I first heard that Sarah Selecky and fellow short story writers Matthew J. Trafford and Jessica Westhead had named 2011 The Year Of The Short Story through Chad Pelley over at  On The Line Magazine, where Pelley is pledging to read 10 new short story collections this year, including Julie Booker’s Up, Up, Up that has received great praise already from The Walrus and Quill & Quire.

This got me thinking about short stories and sent me over to the YOSS website (where you can find their MANIFESTO on short stories), and that sent me over to The YOSS Machine on Facebook where I began reading up on recommended short story reads.

All of that got me thinking about short story collections I’ve read, ones I’ve been meaning to read, and a few I’m frantic to get my hands on. It also got me mulling on stories I’ve read published in online lit. mags., authors I’ve read stories by in anthologies but whose book-length collections I have not yet read. And I decided, to get in on the epic conversation YOSS has sparked, beginning with:

Story Collections That Have Influenced Me As A Writer

First would definitely have to be Flesh and Blood by Michael Crummey. I came across Crummey’s stories (the first edition) in my undergrad and the story “After Image” has haunted me ever since I first read it in my dorm during a blizzard. Since then I’ve had the great pleasure of reading more of Crummey’s work, his poetry and novels, but the stories in this collection have never let go of me. They’re the stories that  first made me want to be a writer.

Highlights from Flesh and Blood: “After Image”; “Skin”; and “Serendipity”.

Next up is One Last Good Look by Michael Winter, a collection that literally shocks me every time I come back to it. I’ve read and re-read it, taught it, and am in awe of it. I first met the main character (and sometime narrator) Gabriel English in Winter’s novel The Architects Are Here but this collection of stories, following Gabriel’s years of growing up between Cornerbrook and St. John’s, brought that character to full-blooded life. The stories are by turns subtle, engrossing, brutal, tender, explicit, and very sexy. As a writer, Winter made me conscious of language’s verve and thrum.

Highly recommended in this collection: “The Pallbearer’s Gloves”; “Second Heart”; and “Let’s Shake Hands Like the French.”

Third up would have to be Leslie Vryenhoek’s debut collection Scrabble Lessons. As I’ve said of the wonderful collection elsewhere on this site: “This book will make a lover out of you. You won’t want to let it go and it will cling to you when you get up to re-enter the world. Some authors show you well-rounded lives in their stories; Leslie Vryenhoek takes you inside the skin.” Each of the stories is it’s own world and each is indelible in the impression it will leave. This collection makes me want to write stories that will tatoo themselves on a reader’s skin, leave that kind of mark.

Favourites include: “Early Girl, Pacific Avenue”; “View Plane”; and “Cycle” (which is also available here as an EarLit audio short from Rattling Books, narrated by Joel Thomas Hynes).

These three great books then got me thinking of classic short fiction and I came up with two “collected works” by two authors who I consider to be masters of the form.

My Short Story Masters

Anyone who has cracked a decent anthology of short fiction will most likely have read Flannery O’Connor’s “A Good Man Is Hard To Find” or Alistair MacLeod’s “The Boat.”

To add to those “greats” I would also recommend O’Connor’s “Revelation” and MacLeod’s “Island”. These are both anthologies of two authors’ lifetime work in this form: they are tomes, yes, but they are treasures.

Hotly Anticipated New Short Story Collection

To round things off here I’ll confess I can’t wait to crack open Gerard Collins’ new collection Moonlight Sketches.  I was at his launch the other night and if the story he read, “Fish of the Damned” is any indicator, this is going to be a work that lives up to the high praise it has already received.

 Award-winning short story writer and novelist Jessica Grant (of Come, Thou Tortoise fame) has said: “Here is outport Newfoundland like you’ve never seen it – or heard it: musical, broken-toothed, full of pathos and sly humour. Collins’ characters fall from innocence and land on their feet, with their fists up. You will admire them. You will fear them. You will find you care most about those you fear. Moonlight Sketches is a work of extraordinary imagination and empathy.”

Buy it. Read it. Find Gerard on Facebook. 

So, there’s a few of the goodies from my short story bag. Since it is The Year Of The Short Story, tell me what you’re reading or have read. Send me your favourites: the ones you can’t wait to read, the ones that are hot-of-the-press, the classics you wish you could get to if only you had the time.

And Last But Not Least: Some Online Goodies

Just to show not all short stories have to be bookish, here are some of my recent favourites, all published in online journals. Enjoy!

“Monkfish” by Laura Boudreau in Joyland.

“Sleep, Hold” by Joseph William Frank in The Hell Gate Review.

“The Poem” by Daniel Scott Tysdal in The Puritan.

P.S. If you’re interested in any of my shorts but don’t have the cash or inclination to buy This Ramshackle Tabernacle (don’t worry, I won’t judge) check out “Resettlement”, a short that will be in my next book, Ash and Hoarfrost.


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