May is Short Story Month, and for the fourth year running we are proud to bring you original content to honor a form that is near and dear to our hearts. Before we get to the wonderful fiction and criticism we have lined up for you this month, we would like to take a look at some highlights from years past. So take a few minutes (or longer) and appreciate (some of) the awesome and varied forms a short story can take.
For our first-ever Short Story Month, we were absolutely thrilled to chat with Aimee Bender, whose magical realist stories we adore. Aimee spoke with us about the role of magic in her fiction, her own influences, and the recent wave of women writers coming out with magical realist tales.
“I think the emotional life is the core and seed of the story—that’s where the story lives and breathes. So the magic is a way to access that, and I will happily use whatever way I can to get to the emotional stuff.”
Flash fiction is one of our favorite forms, so it was a pleasure for the editors to chat about some exceptional flash stories, the freedom of flash, and the power of these short tales. Maybe this discussion will give you some inspiration for our Flash Fiction Contest, which is open now!
“It seems contradictory, doesn’t it, that by confining a story to a small space you increase the number of forms in which that story might be told? I think and agree, therein lies the magic behind flash fiction.”
We were thrilled to publish Blake Kimzey’s intricate, fable-like piece of flash “The Boy and The Bear,” which was later published in his chapbook out with Black Lawrence Press and selected for Best Small Fictions.
“The boy was cold, his nose frozen with ice that cleaved as he drew in full, waking breaths. His lungs burned with the deepness of his breathing. The boy couldn’t remember how long he had been asleep, hibernating.”
Our own Cole Meyer interviewed acclaimed short story writer Daniel Orozco about portraying the workplace in fiction and Orozco’s famous story “Orientation.” No matter what your office looks like, you will enjoy this interview.
“I’ve come to believe that there’s no greater arena for high drama than the workplace, whether your job is a grocery bagger or an administrative assistant or a test pilot.”
A few years ago, we decided to devote a whole week of May to examining the different roles that animals play—as symbols, as narrative forces, or foils—in some of our favorite stories. We did not regret it.
“Animals can add a level of tension or mystery to a story, they can drive the plot, or they can simply add texture. Though they can (often) be cute, animals are powerful presences in a story, and it’s interesting to consider the many different ways that they add to tales by contemporary writers.”
As a continuation of our study of animals in fiction, we were pleased to publish Jessica Lee Richardson’s charming story “House Hunt,” about a woman who is searching for a new home with her best friend, who just so happens to be a lion.
“I could see that Miles was crouched. The agent had turned his back to the lion. I could think of no stupider position in the history of the world.”
It was wonderful to chat with The Great Kelly Link last year, as part of our Short Story Showcase. Here, link talks about playing with genre conventions, short stories vs. novels, and the use of unreal elements in her stories.
“I want to write short stories even when I don’t like writing them. I don’t actually like writing. But I want (and wanted) to write short stories enough that it seemed worth doing despite how awful and difficult and uncomfortable it can be, figuring out how to make a short story work.”
It was an honor to publish a contribution from Thomas Pierce last May. In his superbly strange story, “A Rogue Planet,” a planet with a face has appeared in our solar system.
“What’s this planet made of? Like ours, does it have a crust and mantle and core? Is there an atmosphere? Blue skies, red skies, purple skies? Milky seas or frozen seas or no seas at all? Endless deserts?”
Last May, we were thrilled to feature an insightful and instructive essay by Rebecca Makkai about how and why to edit characters out of a manuscript.
“Think of it as economy of character. And think of it as a challenge, something you go into your manuscript looking for. Because let’s face it, characters aren’t going to jump up and nominate themselves for the slaughter.”
Of course, you should feel free to browse our full archives from 2014, 2015, and 2016 at your leisure. And stay tuned for more short story goodness this month. We will publish the winners of our Winter Short Story Award for New Writers as well as critical pieces on the short story form, including an essay by Margaret Malone and a piece on effective flash fiction techniques by SmokeLong editor Tara Laskowski. Don’t miss it. Happy Short Story Month, everyone!