Best Short Story Request Hot Line

Friends, I’m back having (barely) survived the reunion. The campus  
was beautiful (espresso bar in the library!), the people looked more  
or less the same except the ones with 7 months worth of baby in their  
bellies or new haircuts, and everyone got, well, very, very drunk.  
And although I know that people on college campuses across the  
country did that and I’m not breaking new news, for some reason,  
everyone seems to do it much more intensely at

On the plus side, I didn’t meet anyone who appeared to be dominating  
me via the writing world. In fact, I didn’t meet anyone who else who  
was involved in writing. On the minus side, I don’t think I talked to  
anyone I didn’t know really well and I dry heaved after doing a  
complimentary shot of tequila. I woke up on Sunday in a cold, hung  
over sweat, embarrassed by my college-style drinking and the fact  
that I wore the same shorts three days in a row. During the ride  
home, I promised myself that I wouldn’t set foot on my college campus  
again for at least five years and I think I’m officially retired from  
Mexican themed hard liquor(z). So you know, it was a win-lose

Writing wise, I have been staring at the short story that I wrote  
while traveling abroad for 100 days last year and wondering how I can  
re-work it into something magical and delicious. The problem seems to  
be that I wrote most of it longhand, some of it on the computer, and  
several parts on bar napkins that are kind blurry now. It was all  
very boheme. The solution–as most writing solutions go–is re-write.  
But it feels weird getting into a short story after working for so  
long on a novel. It’s almost like trying to eat only an appetizer  
after spending several years eating six course meals. Don’t get me  
wrong– I love appetizers (sliders!)–and sometimes you only have  
time for them. But I’m having a hard time remembering how short  
stories work.

With that said, I need your help, friends. As I like to do before I  
get into anything new, I am trying to read a bunch of really solid  
short stories and I need recommendations. Any genre will fly,  
although, despite the high chance of nudity, I don’t totally dig  
romance. So bring them on; your favorite short stories of all time,  
of this time, of several times ago. And maybe something about why you  
like it. Come on, friends. If you help make me smarter and more well-
read, I promise e-cards. And more award-winning poetry.

So short story it up in the comments section while the songs of 1996  
take you back to a time when you probably liked Ethan Hawke.

Sittin Up in,
My Room


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30 thoughts on “Best Short Story Request Hot Line

  1. Anthony

    I am currently working my way through the latest Writers of the Future anthology. So far I’ve ready about 6 of the short stories and they’ve all been brilliant on some level or another.

    It would be a great place to start if you have any interest in Fantasy or Sci-Fi.

  2. Stacey

    Kevin, I’ve tried writing short stories before and I find them a lot easier than longer writing just because I can be very blunt and to the point. I really like short stories that have a last sentence that drastically changes the readers opinion of the whole story. I’m sure your short story will be amazing. Good luck!

    Genevieve – Dead Poet’s Society had a really good ending! 🙂

    Sheri – Guy de Maupassant…did he write The Necklace?

  3. Sam

    "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber" by Hemingway. Read it and be proud to be a man! It’s a really good story, though. Good luck on your novel and short story!

  4. Genevieve

    I haven’t read the guy’s books, and don’t know much about Mr. Hawke, but I could never think ill of him since he was in Dead Poet’s Society. Anyone who has not seen this movie simply must. There’s poetry! Drama! Carpe dium-references! Life! Death! And a society of some sorts! Magnifique.

  5. Tom

    Some years back I was dating a girl who was quite the reader. She was reading Ethan Hawke’s "Ash Wednesday." Seeing as how I’m Catholic, and therefore familiar with Ash Wednesday, and that I’m human, and therefore familiar with Ethan Hawke, I picked it up and started reading. There was a factual error in the very first sentence of the book, then another in the third. I could not continue. First sentence, man, first sentence. Who the hell were his readers and copy editors?

  6. Kevin Alexander

    Wow. SO. MUCH. FEEDBACK. The feather quill that I use to write down my lists longhand just ran out of ink.

    And look at all the other stuff that’s going on in the commentsphere: Shelly is dropping places to watch TV for free via the interweb, Tom is benefiting, Canada has been represented, Kristan dropped Bill Bryson–whom I love (note my column about me being a bearded, American Bryson), hangover tips were distributed, Tommy Hemingway has been outed as a fraud and potential serial commenter, Ethan Hawke is confirmed still a tool (although he has novels published…and I’ve read one of them…um….) Gabrielle might come to Boston, and, and…I’m completely obsessed with the EuroCup.

    Friends, we’re really doing it here. This is what the world wide web is all about.

  7. Tom

    Woah! That’s HUGE news!
    Is this legal? I wouldn’t want to take part in creative theft! I’ll have to look into it and see what’s what. Thanks, Shelly!

  8. Shelly

    Ok so I don’t have any shorts to recommend at the moment, but I do have an amazing discovery for all looking for The Wire, it’s online and it’s free. No really. Check out as it has hundreds of movies and tv show including 54 of The Wire. So Tom no waiting for Blockbuster or those overseas worries anymore…


  9. Sheri

    I’m old school, so…

    "Portrait of Jenny" (by Robert Nathan?) It was surreal, and made me think.

    Any short stories by Franz Kafka. They are surreal, and make me think. (He wrote a lot of flash fiction, too.)

    Any short stories by Guy De Maupassant (try "A Night in Whitechapel" and, especially, "Was it a Dream?") The former creepy, the latter haunting and poetic.

    and Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Nick Adams Stories’, because they’re Hemingway short stories and I adore Hemingway.

    Have fun with your short story! Glad you survived the reunion.


  10. Vicky Bell

    Kevin! I feel your pain on the trying-to-get-into-a-short-story-after-working-for-so-
    long-on-a-novel pain, but replace the short story with a short film (I’m trying screenwriting at school for the first time — eep! How the hell do you express anything without being able to use inner monologue?! And oh yeah, I’m discovering that nothing I’ve ever written has conflict in it. Haha! [end manic laughter]).

    Anyway! Short story recommendations. I love just about anything Raymond Carver, anything Jhumpa Lahiri, anything George Saunders, and Anthony Doerr’s short story collection, "The Shell Collector". Bit of an eclectic mix, I realize, but there you have it. I will also second (Sara’s) Alice Munro shout-out — Canada represent!

    Ever yours,

  11. Kristan C.

    Heh, Genevieve. It’s my latest favorite word.

    I think my favorite short bits have to be from Bill Bryson. They’re columns, not short stories, but still.

  12. Sara McNulty

    The collected short stories of William Trevor, any Alice Munro, and Kurt Vonnegut’s short essays,opinion, stories, etc. (Just came out).

  13. Pat

    For something more current, how about Jeffrey Deavers "Twisted" It’s an anthology of all this short stories.

    I personally loved short stories. Perhaps that’s because I write them.

    Oh wait, have you ever tried reading 55-word short stories. There’s a hilarious one about a hit. If I can find the book, I’ll post it later.

    Try tomato juice for the hangover.

  14. bill

    I can’t say what my favorite short story is off hand. I can say that some of my favorite Stephen King stories are his short stories. I love the art of the short story – you have so much to do in such little time. I will say that one of the short stories which is staying with me right now (and when I first started reading it, I thought it was one of the most ridiculous ideas I had ever read) is Joe Hill’s Pop Art in his book 20th Century Ghosts. It is well worth the read – I am only half-way through the book at this point, but I can’t stop thinking about that story. Haunting.

  15. Kristan C.

    P.P.S. WOW. Major spam alert, there. Who is this Thomas Hemingway guy anyway? He’s double-posted over at Maria Schneider’s blog. Yoiks.

  16. Kristan C.

    I can no longer read Flannery O’Connor after having read a solid anthology of her work and subsequently having Flannery O’Connor-influenced nightmares for a week.

    And that’s all I gots. I am no good with giving on-the-spot recommendations. I don’t know if Grimms’ fairy tales count. The only thing I can think to recommend is look at what’s been put into the Big Whatever It’s Called Anthology of Best Short Stories of Whenever, which ranges all the way from mediocre to fantastic stuff. (But you would know that. Why am I even saying this? Now it’s too much trouble to delete.)

    Congratulations on surviving your reunion. Braver soul than I, that.

    P.S. Ethan Hawke is a tool.

  17. Christopher

    I really like Jeffery Archer’s short stories, especially A Twist in the Tale, or Twelve Red Herrings.
    Flannery O’Connor’s two short story collections — A Good Man is Hard to Find and Everything That Rises Must Converge — are two of my very favorite books anywhere.
    Lastly, James Joyce’s collection of short stories, Dubliners, is great.

  18. jess

    two of my favorite stories which can be read online at Zoetrope:

    The Phrenologist’s Dream by Karl Iagnemma
    I love stories for their scenes, and not only does this story have a great plot, it plants some crazy amazing scenes in your mind.

    Zog-19 by Pinckney Benedict
    Of course, I also love stories for their characters. Zog-19 is an incredible feat, because it’s a sci-fi story and yet the main character is so human.

  19. christine

    I highly recomend Andre Dubus’ short story collection "In the Bedroom." I read it years ago but I still always remember them being some of the best short stories I’ve read.

  20. Tom

    For short story mastery I cannot speak highly enough of the early works by Richard Matheson. He’s most noted for the novel "I am Legend," which was so outstanding that it was made into a move…THREE TIMES! However, before all of that wackiness he wrote over a dozen stories that were made into Twilight Zone episodes. I don’t think I have to say just what kind of high praise it is to have been included in Rod Serling’s stable of genius creators. Many of his works for that show are well known, including the famous "There’s something on the wing of the plane!" episode with William Shatner. That right there ought to nail it for you, if nothing else. He also wrote the short story and adapted screenplay for Spielberg’s first big feature film, "Duel." Do I really need to say more here? There are a number of collections of his that you can pick up, and not a bad story in the lot of them. He wrote chiefly short stories and screen plays for two decades. The man knows his stuff.

    Oh, and I’ve finished season one of The Wire, and while I cannot rent further seasons from Blockbuster yet, my brother made me aware of the fact that I can get season two on iTunes! Happiness.

  21. Genevieve

    Good question. One of my recent favorite short stories is "Gryphon" by Charles Baxter. If you get the book Children Playing Before the Statue of Hercules you’ll find "Gryphon" and other killer short stories like "Oh Joseph, I’m so tired" and Tobias Wolff’s "Bullet in the Brain." It’s an anthology that David Sedaris put together, so you get to read a hilarious introduction by him and when you buy the book the proceeds go to a people-helping organization that doesn’t ordinarily get enough proceeds. Damn, I sound like I do this book’s advertising.

    I’m glad you had fun at your reunion. For the hang over I prescribe days and days of coffee.

  22. Gabrielle Linnell

    My favorite short stories are "Beatrice Bobs Her Hair" by F. Scott Fitzgerald (best ending EVER, this is the beginnings of the girl revenge story), "Mr. Marmaduke and the Minister" (again, hilarious Victorian humor– who knew?) by Wilkie Collins and pretty much any Lord Peter Wimsey short story by Dorothy Sayers. "A Pair of Silk Stockings" is great, too, by Kate Chopin.

    Congrats on surviving your reunion! I’m looking at a few Boston schools and am therefore taking notes.