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Commentary on “Little Woman”

Connie Corzilius

I’m interested in that moment when a girl begins to understand that she’s been sold a bill of goods.

That moment when a girl realizes that the world is larger than she’s been led to believe, which is both terrifying and liberating. The tensions of family dynamics, the unrelenting pressure to be nice, the annihilating force of religion, the shaming strictures of, well, patriarchy (damn, I promised myself I wouldn’t use that word) – these shove girls down a narrow, artificially lighted corridor at a time when their minds and bodies feel wild, fierce, ungovernable.

I started writing “Little Woman” more than 15 years ago. I’m old. I have vivid memories of reading the first issues of Ms. at the public library with my best friend, and the story (which at that time was called “Being Wrong”) is set during that period. I’m not one of those writers who write a fast draft just to get it down and then revise; instead, every time I sit down, I read through what I’ve written, revising as I go, and then add a bit more. By the time I’ve accrued a full draft, I’m usually satisfied with the story. I worked on “Being Wrong” for years and then submitted “Being Wrong” for years, racking up rejections, and though it was named a “finalist” in four different contests, I knew that something didn’t entirely click.

I didn’t know what until I submitted it to “Twelve Winters” and Asha Vose responded. She loved the story, but didn’t think it was “there” yet. Would I be interested in “a terrifying set of suggested cuts”? I would. I still can’t believe she took the time to do this, but she eliminated a character thread and about 2,000 words, leaving the rest of the story essentially untouched, and then I did a final edit. I won’t lie: It was scary. But I had long since lost my ability to truly “see” the story, and I needed her discerning eye.

I’ll always be grateful for that, and to Twelve Winters for publishing “Little Woman.”

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Connie Corzilius has an MFA from the Writers’ Workshop of the University of Iowa, and her work has appeared in Big Muddy, Stonecoast Review, Calyx, Willow Review, Mississippi Review Online, small spiral notebook, Another Chicago Magazine, and storyglossia, among others. She was awarded the 2018 Women’s National Book Association Fiction Prize for her story, “For Want of Other Worlds,” and she’s been nominated for a Pushcart Prize and the Million Writers Award. A writer/editor for the bookselling and publishing trade for many years, she was born and raised in Granite City, Illinois, and currently lives in Augusta, Georgia.

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