Short Story Month: Class, Anthonys, Wigleaf & More

I haven’t been posting about short stories this month, but I have been reading them, and as Short Story Month draws to a close, here’s a quick run-down of some of my May reading.

Right after winning the Agatha Award (!!!) for my own story, “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants,” I jumped back into the classroom, teaching a quartet of tales to my “Classic and Contemporary Mystery Stories” class—and welcoming three of the authors into the classroom for quick chats via Skype!

  • “Harvest” by Steve Weddle, from his novel-in-stories Country Hardball
  • “Night Stand” by Daniel Woodrell, from his collection The Outlaw Album
  • “Pirate Dave’s Haunted Amusement Park” by Toni L.P. Kelner, from the anthology Death’s Excellent Vacation
  • “The Adakian Eagle” by Bradley Denton, from the anthology Down These Strange Streets

Thanks to Steve, Toni, and Brad for talking with my students for a few minutes. A great end to the semester.

After that, I jumped into nearly 40 stories by the students themselves. As a final assignment in the class, each student was tasked with writing his or her own short story, modeled after or inspired in some way by one of the stories from our semester (and the tricky part was having to write a short essay explaining the connections to the model/inspiration). I’ve offered a similar assignment in other classes, and I’m always astounded by the quality of some of the fiction that these students turn in—especially since many of them have never done any creative writing at all. The best of the stories—including one about a female PI (responding to Sue Grafton and Sara Paretsky) and another that set a Sherlock/Watson duo in the Gulf War—would easily be publishable with a little editing. It was just a thrill to see what the students did.

From there, I caught up with a couple of pieces by David Dean (one of my favorite short story writers); his stories “Murder Town” and “The Assumption of Seamus Tyrrell” were in the February and March/April issues of Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine. And while I was in the March/April issue, I checked our Lori Rader-Day’s “Over Her Body” too—suspensful and chilling work from a new friend I met at Malice Domestic (and looking forward to her debut novel, The Black Hour, which is getting stellar advance praise).

After starting catch-up on recent EQMM‘s, I was caught unaware myself by getting an Anthony nomination for “The Care and Feeding of Houseplants”—yowsa! And then read each of other stories on the finalist slate, which featured a wide range of different styles, approaches and lengths:

  • Craig Faustus Buck, “Dead Ends” (Untreed Reads)
  • John Connolly, “The Caxton Private Lending Library & Book Depository” (Bibliomysteries, Mysterious Press)
  • Denise Dietz, “Annie and the Grateful Dead” (The Sound and the Furry, Amazon Digital Services)
  • Travis Richardson, “Incident on the 405” (Criminal Element, The Malfeasance Occasional: Girl Trouble)

And today comes good word on a great story by Laura Ellen Scott, a good friend and an amazing writer. Her story “A Picture of a Man in a Top Hat,” originally published in The Collagist, was named to this year’s Wigleaf 50, featuring the top stories of the year. And plenty of other good reading there too, which will help me begin rounding out Short Story Month in style.

And, of course, I’d encourage others to check out these as well.

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