01 November 2012

Falling into a Story

by Deborah Elliott-Upton

The weather is cooling, the leaves are falling and hopefully, the East coast is drying out from Sandy. We come to the time of year when we stop and catch our breath and remember our blessings and the reasons we give thanks near the end of every November in the United States. It's a perfect time to fall face-first into a novel or collection of short stories.

My subscriptions are up-to-date and I find happy surprises in my mailbox to help me fill a more slow-paced couple of weeks before the holidays pluck us into tizzies of wild living with parties, get-togethers and all those answers of "What do I give to people on my list?" questions. But before we delve into all that hustle and bustle, let's find something to take us away from it all ala Calgon for a bit of time we can call our own.

I am an avowed lover of short stories. In fact, my bookshelves are literally overflowing with collections of short works of fiction. When I first started writing, I was advised that short stories didn't sell as easily as novels and no one wanted anthologies of short works unless they were authored by someone with the background of a Stephen King or Joyce Carol Oates.

Let's be polite and just say they were partly wrong. I own several anthologies of short fiction (and my stories are included in a few, too) or writers who have yet to bust through to a mention in Forbes magazine. That doesn't mean the stories aren't just as good. Returning movie videos, I ran into a friend who was raving about a movie she'd just watched that neither of us had heard of before. It must have been straight-to-video, which used to mean second-rate. Now it seems to mean less than stellar backing. Marketing isn't everything for movies and books, but it does make a difference. Movies have a shot at gathering additional backing and promotion when they are presented at film festivals like Sundance and Cannes.

Books are judged somewhat by their covers, meaning not just the illustration, but also the name of the publisher promoting them. Short story collections are not always in high demand by publishers, unless -- yes, it's true -- they are authored by a brand name. That doesn't mean the stories aren't worth your time, and yes, money.

One of the best written short story collections I've read recently belong to our own John M. Floyd, published in CLOCKWORK. This isn't exactly a plea to buy his book. It's a head's up to alert those who don't already own a copy, you are missing out on some excellent reading.

But John's is not the only short story collection worth reading!

Try just one and let me know if you agree short stories are fabulous.


  1. I agree with you, Deborah. I keep several collections of short stories around.

    People forget that Doyle was mainly a short story writer. Only a few of the Sherlock Holmes stories are novels.

  2. I also agree about John Floyd's books. I have all 3 and I think he's coming out with a 4th.

  3. Great column, Deborah -- and thank you for the kind words, about my stories. Sure glad you enjoyed the book.

    I think one of my alltime favorite story collections is The Roald Dahl Ombibus. He was a delightful storyteller.

    Leigh, my fourth book of stories, called Deception is scheduled for released in April 2013.

  4. To the best of my knowledge, the following wrote short stories exclusively: Poe, O Henry, Saki, De Maupassant, and of course our revered colleague Ed Hoch.
    I would love to be included in that distinguished group. But that's not why I never wrote a novel. I just wouldn't know where to start.
    Like you, Deborah, I enjoy a good short story and have all three of John's books. Looking forward to the 4th. I am currently reading David's 13th Child and enjoying it. But I make it a habit to read a short story upon retiring for the night and haunt Amazon for short story collections, etc.

  5. I do miss knowing Ed Hoch would have a new short story for us in every issue. How wonderful were his stories...

  6. I haved to agree sometimes a short work of fiction is all you need to unwind. Novels are fantastic, but lately with my fast running schedule and toddler, short stories are perfect to get a quick fix. I haven't read John's as of yet, but I do have all of yours Deborah!

  7. Wonderful post, Deborah.

    It is indeed nice to be able to finish -- from beginning to end -- in one sitting, sometimes. Few things soothe the soul in such a manner, or with such a feeling of wholeness.


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