Sunday, May 3, 2009

Long Story Short

When I first began to think seriously about writing for a living, I had no intention of ever writing a novel.  I knew I couldn’t write good poetry, my first love, but I thought perhaps I could write saleable short stories.

And did.

The market was still good then.  McCall’s, Good Housekeeping, Ladies Home Journal—most magazines ran at least two stories every month and Redbook ran five or six in its end-of-the-summer special edition.  They paid well too.  In addition there were some six or eight mystery magazines.  These paid on a pennies-per-word sliding scale, but I enjoyed writing for them more.

When the short story market dried up, I backed into writing One Coffee With, my first novel.  I have since written twenty-four novels, but I still love the short story form and have continued to write them over the years, enough that Crippen and Landru have published two collections of them.  (Shoveling Smoke and Suitable for Hanging.)

Last fall, Marianne Gingher, Director of  the Creative Writing Program at UNC-Chapel Hill, invited me to submit one to an anthology she planned to edit.  The only criteria were that the authors have a serious connection to North Carolina and that the submissions be really short—1200 words max.  She calls these short-shorts “flash fiction” and she has managed to cram 65 of them into 184 pages of ordinary type.  Mine was less than 300 words long, but it’s by no means the shortest.  That honor goes to one that came in at 95 words.

Can stories this short do all that 6000-word stories do?  You’ll have to wait till September when Long Story Short is released by the UNC Press to form your own opinion.   

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