Tuesday, March 28, 2017
WHAT'S YOUR FAVORITE SHORT STORY? by Cheryl Pierson
Do you like short stories? I love them, both as a writer and as a reader. I’m so thrilled that they’re making a comeback in today’s world! I remember as a teenager in high school English class, some of the short stories that were taught at the time. You can probably recall these classes, too—we read many short stories and novels that couldn’t reach into our world and touch us, not at that age.
It’s odd to me that had some of the selections been different, or more age-appropriate, this might have fostered a love of reading the short story rather than dread for so many. The essay questions at the end of the story seemed hard for many of the students to understand, much less formulate answers to in order to show what they learned from the story. As high school freshmen in the 14-15 year-old age range, and with our limited knowledge of the world, it was difficult for some to be able to grasp symbolism or foreshadowing among other story elements. I realized later on that some people never grasp it, no matter how old they are. Reading with that kind of intuitive understanding is not something everyone is able to do.
Being forced to read something for a grade rather than enjoyment was something I didn’t understand. For one thing, I enjoyed reading. As with any kid, some things held my interest more than others. But I never could fathom some of my classmates who actually said, “I hate to read.”
I had some favorite short stories, even out of the ones we were forced to read. Who could forget Whitney and Rainsford in Richard Connell’s THE MOST DANGEROUS GAME? Frank Stockton’s THE LADY OR THE TIGER? Or, TO BUILD A FIRE, by Jack London?
Those stories were what inspired me to want to write “like that” and I often wondered in later years, seeing my kids’ English books and the stories they contained, where our next generation of writers would come from? There was certainly nothing “inspiring” in those stories. I was wishing there were some of the stories from “the good ol’ days” in their books, even though at the time I had been their age, many of my classmates had detested those same stories that I loved so much.
But one day, my daughter came home from school and said, “Mom, we read a story today that was so good! It’s about a guy who is trying to survive in the cold and he tries to build a fire…” And a few years later, my son couldn’t wait to tell me about a story they’d read about an island, where men were hunted…
Not everyone who loves to read wants to become a writer. So I’m wondering…was there a particular short story that you read when you were younger that made you want to write? Or even just made you become an avid reader? Since so many of us write westerns, was there a western short story that influenced you when you were younger? The one that I loved was not really a short story, but a short novel, Fred Gipson’s OLD YELLER. In later years, another one that stood out was Shirley Jackson’s THE LOTTERY.
I'd have to say one of my all-time favorite short stories is Dorothy M. Johnson's LOST SISTER--this is a fictional story based on Cynthia Ann Parker's real life story of being kidnapped by the Comanche, and marrying a Comanche chief. She later became the mother of another prominent chief, Quanah Parker. LOST SISTER is a story that you will remember long after you finish reading it!
What's your favorite short story? It doesn't have to be a western. I'd love to hear what your favorite(s) are. My TBR list is bursting at the seams anyhow, but I can't stop myself from adding to it when I hear about MORE great reads!
I’m giving away a free print copy of one of my short story collections today, DARK TRAIL RISING. All you have to do is comment! Be sure and leave your contact info in your comment, as well!
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I love short stories! Maybe that's why I love anthologies so much. It could be I just have a short attention span. LOL My all time favorite would have to be an Irish tale titled "Earthly Magic" by Barbara Samuel in which a bard is cursed by a fairy and can no longer use his voice. Through his movements, gestures, and actions, the reader learns his heart and the love he has for a woman who is being wooed by the evil fairy that cursed him as the bard tries to protect her. I know this story had to have been difficult for the writer, but it was a wonderful story for me, the reader.ReplyDelete
Short stories are usually poignant. They are a challenge to write. I didn't read many westerns until I ran across a short story in an anthology by Linda Lael Miller--and then I was hooked.
I know your short story collection is going to be a huge success, Cheryl. I'm glad you decided to put them in one collection.
I remember those days of high school when it was time for the short story unit. I had mixed feelings--I knew there were going to be some really good ones--and some that I was going to have to just slog through and try to get a grade on. Going back years later and re-reading some of those, I had a totally different perspective on them--because I was older and had life experience that I didn't have then.Delete
I will never forget in college, I had a prof that for some reason, had us read Hills Like White Elephants, which is about abortion, but it's all in subtext between the man and woman. No one even "got it" and she was too embarrassed to explain what they were talking about. So she couldn't even talk about what the subtext meant in the context of the story because she couldn't bring herself to talk about the story. I read it again years later and went on line to see some discussions about it, and it made perfect sense then. LOL
The story you mentioned, Earthly Magic, is one I have not read, so I'm adding it to my list! Thanks for another good recommendation.
Dark Trail Rising has been out for a bit, but it's one of my favorite collections. Three of the stories have a hint of the supernatural--well, more than a hint. LOL Thanks for your kind words, Sarah. As always, much appreciated!
Cheryl, what a wonderful topic to open up for comments. You sure brought back memories of short stories I read in school as well as for my own pleasure. Ones I can still remember were Guy de Maupassant's The Necklace and O'Henry's, Gift of the Magi, both known for their surprise endings and moral to the stories they wrote. Can't forget Edgar Allen Poe either! Thanks for your list, some I haven't read, and crossing my fingers on your short story collection - email: email@example.comReplyDelete
Hi Cheri! Oh, there were so many, weren't there? Ones I know I haven't mentioned here that made an impression at the time. A Jury of Her Peers was one, and how could I forget The Sniper? What a shocker! Of course...The Necklace, and Gift of the Magi, and The Ransom of Red Chief--another good one. My guilty pleasure is finding old textbooks at Goodwill, etc. with some of these oldies but goodies in them. One my mom always mentioned that they had to read was The Man Without a Country. I found that one on my own and read it--I think it should be required reading for all!Delete
Edgar A. Poe was a favorite of mine, too. It would be fun to just compile a long list of stories like that, wouldn't it?
Thanks so much for stopping by today, Cheri!
I looked back in my personal blog--Celia Year...Romance, and little bit of Texas...because I remembered writing a post in 2013 I titled "The Nature of Short Fiction." I believe it was "Read a Short Story Week," or something.ReplyDelete
Up there with the great ones such as O'Henry, etc. is Eudora Welty. I suppose she's my favorite. In a Used Book Store I had found a book titled "A Curtain of Green" by Eudora Welty. Among the odd and quirky short stories in the book--and I loved every one--was "Death of a Traveling Salesman." How many times has that short store been used as a play or movie?
I do vividly remember the one you suggested I read.."St. Agnes's Stand."...and I still remember that story.
I've written several short ones..very short--from 4,000 words to 8,000.: The Cattleman's Ball, Merry Christmas Victoria, The Wedding Auction, etc. I never know what to do with them. They've always been Free...whatever.
Wonderful post..and good for you on getting the collection Dark Trail Rising out.
Oh, yes, Celia, even though St. Agnes's Stand is a full length novel, it remains one of my top 5 books of all time. Just the emotion throughout that book...and that ending...sooo powerful!Delete
I have never read a Eudora Welty story! Now I have more reading to look forward to! LOL Oh, yes, Death of a Salesman--redone so many times in so many venues!
I love odd, quirky stories (as evidenced by the stories in DARK TRAIL RISING--three of them have some kind of "odd" or paranormal elements--The Keepers of Camelot, especially, and then Shot for a Dog --is he crazy or is he haunted by a murder he committed?-- and The Kindness of Strangers--who and what is the man who comes to help a man avenge the deaths of his family?) are all "quirky"--the only one that doesn't have paranormal elements is Hidden Trails. Hidden Trails and The Keepers of Camelot were both Western Fictioneer Peacemaker finalists in the short fiction category.
It's hard for me to write "short-short" like you do so well. A 10K word story is about the best I can do! LOL Always fun to talk about something like this and learn what other people have read and like. Thanks for coming by, Celia!
One of my favorites is Agatha Christie's "Witness for the Prosecution". I love some of her other short stories too. I didn't really get into short stories until I was an adult but went from Nancy Drew and Louisa Mae Alcott to Earle Stanley Gardner and others. I have to say the stories from Prairie Rose Press are ones I've enjoyed. I started reading them to be loyal to friends, but found I definitely liked them.ReplyDelete
Caroline, thank you so much. That means the world to me that you have such kind things to say about Prairie Rose! I'm very proud of our authors and the stories that we put out, so it means a lot to know that others are enjoying them, too! I have not read Witness for the Prosecution, but will definitely be adding it to my list!Delete
Well, if I could remember that far back . . . Ha! Unfortunately I do, and I must agree with Cheri. I loved Gift of the Magi and still do. It's such a beautiful love story. Edgar Allan Poe made me shiver with scary tales like The Pit and the Pendulum. One that I read more recently by Mark Twain is A Dog's Tale. It starts out with humor but ends on a heart breaking note. I'm glad i did not read that as a youngster. I would have balled for hours.ReplyDelete
Oh, Lyn, I'm so glad you warned me! I can't read anything with a bad ending for an animal. I can't even watch Old Yeller without blubbering. I read the book to my kids "back in the day" and there were a lot of parts I had to just gloss over and keep moving.Delete
So many of those old stories we read in school--O. Henry, Edgar Allan Poe, and of course the Jack London stories, and ones that stand out like The Lady or the Tiger that I will never forget and need to go revisit NOW and see how my perspective has changed as I've aged. Thanks for coming by, sorry for the late response--we've had storms and I've been a little under the weather.
I'm a novel reader. Short stories had little appeal when I was growing up. A whodunit was fine. But things like the Gift of the Magi drove me insane and to this day that depressing story still stands out as hated fiction. Sorry, folks. One man's meat is another man's poison, which is why we should never be upset if someone doesn't like what we written. Oh, those stories where the teachers could barely discuss the story... LOL The Yellow Wallpaper was about postpartum depression, didn't anyone get it? I remember reading the Scarlet Letter, another hated story.I saw it one way and we were supposed to see it differently. About half way through the test on that,I tore up the test, pulled out a piece of paper and began to write my take on the story. You would have thought I did something horrible. I stood my ground and said that testing was to prove that we read it. It was not to force us into a neat little box. I won but had to settle for a B instead of an A on that test, because I didn't take the actual test. (eye roll) I guess I was a picky reader and still am.ReplyDelete
Today I can enjoy a short story because my time is so limited. If I can read a whole story in an hour I'm happy. I no longer have time to read a nice thick novel that allows me to climb in and disappear into a story.
Historically, fiction seems to change lengths as readers' lives/lifestyles change.I think, today, more people do prefer shorter stories. Read a whole story while waiting to pick the kids up, or just read as a means to unwind at the end of the day. The popularity of the short story, I think, waned for a few decades, but it's come back. Wish I could write really short, but I can't. I'm way too loquacious - can you tell?
Hi, E! So sorry for the late response--first one thing and then another--I'm a terrible texter so when my computer has to be turned off, I just wait to respond to the things I have to write answers to other than "Yes" or "No"! LOLDelete
I didn't think I could write a short story, but when my then-publisher asked for one, I did it. And it's one of my favorite things I ever did--I think because I had to learn something new and really tighten up my words to make it fit.
I don't mind not finishing something in a short time. I just mark my place and continue when I get another chance to read some more. I love novels, but I love short stories, too--just depends on the story for me, not the length.
Thanks so much for coming by!
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Thanks to everyone for stopping by and commenting--I'm always eager to hear about MORE great reading I might have missed out there! I'll definitely be adding some of these great stories to my TBR list for sure.ReplyDelete
My winner is...CHERI CLIFTON! Cheri, if you will e-mail me at firstname.lastname@example.org with your mailing address, I will get your book in the mail to you ASAP!
Thanks again, everyone!
Oh, my gosh, I'm so thrilled to have won. Sorry I'm late in responding, I have been off line for a few days, traveling with hubby to Savannah and celebrating his birthday there. I can't wait to read Dark Trail Rising - will email you my address right away. Thank you, Cheryl!ReplyDelete
Cheri, I hope y'all had a wonderful trip. That's one place I would dearly love to visit--I've never been to Georgia, other than just passing through. My hubby just had a birthday, too--the 31st of March. Will get your book in the mail ASAP! I hope you will enjoy!Delete