at the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference—but I was a great admirer of his work, and reading this particular poem, I was struck again by the heart, humor, and deep intelligence of his writing. I started working on “Copper Queen” just weeks after I met Paul at Bread Loaf, and it felt strange and sad and lovely to, all these years later, see my work in print with his.
In regards to my future writing and reading, I think the most significant aspect of my experience with The Georgia Review is that it reminded me what it’s like to be in the world, writing-wise. I’ve been tucked away in my little writing-cave for many years now, noveling. And while there’s a lot about the hermit-writer life that suits me, it’s nice to have an experiential reminder that sharing one’s work with others is, actually, the point.