All posts tagged: short stories

Savannah Johnston talks about how RITES: Stories initially began as a longing for home, but also the realities of life in Oklahoma, being Indigenous, how watching TV helps with ‘episodic’ writing, more

By Leslie Lindsay In sparse, biting, yet eloquent and compressed prose, Savannah Johnston reveals the truths, sorrow, and joys of the mundane and extraordinary in this collection of stories featuring Indigenous people of Oklahoma. ~WRITERS INTERVIEWING WRITERS~ ALWAYS WITH A BOOK|FICTION FRIDAY Leslie Lindsay & Savannah Johnston in conversation Savannah Johnston is an enrolled member of the Choctaw Nation of Oklahoma living in NYC. Her work has appeared in Gulf Coast, HTML giant, and Gravel, among others. Rites: Stories is her debut collection of fiction, published by Jaded Ibis, a feminist press committed to sharing literature from voices of people of color, those with disabilities, and culturally marginalized voices. ABOUT RITES: Stories: Each of the stories in RITES presents a rich, complex interior life, encompassing the lives of a man newly released from prison as he attempts to reconnect with his family, a young well-endowed girl who becomes a sex worker, drunken feuds at motels, a son who must bury his father, and more. They are struggling, echoes and penumbras of society, and yet we …

Leah Hampton talks about her debut story collection, F*CKFACE, set in rural Appalachia, plus her writing tips & routines, climate change, geography, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay  A bold, brassy debut collection of short stories set in modern-day Appalachia explore the environmental and geographical elements of these resilient, durable–and often stubborn–folks. ~WEDNESDAYS WITH WRITERS| ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ Recently, my family and I visited rural Appalachia for the first time; I was swept away. The geography, the landscape was at once familiar, and yet foreign. It stirred me; cast a spell. Something about the purple haze unfurling from the mountains, the way they were formed when the African continent collided with the North American one, creating a buckle, then drifting away, seems somehow poetic and disturbing. And so when Leah Hampton’s F*CKFACE: And Other Stories (Henry Holt, July 2020) came to my attention, I knew I had to read it. F*CKFACE is comprised of twelve short stories, all set in Appalachia, and are at once funny, tragic, and disturbing. There are park rangers and corpses, illicit sex, dead bears and grocery stores, infertility, there’s a young man estranged from his parents and more distanced when he leaves for Afghanistan; there are frogs and locals and …

Colette Sartor talks about her sublime collection of linked stories in ONCE REMOVED, but also how she never intended to write a collection; the grittier side to L.A., a study in storymapping and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay  Stunning collection of interlinked stories featuring strong, yet vulnerable women, exploring fears, desires, earned raw emotion, and so much more. ~FICTION FRIDAY|ALWAYS WITH A BOOK~ FLANNERY O’CONNOR AWARD FOR SHORT FICTION I am literally swooning over this collection of interlinked stories by Colette Sartor. ONCE REMOVED: Stories (University of Georgia Press, September 2019) and winner of the Flannery O’Conner Award for Short Fiction, shimmers with radiant, but unsettling characters in authentic situations. It’s mostly about intimacy–and I’m not talking about sex here–it’s the voids and turns of life brimming with emotional complexity. It’s about babies and meals, traditions, and customs. It’s about houses and homes; leaving and going; about love and grief, fierce natures and grudge-holders. It’s about disillusionment and estrangement. The prose is pounding with pulse, and yet, there’s a lyrical restraint here, too. Sartor strips away the facade we fallible humans hide behind, revealing the (sometimes) crumbling foundation. She excavates the fears, desires, secrets in ways that are surprising and while troublesome, are also delightful. The emotion here is raw, but it’s …

DECEMBER SHORT STORY SERIES: Karen Russell’s exquisite imagination flares with mundane moments turned surreal in ORANGE WORLD

Stunningly surreal and mystical stories from literary great, Karen Russell, captures a vibrant imagination with a dash of outlandish. DECEMBER SHORT STORIES SERIES From the Pulitzer finalist and universally beloved author of the New York Times best sellersSWAMPLANDIA! and VAMPIRES IN THE LEMON GROVE, a stunning new collect ion of short fiction that showcases Karen Russell’s extraordinary, irresistible gifts of language and imagination.  I’m a little late the the game here on Karen Russell, but rest assured, she’s been on my radar for some time. Russell’s her wild, brilliant imagination (which is completely unique) fuels my own (more tame) vault of weirdness. ORANGE WORLD (May 2019) completely captured and intrigued me. Eight stories in all–almost all have an ecology connection, they also interweave a series of surreal moments, almost as a melding of Salvador Dali meets literature. I enjoyed all the stories in ORANGE WORLD–even the hard-to-fathom ones–because Russell’s writing and observations are razor-sharp. But they’re not for everyone. I found I ‘connected’ most with “The Prospectors,” and the title story, “Orange World,” most, but you may feel differently. I also …

Polly Samson talks about her enchanting collection of stories, PERFECT LIVES, how it was influenced, in part, by being a new mother living near the sea

By Leslie Lindsay  Eleven interconnected stories set in the bucolic English seaside town in which everyone is a little skewed and searching …for love, belonging, pleasures, and more. ~DECEMBER SHORT STORIES SERIES~ Lately I’ve had a love affair with wry, enchanting short stories that bring to mind nature and our connection to it–and also the inner lives of deliciously flawed characters. PERFECT LIVES (Bloomsbury, 2010) by Polly Samson absolutely fits the bill. Her writing is keenly observed in the nuances of family life and also the small town feel of this enmeshed seaside community. There’s a broken egg dropped through a mail slot, a boy who glances his babysitter at a circus on a trapeze, a struggling postpartum mother, a piano tuner, some gorgeous architecture, and more. The stories meander and trail along in a fashion that is both exquisite and nuanced, and at times, I struggled to find the connections between them, but characters do resurface, and like a true-life village, ‘bump’ into one another time and time again. Samson’s strength lies in details and observations. …

The street lights have come on, it’s time to go inside…Carrianne Leung on her sublime novel-in-short-stories, plus what happens behind closed doors, suicide, mental illness, more

By Leslie Lindsay  Brilliant collection of intertwined/interconnected short stories about a suburban subdivision in the late 1970s/early 1980s. Winner of the Danuta Gleed Literary Award  (Writers’ Union of Canada)  An Amazon Best Book of the Month  (Literature & Fiction) Such a striking and brilliant collection of short stories from Canadian author Carrianne Leung. I absolutely adored THAT TIME I LOVED YOU (Liveright Publishing, February 2019), and felt a bit melancholy when it was over; I wanted to stay with these characters longer.  ~ DECEMBER SHORT STORIES SERIES ~ When I finished this collection, sat the book down, I said, “Five glorious stars,” and I don’t do that often. These stories are about children losing innocence, adults burying their pain. They start off with a ‘rash’ of parent suicides, one right after the other, in this new development, where everything appears ‘perfect.’ The characters are flawed but endearing. Leung’s prose is absolutely glimmering and lucid. I couldn’t get enough. THAT TIME I LOVED YOU is a harrowing and stunning portrait of suburbia in that tender period of adolescence and new promise (the neighborhood is …

What happens when you’re inspired by a piece of visual art & you’re short story writer? This stark, moving collection, SCENES FROM THE HEARTLAND is born

By Leslie Lindsay  What happens when a contemporary writer of semi-autobiographical short fiction turns her gaze to the iconic images of America’s past? This glimmering collection, SCENES FROM THE HEARTLAND I’m a sucker for anything Missouri, anything Midwest. That’s probably because this strange little state smack in the U.S. is what shaped me, the place I still think of as ‘home,’ even though I’ve lived elsewhere more than half my life now. There’s a realness, an authenticity to the state, which is a conglomeration of everything and nothing–North, South, East, and West. It has the rolling Ozark mountains, the winding Mississippi, big cities and tiny ones, wealth and poverty. To be a Missourian is to contain multitudes. So when I heard about SCENES FROM THE HEARTLAND (Serving House Books, March 31 2019), I knew I had to read it. The reader enters the imagined landscape of one of the most well-known American painters, Thomas Hart Benton, slipping back to the 1920s, 30s, and 40s to Southern Missouri, Arkansas, SW Illinois, St. Louis, Kansas City, Hannibal, and more. We …

Wednesdays with Writers: Helen Simpson talks about her collection of stories in COCKFOSTERS, how a short story is really like a geological core sample~’skipping the gossip and going for the jugular,’ how an empty nest is invigorating, her to-read pile, and so much more

By Leslie Lindsay  Quiet, honest and wry short stories about women in middle-age is as tender as it is disturbing. Helen Simpson has been writing short stories for a long time–in fact, COCKFOSTERS (Alfred A. Knopf, June 2017) is her *sixth* collection–and I’ve just now been introduced to her?! She’s British, and that might be part of it, but still. I see her as a contemporary to Flannery O’Connor, Richard Russo, Tom Perrotta, Alice Munro, and perhaps Lorna Lanvick and Joyce Carol Oates.  Included stories revolve mostly around women in their 40s and 50s focusing on identity, reinvention, changing bodies/sex lives, empty-nesters. There’s a gaze toward the horizon, as many of these women are entering the ‘autumn’ of their lives. Time is ticking, and it’s felt in this collection, a hum that is the steady pulse of suspense. These nine stories are deceptively quiet and honest, bringing to light a very authentic recognition of life, of children, of marriages, of friendships between women; there are betrayals and acceptance, complexities as well as simplicities. You’ll find there’s …

Wednesdays with Writers: Abandoned insane asylums, ghosts, lush prose, a mystery, writing amidst chaos, a brief tutorial in short stories and linked novels, and so much more from Karen Brown. Oh, and her new novel, THE CLAIRVOYANTS.

By Leslie Lindsay  Lush, descriptive, wholly original psychological mystery in which one woman’s desires and abilities are put to the test. THE CLAIRVOYANTS is the second novel of Karen Brown (her first, THE LONGINGS OF WAYWARD GIRLS came out in 2013. Be sure to check out my interview with her here. Karen’s prose is complex, vivid, and poetic. THE CLAIRVOYANTS is a hot, roiling simmer encased with erotic undertones, complex layers, a highly Gothic vibe that will have you wrapped in a hypnotic dream-state questioning your own reality.  Martha Mary and her slightly unstable younger sister, Del (Delores) claim to see ghosts. They are the charlatans of their small coastal town, offering seances and readings of the dead in exchange for a few bucks to buy lip gloss and drug-store flip-flops. But maybe she *can* see ghosts after all? Martha Mary leaves that coastal town and settles in Ithaca, New York in attempt to be a bit more ‘grounded,’ to attend college. There she falls in love with photographer/professor William Bell and together, along with her …

Write On, Wednesday: Gillian Flynn’s THE GROWNUP

By Leslie Lindsay  The Edgar Award–winning short story from the author of Gone Girl, Dark Places, and Sharp Objects, published for the first time as a stand-alone book What a concise and wacky little story THE GROWNUP is, but what more would we expect from Gillian Flynn?! Topping out at just over 60 pages, this is not a full-fledged novel and that may be okay, depending on what you’re in the mood for. Personally, I would have loved a full-length novel (ha, and there’s a little pun in that if you chose to read the story), but THE GROWNUP is a full short story that was originally written for J.R.R. Tolkien by Flynn (as mentioned her acknowledgements section) and published as a short story within an anthology in 2014. Be aware that, like Flynn’s earlier stories, this one is a bit vulgar at times and definitely edgy, but if you like haunted houses, ghost-y things, and have an interest in the occult, THE GROWNUP is right. up. your. alley. Of course the ending is trade-mark …