July 20th, 2009

An honour and a privilege

I have ever maintained that the short story is thriving, as challenging, fantastic, funny, depressing, thrilling, shocking, entertaining and inspiring stories continue to be produced in this country at a fantastic rate. I read frequently and vigorously–journals and collections and online stuff–and still there’s a million things about this tricksy form that I’m trying to understand.

This spring and summer have afforded me some marvelous opportunities to try to learn this craft. The first was teaching grades 10 and 11 to write short stories. Anytime you want to call everything you think you know into question, just try telling it teenagers. Even before the kids started their questions, the act of putting together my thoughts and beliefs about how something ought to work in a story showed me a lot of my limitations, and opened up doors I never knew existed. Of course I want to think that my teaching served the cause of the short story by showing kids how fun it is to try to write them, and how much can be gained by reading them. In addition to that, though, I do think that my own contributions to the genre will be shaped by what I learned from teaching.

The other thing I’ve been up to lately is acting as a judge for the Journey Prize 21. Obviously, it was a huge honour to be asked to take on this role, but also a huge privilege to get to immerse myself in some of the best work done in the form this year in Canada, and to then to discuss that work deeply with my inspiring fellow judges, Lee Henderson and Camilla Gibb. This was, once again, an opportunity to interrogate what I think of as a “good short story,” why I think that, and how that might be limiting.

I plan to write more about this process around the book’s release (October 6; the winner will be announced at the Writers’ Trust Awards in November). This little post is just to say that I hope you are as excited about the upcoming anthology as I am–it’s full of wonderful, challenging, weird, etc. stories that inspired us, and might inspire you, too. And also to say that I think I’m a lot smarter than I was six months ago.

Our still lives posed / like a bowl of oranges

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So Much Love by Rebecca Rosenblum

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