How I Wrote It

Why Jasmina Odor wants readers to see themselves in her short stories

The 2017 CBC Short Story Prize finalist explains how she wrote her debut collection, You Can’t Stay Here.
Jasmina Odor's debut collection You Can't Stay Here, is filled with tales of displacement and sometimes difficult searches for place and finding a home. (William Fraser)

In You Can't Stay Here, Jasmina Odor weaves together stories about finding your place in the world. The compilation includes Everyone Has Come, a story that earned her a spot on the shortlist for the 2017 CBC Short Story Prize.

Below, Odor shares how she wrote her debut collection.

A sense of belonging

"A thread in all these stories is belonging. There's the physical place, but then there is the sense of metaphorical, spiritual, psychological and emotional belonging. That's the emotional undercurrent of the whole collection — that wherever you are is not a place you can settle into. A lot of the characters are immigrants, refugees, people who are displaced in some way or are travelling. Being physically displaced echoes other kinds of displacement, the feeling of not feeling at home in the world."

The stories that had to be told

"As someone writing in my second language and having arrived as an immigrant, I had difficulty finding places to set the stories. I found the stories I wanted to tell were about Croatians because I come from Croatia. I would doubt myself and worry that my stories wouldn't be interesting to a Canadian audience. Sometimes I set stories in Croatia and then I'd think, 'Am I wrong here?' or 'Is this the wrong story for this audience?' or 'Should this be in my first language?' The big overall challenge for me was to get comfortable. In the end, I produced what the stories had to be."

Connecting with readers

"I'd like readers to find something that resonates with them, to find some small echoes of their own truth and experience. What I love about reading is that moment I recognize something that I feel is true but I'd never heard put it into words. I find that encouraging and affirming. I would like my readers to have some moments like that."

Jasmina Odor's comments have been edited and condensed.

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