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Best American Short Stories, 2009. : Book Discussion • Writing Forum | WritersDigest.com

Best American Short Stories, 2009.

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DrG2
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Best American Short Stories, 2009.

Postby DrG2 » Mon Sep 22, 2014 7:51 pm

The Best American Short Stories, 2009, edited by Alice Sebold. Considering that submissions must have been published in American or Canadian markets by authors who are American or Canadian by birth or residence, and have been published between Jan. 2008 and Jan. 2009, it is surprising that only 6 out of 20 represent tales of American-born characters with actions potentially happening currently or in the recent past. Of those 6, two are Hurricane Katrina stories.

So, very few represent the normal happenings of contemporary people. This represents the state of much of contemporary literary fiction - - it's easier to get things published if they describe unfamiliar settings. One of the stories is near-future speculative fiction, and another is a surreal contemporary fantasy, and I wonder why more speculative fiction isn't included in literary fiction, if escapism is sought even in literary fiction.

The stories are all well-written, but perhaps not well-aligned with Creative Writing 101 advice. In the forward, series editor Heidi Pitlor writes: "This year I read a large number of wonderfully messy, wildly plotted, and/or boldly paced stories. Stories that took risks. I was thrilled to watch so many writers quiet their years of grammar lessons and writing workshop rules about showing and not telling, the evils of emoting, that sort of thing." There is plenty of exposition here. There are also plenty of errors - - factual errors were common in the Katrina stories, written by authors who did not live through the event, and there were "errors in voice" notably in a Civil War story with a voice in narrative and dialogue more suited to the Minnesotan contemporary author than the South Carolinians living in 1863. Never having visited the other settings, I wonder how many other factual errors are in the stories, and whether they should matter or not. Ethan Rutherford, author of the Civil War story writes: "A number of facts of this story are off - - some accidental, some purposefully. It's fiction." Is that good enough? A few of the stories don't really have an "end".

I had read one of the stories before (in a collection of Annie Proulx stories) and had read stories or heard of, or met some of the other authors (Ron Rash, Annie McCorkle, etc.) and found two writers I plan to look into (Greg Hrbek, Richard Powers). Some of the writers were new. Steve DeJarnatt's Katrina story was the first one he ever submitted. Greg Hrbek's story was rejected 15 times before it was published. Most of the writers either have an MFA or teach in a creative writing program (or both). Those that don't have an MFA have an impressive publication record or prestigious awards. A couple of them have extensive backgrounds in film.

I don't know what I'm coming away with from this collection, as a writer. Is "do whatever you want to do" good advice?

James A. Ritchie
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Re: Best American Short Stories, 2009.

Postby James A. Ritchie » Fri Sep 26, 2014 8:32 pm

Do whatever you want is always good enough, if it works well. I don think the quality of Best American Short Stories is generally good, but always uneven, which is guaranteed when you have guest editors who differ in talent, skill, etc.

LilliesCarol
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Re: Best American Short Stories, 2009.

Postby LilliesCarol » Sat Sep 27, 2014 9:37 am

Long, long afterward in an oak I found the arrow still unbroke
And the song from beginning to end, I found again in the heart of a friend
Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

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Colin Johnson
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Re: Best American Short Stories, 2009.

Postby Colin Johnson » Sat Sep 27, 2014 4:56 pm

fablesofruin.blogspot.com

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Re: Best American Short Stories, 2009.

Postby DrG2 » Sun Sep 28, 2014 7:21 pm



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