Interview with the Winner: Aurora Stone Mehlman

April 5, 2024

Aurora Stone Mehlman’s “Broken Animals” was chosen by Jai Chakrabarti as the 2nd place finalist in our 2023 Summer Short Story Award for New Writers. Be sure to read this terrific story, and then check out our interview with the winner below!


Can you talk a little about the origin or inspiration for the story?

Many years ago, I knew a woman whose son had done what the boy in the story did. She would share the recovery process with me, and her grace, strength, and wisdom inspired this story. It was not only the mother I used for inspiration, but the boy. I thought if only he knew how brave he was, how strong and motivated. If he could do something like that, he surely had the strength to live, to flourish, to prosper. I wanted to write him, them, into a place where magical things occur.

Place feels important here—it’s a character unto itself, really. What role do you feel the setting plays?

I think the wild prairie, mostly gone now, is haunting, as well as the decrepit town the characters stay in at the edge of the wilderness. I have spent time in many such places, wild, rural, and urban. They are ghost places, the bones of what once was, and yet they still exist, and regenerate, and plod on, haunting the present. Like people, these places hold violence, grief, and redemption. In this story, the setting mirrored the internal lives of the characters, but it also offered them a way through, and out.

There’s an intersection of grief and anger at play here that I think speaks to tragedy on a lot of levels. Was the interplay forefront as you wrote this, or was it something you discovered as you worked through drafts.

I would like to say that I did that intentionally, but in all honesty, this is one of those stories that came out nearly wholly formed. The characters, settings, dialogue, and scenes were the same in the first draft as the 20th. I changed things and then changed them back to the original. As far as the interplay between grief and anger, I know this ground well, from personal experience. The emotional arc we are taught to believe in, or see in movies, is often muted, incomplete, but reality is less graceful and cinematic, and I try to capture the spectrum of conflicted emotions in my work.

What’s your writing process like? Do you have a set schedule, a set place, a routine to set the tone for your writing?

I have to be honest, I am struggling with my writing process right now. I teach many classes and am a single mom of an eight-year-old. I have a writing desk, but more often than not, I write in bed at night before I fall asleep when I’m not completely wiped out. I think one of the hardest things for me to come to terms with, as an artist, is learning to ride the ebbs and flows of my creative life, and trusting during times when I cannot be as productive as I would like that better times, more conducive times, will appear in the future. I hold on to the fact that I still write, even if it is only once or twice a week now, and as long as I keep doing it, I know I will figure it out.

Interviewed by Jen Dupree


At The Masters Review, our mission is to support emerging writers. We only accept submissions from writers who can benefit from a larger platform: typically, writers without published novels or story collections or with low circulation. We publish fiction and nonfiction online year-round and put out an annual anthology of the ten best emerging writers in the country, judged by an expert in the field. We publish craft essays, interviews and book reviews and hold workshops that connect emerging and established writers.

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