Sunday, July 28, 2013
FAVORITE SHORT STORIES--WHAT WAS YOURS?
(YEP, THIS IS ME AS A TEENAGER!)
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 is 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.
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.
Today is my birthday, so I’m giving away a free copy of one of my short stories, THE GUNFIGHTER’S GIRL. All you have to do is comment, and check back later this evening after 9:00 to see if you won!
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Wow, interesting question and when I first read it I couldn't think of a single short story I read as a child. Then, I remembered our weekly family shops to the supermarket and begging my mum to buy me a Ladybird Fairytale book. As far as I remember they were about 18 pence each, 20 pages, long and classic fairytales (Snow White, Princess and the pea, etc). I know these are not the short stories you were thinking of but remembering them made me smile a lot. They didn't encourage me to want to be a writer, wanting that was what me made want to read them! Thanks for pulling the memory out for me. :)ReplyDelete
They're also something of a challenge to write, because you don't answer every question and everything isn't neatly wrapped up for the reader. I've read a lot of short stories--though titles escape me at the moment.ReplyDelete
I won a prize at school and chose The Complete Short Stories of Sherlock Holmes. I thought they were brilliant. For me they were perfect short stories and I remember thinking how fantastic it would be to write short stories. A couple of years later I made my first sale, for a children's story in a family magazine. I was hooked.ReplyDelete
I still love the Sherlock Holmes stories, but I collect all sorts of short story anthologies and enjoy different genres. I think Isaac Asimov was another master of the short tale. But probably my favourite story is The Secret Life of Walter Mitty.
I'm so glad you brought up early childhood short stories. I remember having so many collections of stories for children--of course, for the very young they're ALL short. LOL But I remember thinking at a young age how wonderful being able to read would be and looked forward to it when I got into elementary school. We had one really nice collection of children's stories and poems that I tried to "write" my name in when I was about 4. My mom was not happy, but she did give me a notebook and pen and that was the beginning. LOL
Laura, I think that's one thing that makes them so intriguing, don't you? There are always questions at the end, and that makes you think.ReplyDelete
Oh, yes, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty. I had forgotten that one, but it was so good. Didn't that make that into a movie? And the Sherlock Holmes stories--I think young boys gravitated toward those; I know my husband cites those as some of his favorite stories, too. This has got me thinking and trying to remember. Another one we read in college was Hemingway's Hills Like White Elephants--which is an entire subtext about abortion--but the teacher never really got into that because it made her uncomfortable (I can see that looking back on it) and asked many vague questions like "What do you think they're talking about?" without giving us the true answer. When I read it again years later, it meant much more and I could see what they were talking about. Not one of my favorite stories, but memorable because of the expertise of the storyteller. Thanks for coming by today!
Oh yes - writing short is harder than writing long, and these same stories are some of MY faves, Cheryl! The Lottery blew me away; The Most Dangerous Game too, The Pearl by John Steinbeck; O. Henry's shorts also. Great stuff here. HAPPY BIRTHDAY!!ReplyDelete
Yes, I think it is, too, Meg--much harder. We did The Lottery in my speech class one year--the play. Really enjoyed that. The Most Dangerous Game is one that really hits you hard, too. Oh, yes--loved O. Henry so much.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the birthday wishes!
I actually have an O.Henry book of short stories. I should get it out and read it...ReplyDelete
The ones that stuck in my mind were the Sherlock Holmes short stories. Not any particular one, but the overall effect and world. It was a place to get lost in repeatedly. And in small bites. Later, Louis L'Amour shorts made me realize that I could do that. Now, the trouble is doing that. (grin)ReplyDelete
Those were favorite short stories of mine, until I started teaching college freshmen comp. Because I ask my students to critically evaluate articles and books for a research paper, and after a semester I realized they needed help with critical evaluation, I started adding a unit on short stories and how to "read deeper." My most favorite short story now is "The Scarlet Ibis," a wonderful coming of age story.ReplyDelete
Having grown up in Mark Twain country, his stories were a big part of growing up. I would say the piece that affected me the most was not a short story, but a short play called "The Valiant". I think I first came across it in sophomore English. But I was also writing (not publishing) short stories by then. Loved that format then and still do today, not only to write but to read. If there is a short story collection I am 'all over it'. Wishing you the best and most wonderful birthday. Loved digging up these memories. Thank you.ReplyDelete
I bought one at a second hand book store a few months ago. I was so thrilled to find it! Yes, it is definitely on my "keeper shelf."LOL
Loyd, those Sherlock Holmes stories were wonderful, and enjoyed by so many young readers--it seems they opened the door for so many! And the Louis L'Amour stories--I just love them. Yes...now to "do that." LOLReplyDelete
Lynda, I haven't read The Scarlet Ibis--so now I have something new to look forward to! Yes, so many people don't understand about "reading deeper" and looking for the meaning in things--and sometimes that's hard to teach. It's like learning on another level, though we don't often think of it like that.ReplyDelete
Thanks for the birthday wishes, Doris! I had to keep my love for short stories under wraps as a teenager. LOL There were very few of us who actually "enjoyed" English. I remember reading Bartleby the Scrivener and just thinking "HOW BORING IS THIS?" That's one I DIDN'T love. LOL But short stories are wonderful because you can plunge in and out of so many worlds and they're all real, while you're there.ReplyDelete
You're really celebrating today, Cheryl. What fun!ReplyDelete
Louis L'Amour's short stories got me hooked on westerns. I still like his short fiction best especially when characters recur.
I didn't discover L'Amour until I was in my mid to late teens. Long before that I was an avid reader of James Thurber and, like you Keith, I loved the Secret Life of Walter Mitty. My absolute favorite, though, was The Night the Bed Fell On Father. I've never thought about it much before, but it explains a lot about my sense of humor.
Like Joanne, I also loved classic fairy tales - the Grimm ones in particular. Some of them were practically horror stories.
Fairy Tales + humor + westerns = Under a Texas Star and Hazardous Unions. The mysteries are another story.
Happy Birthday, Cheryl. Way back when, when the magazine "Ranch Romances" and the like were popular, my mom bought every one. They were some of my first western reading material, and were my inspiration to become a writer. Keep in mind I was about eight years old. LOLReplyDelete
Happy Birthday, Cheryl! I'm putting it on my calendar now--next year, we need to have a birthday bash blog party.ReplyDelete
Okay, about short stories: I have a love/hate situation with them.
I absolutely detested the short stories we were forced to read in school and after college, didn't read a single one until I wrote one for a charity anthology six years ago.
Short stories convinced me that I'm a shallow person and like it that way. Symbolism, for the most part, annoys me. And I'm especially not fond of killing off main characters, usually for the author's delight in manipulating the readers' emotions, rather than actually serving the story.
All that said, my calling is as a short story writer. I love to write short stories more than any other length or form. Go figger.
And at this point, my preference for reading is shorter--will pick up a novella or short story before attempting a 100k novel, which is a total reversal from ten years ago.
Alison, I have not read The Night the Bed Fell on Father, but it sounds like a good one--another one goes on my list. I like a lot of different authors, too, and kinds of short stories. The LL stories are all a good length--the novels--I think the longest book I ever read by him was The Last of the Breed. But I like his short stories, too. I wrote a post a few weeks ago about my favorite short story now--LOST SISTER. It would be interesting to see what everyone's favorite short stories were when they were 16 as opposed to now, wouldn't it? Thanks for the birthday wishes!ReplyDelete
Heck, Carol, if I could get my hands on some of those "Ranch Romances" magazines I might read them right now. LOL I didn't even know there was such a magazine! My mom never bought those--she always bought boring stuff like Good Housekeeping. SIGH. Thanks for the birthday wishes!ReplyDelete
Yep, Jacquie, I know you had a birthday yesterday, and hope you don't mind that I started celebrating mine a day early. LOL I may just continue on through this next week! I didn't think I could write short stories, but once I started it, I just can't quit. Most of my stories tend to be a little on the "longish" side for a short story, but I have to be able to care about my characters or no one else is going to. I think you do a superb job as a short story writer, Jacquie! Let's start planning our bash for next year...it might take us that long.ReplyDelete
There were a lot of short stories I loved as a kid, including the Sherlock Holmes tales and the stories of Edgar Allen Poe. My mom used to buy old issues of Alfred Hitchcock Magazine and Ellery Queen at yard sales, and I would devour them. But I think the short stories that affected me most were those of Robert E. Howard: starring Conan, Solomon Kane, Cormac mac Art, Bran mak Morn... probably the ones that affected me most (if you can get through the Depression era racial attitudes) was a collection of horror stories called BLACK CANAAN.ReplyDelete
Troy, I can just see you lying on your bed with those books spread around you reading one after the other. I loved those Edgar Allen Poe stories, too. (Think it kind of worried my mom...)LOLReplyDelete
Don't know what I was thinking when I typed that about one winner of a copy of my story THE GUNFIGHTER'S GIRL.ReplyDelete
If you go to Smashwords: https://www.smashwords.com/books/view/340128
And type in this coupon code TT96Z you can download this story for FREE between now and July 31st!
Also, until midnight tonight, you can go to Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Wishing-Tree-ebook/dp/B00E364RPG/ref=sr_1_1?s=digital-text&ie=UTF8&qid=1375028136&sr=1-1&keywords=The+wishing+tree+by+cheryl+pierson
to download my new short story, THE WISHING TREE, also FREE! So everyone celebrate and get a couple of free reads! Hope you enjoy, and thanks so much for coming by today to help me celebrate!
I would love to have any of your work, but please don't include me ... I have a pile to read that is interfering with the novel I'm trying to finish.ReplyDelete
As to short stories, I love them and have a collection of 17 that I'd like to release, probably as the "next one out o' the barn."
For those that I enjoyed, two that you mentioned that I recall from school (Lady-Tiger and Fire) and almost all of those in the several Louis L'Amour collections; with a few of them he should have taken a little more time.
I have a couple of my short stories on my blog ... it's necessary to scrole down and click on "earlier posts" at the bottom right.
PS. There is also an interview there where I talk about the reasons why I write what I do.
And your reasons are?
So glad you stopped by yesterday! I will go check out your blog when I get a chance. Your single author collection of short stories sounds like a winner. Here's hoping you get it out soon!
You know, that is an interesting question about why we write what we do--because surely we all had influences from other writers that we read or learned from. I didn't set out to write short stories, and as a young girl (from about age 9 or 10) I wanted to write a book. I was interested in all types of reading, so my mind was open as to what kind of book I might want to write. But as I got older, I wanted to write stories set in the west (since I's a native Oklahoman)and felt like the best way to do that was to write a western romance novel. I still have that first book I ever wrote, and at some point, I hope to get it out and "fix" it and get it to a publisher. I'm realizing now that it is not a romance in the true sense of the word, but a western with romantic elements. As for the short stories, I think those came about accidentally, when I wanted to enter a story for a Chicken Soup type anthology and it was selected. Then, I did it for the next one that was coming out and it was selected as well. That gave me the confidence I needed to continue on. Whew! Thanks for making me think, Dave!