“HELP WANTED: FEMALE”
Author: Sara Pritchard
Publisher: Etruscan Press, an affiliate of Wilkes University
Available: July 16 in bookstores, at amazon.com and etruscanpress.org, Barnes & Noble; e-book and audio book forthcoming.
Sara Pritchard, 64, a native of the Hazleton area currently living in Morgantown, W.Va, knows all too well that truth can be stranger than fiction.
Perhaps that’s why the author behind “Help Wanted: Female” — a collection of 10 stories across 168 pages — has drawn inspiration for her latest work and previously published books including the memoir turned novel-in-stories titled “Crackpots”with some portions set in Luzerne County and the linked stories written for “Lately.”
Pritchard is a faculty member in the Wilkes University creative writing program. “Help Wanted: Female” will be available July 16 through university-affiliated Etruscan Press. Readers who can’t wait until then can catch a preview as part of an event at the Dorothy Dickson Darte Center from 7-9 p.m. Thursday.
Times Leader: What unites the stories in “Help Wanted: Female”?
Sara Pritchard: When I was first looking for a part-time job when I was in high school, I looked in the classified ads in the local newspaper. Ads had ‘Help Wanted: Female,’ ‘Help Wanted: Male,’ or ‘Help Wanted: Male or Female.’ There was blatant sex discrimination in advertising for jobs. I think it still exists, but ads are worded more politically correctly.
“It’s also a play on words. Every story is, to some extent, about a woman wanting or needing help in some aspect of life, or a woman providing or offering help to someone else. ‘Help’ is a really loaded term in the title.”
TL: Where did you find inspiration for so many characters?
S.P.: “My favorite writer, Alice Munro, said there’s always a starting point in reality. … The events in most of the stories are something that I encountered, but then I completely fictionalized it. The characters often start with a real person, but then they become a composite of other people. I’m a thief. I steal things that other people have told me, things I’ve overheard. …I also live across the street from a big cemetery which I walk through every day with my dogs (labradoodles Fay and Figgy). All of my characters names come from those tombstones. Yes, it’s fiction so that I’ll never be sued, but it’s very imagined.”
TL: What kinds of real stories have you made your own?
S.P.: “The first story in the book is about a woman who blows up her house after setting off flea bombs. She forgot to turn off the pilot light to her furnace. That’s just something I heard on the radio about 25 years ago when I was driving to work.”
TL: How would you describe your work?
S.P.: “I’m often characterized as humorous, and people think my stories are very funny because bizarre things happen. It’s humor that distinguishes humans from other animals, although my dog has a great sense of humor. … I use humor as comic relief. … Underneath that is something often terrifying or tragic. I try to show both sides of life — the gravitas and levity. That’s a real balancing act.”