Non-toxic: A Book of Short Stories

Rachel Wakefield


“Non-toxic” is a book of six short stories, which range from 16 to 30 pages in length. These stories are written in the realist literary style, which depicts only people and situations which could exist in the real world and which adheres to a believable depiction thereof. The realist tradition believes that interesting things happen not just despite, but because of, the rich complications that we reveal when we examine our everyday lives. The characters in these stories live in Boston, Mass., and they might be your neighbor, your friend, or you.

Each of these stories has a separate set of characters and a separate storyline. The main characters range in age from eleven years old to forty-five years old. Four are female, and two are male. The plots and themes of these stories deal with issues of family, sexual relationships, childhood, physicality, and expression. I aimed not for “happy” or “sad” endings, but rather to end each story at the point at which the main character has undergone some understanding or change.

This project follows the tradition of the character-centered stories that have risen in prominence over the past hundred years. They are influenced by the emotional restraint of Ernest Hemingway and by Mary Gaitskill’s frank depiction of sex and the body. I hope that these stories express the raw, not presentable, and ultimately normal qualities of private life.

The idea for this project began in the fall of 2012. I had initially imagined a non-realist premise for this project, and in the spring of 2013, I wrote and then discarded one story under this premise. The bulk of the writing for this project was begun in the summer of 2013, when I wrote two stories which I then completely re-wrote in September and October of 2013. From this point on, through April of 2014, I wrote one story per month and revised each story for the following month. The end result is six stories that I believe operate both independently and in conversation with one another.

I hope that these stories are uncomfortable, everyday, and entertaining to read.