Tag: short stories

short stories

Which short fiction collection are you dreaming of?

There’s a short fiction collection coming out in 2019 based on the albums of Joni Mitchell. I’ve had the pleasure of reading one of the stories and can’t wait to see the others. Of course this got me thinking: which collection I’d like to see in print.   Hands down for me it is fiction based on The Decembrists’ 2009 album The Hazards of Love, which tells a complete story as a rock opera. The plot is essentially a love story, where a woman falls in love with a shape-shifting forest dweller. His mother, the jealous forest queen, and a villainous rake add their own conflict to the story. There is love, jealousy, abandonment, hate, and revenge. Perfect.    Reviewing the album some critics felt that the ‘storyline’ was under developed. Well, short story writers, have at it. Time for development! Until that come to fruition (I’m dusting off my pen right now…) I’m waiting with great anticipation for the Joni Mitchell inspired collection.  What would you like to see inspire a collection of short fiction?   

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Short or long the stories are good

 At the Mystery Writer’s of America symposium the afternoon took a turn both dark and short. The authors nominated for Best Short Story shared the many ways they are inspired. SJ Rozan (“Chin Long-Yun Stays at Home”) pointed to the draw of an unusual situation or a phrase. The imagery of the pile of shoes in a Primo Levi story led Lisa Gray (“The Queen of Secrets”) to her obsession with shoes and eventually her nominated story.  Kenji Jasper (“A Moment of Clarity at the Waffle House”) started his story as a love letter and ended up killing his demons. Jeffery Deaver (“Hard to Get”) claims that he tries to ‘know his limitations’ and approaches the short story with plot in mind, knowing that he needs ‘the zinger’ before he then populates with characters.  There were commonalities among the panel. Most notably, a short story takes time. Time to germinate. Time to prune and hone.  Altogether a day of authors sharing stories that make us want to read….. and inspire us to write.     

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Do you write short stories?

The great author William Faulkner once said, “I’m a failed poet. Maybe every novelist wants to write poetry first, finds he can’t and then tries the short story which is the most demanding form after poetry. And failing at that, only then does he take up novel writing.”  A bold statement. Something fun to argue about. But you could certainly make the argument that writing short stories is a way to learn the craft of writing. It’s an argument that I make with my students quite often. So I turned the question over to my fellow Miss Demeanors to ask them if they had any thoughts on short story writing and whether they did it themselves, and this is what they said: Alexia: I like short stories. M.R. James’s ghost stories are my favorites. I also like Steven King’s “The Boogeyman”. That’s one of the few stories I’ve read that actually frightened me. I don’t write short stories. (I’ve tried) I envy writers who are skilled at it. And I shake my head whenever I hear someone talking about writing short stories because they fear writing a novel will be too difficult, the implication being that short stories are easy. Not. Saying what […]

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Favorite stories

Today is the first day of my Gotham Writers spring schedule, which means that I will be spending today teaching. So I felt I should include something educational in today’s post.  One of the things I’ll be talking to my students about is how to plot a novel, and something that is very useful in that respect, is to start taking apart stories. Not everyone looks at it this way, but I think there is some validity to considering a short story a very short novel. So with that in mind, what are some good short stories to tear apart and learn from: 1. “What You Pawn I Will Redeem,” by Sherman Alexie.  Read this for voice, for first person point of view, and for the beautiful structure. Everything you want to know about narrative arc is in this story. 2. “Labors of the Heart,” by Claire Davis. Read this for character and dialogue and that hopeless yearning that fuels the best stories. 3. “Afterward,” by Edith Wharton, which contains one of my favorite plot twists in all literature. 4. “A Death,” by Stephen King, first published in The New Yorker. A real master of story telling.  5. “Wants” by Grace Paley. Just love her voice. 6. […]

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The pleasure of short stories

Lately I’ve been on a short story writing binge. Partly that’s because I have a novel on submission, and I can spend my excess energy drinking or writing short stories and it seems more healthy to write. (I am working on a new novel as well, but I have a lot of excess energy.) But I have also come to realize how much I enjoy reading short stories. (I keep a copy of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine in my pocketbook for emergency situations.)  One of the things I like about stories is that you can write them and finish them in a confined period of time. Generally it takes me about three months to write one, and then about six months to sell one, which, in the publishing business, is about as close to immediate gratification as you’re going to get.  I also like the way you can be experimental with a short story.  For example, I am intrigued by families of serial killers. This is probably because I grew up down the road from Joel Rifkin (Long Island’s worst serial killer) and one of the things I found fascinating about that whole thing was that after he was convicted, his mother continued […]

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All about short fiction with Art Taylor

I’m delighted to be joined today by Art Taylor. The short version of his bio is that he’s a great guy and a great writer. He’s here today to talk about one of his specialties – Short Stories.  A more complete version of his bio would include Art’s credits as the author of On the Road with Del & Louise: A Novel in Stories, winner of the Agatha Award for Best First Novel. He has won three additional Agatha Awards, an Anthony Award, a Macavity Award, and three consecutive Derringer Awards for his short fiction, and his work has appeared in Best American Mystery Stories. He also edited Murder Under the Oaks: Bouchercon Anthology 2015, winner of the Anthony Award for Best Anthology or Collection. He is an associate professor of English at George Mason University, and he contributes frequently to the Washington Post, the Washington Independent Review of Books, and Mystery Scene Magazine. With that out of the way, and before I go on to novel length, let’s get to the good stuff. Short stories. TdeH: Thanks for joining us today. I live a little in awe of great short stories. They are like Japanese sushi knives. Precise and well honed. You’ve made a name for yourself as […]

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La Valise Volee (The Stolen Suitcase)

   “Traveling – it leaves you speechless, then turns you into a storyteller.” – Ibn Battuta When people ask me where do I get my ideas, one of my top answers is by traveling. Perhaps it’s my overactive imagination, but I see stories everywhere I go.          For instance, during a trip to Provence recently to fulfill an agenda item on my bucket list, which was to see fields of lavender in full bloom, one of my favorite suitcases was stolen off a bus. Fortunately it had my husband’s clothing in it, not mine, or you would be reading a story about an international incident in the New York Times. But the point is, once we recovered from the outrage and insult we suffered at the hands of a thief and then a very blasé bus company, I began to see the event as a story with all sorts of possibilities. Spending our first hour and a half in Aix en Provence sitting in the police station in ninety-degree weather without air conditioning was indeed inspiring. Not being able to speak much more than high school French, I found myself conjuring reasons why people were gathered in the dirty, antiquated lobby. […]

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Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine

This week, to my complete delight, my Sunday School teacher/private detective/fabulous protagonist Maggie Dove made a guest appearance in the pages of Alfred Hitchcock Mystery Magazine. This is big time. AHMM has been around since 1956.  It has published a roster of famous mystery writers. And now me! My story is titled “The Countess of Warsaw,” but I can’t explain why without giving away too much.  It was a hard story to write because I knew from the moment I started to write it that I wanted it to be good. Which is a lot of pressure. Usually I meander my way into a story, but in this case I truly hoped it would be picked up by AHMM, and so I focused intently on plotting and making it tight. I tried to think about the stories I loved growing up. I loved to be surprised by the way a plot unfolded and I absolutely loved to be surprised at the end. But you can’t just sit down and say, Okay. Surprise me. It probably took me about a year to write this.  Anyway, it is a great joy to see my name in the Table of Contents and to think of Maggie Dove joining […]

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It's still May. Short story month.

 I recently spoke to a middle school class in Athens, Tennessee and was impressed by their thoughts on writing, what they were writing and how excited they were about the entire process from inspiration to words on paper to editing (which they informed me was the hardest and most important part!). In this class, and when I meet children or young adults with their parents, one of the inevitable questions is what should I do if I want to be a writer? That’s a loaded question but one of the things I usually mention is name recognition through competitions. (After all, practice and potential resume building aren’t bad for anyone.) Inevitable we talk about short story competitions. Why? There are quite a few of them. And while writing a short story isn’t easier than writing a full length novel it is ‘shorter,’ which hopefully translates into a shorter timeline for completion. While name recognition for a contest winner or short story publication is a great thing, there are other wonderful reasons to tackle the short story. Perhaps most importantly, it is a tool in development of writing craft. Short stories may be short but they have a beginning, middle and end. Their length […]

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All I Want for Christmas–Is Something to Read

  I’m not really a grinch. My occasional forays into humbug-land notwithstanding, I love Christmas. The season creates in me both a sense of nostalgia and hope for the future. I look back on the past with a conveniently fuzzy memory and long for the way things “used to be” while looking forward to the coming year with hope for the way things might  be. I also admit to indulging in my fair share of schmaltz and sentimentality. I’m streaming Christmas carols on Spotify as I type this. I break out the Lenox Christmas china and the Christmas-themed guest towels and ooh and aah over Facebook posts featuring puppies, kittens, and other small animals sporting bows and Santa hats.  I also watch Christmas movies. At least, I used to. I’ve been disappointed recent holiday cinematic offerings. Too many “find a fiance by Christmas” flicks and too few “save the orphanage/feed the hungry, homeless man/save the neighborhood from a greedy developer/bring joy to my elderly, neglected neighbor” flicks. Of course, I can re-watch the classics. I own DVD copies of “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” “How the Grinch Stole Christmas,” and “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer.” But I wanted something I hadn’t seen before that didn’t involve Christmas kisses, dates, or weddings. Netflix let me down. Not […]

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