"Still Life With Plums"
By Marie Manilla
185 pages (paperback). $16.95
CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- Marie Manilla confesses she didn't start out to be a writer.
"I wish I could say that I have always been a writer, keeping journals and diaries, but that's not the case," Manilla says.
A Huntington native, she grew up in the city's Beverly Hills neighborhood and like her young friends spent lots of time at two neighborhood landmarks long since gone: Neirman's Pharmacy and the Beverly Theatre. Like her father, she attended St. Joseph Catholic School. "In fact, we had the same science teacher -- 35 years apart," she recalls.
Graduating from high school, she went off to West Virginia University, where she earned a bachelor of fine arts degree in graphic design. Then, like so many West Virginia young people, she left the state to find work. She spent seven years in Houston, Texas, and there "became a reading machine," devouring stacks of books and developing a special taste for short stories. "I love the adrenaline burst of a good piece of short fiction," she says.
Then it happened.
"I vividly remember the Saturday when I finished reading a story in a magazine and, for some reason, I was compelled to write one of my own," she says. "That's all it took to send me down a completely different career path."
And what a path it's been. Since that fateful Saturday, Manilla has written story after story. Since 1996, many of those stories have found their way into the pages of Prairie Schooner, Mississippi Review and other highly respected journals. Now, Vandalia Press, an imprint of West Virginia University Press, has collected 10 of her stories in a new paperback collection, "Still Life with Plums."