Have you ever overheard a curious snippet of conversation? Have you happened to observe body language indicating empathy, frustration or hostility? Does human interaction interest and amuse you? Then you’ll understand the premise behind “Café Conversations” a collection of short stories.
I enjoy writing in coffee shops. It not only gets me away from household distractions, it’s an energized environ-ment. Good cafés balance background music with the buzz of conversation. They are hives of human relationships where a solitary writer can become lost in their tale, or… can eavesdrop on their neighbours.
It was while working in such a setting that I overheard a millennial male ask his buddy, “Has he wifed-up yet?” Wifed-up: questionable terminology that I was unfamiliar with. On another occasion an elderly woman entered holding the hand of a child who commented, “Mommy said you’re particular.” The mother/daughter-in-law relationship was instantly revealed. A woman with a designer doggie in her purse, a middle-aged couple sharing a piece of cheesecake, the bearded guy in the “Women’s Rugby” hoodie; these are all real-life patrons that morphed into story characters.
I captured these characters and nuggets of conversation, by develop-ing them into an accumulation of scenes all staged over coffee. As the scenarios evolved I discovered repeating characters. There was a group of elderly ladies who not only discussed the challenges old age, but also made appearances as background figures reacting to others’ interactions. A university student arrived for a blind date that went awry with such hilarity that I invited him to return multiple times for ever increasingly bizarre interactions. The café’s server, usually a secondary figure in others’ scenes, stepped forward to share her own mental health obstacles.
Setting all the stories within the confines of the Conversation Café doesn’t limit the options for varied themes. There are mistaken identities, secretive plots, dissolving relation-ships and wild business schemes. Some characters are braggadocios while others suffer from debilitating insecurity. A few characters may appear unpleasant, but insights will trigger your sympathy. Others may seem reasonable, then surprise you with their outrageous decisions. Each story strives to amuse while also stimulating thoughtful reflection. Even the editor reported that she laughed out loud.
I pursue the craft of short fiction because I think it’s the perfect literary form for current culture. People are busy and bite-sized stories can be accessed during commutes, in waiting rooms, and during those precious moments before falling asleep. I write linked stories, where characters repeat or overlap, because that ties the tales together. This creates a sense of travelling with these characters over a period of time, much like reading a novel.
“Café Conversations,” which will be released this month, is my second short fiction collection. “We Drank Wine,” published in 2016, also contains linked stories. It follows a group of four women from their friendship as preschool moms, through parenting challenges and marriage break-ups, to rediscovering themselves as empty-nesters. One mother and daughter from that book resonated so strongly, that they turned up in the Conversation Café dealing with a cranky mother/ grandmother. Both “Café Conver-sations” and “We Drank Wine” are available on Amazon.
You Are Not Alone: stories of hope, by Lisa Browning