Tag Archives: short story a day

Reading 365 short stories

Last month was so hectic, ALL of my 365 projects ambitions fell off track. I am now beginning the process of slowly picking each one up, dusting them off and seeing what adjustments I can make to the project so it will work for me (instead of constantly filling me with guilt and more guilt – I’m not good with this whole guilt thing.)

First up is the Short Story a Day project. In the month that I did it, I realized two things:

  1. It’s not that easy to read a short story a day. I like to pick my short stories randomly, from my short story box, so I never know what I’m going to get. Some days it’s a story that’s short in length, other days the story is closer to a novella. So I never know how much time I’ll need, which kind of adds to the stress when it’s midnight and I’m thinking, “Shoot! Forgot about today’s short story!”
  2. Short stories are addictive. When I do happen to have a nice chunk of time and I sit down to read one, I often want to read another. But words can have strange control over me. Knowing I was doing a “short story a day” project, I felt reluctant to dive into another one. Because, you know, that would be two, or even three short stories a day. (As you can see, I am easily controllable).

Photo 2014-12-17, 4 10 31 PMThe Short Story Box, for Totally Randomized Reading Fun

As I pondered the situation, and the mess this 365 day project had become, the solution came to me. Rename the project! So now, it’s my 365 Short Stories in 2015 project!

I love how easy and painless that was. And since I just recently finished Neil Gaiman’s Trigger Warning, it turns out I am right back on track now! I have now read 58 short stories so far this year.

Now I can peel away some of my 365 day project guilt. Two more to go …

Short Story A Day Update: The First Week

I’ve been having fun with my Short Story a Day challenge. I’m finding it pushes me to read something even on days I feel like I’m too busy to read. I confess, though, a few days ago when I had to finish a huge deadline, I missed a day and ended up reading two short stories the next day to make up for it.

Of the eight titles I’ve read (technically this post should read “Short Story a Day Update: The First Eight Days”), I chose six of the stories and the other two were random picks from my Short Story Box. I’ve also been posting each story to a new Short Story a Day Tumblr blog I set up, and to Instagram, mainly to keep myself accountable.

Day 1

Three-Dot Po by Sara Paretsky

“Three-Dot Po” by Sara Paretsky, from The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler.

Day 2

The Burglar and the Whatsit by Donald E. Westlake

“The Burglar and the Whatsit” by Donald E. Westlake, from The Big Book of Christmas Mysteries, edited by Otto Penzler.

Day 3

Firefly-by-Haruki-Murakami.png

“Firefly” by Haruki Murakami, from Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman.

Day 4

the snow child by angela carter

“The Snow Child” by Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.

Day 5

courtship of mr. lyon by angela carter

“The Courtship of Mr. Lyon” by Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories.

Day 6

the werewolf by angela carter

“The Werewolf” by Angela Carter, from The Bloody Chamber and Other Stories. (This one was a very dark flash story.)

Day 7

toy theater by gene wolfe

“The Toy Theater” by Gene Wolfe, from The Best of Gene Wolfe.

Day 8

tourjours by kathe koja

“Toujours” by Kathe Koja, from Blood and Other Cravings, edited by Ellen Datlow.

Reflections

My favourite was Angela Carter’s “The Courtship of Mr. Lyon”, a retelling of “Beauty and the Beast. Unlike the other two short stories of hers that I read, this one wasn’t as dark.

I’m not sure I quite understood the Haruki Murakami story, and I felt like I missed something in Gene Wolfe’s “Toy Theater”. Still, I did enjoy reading them. I think the Murakami story could use a reread to get the full depth of it.

{2015 Goals} A Short Story a Day

I am terrible at reading challenges. The few years I succumbed to the temptation and signed up for a few (well, okay, several), I totally failed. As in, big time. In fact, out of the several reading challenges I signed on for in those years, I only ever completed one, because it was an easy one. I did a reread of all the Harry Potter books in audio (and if I’d signed on again for something similar this year, I would have completed it!).

It almost seems to me, if I sign on for a reading challenge, it means I’ve increased my chances of not completing a single book associated with that challenge for that year. I’m serious. That’s how bad I am at them.

At this time of the year, I always find myself so tempted as I see everyone announcing the great reading challenges they’re joining in 2015. I want to join in, but I just don’t trust myself.

When it comes to reading challenges, I’m like the little kid who sits when she’s told to stand, and stands when told to sit.

But I did set myself a kind of mini reading challenge earlier this year, of reading a short story a day. And I did do it for a while – and best of all, it was a lot of fun while I was doing it. And if this 365 days of blogging is any indication so far (well, okay, it’s only been seventeen days, but they’ve been seventeen days of easy, effortless blogging, which rather amazes me), I might have more success with self-challenges.

So in 2015, I’m going to do a short-story a day reading challenge. I have short stories from several more anthologies to add to my short story box, and I’ll continue to use the randomized method of selecting a short story to read, since this random method worked so well for me earlier this year.

Photo 2014-12-17, 4 10 31 PMThe Short Story Box, for Totally Randomized Reading Fun

There are a few reasons why I want to read short stories more regularly:

  1. As a reader, I have a lot of short story anthologies, but for some reason, when I’m wanting something to read, I never reach for any one of them. Even though I know I’ll enjoy them (I mean, good grief, I have a few short story collections by Neil Gaiman that I haven’t read yet!). So I have stacks and stacks of short story collections just sitting around gathering both physical and digital dust..
  2. As a writer, during the period earlier this year when I was reading a short story a day, I just buzzed with both ideas and writing energy. It was really quite an incredible creativity booster, and yes, I’d like more of that in 2015, please.

If you’re interested in joining me, just let me know in the comments.  I’m not going to do anything formal about this challenge. I’ll tweet about it occasionally, maybe using a hashtag like #shortstoryaday (it’s probably being used for another, similar challenge, but I’m sure it will be fine).  I’ll probably also post once a month with a list of the five or ten best short stories I read that month, in order to keep myself accountable (since it is a challenge, after all!).

It’s very likely there’s already a formal short story reading challenge out there (or two or three …). I don’t dare look, because I’d be so tempted to sign up, and that would just jinx my plan to read more short stories in 2015!

“The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson, and”Biography of a Story”

It was late – 10:30 pm. I had to wake up early the next morning, as it was observation day in the ballet program my son’s been in for all of July.

But I hadn’t read my short story of the day yet. In the week since I started this short story of the day ritual, I’ve come to anticipate it, delight in it.

In a word, short stories, I have found, are addictive.

So even though it was late, I pulled a story from my story box, which has been getting fuller on a nearly daily basis as I continue to add more and more short stories to it.

The story I pulled? “The Lottery”, by Shirley Jackson.

I’m a bit incredulous myself that I have never before read this famous, classic short story. Written back in 1948, I’ll tell you this: it still packs a punch.

But perhaps the most delightful part? I finished the story and decided to read Jackson’s essay about “The Lottery”, a piece called “Biography of a Story”. Both pieces are in the collection, Come Along With Me.

“Biography of a Story” talks about people’s reactions to the publication of “The Lottery” in the New Yorker back on June 28, 1948. It’s a great read.

One of the most terrifying aspects of publishing stories and books is the realization that they are going to be read, and read by strangers. I had never fully realized this before, although I had of course in my imagination dwelt lovingly upon the thought of the millions and millions of people who were going to be uplifted and enriched and delighted by the stories I wrote. It had simply never occurred to me that these millions and millions of people might be so far from being uplifted that they would sit down and write me letters I was downright scared to open; of the three-hundred-odd letters that I received that summer I can count only thirteen that spoke kindly to me, and they were mostly from friends. Even my mother scolded me: “Dad and I did not care at all for your story in The New Yorker,” she wrote sternly; “it does seem, dear, that this gloomy kind of story is what all you young people think about these days. Why don’t you write something to cheer people up?”

Jackson then shares snippets of letters she’s received from people from all over the world in response to her story. First, there are the ones who appear to think the story is non-fiction, or based on fact:

Will you please tell me the locale and the year of the custom?

And then there’s this one:

I think your story is based on fact. Am I right? As a psychiatrist I am fascinated by the psychodynamic possibilities suggested by this anachronistic ritual.

And then there were the letters which tried to explain the meaning of it all. I thought this one was the funniest:

The only thing that occurs to me is that perhaps the author meant we should not be too hard on our presidential nominees.

Several people seemed to think the magazine deliberately left out a few much-needed paragraphs:

What happened to the paragraph that tells what the devil is going on?

And:

The printers left out three lines of type somewhere.

As for the third category of letters, here’s what Jackson had to say:

Far and away the most emphatic letter writers were those who took this opportunity of indulging themselves in good old-fashioned name-calling. Since I am making no attempt whatsoever to interpret the motives of my correspondents, and would not if I could, I will not try now to say what I think of people who write nasty letters to other people who just write stories.

Ah. Human nature (or should I say, “troll-la-la-la-la”?) It appears some things never change.

Here are my thoughts, on reading the story for the first time 66 years after it’s initial publication. It’s a good story. I kind of knew where things were headed, since it has, after all, been 66 years and in that time, writers have continued to push boundaries. But it’s still a good read after all these years. And “Biography of a Story”? Delightful. Such fun to read about the reactions of those readers who felt compelled to write letters to the New Yorker, letters which ended up in the author’s hands (the New Yorker faithfully sent her all letters, except for anonymous ones, which went into the garbage). Jackson herself takes it all in with a nice, practical grain of salt.

I have all the letters still, and if they could be considered to give any accurate cross section of the reading public, or the reading public of The New Yorker, or even the reading public of one issue of The New Yorker, I would stop writing now.

The Short Story Box: A Short Story A Day, Randomized

When I was in my early twenties, I read a lot of short stories, but then somewhere between then and now, I fell out of the habit.

Last year, I picked up Neil Gaiman’s short story collection, Smoke and Mirrors, and remembered how much pleasure a well-crafted short story can bring to me as a reader. I decided back then that I wanted to read more short stories (yes, it was about a year ago – I procrastinate quite well).

Fast forward to now. Since that time last year, I have, rather unconsciously, been collecting short story collections and anthologies. Last week, I took a look around at my bookshelves, both physical and digital, and realized I’d amassed quite the collection.

I also realized something else. I don’t reach for a book of short stories the way I reach for a novel.  With a novel, I get these squiggly bookish feelings of anticipation and when these come, I naturally reach for whichever novel it is, and start reading.

This doesn’t happen with short stories. Have you noticed how short story collections are often great big thick books? I find they make me feel a little wary.

But I still have this desire to start reading more short stories.

So I decided, if the idea of a big collection of short stories is off-putting, why not have some fun with things instead?

Fun, as in surprising myself with a different short story every day!

Here is my Short Story box:

short story box

I made up a list in my Bullet Journal, giving each short story collection or anthology a letter. Then I cut up a bunch of paper from the paper recycling box. I began going through each of the books, jotting down the title of the short story (and the page number, for print books) on a small slip of paper, which I then tossed into my Short Story box.

My plan is to pick a short story from the box every day. No more resistance to those thick short story anthologies. No more trying to decide what genre I want to read. It will always be a surprise!

If this works out, I’ll simply keep adding more books to my collection, and more short story titles to my Short Story box. If this doesn’t work out, well, I’ve been having a great time writing down titles, and marvelling at how imaginative some of them are are.

Here are the short story collections/anthologies I’ve gone through so far (I have many more, plus ones I’ve saved to Pocket from various places like the New Yorker magazine):

Shadow Show: All-New Stories in Celebration of Ray Bradbury

The Year’s Best Science Fiction: Twenty-Eighth Annual Collection

Blind Willow, Sleeping Woman (Haruki Murakami)

he Year’s Best Fantasy and Horror 2007: 20th Annual Collection

M is for Magic (Neil Gaiman)

Mammoth Book of Best British Mysteries, vol. 9

The O’Henry Prize Stories, 2013

Best American Mystery Stories, 2011

Come Along with Me (Shirley Jackson)

Best Horror of the Year, vol 6

Best Horror of the Year, vol. 5

Fragile Things (Neil Gaiman)

The Mammoth Book of Best New Horror 24

Others still to be added include short story collections from Flannery O’Connor and Ray Bradbury, as well as a lot more anthologies in the mystery, horror, thriller, science fiction and fantasy genres. I’m going for an eclectic mix, and will be keeping my eye out for new anthologies to add to my collection.

It feels like a lot of fun to me, and if I can stick with a short story a day, by this time next year I will have read 365 short stories! I like the sound of that.

Do you like to read short stories? If yes, do you have a collection/anthology that you would highly recommend? A favourite short story author?