10 Books Short Story Writers Should Have On Their Wish Lists

This week’s Reading Room is a little different: 10 (+1) books to add to your wish list. Enjoy!

Short Stories & Essays (To Learn The Craft)


I buy this every year and it has yet to disappoint. Curated by high school students and founded by Dave Eggars, this is a collection that is both quirky and keeps me feeling young!

Yes, everyone but British writers (someone idiosyncratically defined, if the reviews are to believed) are excluded from this 2-Volume collection. But I like a little focus in my anthologies, don’t you? (Side note: you might want to complement this with something from the Best American series. I couldn’t, in good conscience, link to their “Best Short Stories” edition because it is so resolutely ‘literary’ and I usually end up hating it, but YMMV. Their Mystery one looks interesting, and I wish they had more fiction genres to choose from.)


There’s nothing quite like reading the well-crafted words of Smart People on Important Issues to inspire you to get back to writing. Lots of essays in here from diverse voices.

ENCOURAGEMENT TO EMBRACE CREATIVITY


This wonderful call to artistic arms was hugely influential in my decision to start StoryADay. Gentle and encouraging it definitely helps you if you’re struggling with the whole permission to write thing. If you think you NEED to be doing stuff for other people before REWARDING yourself with time to write, Ms. Ueland will set you straight….

I haven’t read this one yet, but … Elizabeth Gilbert! Have you seen her TED talk? And she’s fabulous fictioneer in her own right, so sign me up for a copy!


I really bought this to use with my kids, but it turns out it’s a Rescue Pack for adults who have forgotten how to play. There is nothing a writer needs more than to be an Explorer of the World and Keri Smith shows you tons of ways you can have fun out in the real world again, noticing all the little details that fiction requires.

Chuck Wendig at his trademark profane, hilarious, no-nonsense, encouraging best. Not to be missed.

PRODUCTIVITY AND THE WRITER


If you haven’t discovered this book yet, it’s well worth a read. It talks about resistance and why we need to break through it.


If you HAVE read “The War of Art” (above) and are sick of bloody Resistance and want to know WHY it’s kicking in and what to do about it…this is the book for you. I received a review copy from the author Mark McGuinness but liked it so much that I’ve bought it again three times to give away (you can enter for a chance to win a copy here). Seriously. Read it.

If I might be allowed a little self-promotion, this book has 60+ ways to break writers’ block and some REALLY nice reviews on Amazon (thanks, guys!)
What would you add to this list? Comment below!

Essential Guide To the Best Short Stories of 2014

If one of your resolutions for next year is to read more short stories (and it should be!), it can be hard to know where to start.
You want to cultivate a modern style, the kind of thing that reflects your voice AND the kind of stories people want to read.
The problem with a do-it-yourself reading masterclass, is that anthologies tend to contain a vast range of stories, chronologically arranged from the late 1800s to the mid 1960s. These stories have stood the test of time and are therefore considered classics, but their style can seem pretty dated.
On the other hand, you could grow old reading a random selection of the multitudinous modern short stories available online. So what’s a serious writer to do?

Let other people recommend stories to you.

I’ve trawled the end-of-year roundups and found a number of recommendations for your further reading. Most of these are stories from this century, with a few must-read classics sprinkled in here and there. Names that kept cropping up on list after list: B. J. Novak, Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis, Elizabeth McCracken, Phil Klay, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro.
Treat yourself to a volume or two, or trot off down to your local library to look for some of these titles.

Powell’s Short List 2014

Powell’s audaciously posted a “best of” list in time for Short Story Month in May this year (N.B. Did we make May the month for short stories? I don’t remember anyone calling it that before we started this crazy thing in 2010. Pat yourselves on the backs, StoryADay-nauts! I think we created a Thing!)
NOT a list of the best short story collections this year, it is however a list of excellent short story collections from the century so far:

The Guardian’s Ill-Defined “Best” List

Not sure what the category here is —  I suspect it’s the editors’ favorites list, rather than a true ‘best of’ — but I’m betting there are some collections (and authors) you might have missed in this British-based list.

Paris Review’s Prize Winning Stories of The Year

Two stories are in the Best American Short Story Anthology this year and nine were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Read some at the Paris Review site.

The Independent’s Best Stories of the Year

Another list from a British newspaper. Includes Hilary Mantel’s controversial “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”, some Margaret Atwood and a collection by Tom Barbash, a fave of mine.

The Huffington Post’s 10 Best Short Stories You’ve Never Read

Take the HuffPo challenge. Have you read them? I felt quite smug when I discovered I had read the first one on their list…then I looked at the rest of them. Ahem…

Electric Literature’s Best Short Story Collections of 2014

25 recommended story collections from Donald Antrim to Lorrie Moore with some names that didn’t hit any other lists I saw.

Readers’ Digest 8 of the Best

RD recommended these eight collections in the spring (another shout out for May as Short Story Month!). Some familiar names on this one…

BookTrust Recommendations From Short Story Authors

BookTrust asked prize-winning writers to pick THEIR favorite collections. Seems sensible…
Also, check out BookTrust’s online library of short stories here:

Longreads Best of the Year

A subjective list of the best short stories of the year. As good a place as any to start 😉

The Quivering Pen Great Big Roundup

A fine list of short story collections from David Abrams. Compiled in June, it contains some interesting titles.

Hugo Award Nominees 2014

If all that up there is wa-ay too much literary fiction for you, how about taking a look at the Hugo Award nominees of the year for some speculative fiction-y goodness?

Stacked’s Young Adult Short Story Recommendations

Doesn’t it seem like YA would be a great category for short fiction? Well, Stacked has a list of some YA short story collections from the past few years.

Fantastic Stories of the Imagination’s Short Genre Fiction Recommendations for 2014

Finally! A collection that includes Speculative and horror short stories. Only four stories in this list, but they are different enough to be worth checking out.

More Genre Fiction from Jonathan Strahan

This list is way out of date, but worth looking at just because genre gets so little respect in the other lists. All titles are from the first decade of the 21st century. Good additional recommendations in the comments section.

Jason Sanford’s Sci-Fi Picks for 2014

An author and reader picks his best bets for next year’s awards lists.
Then of course, there is always the Best American Short Stories annual anthology, The Best British Short Stories 2014, and I highly recommend the Selected Shorts podcast as a way to have new and notable short stories read to you by great actors, wherever you are.
Side note: apparently Brits take the short story much more seriously than folks anywhere else in the English-speaking parts of the planet. Prizes, end-of-year round ups, they dominate them!
Lets all don fake-British accents (except for me, of course who still has a semi-authentic one) and cheer the patron saints of the short story: the good folk of the UK!
So, what short stories have you read this year that you’d recommend? Share in the comments!

Nov 2014 – Best Of The Web For Short Story Writers

Best Of The Web

Need a little inspiration? Here are the Top Ten articles and blogs posts I’ve found over the past month, to help you power through writing problems, get more creative and hone your craft.

  1. Jungle Red Writers: Literary Agent Paula Munier on PLOT PERFECT – How NOT to get sunk by plot problems.
  2. The 12 Best Hashtags for Writers – Marcy Kennedy – Don’t let social media overwhelm you. Bookmark this useful article today.
  3. My First Author/Illustrator Skype Visit: What I Learned, What I’d Do Differently Next Time – Inkygirl: Guide For Kidlit/YA Writers & Artists – via @inkyelbows – Great insight for whenever you are doing outreach/marketing (esp if you write for kids).
  4. Rewriting: The Middle Way – Charlotte Rains Dixon – A quick and liberating second look at rewriting.
  5. Character Driven-Flash Fiction « Flash Fiction Chronicles – Especially for short story writers: Yes, you CAN have great characters in short fiction, and here’s how!
  6. 4 Ways to Improve Plot/Climax in Your Writing | WritersDigest.com – Superb, though-provoking article. Aimed at novelists but useful for short story writers, too. Just miniaturize everything he says 😉
  7. Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book : zenhabits – An interesting take on writing as a collaborative process: you and the readers, in it together.
  8. Writer Unboxed » Losing One’s Marbles – No More Excuses!
  9. Where my freelance writing clients come from – Want to make a little money writing? It’s not easy but with determination and focus you can do it. The Urban Muse shares a look behind the curtain.
  10. When Your Plate is Too Full : zenhabits – No simple answers here, but effective ones.

Have you read any good posts recently? Share them in the comments.