Stories, Writers Co-op Anthology, writing technique

Anthology April

Curtis Bausse Book a Break Short Story Competition

A big thank you to all who submitted stories for the first Rabbit Hole anthology – 56 submissions in all, a very healthy number for our first outing. Now the hard part begins – the selection process. We aim to get this done over the next 2 to 3 weeks, and all authors will be notified one way or the other before the end of the month. After that, it’s editing, revision, proofreading, formatting… a process on which I’d rather not put a concluding date right now.

But it’s already begun, and for me not once but twice: for The Rabbit Hole and for The Second Taste. That’s the title of this year’s Book a Break anthology (which will also be its last year). The title comes from Anaïs Nin: We write to taste life twice: in the moment and in retrospection. And in the anthology, as befits the theme of nourishment, there will be many flavours. With more still to come – there’s room for another half dozen stories, so if you have anything you’d like to submit, send it along before the end of this month to curtis.bausse(at)outlook.com. Maximum length: (more or less) 2000 words.

So April for me will be anthology month. All this has got me thinking about what makes a good short story. It’s far easier to say what doesn’t work than what does, which I’m not even going to attempt here. Instead I’ll let Atthys Gage give an idea – this is from the announcement of the first Book a Break competition, which he judged:

Let’s admit one thing. You may need to ignore everyone’s favorite writing tip: “show, don’t tell”— or at least, take it with a grain of salt. Telling is okay, just tell it well. Sometimes it’s necessary. You need a quick set up to get the reader involved quickly, because in a very few pages, you’re going to pull a fast one, yank our expectations out from under our feet, drop us abruptly on our backsides. Consider The Open Window by Saki, or The Lottery by Shirley Jackson, or The Nine Billion Names of God by Arthur C. Clarke.

Or maybe your story doesn’t feature a last minute reversal. Maybe it’s all one slow-burn, building to a frantic boil. Think Young Goodman Brown by Hawthorne, or A Good Man is Hard to Find by Flannery O’Connor. These stories play with our expectations, but you can see the ending coming. By the time it comes, you know it was inevitable all along.

Then there’s this from Heidi Pitlor: A successful short story does not expose its mechanics. Hell, it most likely does not have mechanics, rather a set of characters, a voice, an arc, momentum and a raison d’être so indivisible that to examine one of these aspects might seem pointless without the context of the others.

There’s only one thing I can say for sure – a good short story makes you want to come back for a second taste.

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3 thoughts on “Anthology April

  1. mimispeike says:

    No activity here, and when I see no activity I am tempted to go with my latest brain-storm (fart?). From a post on YouTube:

    “John Oliver’s children’s book is officially an Amazon best-seller, but not all the reviews have been positive. Last night, Seth Meyers surprised Oliver with some hilarious one-star reviews of A Day in the Life of Marlon Bundo, which skewers the homophobic politics of Vice President Mike Pence.”

    The one-star ratings are actually ‘false flag’ reviews. I would welcome hilariously awful reviews of my own to promote online and in mailers. A guy back on Book Country told me: You’re no Jane Austen. I’ve been chuckling about that for seven or eight years now. Does anyone in their right mind think I’m emulating Jane Austen in any way? He meant her wit, of course, but I have my own style of wit, all me, owes nothing to no one.

    BTW, I copied out and saved all those BC reviews. I may already have gems to plunk into my promotional material. If you’re going to skewer me, make it good and zany, and I’ll praise you forever.

    Oh yeah, I have a really good one from Angela. Who remembers Angela? Thank you Angela, wherever you are.

    Liked by 2 people

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