On Writing Short Stories is a unique collection of original essays by seven professional writers. It is the only text of its kind to offer writing advice from such authors, editors, and instructors as Francine Prose, Joyce Carol Oates, Frank Conroy, Andre Dubus, Robert Coles, Tom Bailey, and C. Michael Curtis, with a foreword by Tobias Wolff. These experts give voice--voices--to a dialogue about the art and craft of writing short stories.
Respecting writers' autonomy, On Writing Short Stories does not offer a rigidly systematic apparatus for learning to write short stories. Instead it asks what makes a short story, analyzes various aspects of craft, discusses process and revision, and also pauses to wonder why people write short stories at all. It considers the importance of reading and of peer critique in workshops as integral components of the learning process and offers advice on how to get short stories published.
Ideal for courses and workshops in creative writing, On Writing Short Stories also includes an engaging selection of eighteen short stories, both classic and contemporary, for discussion and analysis. These stories stretch the limits of narrative fiction; reading them will help students create a scaffolding for the short story form. Writing exercises are incorporated to help students put the craft into practice for themselves. A list of addresses and editors of magazines, journals, and quarterlies that publish short fiction is also included for writers who are ready to begin submitting their work for consideration.
Don't overlook the On
in the title of On Writing Short Stories
. Though there is a chapter by its editor, Tom Bailey, on the elements of short fiction, the book explores a variety of issues of interest to short-story writers. Francine Prose grapples with the what-constitutes-a-short-story question: "Great short stories make us marvel at their integrity, their economy," she writes. "If we went at them with our blue pencils, we might find we had nothing to do." Joyce Carol Oates ponders reading as a writer, Andre Dubus contemplates the habit of writing, and Robert Coles explores "literatures as a means of understanding human affairs."
C. Michael Curtis, writer of 30 to 40 rejection letters daily as senior editor for The Atlantic Monthly, tells how best to ensure that your short-fiction submissions receive "friendly consideration." And University of Iowa Writers' Workshop director Frank Conroy weighs in on the writer's workshop and what he sees as the mistaken belief that workshops imprint themselves upon their students' work. "Art cannot be made by committee," he writes. "The student ... should not be looking for solutions from the other students or from the teacher. The student should be looking for problems in the text that he or she had not been aware of." Also here are writing exercises; a list of magazines, journals, and quarterlies that publish short fiction; and 18 classic short stories, including de Maupassant's "The String," Tillie Olsen's "I Stand Here Ironing," and Tim O'Brien's "The Things They Carried." --Jane Steinberg