Navigating one’s twenties can be confusing, with the competing forces of love, loss, nostalgia for the past, and the new responsibilities of the present all claiming center stage emotionally. The Center for Fiction welcomed writer Kate Doyle to discuss the launch of her debut novel I Meant It Once, a collection of short stories paying homage to what it means to be young, searching for ways to break free of the expectations of others, and finding out how to exist in the world’s chaos. Short-story writer and Emerging Writer Fellowship alum Cara Blue Adams (You Never Get It Back) joined in this funny, real discussion about short-story writing, youth, and womanhood in this very confusing day and age.
I Meant It Once
By Kate Doyle
Published by Algonquin Books
With this sharp and witty debut collection, author Kate Doyle captures precisely that time of life when so many young women are caught in between, pre-occupied by nostalgia for past relationships—with friends, roommates, siblings—while trying to move forward into an uncertain future. In “That Is Shocking,” a college student relates a darkly funny story of romantic humiliation, one that skirts the parallel story of a friend she betrayed. In others, young women long for friends who have moved away, or moved on. In “Cinnamon Baseball Coyote” and other linked stories about siblings Helen, Evan, and Grace, their years of inside jokes and brutal tensions simmer over as the three spend a holiday season in an amusing whirl of rivalry and mutual attachment, and a generational gulf widens between them and their parents. Throughout, in stories both lyrical and haunting, young women search for ways to break free from the expectations of others and find a way to be in the world.
Written with crystalline prose and sly humor, the stories in I Meant It Once build to complete a profoundly recognizable portrait of early adulthood and the ways in which seemingly incidental moments can come to define the stories we tell ourselves. For fans of Elif Batuman, Ottessa Moshfegh, Patricia Lockwood, and Melissa Bank, these stories about being young and adrift in today’s world go down easy and pack a big punch.
Kate Doyle’s short stories have been published in No Tokens, Electric Literature, A Public Space, Split Lip, Wigleaf, and other publications. Originally from New England, she is a former bookseller and a 2021 A Public Space Writing Fellow. She has lived in New York City, Amsterdam, and Ithaca, New York.
Photo Credit: Alana Smith
Cara Blue Adams
Cara Blue Adams
Cara Blue Adams is the author of the interlinked story collection You Never Get It Back, awarded the John Simmons Short Fiction Prize, judged by Brandon Taylor, and named a New York Times Editors’ Choice. It was shortlisted for the Mary McCarthy Prize and longlisted for the Story Prize. Over twenty-five of her stories appear in magazines such as Granta, the Kenyon Review, and American Short Fiction, and she is the recipient of the Kenyon Review Short Fiction Prize, the Missouri Review Peden Prize, and the Meringoff Prize in Fiction. Her stories have twice been selected as Pushcart Prize Notables. She has been honored with an Emerging Writer Fellowship from The Center for Fiction and fellowships and other support from the Bread Loaf Writers’ Conference, the Sewanee Writers’ Conference, the Virginia Center for the Creative Arts, and the New York State Council on the Arts. She is an associate professor at Temple University.
Photo Credit: Roque Nonini