Contributor Spotlight: Jen McConnell

“The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West,” a short story by Jen McConnell, appeared in Issue 21 and can be read here

We’d love to hear more about this story.

The initial idea for a story came a few years ago when I was at a restaurant and saw a waiter, who had only one arm, clearing a table. I’m a huge baseball fan and that made me think of the major league pitcher Jim Abbott. Those were two jobs you’d think two hands were essential for – waiting tables and pitching in the majors, but obviously not. So there was that idea. And then one night my husband and I were thinking up terrible movie titles. I came up with Stabby Stabby Death Death, and there was my story.

What was the most difficult part of writing this story?

Well, I’m not a man, a veteran, or an actor, or lost an arm in active duty, but this voice came to me, so I had to write his story. It took a lot of effort with that voice to not let it drift back to my own. Because I write often from a male character’s point of view, the male voice wasn’t too difficult but it did take a lot of time and rewriting to honor his particular struggles as a veteran.

Recommend a book for us which was published within the last decade.

A Visit from the Goon Squad, by Jennifer Egan. It’s one of those perfect books – the story, writing, characters, and format all came together perfectly. When I got to the Powerpoint chapter, I thought, “Of course. That’s exactly how that person would deliver her story.” In what other book would that work?

If you could have a drink with any living author, who would it be? Why?

George Saunders. His stories have been a big influence ever since Pastoralia. His mix of humor, imagination and sincerity knock me out every time. I’d try to play it cool and not tell him how much his writing means to me, but I’d probably just spill my drink on him and die of embarrassment.

What are you working on now? What’s next?

I’m putting my second collection of stories together. I have about 17 stories finished with a few more rattling around. I’m hoping this will be the title story: The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West & Other Stories. Picturing that book on the shelf helps me keep writing.

Our thanks to Jen taking the time to answer a few questions and share her work. Read Jen’s story, “The Best One-Armed Waiter in the West,” here:


Jen McConnell is a fiction writer and poet. Her work has recently appeared in Bookends Review, Buck Off Magazine, No Extra Words, Luna Luna, Mused, and Blue Lotus Review. Her debut collection of short stories, Welcome, Anybody, was published by Press 53 in 2012. She’s currently working on her second collection. She earned degrees in English and Philosophy from the University of California, Irvine, and her MFA in Creative Writing from Goddard College in Vermont. By day, she works as a copywriter in the corporate world. Her website is