To celebrate Short Story Month, we’ve asked some awesome writers, editors, and other literary types to weigh in on their favourite stories and collections, and what makes a piece of short lit great. Today, writer Jessica Kluthe.
Little Fiction was my introduction to reading on my phone; there is something marvelous about carrying a story around inside that little tiny device that I can read when I’m waiting in line, or have five minutes and my book is (always) in another room. After reading Little Fiction stories, I decided to read a book on my phone and bought Steven Heighton’s The Dead Are More Visible; you don’t have to look too far to find a review that will make you immediately “add to cart.” I don’t know why, but I also decided to read The Dead are More Visible in the dark (I guess because I could), and I found something moving, haunting even, about this reading experience and his stories. Heighton’s collection entered the black around me and the images floated through the night—especially those of the title story. This collection contains eleven stories and all reach out in their own way, characters that seek to connect, while each story is different in form and content—you’ll find that the daylight will peek in beneath the doorway before you’ve put it down.
Jessica Kluthe is an author and writing instructor from Edmonton, AB. Her first book, Rosina, The Midwife was published by Brindle & Glass earlier this year. Her most recent Little Fiction title, Inheritance, is available for download here.
To celebrate Short Story Month, we’ve asked some awesome writers, editors, and other literary types to weigh in on their favourite stories and collections, and what makes a piece of short lit great. Today, writer Jules Archer.
What makes a short story great?
For me, a great short story has an instant hook. Whether it’s a character, a sentence, or a plot, something always hooks and draws me in. Usually, if the first sentence makes me keep reading, I know I have a keeper. From there, I just want a well-told story. Killer language. Sparsity. Twisted tales. Humor. Nothing normal is always good. I admire the short story form for getting so much into a cramped space. If you can do it right and freakishly, you have my attention.
I really am in love with The Paper Bag Princess by Rebecca Jones-Howe at Manarchy.
Jules Archer has been published in Metazen, Monkeybicycle, and PANK, among others. And we’re happy to say she has a story forthcoming at Little Fiction. You can follow Jules on twitter here.
To celebrate Short Story Month, we’ve asked some awesome writers, editors, and other literary types to weigh in on their favourite stories and collections, and what makes a piece of short lit great. Today, writer and editor Shawn Syms.
What do you love about reading short stories?
A short story allows you “To see a world in a grain of sand” (Blake). They are at once models of precision and vast psychological landscapes.
What is the best short story you’ve read in the last year, and why?
I’ve read many fantastic short stories in the past year; it’s hard to single one out. Just yesterday, I read a great story by Steven Heighton, from the winter issue of Zoetrope: All Story, called “Who Now Lies Sleeping.” An aging small-town lawyer confronts his lifelong ambivalence about his queer son’s life when the grown man returns home with the ashes of his husband, dead of HIV-related causes. There are so many divides: urban/rural, generational, sexual; conflicts of memory, ambition and conscience. As in Heighton’s other work, so much is happening all at once, even at the sentence level.
Other recent fantastic reads:
Seal by Kathryn Kuitenbrouwer
Thorn-blossoms by Anne Fleming
Valerie’s Bush by Nancy Jo Cullen
With Daddy by Allison Baggio
911 by Russell Wangersky
The Floating Wife by Cary Fagan
What makes a short story great?
I like a story that elicits a complicated emotional response. On first reading, you may not be completely sure how you feel or why, but you have definitely been affected by what you read.
Do you have a favorite short story collection? And what makes it your favourite?
Barbara Gowdy sensitively explores the human condition by focusing on the marginalized, the outcast, the unusual, the misunderstood, the possibly horrifying. Buy her collection We So Seldom Look on Love. Read the title story.
I’m also a big fan of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. The narrative voice is so stark and distinctive. And the book is all about sex and drugs, which I think are some of the most important things to write about of all.
Shawn Syms is editor of the collection Friend. Follow. Text. #storiesFromLivingOnline, out this fall from Enfield & Wizenty. He returns to Little Fiction this October too.
To celebrate Short Story Month, we’ve asked some awesome writers, editors, and other literary types to weigh in on their favourite stories and collections, and what makes a piece of short lit great. Today, writer Thomas Michael Duncan.
I was working a dead-end job, one that now appears to be the beginning of a sprawling series of dead-end jobs, spending my half-hour lunch break reading a short story in a Pushcart Prize Anthology. My boss looked up from her microwaved soup to offer me some unwanted conversation during the only time of the day I wasn’t required to listen to her. “I don’t understand the point of short stories,” she said. “What? Did the writer not have enough for a novel?”
I could (and perhaps should) have defended my beloved art form ad nauseum. Instead, I shrugged. I wanted to squash the dialogue and finish reading the story. Besides, I’m much better at expressing myself in writing than in person, and much more forthcoming with my opinion on the internet than face to face.
And here I am. Writing. On the internet.
What is a short story, anyway? A short story is a carefully crafted piece of literature with a fascinating set of distinct characters and a complete narrative arc wrapped up tight in a package of sharp sentences, timely punctuation, and sprinkled with delicious little metaphors. Or not. Maybe it is a blunt, painful reflection of contemporary society presented through a brief dialogue at a train station. Maybe it’s an intimate letter between estranged lovers, one who moved to Kentucky to pursue a professional croquet career, the other a space marine stationed on Mars. Perhaps it features no traditional plot structure and instead follows seven different characters who all happen to come in contact with the same ten dollar bill. There are short stories written in beautiful elaborate language and others told in simple words with a straightforward voice.
One of the great things about reading short stories is that you never know what to expect. The short story as a form is highly receptive to growth and experimentation, both in terms of content and style. For that reason, writing short stories is a great way for authors to find a voice, fine tune an approach, and develop a unique style.
But let’s be clear: my dear boss’s assumption was far from the truth. Short stories are not simply training wheels for would-be novelists. Short stories have a purpose, and that purpose is entertainment—damn good, mind-blowing, face-melting entertainment. Pound-for-pound, word-for-word, minute-for-minute, short stories can go toe-to-toe with any medium (film, television, video games, music, comics, novels) and come out on top.
The best are those that I read in less than an hour yet stay on my mind for weeks, months, even years. Below are some of my favorite stories, ones that have stuck with me for a long time.
All Summer in a Day, by Ray Bradbury
The Big Hoo-Ha, by Maren Michel
The Eye, by Mike Meginnis
To celebrate Short Story Month, we’ve asked some awesome writers, editors, and other literary types to weigh in on their favourite stories and collections, and what makes a piece of short lit great. Today, writer Trevor Corkum.
To celebrate Short Story Month, we’ve asked some awesome writers, editors, and other literary types to weigh in on their favourite stories and collections, and what makes a piece of short lit great. Today, writer Will Johnson.
The best story I’ve read in a long while was published in The Walrus. It’s called “Flesh by Numbers”, and it’s by Stephen Marche. You can read about my initial reaction to the story on my blog, here.
The story is about a yuppie Toronto couple that’s trying to reinvigorate their sex life. It’s crude, brutal and a hilarious. Recently, it was nominated for a National Magazine Award. Well-deserved.
Will Johnson is a writer, journalist and photographer from Victoria, B.C. He lives with his girlfriend Darby and his pet budgies Hemingway and Miriam.
Be sure to check out his fantastic blog, Literary Goon, and keep an eye out for Will’s next Little Fiction title coming later this year. His most recent story at LF is If They Had Music, and you can download it here.
DAMN SURE RIGHT by Meg Pokrass
BREAK ANY WOMAN DOWN by Dana Johnson (my full review @ The Female Gaze)
TOGETHER WE CAN BURY IT by Kathy Fish (recommendation forthcoming @ The Lit Pub)
TELL EVERYONE I SAID HI by Chad Simpson
BATTLEBORN by Claire Vaye Watkins
These authors know how to get out of their own way in order to tell a story. I don’t like hovering waiters or salespeople who get all up in my face. Same for writers. I love it when a writer steps back and just lets me disappear into the story. Also, these authors know how and when to end a story. I looove the endings. Although very different, what these authors have in common is the ability to write things simply, beautifully and patiently. I am always looking for atmosphere, small sweetnesses. Pokrass and Fish are pros at the teeny tiny story. Flash fictions I want to read over and over again. Devour them like little cookies. Johnson and Simpson and Watkins have written much longer stories but still, I enjoy rereading them and finding new things to love each time like little story snow globes I can shake. Watch them storm and settle.
Wednesday, May 1 at Little Fiction: Asking for Change by Amanda Leduc.
According to Erin Frances Fisher’s blog, her story (and Little Fiction debut) The Goddess Lisa was inspired by a simple piece of graffiti etched into a sidewalk between her home and work.
How she goes from those few words to the story about expectant parents at the end of the world is the work a true talent. Told with compassion, fear and honesty, The Goddess Lisa is as much about humankind caught in the sights of our planet’s dying sun as it is about these two people and all the things left unsaid.
The Goddess Lisa can be downloaded for—and read on—your iPhone, iPad or eReader, for free.