The Story Behind “Instant Family” by Julie Paul

JPaul_Headshot copyPlease welcome Julie Paul with the story behind her short story “Instant Family,” which we published in our Spring 2014 issue. 

I’ve been practicing a daily writing ritual for years now, with a few different writers from across Canada: we call this practice Writamins. It’s very simple; we send each other words via email, one per day, and we write for at least ten minutes using that daily word as a prompt. Then we email what we’ve written to the other(s), not for judgement or even their reading pleasure—we just write, send and move on. It’s a fantastic practice, and when we can find no other time in the day for writing, well, at least we’ve taken our writamins.

Instant Family” began as a slight variation on a writamin, offered to me by Traci Skuce at a weekend writing retreat on Salt Spring Island. She suggested the phrase “reconstituted babies.” I think I gave her “edible trees,” and no, we weren’t drinking all that much. 

Although most of my stories are entirely in the realm of reality, I love playing around now and then, taking one element in a story and making it strange and unlikely, so when she offered the idea of babies coming like a can of frozen orange juice—just needing a little water—it was right up my alley. (George Saunders is one of my favourite writers, because he does this so brilliantly, as does Kevin Brockmeier.) 

“Instant Family” is from my first book, The Jealousy Bone, and in that collection, I explore the lives of people who are either trying to have children, trying not to have kids or trying to manage the ones they do have. These matters can be heavy and serious, but I’ve tried to inject some humour—and flights of fancy—into the stories where possible.

About the Author

Julie Paul’s first book of short stories, The Jealousy Bone, was published in 2008. Stories, poems and essays have appeared in many literary journals, including The Dalhousie Review, The Fiddlehead, Event, PRISM International and The Rusty Toque. Her second collection of short stories, The Pull of the Moon, will be published by Brindle & Glass this year. She lives in Victoria, BC and at

Speak Your Mind