Ode to the Short Story
It’s international short story month! Did you know that? I didn’t, until I saw it in Erica Driefus’ awesome monthly newsletter. But short stories do deserve a month—if not a year, decade, or century.
As usual, no one says it better than Kurt Vonnegut. “Short stories have a greatness, short as they have to be.” His were some of the first I found on my own outside the classroom—along with those of Atwood, Munroe, and Palahniuk. An oddball collection to be sure. But that is another of the beauties of the form: the small time commitment and variety it allows.
Some of the first things I attempted to write were short fiction too—many of which will never see the light of day—nor should they. But I don’t regret writing them all the same. They allowed me to hone my voice, and try new genres, points of view, and techniques. Some of my fondest memories from the past few years have been laughing maniacally to myself as I weave outlandish tales about everything, from hot dog eating contests to Chase the Ace spectacles. Topics I wouldn’t work for months or years exploring in a novel but perfect for the funny aside of a short story.
When you have as many ideas as I do, short stories are a satisfying way of getting them onto the page and out into the world. A quick hit. A weekend project. I’ve always joked about having addictive tendencies—I’m glad my addiction is short fiction.
Once again, I’ll quote Vonnegut: “Reading a novel, War and Peace for example, is no catnap. Because a novel is so long, reading one is like being married forever to somebody nobody knows or cares about. Definitely not refreshing!”
Not that short stories can’t be vehicles to explore serious topics—I’ve written short fiction about reproductive autonomy and domestic abuse. Really, there’s nothing the short story can’t do.
When the pandemic struck, I found myself stuck and unable to read or write longform work. My Cli-Fi YA novel sputtered to a halt (and is still unfinished). I turned to my old friends poetry and short fiction. They were manageable projects in an unmanageable time. I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that they saved my life.
Here are some of my published short stories I’m most proud of.
Here are a few of the short stories from others that have had a big impact on me.
What are some of yours? I hope you read some amazing new short stories this month.