Becker: I'm often interested in capturing a time and a place in some way, and a story comes when I imagine characters being in conflict.
My story "Iowa Winter" came out of a real-life experience. I was invited to a reunion for a very conservative family. There were two young men there who were both clearly gay and clearly very sick. No one acknowledged either their sexual orientation or their illness, though both of the young men were being loved and embraced by the whole family. The way that we can love certain people and simultaneously deny who they are is fascinating to me.
Tell me about the central questions you were exploring in each of these collections.
Levy: I agree with [short-story writer] Lee K. Abbott that obsessing is the most human thing we can do. For me, one of the pleasures of writing a story collection is that you can explore an obsession from many different angles, exhaust it, and then move on.
My obsession in this collection was about how we might integrate the heart and the mind. We tend to segregate these in American culture, where a strong streak of anti-intellectualism prevails.
Grossinger: I write about the Holocaust and its after-effects. Not so much what it did to the Jews in Europe, but the impact that it had on the next generation, on the people who didn't experience it firsthand.
All four of my grandparents lost most of their families in World War II. When I was a child, I grew up in the Bronx in a neighborhood that was filled with Holocaust survivors. I also used to teach a course on Holocaust testimony at American University in Washington.
Becker: I'm a musician and I've moved around a great deal, so I have a lot of stories about people who are a little rootless. Art and art-making fascinates me. In the same way that musicians have to learn how to shut up, so do writers. That's one of the things I explore in my stories. Sometimes less is more. Sometimes you make the biggest impact when you play the silences.
If you go
Flannery O'Connor Award winners Geoffrey Becker, E.J. Levy and Harvey Grossinger will read from their short-story collections at 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Ivy Bookshop, 6080 Falls Road. Free. Call 410-377-2966 or go to http://www.theivybookshop.com
About the books
Geoffrey Becker's 'Black Elvis" was released Oct. 15, 2009. 200 pages, $24.95. E.J. Levy's "Love, In Theory" was released Sept. 20, 2012. 224 pages; $24.95. Harvey Grossinger's "The Quarry" was released Feb. 1, 1997. 280 pages, $19.95. All three books were published by the University of Georgia Press.