31 Days of Stories 2010: Introduction

May 1, 2010 by · 4 Comments 

Brian Joseph Davis, literary provocateur and co-founder of the short fiction website Joyland, alerted yr. humble correspondent to the fact that May is Short Story Month, a grassroots endeavour launched in 2007 by Dan Wickett of  The Emerging Writers Network and Dzanc Books. An article from the Poets & Writers website provides some background on Wickett’s project:

The Emerging Writers Network kicked off its first Short Story Month in 2007, and Larry Dark, director of The Story Prize, floated the idea even earlier. “I think the story needs advocacy as a cultural institution the way poetry has done,” Dark told The Pennsylvania Gazette in 2003. “There’s a national poetry month, and I think there should be a national short-story month, too. It’s a very American form. From Hawthorne and Poe to Hemingway, Fitzgerald, and Faulkner, almost every great American writer has done the short story, and there are some great writers, like Flannery O’Connor, who practically only wrote short stories. Funding for the arts has been cut, but there’s a lot of activity around the short story, and I think it could be promoted and brought to people’s attention a little better.”

Longtime readers of TSR (c’mon: there must be a few of you) will know that yr. humble correspondent is a passionate advocate of the short story form, and while not detracting from Dark’s assessment in any way, it should be pointed out that short stories are by no means an exclusively American form. From Alice Munro to Mavis Gallant, from Haruki Murakami to Jorge Luis Borges, from Julio Cortázar to Ali Smith, short fiction has flourished around the globe. Much of the most innovative, stylistically adventurous, and experimental writing has appeared in pieces of short fiction, and yet the short story is little read in 2010. Short story collections sell poorly, and anxious publishers often sign up books of short fiction on the understanding that there is a novel on the way. (Rebecca Rosenblum is one of the few writers this critic can think of in recent memory who is following her debut collection with a second collection rather than a novel.)

To mark Short Story Month, Davis is posting one short story link per day over at The Globe and Mail‘s Books blog, In Other Words. Here at TSR, we have traditionally celebrated short stories in August; this is because the inaugural 31 Days of Stories in 2008 was timed to coincide with the Canadian Notes and Queries/The New Quarterly Salon des Refusés. However, an informal Twitter poll indicated that people would not be adverse to a month of story reviews and discussion in May so, following Davis’s lead, we’ll take the next month to focus on short fiction in all its manifestations. This is in no way meant as a competition with either Wickett’s program or Davis’s; on the contrary, you are heartily encouraged to follow the discussion as it unfolds across the Web. Short stories need advocates, as Dark rightly asserted, and yr. humble correspondent is delighted to be able to contribute in some small way to the broader conversation.

As in past years, TSR will be posting commentary on one short story per day throughout the month, along with ancillary discussion as it arises. In previous years, the 31 Days of Stories have confined themselves to works from the 20th and 21st centuries; this year, we’re going to reach further back into the past to talk about some early examples of the form originating both on this continent and on a large landmass to the northeast of us. We’ll also feature some contemporary writers, both masters of the form and lesser-known figures who are expanding the range of what a story can be and do. If you like what you read here, you are encouraged to comment, but more importantly, you are encouraged to go out and read some stories for yourself. Let’s try to ensure that this exciting, protean, and resilient literary form continues to thrive into the future.

Comments

4 Responses to “31 Days of Stories 2010: Introduction”
  1. Andrew S says:

    Just so you know, June is National Russian Novel Month.

  2. Steven W. Beattie says:

    Yeah, that won’t be happening.

  3. Nathalie Foy says:

    May I put a plug in for Terry Griggs’s _Quickening_? It’s a great collection teeming with wit and with the unexpected.

  4. Steven W. Beattie says:

    Nathalie: There’s a bit about “Man with the Axe” in last year’s 31 Days.