Short Story Revival: True or False?

“… There’s something unsaid, a dread in the air. … And so there it was said, floating up and around in the atmosphere with all the delicious aromas, the superficial chatter and the sounds of cars making their way back into the city for the long work week.” Lori M. Myers Cooking in a Room with Strangers

Fact or fantasy, true or false, is the revival of the short story due in part to the easy access to e-books for reading on a tablet or smartphone? Or is this just a myth? According to Laura Miller, the short story boom is bogus. In response to the New York Times article, Good Fit for Today’s Little Screens: Short Stories, Laura says, “Still, the idea that such programs have led to renewed general interest in reading short stories is, like much of the Times article, speculative and fueled by wishful thinking.” She expands on this here: Sorry the Short Story Boom Is Bogus

The “wishful thinking” comment led me to do some research – it’s what I do, and I didn’t even need to Google; I went straight to Amazon’s bestsellers’ list. I compared Short Stories with the Romance, Fantasy and Science Fiction genres. I also looked at the list of Fiction Classics. You can draw your own conclusions from the results.

Compared to the most popular genre, Romance, short stories are way behind (the #100 bestseller in the Romance genre is ranked higher overall than the #1 bestseller in short stories), but compared with Fantasy and Sci-Fi and, especially, Fiction Classics, short stories do much better as shown in the table below:

Genre

Bestseller List

Overall ranking (Paid in Kindle Store)

Short Stories

#1

#261

Romance

#100

#231

Fantasy

#14

#260

Science Fiction

#12

#259

Fiction Classics

#4, #5

#196,  #531

The #1 bestseller in the Romance genre was overall #1 bestseller on Kindle, and even the #100 bestseller in Romance (#231 overall ranking) ranked higher than the #1 bestseller in the Short Stories category (#261 overall ranking). Romance lived up to its reputation and came out well on top.

However, in the Fantasy bestsellers list, only fourteen books (fourteenth book ranked #260 overall) ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories. Similarly, only twelve books (twelfth book ranked #259 overall) performed better in the Science Fiction genre.

Compared with Fiction Classics, short stories performed well – only four books (fourth book ranked #196 overall, fifth book ranked #531 overall) in the Fiction Classics list ranked higher than the top ranked book in Short Stories.

The evidence suggests that, apart from Romance, short stories in e-book format are now on a par with other popular genres. Readers seem to enjoy the variety that short stories offer interspersed among their favorite authors and books. One reason for this might be that a short story can be read in the space of a bus ride or train journey, especially with all the new forms of electronic reading devices and the increasing number of online e-book retailers.

This revival of the short story in electronic format has created an opportunity for writers that might not have presented itself otherwise. Many new and exciting writers are keen to reach out to readers by providing them with stories that entertain and enthrall. The demand from readers is there and authors are matching it.

FrontThe opening quote above is from the talented writer, Lori Myers. Lori is one of three Pushcart nominees (Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, Murray Dunlap and Lori M. Myers) who contributed short stories to Forever Families, the third in the Forever series of anthologies – Forever Friends (2008), Forever Travels (2010) and Forever Families (2012).

Lori’s touching story about a sister and brother, who have grown apart, is just one of twenty-seven stories that vary in length from concise to extensive. Every story, whether short or long, offers a unique look at family life. While some are poignant, others raise a smile.

The seven sections that make up the book take the reader through the joys of a happy childhood to the sadness of a death in the family, with fond family memories, faithful family pets, risky family business ventures, eventful family weddings and the ups and downs of family life in between. So, find a comfortable chair, download the book to your e-reader, then sit back and enjoy the diversity of reading experiences in Forever Families.

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Forever Families Anthology

This is the third book in the Forever series. In 2008, Forever Friends, an anthology of short stories and poems written by writers from all regions of the world, proved to be very successful and so led to the second book in the series, Forever Travels, in 2010.

Four years on, the revival of the short story continues, especially with all the new forms of electronic reading devices and the increasing number of online e-book retailers. There has never been a better time for readers and writers of short stories. As with the previous two anthologies, the attraction of this collection of work lies in its diversity and variety of genres: from non-fiction to creative non-fiction and fiction. With such a wide choice, there is something to entertain every reader. The length of the stories varies from concise to extensive. Every story, whether short or long, offers a unique look at family life. While some are poignant, others raise a smile.

The seven sections that make up the book take the reader through the joys of a happy childhood to the sadness of a death in the family, with fond family memories, faithful family pets, risky family business ventures, eventful family weddings and the ups and downs of family life in between. So, find a comfortable chair, sit back and enjoy the diversity of reading experiences in Forever Families.

Now available on Amazon

I have set up a Facebook page for Forever Families.  Please join the page, follow the comments and add your own. Click on Like below to join this page:

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Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow is Founding General Manager of WYCC-TV/PBS (Chicago’s Public Broadcasting Station) and Distinguished Professor Emeritus of Wright College in Chicago.

Shelagh: Please tell everyone a little about yourself, Elynne.

Elynne: I am an author and adult storyteller.  My non-fiction stories and essays have been published in magazines, newspapers and the following anthologies:  The Revolving Door in Chicken Soup for the Chocolate Lover’s Soul (HCI Books); Grandma Lebedow in The Wisdom of Old Souls (Hidden Brook Press);  The  Red Pen, The Elevator, Mr. X and Mr. Y, and Life 101 in Forever Friends (Mandinam Press); His Way in My Dad Is My Hero (Adams Media Publishing); The  Hat in The Ultimate Teacher (HCI Books); The Needle in the Haystack and My Gift of Now in Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages (All Things That Matter Press); Ronald in Chicken Soup for the Soul: True Love (Simon and Schuster)

My story, A Tale of Two Vardas, was published internationally December 2009 in the Jerusalem Post Magazine. The sequel, A Journey of the Heart, was published in The Jerusalem Post Magazine January 2010.

June 1, 2009 marked the recording debut of my audio fiction story, Professor Gabriel and her 101 Posse. The story airs on The Deepening Website (World of Fiction) and is recorded by D. L. Keur.

I am married to my best friend Richard Noel Aleskow.

Shelagh: When did you begin writing and in what genre(s)?

Elynne: I have been writing since I was around nine years old. As a young girl, I used to write stream-of-consciousness prose that bordered on poetic prose. That writing was just for me. It was a way to express my most personal feelings as I was growing up. Two and one-half years ago I decided to retire from college teaching. My husband wisely suggested that I have a plan in mind for retirement and asked me what I would like to do. Having had successful and fulfilling careers in Public Television and teaching, I answered that there was a dream I had always wanted to do. I wanted to write and publish my stories. And so I began my third career.

I had always been a reader of the short story genre. Artistically this genre gave me great pleasure as a reader and writer. The only difference was that my stories were non-fiction. With the experiences I had lived and knew about, non-fiction was a natural and exciting genre for me. I could never imagine in fiction writing some of the events that I had lived. The first year and one-half of my writing, the stories poured out of me. I was productive and inspired and wrote everyday. Then my submissions turned into published stories and I have not looked back since.

Shelagh: When you started writing, what goals did you want to accomplish? Is there a message you want readers to grasp?

Elynne: Many of my non-fiction stories are inspirational. I want my readers to be moved and to understand and empathize with the reality I am conveying.  I want my stories to offer my readers insights and to entertain them. Many of my travel stories are very funny recounting the travel adventures of my husband and me.

Shelagh: Briefly tell us about your latest stories.

Elynne: My stories are presently published in seven anthologies and several magazines including the international Jerusalem Post Magazine. Two very important stories about my life, The Needle in the Haystack, the story of how my husband and I met in middle age and, My Gift of Now, about my retirement and the beginning of my writing career, have just been published in the anthology, Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages.

I intentionally have chosen to submit my stories for publication in a variety of anthologies because I feel that they will get the best distribution and variety of readership this way. Each editor and publisher along with the contributing authors works hard to market each anthology. I believe it is an advantageous way to establish an audience for one’s work.

Shelagh: How are the anthologies marketed?

Elynne: Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages (All Things That Matter Press) is being marketed to the public as well as to Universities and Colleges as a text for Women’s Studies Programs. That thought thrills me. I see this book as an eloquent mentor to the next generation of women. It can be purchased from the publisher and at Amazon.com.

Shelagh: Do you have a specific writing style or preferred POV?

Elynne: My point of view preference in writing is first person. There is a personal quality and tone that a first person narrator is potentially able to convey in telling the story. As a reader, I have always been attracted to and interested in storytelling and the narrator’s role and effectiveness in this process.

In performing my stories, I find the audience engages naturally with a first person narrator. The first time I performed a program consisting solely of my own published stories was a moment I will never forget. I had achieved my dream.

For me performance of my work is a natural extension of my art as a writer. To perform my work for an audience establishes a connection and bond between them and me as I function as both the writer and the performer. The audience feedback is immediate. Will they laugh where I intended them to laugh? Will they feel moved as I intended them to feel? Will my interpretation of my story parallel their own interpretation as readers?

As an artist, combining writing and performance is an exquisite challenge.

Shelagh: Share the best review (or a portion) that you’ve ever had.

Elynne: I have received many wonderful and insightful reviews about my writing and my performing. I would be happy to share one of each.

The following is a review of my audio fiction story, Professor Gabriel and her 101 Posse, which is available at www.thedeepening.com.   It is a short story that lends itself well to being read and recorded. It was recorded by D.L. Keur.

Elynne’s vivid and creative story touches the reader with emotion, just as Prof. Gabriel touched her students…The story of LK and the kidnapping would make an inspirational anticipatory set for any curriculum on creative writing … punctuated with chapter-like titles; i.e. “The Attic”, “The Billboard”, “The Conversation”, etc. the reader is held captive. I love how the story of Miguel is woven as a sub-plot to help clarify the Prof’s “mission” to help LK. The wisdom that the writer (and Professor Gabriel) imparts throughout is invaluable. “My burden was to help him lose his arrogance.” … “She taught us how not to be afraid” … Listening to her story was a very “deepening experience”. Thank you.

C.J. Breman

The feedback I have received from my performance programs are reviews that are indeed gratifying. The following is one of my favorites:

Most writers are Sooooo disappointing as speakers but you are dynamite wrapped in silk.
Illene Ashkenaz

Shelagh: What are your current projects?

Elynne: My most current writing project involved a Facebook experience that became two non-fiction stories published internationally in The Jerusalem Post Magazine. After the first story was published, the Jerusalem Post Magazine editor invited me to write a sequel. The entire experience from living the stories to writing them was magical. And gaining an international audience through this paper’s print distribution and website was an invaluable opportunity.

I have stories accepted in two more anthologies that will be out toward the end of 2010.

I am always either thinking about my next story or writing it.

Shelagh: Where can folks learn more about your books and events?

Elynne: The anthologies with my stories, my performance schedule, reviews and book signings can be found at http://LookAroundMe.blogspot.com

March 22nd I have been invited with other contributing authors to the University of Maine to perform my stories in Contemporary American Women: Our Defining Passages. Both Cynthia Brackett-Vincent, the editor of Passages, and I are contributing authors to the anthology, Forever Friends edited by Shelagh Watkins.

Shelagh: Thanks for joining us today, Elynne.

Elynne: I am delighted to be interviewed by you. Thank you for the invitation.

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Forever Friends in TCW

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Originally printed in September 2009 Today’s Chicago Woman, http://www.TCWmag.com

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End of Blog Tour

The blog tour is at an end and it is time for me to sum up the last twenty days of the tour. Thank you to all the blog hosts for taking part and helping to make this a successful tour. I would like to give special thanks to all those following the tour who left comments; your support was very much appreciated! I would also like to thank everyone who joined in the tour and decided to buy a copy of Forever Friends. One of the comments I received during the tour said: Should be getting my book any day now. Can’t wait to read it. A few days later I received this from the same person: I received my copy the other day and I’m astonished by the presentation. You have done such a wonderful job with this anthology. I’ve never seen one so well presented. So, if you are looking for a well-presented anthology full of wonderful stories and poems, order a copy now; you will not be disappointed!

Forever Friends is available now from amazon.com:

Forever Friends

Thanks again for reading this and best wishes for the holiday season!

Shelagh Watkins

Day Twenty of Blog Tour

Thank you for reading this blog entry! This is an extension to the blog tour. If you missed the tour, welcome! If you stayed with us throughout, thank you for following the tour! This extension is very much in keeping with the way contributors submitted their work to the anthology. The last day for submitting was August 31st 2008 but the final submission did not arrive until September 5th! Submissions did not always arrive together. When I received and accepted two short stories from Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow, I received a request from Elynne to consider two more submissions since all four short stories would still be well within the four thousand word maximum. I agreed and accepted two more short stories.

Before I talk about the four stories, here are my answers to some interesting questions posed by Elynne:

1. What is appealing about anthologies for the reading public at large?

The short story has enjoyed something of a revival in recent years with the increased pace of life alongside busy schedules that leave less time for reading. A volume of short stories, therefore, lends itself to those who have little spare time to do all the things in the day they would like to do. The attraction of this particular collection of work lies in its diversity and variety of genres. From romance and mystery to fantasy and science fiction, there is something for everyone. While some are short and pithy, others are thought-provoking and satisfying. All are entertaining.

2. What are the advantages for readers to pick up a good anthology?

The advantages are many; the first one being time, as mentioned in my answer to the first question. Another advantage is variety; readers receive a new vision every few pages. Different writing styles can also be considered an advantage as can diversity and the opportunity to read different points of view. On an academic level, anthologies have a special appeal to teachers for classroom use because they provide examples of different ways of writing in one volume. A good anthology will have all these advantages plus the obvious attraction of a well-compiled volume of work. If, after reading a poem that follows a story, the reader is inspired to read the next short story, then the compiler has worked hard to create a book that flows from beginning to end. Always the sign of a good anthology.

3. How and why is this particular anthology special?

Forever Friends is special because it brings together writers from all over the world. The contributors to the anthology have experienced some of the same things in life but their personal experiences and how they reacted to them are unique. It is this uniqueness that they bring to the anthology. The stories and poems are full of imagination and love; human kindness, thoughtfulness and understanding; humour, wit, honesty and candour. Something for everyone!

*

I would like to thank Elynne for inviting me to say more about Forever Friends. As mentioned earlier, Elynne has four stories in the anthology. Three of the short stories are true stories about events in Elynne’s life concerning her family and friends. The first of these stories, The Red Pen, is about her beloved sister Ivy. The fourth story, part of a Wright College Graduation speech Elynne gave as Distinguished Professor, is an insight into life survival skills.

Forever Friends is available now from amazon.com:  Forever Friends

Thanks again for reading this and best wishes for the holiday season!

Shelagh Watkins

December 20 Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow

Day Nineteen of Blog Tour

Thank you for reading this blog entry! This is the last post on the blog tour. If you have only just joined the tour, welcome, you have only just made it! If you have read every post, thank you for following the tour! Two days ago, I talked about the poems in Forever Friends and how some of the poems express feelings of friendship through music and nature. Last week, I mentioned that the poems in the book celebrate friendship in all its facets from loving to detached, giving a few glimpses of the other side of friendship, while others are thankful and show gratitude for the kindness of friendships and the loyalty of true friends.

Dana Rettig’s poem, Gratitude is one of a number of poems in the anthology that focus on the value of friends for their help and support. There are times in everyone’s life when they lose the motivation to continue doing something that seems impossible to achieve. If all hope seems to be gone, encouragement from a friend can make all the difference between success and failure. Dana’s poem is about the special kind of friendships that give us strength and for which we are eternally grateful.

I would like to thank Dana for inviting me to her blog to give me a chance say more about the poems in the anthology. Although this is the last blog on the original tour, I will be visiting Elynne Chaplik-Aleskow’s blog tomorrow when I will be answering some in depth questions about anthologies in general and Forever Friends in particular. Do not miss it!

Forever Friends is available now from amazon.com: Forever Friends

Thanks again for reading this and best wishes for the holiday season!

Shelagh Watkins

December 19 Dana Rettig