by Louise Marburg, winner of the 2019 W.S. Porter Prize for No Diving
When I began to write the stories that became the collection No Diving Allowed, I wrote as I always write, one story at a time, with no sense of working toward a theme or an audience or an eventual book. Chronologically, the first story I wrote was “The Bottom of the Deep End,” in which a swimming pool is so central it’s practically a character; the second was “Creamer’s House,” in which the swimming pool described was at first merely a feature of the house, then in rewrites gained greater significance. The next story,” Talk to Me,” is set at a beach resort, yet there, too, is a swimming pool, one that the protagonist longs to swim in but is thwarted in that wish — and in others — by her new husband. I don’t think I realized until “Talk to Me” that I had written three stories in a row that contained a swimming pool. Once I saw what I had done, I simply continued writing stories with the idea that a swimming pool might or might not appear, but if one did, I would consider that story a sibling of the other three. Yet, funnily enough, most of the stories I wrote did end up having swimming pools in them, and over the course of about three years what I thought of as “the swimming pool stories” grew very naturally. Never did I have to conjure a way to insert a pool, nor did I begin a story thinking about devising a plot around a pool.
A couple of years ago, I was talking to the late great short story author Lee K. Abbott at the Kenyon Writer’s Workshops. I described what was going on with this growing pile of stories, and he said, “I know what the title of the collection should be! No Diving Allowed!” Lee Abbott was masterful at creating titles, and I thought that was a great one, precisely apropos, but story collections are usually titled after a story within the collection, and I had not written, nor did I expect to write, a story called “No Diving Allowed.” Then a few months later, as I was writing a story in which a very fat man cannonballs into a country club pool, a lifeguard suddenly appeared out of nowhere screaming, “No diving allowed!” I sat back in astonishment. There was the title story of the collection. I wrote several more stories after that, but the title No Diving Allowed continued to seem as perfectly on point as when it was suggested by Lee.
Louise Marburg is the author of a previous collection of stories, The Truth About Me (WTAW Press, 2017), which was named by the San Francisco Chronicle and Entropy as a best book of 2017, won the Independent Publishers Book Awards Gold Medal for short story collections, and was shortlisted for the Saroyan Prize. Her work has appeared in such publications as Narrative, The Pinch, Carolina Quarterly, Ploughshares, and many others.