I started writing when I was a freshman in high school. My very first writing efforts were poems filled with rhymes and cliches. During my sophomore year of high school I took a creative writing class, the only creative writing class I’ve ever taken. I hated it. I especially hated the teacher. She liked this weird, semi-beatnik/hippie style of writing, poems filled with “crazy” images like “throwing batteries at dead cows” and things that tasted like “copper pastries”. She liked short stories with bizarre characters and situations, things that were weird for the sake of being weird; weird that did not move the story in any direction.
The class was a nightmare and I rebelled against it and her standards of “good writing”. I received a C+ and vowed I would never take another creative writing class again, a promise I kept. But I kept writing in my spare time and was finally rewarded my senior year of high school when a short story I wrote about my grandfather, the one person who encouraged me through my early years as a writer, was a winner in a national writing contest. I won $500, had my story published in a magazine, and was presented a plaque by former president George H W Bush at a ceremony in Chicago. My high school newspaper published an article about it and I found a level of redemption concerning the creative writing teacher from hell.
Throughout college and journalism grad school, I continued to write fiction but never tried to publish any of it. The only things I published during this time were articles for small local papers like the Elmhurst Press and Villa Park Argus as a stringer, covering board meetings and stories about preserving mansions from the 19th century and such. I also covered high school sports for the Daily Herald. I didn’t start submitting short stories to literary magazines until I was thirty, and even then, I only submitted a handful. It wasn’t until I was 35 that my first short story was accepted for publication. The story was titled “Granada”, a story about Spain that was published in The Awakenings Review. I’ve been writing and submitting short stories and novellas like crazy ever since.
I studied abroad in Granada, Spain during my junior year at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign in 2003. I fell in love with the country and with a young woman in my study abroad group. Today, Spain represents the unattainable in my life. I have since developed an anxiety/claustrophobic disorder and refuse to fly. I can no longer physically travel to Spain. I can only travel to Spain through my mind, through memories. The young woman I fell in love with in Granada was also the first woman I ever truly loved. It was an experience of first-time, authentic love, love for a person and place. I know I can never recapture that kind of intensity in regards to love. One can only feel that kind of love when young. Everything after that is fine, marriage and such, but it will never be as pure or intense. And that’s what Last Night in Granada is about. It is a story about the unattainable.
Chris Pellizzari, author of Last Night In Granada
Thanks, Chris. Best of Luck to you!