Glen Chamberlain says that how her second collection of short stories, “All I Want Is What You’ve Got,” came to be is really a love story.
It is not, however, the kind of love story one might first imagine.
Chamberlain, who has steadily built a national reputation for her writing while at the same time teaching composition classes at Montana State University for 26 years, will launch her book at a free star-studded event at 7 p.m. April 8 at MSU’s Reynolds Recital Hall.
A winner of the Pushcart Prize, the Gilcrease Prize for fiction, and the Rona Jaffe Award for both fiction and creative nonfiction, Chamberlain explains that there is a circle of friendship, devotion and love at the center of the book as well as in the celebration.
Many of the titles of the short stories in the book are taken from cuts from “Lullaby For My Favorite Insomniac,” a CD by the Ahn Trio. Angella Ahn, one-third of the trio that travels the world performing classical music with a contemporary twist, is a professor of violin at MSU. She was one of the closest friends of Chamberlain’s daughter, Endsley, who died two years ago. Another friend in the group was Jeni Fleming, the MSU grad who has also earned a national reputation for her stylish vocalizations.
“When we (Chamberlain and her husband, Tom Barrett) first heard the Ahns and Jeni Fleming perform, it was Endsley's doing. That performance is what got me started writing this collection,” Chamberlain said.
Through the years, Tom and Glen were often invited to the monthly dinner parties hosted by her daughter and her friends.
“When Endsley died, (they) promised to as best they could fill in for Endsley for the rest of our lives. And they have,” Chamberlain said.
Endsley’s death also linked to the project Dane Bahr, an MSU graduate whose imprint, Dock Street Press, is publishing the book. Bahr was a student in one of Chamberlain’s classes in the MSU Department of English in the College of Letters and Science about a dozen years ago.
“For the next few years he was in Bozeman, our friendship grew. Then he left, grew up, married, grew up some more, started Dock Street Press. When Endsley died, he knew I had an unfinished collection of stories, and he has insisted that I keep working on them, that I stay alive through writing, and he has promised that he would publish them. And he is.”
Bahr said that he and Chamberlain have chatted about the collection since he started Dock Street about three years ago. He said Chamberlain has been a mentor not only during his years at MSU, but as he started his publishing house.
“It’s been an honor and thrill as a former student to read, love, publish a former professor’s work,” Bahr said. “Especially one who has meant as much to me as Glen has.”
Bahr said that he suspects that Chamberlain could have gone to any publisher with her collection, and could have easily sold it to a large publishing house.
“The fact that she trusted me is very touching,” Bahr said.
And while love is at the center of each of Chamberlain’s stories in the collection, none of the stories are love stories in the traditional sense. They are stories of unnamed yearning and strange deviations of love: an unhappy mother who loves her children, a woman motivated to commit an unthinkable act by her passion for nature, an old woman who recalls an earlier, short marriage in which she watched her husband die. All of the stories have a link to the landscape of the Northern Rockies. All were inspired by the music of the Ahn classical piano trio.
To celebrate the collaboration, Ahn and her sister Maria will perform. Julie Gosswiller, professor of piano at MSU, will substitute for Lucia Ahn. Fleming will also sing. Chamberlain will read from the book and sign copies of the volume, which will be available for purchase.
Chamberlain said she’s very happy with the collection of stories, which has been praised by Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, the former New York Times book reviewer who spoke at MSU recently.
“But the important aspect for me is the affection these young people have bestowed on me, and the affection that sustains me,” Chamberlain said.
This story may be found on the Web at:
Glen Chamberlain (406) 994-5258, firstname.lastname@example.org