Private: Introducing Pia Z. Ehrhardt

Pia Ehrhardt’s stories take my breath away.

Her writing reminds me a little of Lorrie Moore, because she writes about women falling in and out of love and fearing the loss of a man’s affection, and a little of Walker Percy, not only because some of her stories are set in New Orleans, but because her characters are alienated in a way that calls to mind Binx and Kate from The Moviegoer.

But I don’t mean to downplay her accomplishments by comparing her to other writers. Pia has her own voice.

Two of her stories have appeared in the Mississippi Review Online. One of them, “The Water Laws,” begins like this:

Lydia tapes her husband’s TV weather forecast so she can watch what’s going on between him and the station’s new anchor, Stephanie Russell from Iowa City. Her face is small and flawless. Perfect nose and lipstick, and crystal blue eyes that push back at the camera. Maybe nothing’s happening there, but Lydia wants another look when the broadcast isn’t live.

As the story progresses, Lydia becomes increasingly convinced that her husband is having an affair with the anchorwoman, and, hoping to make herself feel better, has a fling of her own.

Other great Ehrhardt stories about affairs and the loss of love include “Stop” and “If You Want to Stay Late.”

In a recent interview, when Claire Zulkey asked where her story ideas come from, Pia said:

I write out of my life. Privacy = Isolation = Agitation = Implosion = Story. I always ran a secret life next to my open life, and then the two merged. (Not without a lot of grief and pain and near divorce.) I started admitting stuff and people seemed interested. My marriage is happy, though, finally, and my parents are getting older and, hell, so am I, and I’m not so damn angry at them anymore, so the material’s running out.

And when she guest-edited Opium earlier this year, Pia told Todd Zuniga what she looks for as an editor:

….I like stories that expose stuff, that worry about the edges of the frame, that tell secrets, because I try to do the same. The truth is in the secrets. I think I’m a nervous exhibitionist. I like to show parts of myself, then cover back up. When I read, I want to see other people’s stuff–especially when it’s what they don’t show to just anyone.

Pia’s so prolific that I’m sure to leave out some great links, but here are a few of her stories: “Three Cigarette Stories” (for which she won $1000), “The Roses Were a Riot,” “Jack,” “Blackbirds,” “Jersey Trip,” “A Man,” “Safe,” and “I Could Sing of Your Love Forever.”

Pia lives in New Orleans, Louisiana with her husband and son. She has three sisters.

She will keep you entertained, my lambs.