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Are you reading short stories?

This entry is part 14 of 17 in the series Armchair BEA 2013 - 2014

Short Stories – Time for a comeback?

Master of short stories, Anton Chekov, is a well-known writer of the short form.

Master short story writer Anton Chekhov reads The Seagull in Moscow, Russia.

Short stories often get short shrift. Why is that? The short form, often more difficult to write, is a wonderful format to learn the craft of writing. Film makers love them. Many short stories become movies, but readers, for some reason, have not embraced this format, preferring to indulge their love of story in novels.

Much of today’s book world revolves around the celebrated novel or the latest nonfiction bestseller, but it wasn’t always so. That’s why it’s great that this year’s Armchair BEA has promoted the short form as a topic of discussion. Why did so many celebrated writers of the past toil away creating wonderful short stories? Why were short stories once devoured during their fabled Golden Age? Maybe it’s time to give them another look.

Writers of short stories

Famed Algonquin Round Table writers – Art Samuels, Charlie MacArthur, Harpo Marx, Dorothy Parker and Alexander Woollcott.

Short works have always captured my attention. I read them for many reasons. Obviously, they are perfect when you don’t have a lot of time, but they also provide a unique and complete reading experience that can easily occur in one sitting. Many of my favorite writers, like Ray Bradbury and Edgar Allan Poe, were masters of the short story. My favorite annual anthology series of short works has to be The Best American Series. As a reader, anthologies provide me with a wonderful way to find new writers. Most of all, I read short stories because of what they are, small, unique gems.

Short stories reading challenge

If you love short stories and novellas or other short works, the Short Works Challenge might interest you. It’s a challenge that I created in the hope of finding others who appreciate the form. You can stick with the minimum of ten short works over five years or be a bit more aggressive. It’s up to you.

The Short Works Reading Group (#shortworksgroup) is to inspire and motive those writers and readers who, like me, love to read and discuss short stories, essays, and even short novels or novellas. Both fiction and non-fiction reading is encouraged. I’ve loved short works ever since, as a child, I read Edgar Allan Poe’s short story The Tell-Tale Heart and believe the short forms have a lot to offer.

The idea is to remember the short form and include those works into your reading plan, and then share your thoughts through writing reviews on blogs or other review sites. In addition to checking out the reading challenge, you can also see my Short Works Reading Plan.  I hope you’ll consider signing up. (There’s a Mr. Linky where you can sign up and announce your interest.) It’s always nice to have company on the journey.

Expanding your horizons

Reading short stories is a great way to expand your horizons with new writers, new ideas, and new forms. That’s part of the excitement the form generates. I don’t know about you, but I like to go outside my comfort zone. That’s how I ended up as a blogger. I had been writing for a number of years, following the traditional writer’s path through short stories, essays, and novels into traditional publishing, when this new thing called a blog appeared. Blogging allows me to develop and clarify ideas, share my thoughts on writing, and talk about books. Like all forms, it has its own nature to uncover and explore. Unlike many, it continues to evolve.

Reading the future

I know I”ll continue to blog because it’s a perfect publishing platform for me. I’ve recently made the move into the exploding Kindle revolution and have been learning all its ins and out. I even re-published a short story of mine. Since its first publication back in 1989, the poor thing has been nestled dormant in a hard drive. Now ROSEBUD, my first published short story, lives again as a short e-book. That’s pretty exciting. You can also find some of my traditional and new digital books here. I’m as eclectic in my writing as I am in my reading.

When it comes to a new and improved blog, there’s a lot to explore. I’ll continue to talk books and writing but I may try my hand at vlogging (video), too. How about you? How are you expanding your horizons or going outside your comfort zone? Use the comment section below to share your thoughts.


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  • Liviania

    I might try the challenge. (Although for more than 10 in 5 years!)

  • Vikk Simmons

    That would be great! (I didn’t want to scare anyone. LOL )

  • Allison Bruning

    Do you also like to write short stories? I find they can be a bit demanding yet rewarding. It’s a great tool to get inside my character’s head.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Actually, I do enjoy writing short stories. Every time Ray Bradbury was asked how to write or improve writing, he answered: “Write a short story a day.” That was his method and it certainly worked. I would agree that they are a bit more demanding but the pay-off is pretty good because you learn a lot about the craft in the process — and quickly.

  • Deb A. Marshall

    Love the short story and like you, Edgar Allen Poe, even did a performance piece on the Tell Tale Heart in highschool,lol. Ray Bradbury, Alice Munro, Stephen King, Carver…man, what a genre!Great photos….

  • Vikk Simmons

    My mom used to do an hour solo performance on Emily Dickens. I bet the Tell Tale Hart you did was terrific. Thanks!

  • Wesley

    I don’t think I could ever do vlogging but I think it’d be fun to watch other people do it!

  • Brenda

    I’ve recently had a better appreciation for short stories- they really are difficult to write! If you can do short stories well, you can probably do long stories well, too!

    Brenda @DailyMayo

  • Allison Bruning

    Absolutely. I’m always telling new authors to write short stories. It’s a great tool to hone your skills.

  • Vikk Simmons

    I don’t think it’s something I want to do to replace the actual writing and blogging, but it appears that there is an audience for video so I’m thinking I might add it to the mix in some way. I don’t know how yet. LOL

  • Vikk Simmons

    I think short story writing forces you to focus on the main, critical elements. You can’t drift off and chase rabbits, so I think you’re right.

  • Leila Rice

    You make a great point that short stories used to be much more possible… I wonder why they have fallen out of literary fashion. But maybe you are right that it is time for a short story resurgence. This ABEA theme is really making me want to read some additional short stories. (Leila from Readers’ Oasis)

  • Candice @ The Grown-Up YA

    Some of Dorothy Parker’s short stories are FANTASTIC! She’s one of my favorite writers. I think there needs to be a push towards more short stories!

  • Vikk Simmons

    I totally agree with you about Parker and the push for more short stories. I’m hoping others will give them a try, too, with my challenge. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Priscilla Walter

    A short story challenge is a terrific way for people to be introduced to the form! I am a huge fan of the short story–for years I read them almost exclusively. I was so happy when Alice Munro won the Nobel because not only did she deserve it, but it brought some deserved attention and reconsideration to the form.

  • Vikk Simmons

    It was great when she won, wasn’t it? I do love them. :) Of course, I’m quite happy to wallow in a novel, too.

  • Books on the Table

    I have always loved short stories and I’m curious about why so many people claim to dislike them. I’m a bookseller, and trust me, there’s nothing I recommend that provokes a more immediate negative reaction than a short story collection! I’m going to sign up for your Short Works Challenge.

  • Vikk Simmons

    That’s terrific news. I know what you mean. I worked at Borders for a number of years, and short stories do provoke that type of reaction in many people. It’s such a shame. Looking forward to our shared journey in the short form.

  • Juli Rahel

    I’ll definitely be checking out the challenge! It really is interesting how the focus has completely shifted to the novel and people seem to think that short stories have less to offer, although a lot of them are so incredible! I love the pictures as well, especially Chekhov!
    Juli @ Universe in Words

  • Katie @ Doing Dewey

    I’ve not been a big short story reader, but I do like the idea of using them as a way to try out new authors. Great post :)

  • Alisha (MyNeedToRead)

    I love how short stories are able to convey concepts so well. I like to think of short stories and novelettes as the Formula One car of reading (if novels were stock cars); they’re lighter in weight but they are so fast and effective as a result.

    In fact, I’ve found that flash fiction can actually be great for reading/writing activity, because it’s an even shorter form that requires stripping everything done to pure essence.

  • Laura @ Shabby Rabbit

    oooo I’m going to go read your story!! :) I LOVE reading stuff from people I know. Or know-ish :) I adore short stories!!

  • Vikk Simmons

    I hope people will rediscover short works. Not just short stories but essays, too. Also hope you’ll consider joining my short works reading challenge. It’s got a pretty low threshold. I’m hoping to encourage others to add a few short stories and/or essays to their reading plans. Thanks for stopping by and commenting, too.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Oh, I hope you will join the challenge. Glad you enjoyed the photos. Thanks for stopping by and leaving a comment. I really enjoy meeting new folks and talking books.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thank you, Katie. I have found a lot of good writers by reading their short works. Thanks for stopping by!

  • Vikk Simmons

    Love, love, love the idea of short stories being the Formula One cars. That’s brilliant, Alisha. Flash fiction is a great sub genre. Hope you’ll check out my short works reading challenge and consider joining in. Thanks for stopping by.

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thank you, Laura. Love that you enjoy short stories. Hope yo enjoy my venture. Let me know your thoughts! Thanks!

  • Rose Causey

    Love the history you provide of short stories. Great challenge, although I don’t think it is for me. As for vlogging, give it a go!

  • Vikk Simmons

    Thanks, Rose. Yep, vlogging is a big step. I am thinking I might incorporate it now and then just to spice things up a bit. LOL Thanks for stopping by and commenting.