Not long ago, Burrow Press released a daring collection titled 15 Views of Orlando, a flash novella written, edited, and published by a team of local Orlandoans. Hardly a cluttered mash of contributions, this compilation consists of intertwined vignettes, which vary in perspective and flair. More than just a writing prompt, editor Nathan Holic challenged the status quo of literary form and function by requiring fifteen writers to submit a story set in Orlando, keep it under 1000 words, and turn it over for review in a single week.
This meant that each contributor had seven days to study all (if any) previous entries, loosely tie his/her contribution to the preceding story, and maintain the collection’s momentum. With the guidance of Nathan Holic, fifteen writers fashioned together an entertaining and candid glimpse of what life is truly like in a city as misunderstood and mislabeled as Orlando, Florida.
The honest and darkly humorous passages humanized the spirit of the collection. In Jay Haffner’s story “Lifting Veils,” a recently heartbroken father drives his son into Orlando for the first time. “It smells bad. Where are the oranges?” his son asks, to which he replies, “I want to explain to Jack that perception and reality are never the same. When I told him we were driving to Florida, he immediately thought about magic, happiness, the smell of oranges. The reality is that any magic that Oviedo once held has been drowned out by Wal-Mart Supercenters, Home Depots, expansive subdivisions…The only smell filling the car is exhaust.”
Chris Heavener’s piece, “Cons,” contained a similar comical yet somber exchange of dialogue: “’I read on some news website last night that Orlando is the angriest city in the nation. Did you know that?’ I didn’t. ‘Apparently it is. Doesn’t surprise me. Put a bunch of underpaid employees in heavy synthetic animal suits in 100-plus degree weather and force them to be not only cordial to entitled tourists but goddamn jolly? Of course you’re going to have a disgruntled population.’”
15 Views of Orlando read like a meal of amuse-bouches, each harbored a distinct tone, location, and conflict. Writers set their stories in a flurry of locations such as bars, coffeehouses, malls, even road intersections, strip clubs, and swampy bodies of water. Characters start out minor in one story only to emerge as the main protagonist (or antagonist) in another. Narrative points of view ping-pong from a 32-year-old dishwasher living with his mother to a panhandler trying to provide for his family to a girl with a severe eating disorder. Though story transitions are occasionally unpolished, each piece is compelling, engaging, and captures the true essence of a city so often overlooked by tourists and outsiders.
This collection has reinvented the traditional responsibilities of literary stakeholders, and even its audience by challenging the reader to piece together interwoven story lines, fluctuating narrative voices, and alternating city locations. Though not everyone can experience the infamous city first-hand, 15 Views of Orlando captures the core quintessence of life in Central Florida as told through fifteen talented indie writers and their pioneer of an editor.