All but three or four of these stories were written during the summer of 1960. I wrote most of them in two sittings of about three hours apiece, and it was some of the most joyful writing I have ever done. The pleasure was in finding that after eleven years of not writing short stories, I could begin again and do it better; and the joy was in discovering that at fifty-five, and in spite of aches in spine and tendons, I had an apparently inexhaustible urge to express an unlimited supply of short story ideas. No writing has ever come more easily to me, and I say that notwithstanding the fact that I have always been a natural writer. It is not to be inferred by the layman or the tyro author that because the writing looks easy, or because I say it came easily, hard work was not involved. The hard work is half the fun (the other half, of course, is in the contemplation of the finished product). There may be as many as a dozen persons in the world who are able to detect the techniques employed, and they will understand what I mean by the fun of the hard work. They will know right away, while I could write a long book on techniques that the layman would not, and should not, bother to read. How do you start a paragraph? What is a character's first speech? When is a homely detail valuable? What is good dialog?
If you are an author, and not just a writer, you keep learning all the time. Today, for instance, I was thinking about dialog, listening to dialog of some characters in my mind's ear, and I learned for the first time in my life that almost no woman who has gone beyond the eighth grade ever calls a fifty-cent piece a half-a-dollar. A male author, writing dialog carelessly, might easily have a female character say "half-a-dollar" because it . . .