Return of the Short Story

 I think we’re going to see a resurgence of the short story!

The novel has been the desired book for traditional publishing markets for quite some time with far less attention being paid to short story collections. You never hear of a writer receiving a huge contract for her first collection of short stories. And writers have also been told that short story collections are difficult to place. There are far fewer ss collections published than novel per year, etc. etc. But get this! My many friends who are instructors and professors, as well as chatter in listservs (between members who are instructors and professor) all say the same thing: growing number of students complain about reading requirements. The novels are too long, they say. They don’t have enough time to read it all. And with the ongoing consumer-driven culture that the universities are fostering (I don’t necessary think this is a “good” thing, either– I find it extremely troubling that entire lecture theatres are named with oil company brands, for instance, and that students are treated as, and behaving as consumers of a product; the education they’ve paid for, instead of learners, first.), the instructors and teachers are having to meet the needs of their students (“Keep the customer happy” and “the customer is always right”.). Not all students think or behave this way, of course. But it’s happening all the same.

The PLUS side to all this is that the desire of shorter reading experiences will mean that there’s a greater demand for short stories!

The writers I know aren’t writing toward meeting marketing demands. They are writing novels or short stories or poems because they have this amazing idea, and the urge to explore it, and expand upon it, and they’ve worked hard at their craft. None of my writer friends think they are going to make big bucks from their writing. >_< (And it’s not just because we’re Canadians, either!) But, after the project is finished up as best as can be done, the writer has to think of where to submit it.

Short story writers have never been really encouraged to just pursue short story writing. When are you going to write a novel, they are often asked. (I wonder how long people asked that of Alice Munro?) Anyway, I just I thought I’d put it out there– times are a-changing! Readers of mostly novels are not likely to give up their ways, but there’s a growing swell of post secondary students who are asking for shorter reading assignments! There will be a market demand for new short stories, edgey short stories, short stories that speak to contemporary anxieties and fears, issues and concerns.

Note: This is just conjecture on my part…. I have no supporting documents/figures. Just making a connection between two point.

The experience of short story is lovely. There’s something so haunting about the brevity of the form. With novels, we live with characters for some time and we develop a strongly bonded relationship. But a short story is more like a chance meeting. A window. Of course a short story could move a character through years of a life within the limitations of the narrative, but the temporal experience of our actual reading time mediates a different kind of connection. It is a focussed reading. The frame is tighter. It could be a short story punch to the jaw. It could be a short story long kiss. But it’s not going to be a long protracted affair.

I also love novelettes and novellas! I wonder how e-publishing will affect the appreciation and distribution of short form fiction as opposed to novels?

Poets have it the worse of all…. I don’t know what to say, poets. *_* We love you! Don’t stop writing poetry. (They won’t stop.) I should also add that smaller local presses have always been supportive of publishing many short story collections.

I’m looking forward to more short stories to knock my socks off!