Craig Bernier’s collection of short stories, Your Life Idyllic, is the winner of the St. Lawrence Book Award.
Seven of the nine stories in the book are set in metropolitan Detroit — mostly Macomb, Wayne and Oakland counties, Bernier said. One story is set at Ford’s Rouge Plant. It focuses on a man who feels trapped within his dad’s blue-collar life.
Another follows a fed-up truck driver through a traffic jam on Detroit’s west side.
Bernier says most of the stories center on how residents of these areas handle the problems in their lives.
“I think that each one of the characters has an idea of what grounded-ness and happiness is. They might not be existing in that, but they strive.”
He says the collection also deals with "very ordinary things," like a 14-year-old girl who learns French and refuses to speak to her parents in English, or working a night shift at Rouge River Foundry when a snow storm hits.
“I think one of the writer’s key jobs is to be a good observer, a student of life,” Bernier said. “So I don’t necessarily have to be a truck driver to sit out at a truck stop and watch truck drivers – how they talk, what they do, have conversations with people about their jobs and their occupations and listen to what it is that they say.”
Bernier elaborated on his writing processes, saying he doesn’t necessarily approach his work intending to write a specific story.
“I tend to try to create characters enough so that when I start to follow them around in a short story, they begin to tell me what it is they want to do and what it is they want to say. It’s almost to the point where I become I kind of observer,” he said.
Listen to the audio above to hear Bernier talk more about his stories and the inspirations behind them.