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English Professor Writes About ‘The Invention of Love’ in New Short Stories Collection

sara schaffSUNY Plattsburgh Assistant Professor of English Sara Schaff’s new book of short stories, “The Invention of Love,” was a decade in the making.

“This collection came together gradually,” she said, having written the first while still in graduate school in 2007. “I didn’t know I had a book until I wrote the title story, and then I began to see older stories that could fit into a collection focused around the idea of trying to take control of who we are and who we want to be. I wrote subsequent stories with that idea in mind and also against the backdrop of the impacts of and conversations around the 2016 election.”

The stories found within “are about, among other things, women taking control of their lives even as they fall apart,” Schaff said. “The book is also about women looking back on the people they once were and the people they thought they would become but could not — because of financial insecurity, motherhood, the grind of the 9-to-five job. The stories range from ‘flash’ fiction to more traditional-length short stories.”

While it may have taken a few years, it’s not Schaff’s first time at the writer’s desk. Her 2016 collection of short stories, “Say Something Nice About Me,” was named a Firecracker Award Finalist in fiction by the Community of Literary Magazines and Publishers and a 2017 Next Generation Indie Book Award Finalist for short fiction. Her writing has appeared in Kenyon Review Online, Gay Magazine, the Missouri Review, Yale Review Online, and elsewhere.

Before joining the English faculty a year ago, she taught at St. Lawrence University, Oberlin College and the University of Michigan, from which she earned her master of fine arts. She taught seventh-grade English for a while but yearned to return to what makes her happiest — focusing on her craft, her writing.

invention of love cover“I am happiest when I have time every day to write,” Schaff said. “Honestly, I am not pleasant to be around when I’m not writing. It is like exercise for me: writing is good for my heart. It isn’t always easy, but it is always worthwhile, and it makes me feel complete.”

Her characters are complex — flawed, real.

“I love getting to know them and following them into a situation and conflict; I love seeing how my characters respond to those conflicts — how they grow, how they fail, how they sometimes behave selfishly or selflessly. My characters are my greatest achievement as a writer,” she said.

For her budding writers — her students — she said she always tells them, “Read a lot, put in the work, and write what you want to write.”

She advised: “Approach your work with a combination of humility and confidence; be open to feedback and be prepared for rejection, but also trust that only you can tell the story you want to tell and that there will be a reader for that story.

“The Invention of Love” is available at spiltlippress.com, Bookshop.org, Amazon and locally at Lake City Books.

Schaff can be heard on North Country Public Radio as part of its featured story of the day at: https://www.northcountrypublicradio.org/news/story/41620/20200608/in-quot-the-invention-of-love-quot-plattsburgh-writer-sara-schaff-tries-to-move-from-despair-to-action and in conversation with writers David Dailey and Alia Volz about the American Dream on “Let’s Talk Books with Christina Chiu,” at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MfEZ5OSJu_k.

For more on Schaff, visit her website at https://www.saraschaff.com/.

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