- April 13, 2018
- Susan Breen
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 you want/need to say in less than 20,000 words means you have no room for fluff. Every word counts. Not easy at all. Cate: I love short stories. One of the first books that I remember reading as a kid was Stephen King’s collection: The Monkey’s Paw. Some of my favorite short stories have run in The New Yorker. Here’s one By Zadie Smith that I really enjoyed. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2013/02/11/the-embassy-of-cambodia I write short stories sometimes. Not often. This year, Down and Out Books is putting out an anthology based on the music of Lou Reed to support mental health and suicide prevention services. I have one story on it: Pale Blue Eyes. It takes place in Vegas and the nearby Red Rock Canyon State Park. It’s a short mystery about an assault, but also it’s about how people cope with loss. I enjoyed writing it. Robin: Do novellas count? The Body by Stephen King is my favorite, hands down. I just wrote my first cyber thriller short story and submitted it to my local chapter of Sisters in Crime for consideration in the first NorCal SinC anthology. Lots of firsts. I used to write short stories when I was younger. It’s taken me years to shake off brevity to write long form. When I see or hear other writers complain about having to cut tens of thousands of words from their first drafts, I’m sometimes jealous. I usually have to add the same amount. Tracee: I won’t claim to be ‘hooked’ but I do wonder…. this started when I read a short story on an airplane years ago. I wish I knew the title or author, but it was about a woman flying home to the US after the end of a diplomatic posting. You know that they uncovered a spy in the days before she left, and at the end I was convinced it was her and that she would be escorted off the plane. When it was her husband, and she’d uncovered it, I was blown away. I got just a tiny bit hooked. So much story packed into those few pages. Paula: I read stories in The Paris Review and The New Yorker from time to time, but I usually prefer the long form. With the exception of collections of stories featuring my favorite characters: The Beat Goes On (Rebus) by Ian Rankin, The Pyramid (Wallander) by Henning Mankell, Wait for Signs (Longmire) by Craig Johnson are some of the ones I’ve read over the past year or two.
Alison: Wow, I feel out of step. I’m not a short-story reader, and I can’t even imagine writing one. Even when it comes to the New Yorker, I read the non-fiction. Michele: I’m in the minority here. While I’ll enjoy an occasional short story in the New Yorker, I usually find myself hungering for more at the end of short stories. I have challenged myself to write a short story more than once and have yet to have any luck when I’ve submitted them. I admire those of you who tell and write them so well. Maybe some day…