As you’ve probably guessed, hot on the heels of Poetry Month is Short Story Month. After appreciating the luscious lyricism of April, we spend the month of May basking in the brilliance of all things short fiction. Since these days, novels and blockbuster nonfiction dominate, and short story collections don’t always get a lot of attention, I’m here to tell you why you need more of them in your life—stat!
1. Low time commitment.
Our lives are busier than ever and books take time. But if you’re the type of person who can never seem to finish a novel before forgetting who all the characters are, and what the plot’s about, well, short stories are for you. Originally designed to be read in one sitting, it’s the ultimate convenience read for people who want to make time for reading, but who can’t dedicate hours and hours at a time to the task.
2. A master class in craft.
One of the things I love about short stories is that they are, by nature, tightly plotted. There’s no room for extraneous characters, messy plot points or unnecessary description. Every line should be carefully considered, with all fluff and distraction viciously excised. It’s a tough form to master, but that’s what makes it so special. Truly effective short story writers are master craftsman.
3. Meet new authors.
Some fantastic authors, such as Alice Munro, Alistair McLeod and Stephen Leacock, made entire careers based on their work in the form, but others, like Caroline Adderson, Madeleine Thien, André Alexis, Leon Rooke and Lisa Moore, are among the many famous authors who cut their teeth on short stories before trying their hand at other forms. You might discover a new novelist or poet based on a great short story! Plus up-and-coming young writers, like Casey Plett, Téa Mutonji, and our own Anne Baldo have put out great debut collections—no mean feat given the demands of the genre.
4. A multi-genre experience.
I love a great story collection that surprises. Some of my favourites contain a wide variety of genres—speculative fiction here, historical there, a dash of romance, a hint of satire, and maybe a contemporary family saga to round it all out. The point is, short story collections offer writers the opportunity to explore different genres and styles, which then offers us readers the literary equivalent of a charcuterie board, featuring plenty of options with which to appease the various tastes of our literary palates.
5. Reading high!
You know that feeling you get after a really great workout, when your endorphins are flowing and you basically feel that “runner’s high”? Yeah, me neither. But I do get a rush when I finish a great book. I close the cover with a gentle snap, then hug the book to my chest and sigh like a high school girl with a crush. There’s a real feeling of accomplishment after finding out all the satisfying details of a well-crafted plot. Now imagine getting that feeling after reading a fraction of the number of pages! Each short story is a self-contained unit, and done well, that same feeling of satisfaction at having followed a story to its completion can be had multiple times within the same collection. Talk about bang for your buck.
Hopefully now you’re inspired to pick up a new short story collection or two. May we suggest a few? If you’re in the mood for a debut, try Anne Baldo’s Morse Code for Romantics, or C.I. Matthews’s Took You So Long. Looking for some variety? Bruce McDougall’s Urban Disturbances presents stories running the gamut from serious to silly to sad. Want a linked collection in which all the stories work together to form a whole? Karl Jirgens’s The Razor’s Edge is a great read that will keep you turning pages.
What’s happening this month?
Hot off the press this month is a new issue of the Devil’s Artisan, our journal of the printing arts. The latest issue, number 92, features wood engraver Alec Dempster’s investigation into Mexican folkloric tradition, James Bader’s interview of filmmaker Jeff Winch, who created a documentary film about wood engraver George A. Walker, Sidney Johnson and Peter Isaacs’s anecdotal history of nineteenth-century Toronto design firm Rapid Grip and Batten, and much more.
You’re invited! We’re launching Anne Baldo’s debut collection of short stories, Morse Code for Romantics, at Biblioasis Bookstore in Windsor. She’ll be reading alongside Lisa Fishman, author of World Naked Bike Ride, another debut published by Gaspereau Press. The event starts at 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, May 16. Hope to see you there!
Is there anything better than the smell of spring and books in the air? Join us for this year’s Word on the Street Toronto, a spectacular two-day book festival taking place Saturday, May 27 and Sunday May 28 at Queen’s Park in Toronto. There’s a jam-packed schedule of events, plus, you’ll have to take some time to browse the marketplace, where exhibitors like the Porcupine’s Quill will have on hand all kinds of new and exciting books for you to browse.
In the world.
As I’m sure you all know, May 14th is Mother’s Day! Take a few moments to tell a motherly figure in your life how much they mean to you. (If they’re a bookish sort, you can say it in books. I bet they’d like that.)
May 18 is International Museum Day. If you’re like me, you probably love wandering the halls of art galleries and museums soaking in the history, talent and creativity. It’s been a while since I’ve made some time to visit one—maybe something to add to the to-do list!
Finally, May 29 is National Paperclip Day. Let us all take a moment to appreciate this most handy office supply. Particularly the fun ones shaped like light bulbs and cacti that I may or may not hoard in a little tray in my office.
From the porcupette’s corner…
This spring started out unseasonably cold and dreary, but there’s one sign of spring the weather can’t ruin—a trip to the Grimsby Wayzgoose! But I feel I ought to inform you, dear readers, in the interest of honesty, that it tried.
First, my trip started out with the realization that the dreadful pothole season, occasioned by numerous dramatic swings in temperature that we’ve experienced in Southwestern Ontario this spring, wreaked havoc on my car tires, particularly one sporting an ominous golf ball-sized pimple on the side. I had to find a new tire—and an appointment—right quick. Luckily, despite most every one being booked up, a lovely woman at a big tire chain told me they’d find a way to fit me in. I was on my way a few hours later, lighter in the pocketbook but with one weight off my mind.
Then came the rain. A solid three hours of the drive to Grimsby was characterized by a doozy of a storm. Gray skies, howling winds, pouring rain, not to mention the spray from semi tires decreasing visibility. Luckily about a half hour from my destination, the rain let up and I was finally able to unclench and breathe a sigh of relief.
After the dramatic trip there, the Grimsby Wayzgoose itself was lovely, Lots of book lovers of all sorts attended the book fair, and it was so nice to catch up with some familiar faces—and meet a few new fans as well. Plus, a boon—the weather held after the event for my drive home.
Thanks for stopping by to see what’s new and noteworthy this month. We hope to see a whole bunch of your smiling faces at Word on the Street at the end of the month!
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