And I did. I basically wrote a whole book. It wasn't very good, but it got me enough forward momentum so that I eventually enrolled in graduate school.

Some of your stories are set in a futuristic, alternate universe, and others are set in the here and now. How do you decide which is which?

It happens as needed. Many of my stories have ghosts in them. Early in my career, I was very concerned with binary opposites: serious stories versus funny, experimental fiction versus realistic fiction.

What I've noticed is that the most sophisticated thing is to answer yes. In other words, if I'm trying to decide, "Does my story have genre elements or not?" the answer is yes to both. It pushes you off that easy opposition and forces you to find a third way.

If you go

Author George Saunders will headline the 10th annual CityLit Festival at 3 p.m. April 13 at the central Enoch Pratt Free Library, 400 Cathedral St. Free. Call 410-274-5691 or go to

About the book

"Tenth of December: Stories" was published Jan. 8 by Random House. $26, 272 pages.

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