Story Collections Make Some Noise

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People often ask me what I am working on. And so I tell them the truth: I’m working on a story collection. The reaction is often the same: a pained expression, a sigh, or once—someone rubbed my arm with sympathy. And then there are the people that lean in and whisper: Is it at least linked? The truth is: many people lack faith in story collections. The consensus seems to be that they just don't sell.

Is there any hope for short fiction?

Thankfully, lately, it seems there is. Despite literature’s gloomy forecast, something remarkable seems to be happening: short story authors are getting attention. This is good news for me and my many colleagues—we’re all writing our hearts out, writing what we want to write, hoping our work will one day find a home, a readership. There’s all this: Oprah recently picked her first ever short story collection Say You're One of Them by Uwem Akpan for her book club; Jill McCorkle's short story collection, Going Away Shoes, was reviewed in People;Daniyal Mueenuddin’sIn Other Rooms, Other Wonders was nominated for a National Book Award.There are many more collections out there, too, that are picking up steam and making there way into the hands of excited readers.

Just last week, the Wall Street Journal posted an article, When Brevity Is a Virtue.It seems that “the short story is poised to get its due.” The article speaks of how changing technology has provided a boost for short fiction and more readers are accessing and enjoying it. There also has been attention brought to this form through prize winning collections—Alice Munro won the Booker Prize and Elizabeth Strout’s Olive Kitteridgenot only won the Pulitzer Prize, but also did something most collections rarely do: it sold over 400,000 copies.

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To capitalize on changing technology, new literary magazines like Electric Literatureare serving up short fiction any way you please, whether it’s on your kindle, IPhone, or if you’d prefer to keep it traditional—on paper. The goal is to simply get short stories to readers. In a New York Times article Scott Lindenbaum, EL's fiction editor said, “The short form could work increasingly well in a hectic age.” This month, Rick Moody is even tweeting a short story over the course of three days. Another reason to join Twitter....

Tonight is the 60th annual National Book Awards ceremony and dinner where they’ll announce this year’s winner. Perhaps Daniyal Mueenuddin’s collection will win tonight creating even more buzz for this form.Here’s to hoping…

I'd love to know what your favorite short story authors/ collections are. Drop them in the comments box and I'll post a great big recommendation list soon. 

"I want the reader to feel something is astonishing. Not the 'what happens,' but the way everything happens. These long short story fictions do that best, for me. "
Alice Munro

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