By David Lim
From a photograph of a shopping cart laying among discarded clothes and trash, Dean Coordinator Ryan Wilson found his “thousand words” in a familiar sight in the streets of Los Angeles.
“It’s something I see fairly regularly along a certain stretch of Hollywood Boulevard close to where I live,” Wilson said. “It made me think about discarded things and people in our culture, how we ignore certain people and circumstances, but in the end, there they are, right in front of us, reflecting what we choose to care about.”
Wilson’s story “American Trash” was published as the first of 26 short stories in the book “In Search of a City: Los Angeles in 1,000 Words”. Each of the exactly 1,000 word stories features a brief narrative inspired by a photograph taken around Los Angeles.
The project’s limited word count pushed Wilson’s creative boundaries.
“I’m much more at home in a sprawling narrative like a book than I am in short pieces like the one in this collection, so it was a challenge to make sure I’d written something that was a satisfying experience for the reader in 1,000 words,” Wilson said.
The collection’s editor, Michael Gonzalez, recruited Wilson to the project. In his literary magazine Thunderdome, Gonzalez previously serialized the first four chapters of the “novel-in-progress” that Wilson has been working on for the past few years.
“When he told me the idea for the book, I was completely on board,” Wilson said.
Armed with only the Hipstamatic app on his iPod Touch, Gonzalez took all the photos “of the strange and wonderful things” he saw biking around Los Angeles. The book aims to capture the “invasive and pervasive” soul of the city, Gonzalez m writes in the preface.
“Los Angeles is whatever you want it to be and nothing like you think,” Gonzalez said.
Wilson is no stranger to Los Angeles’ literary scene and organized similar projects when he was a fiction editor at a local magazine.
“It was called the 90-Minute Assignment, wherein a bunch of writers would meet at a specified location (we did Venice Beach and Hollywood), and they’d have 90 minutes to find a centerpiece for a story,” he said. “These kinds of projects are cool because you end up really penetrating a setting, getting multiple perspectives on a place. It speaks to the diverse way in which see our environment, our culture.”