Guest Post, Colleen Stinchcombe: Are Short Stories the Future of Publishing?

Enter a commercial bookstore – say, Barnes and Noble – and take a look at the display sections. Likely what you will find are different novel-length books, be it fiction, nonfiction, fantasy, or young adult. Enter the shelves and, if you search a little, you will be able to find collections of short stories by some particularly well-known authors, or maybe an entire section devoted to short-story form. For many amateur writers there is a sense that one starts writing short stories only to better understand the structure of a story, but “real writing,” successful writing, involves novels. Short stories are a way of getting one’s name known to better sell a novel later, or a way of generating ideas and themes that will eventually show up in a later novel.

This is not to say that short stories are not an often-used form, but rather that they are not marketed or praised with as much enthusiasm as novels. Book clubs, college essays, even library shelves are more likely to be promoting novels than short fiction.

Is that still true? There are thousands of literary magazines with focus on short stories across the country, and MFA Creative Writing programs are bursting at the seams with hopeful writers – most who are learning to write short stories as their primary craft. Almost three weeks ago, Junot Diaz, an author who won the Pulitzer Prize for his first novel released not another novel but a book of short stories. It is currently fifth on the New York Times Bestseller list for hardcovers. A book of short stories selling well to the general public.

Other writers are taking this risk as well. Emma Donaghue was a finalist for the Man Booker prize for her best-selling novel Room, and recently she released a collection of short stories named Astray. No longer are short stories something authors do until they can get a book deal – now the short stories are book deals in themselves.

Olive Kitteridge is a best-selling “novel in stories” by Elizabeth Strout – a marketing tool that has been popular lately. Is it a collection of short stories with a central character, or is it a novel separated into different stories? Likely, in the interest of a more mainstream readership, the publisher decided to market it as a novel.

For many readers, short stories are a form used only for convenience in classroom settings or slipped into magazines they were already reading, but this is beginning to change. The market is finding more and more value in short stories and the public is beginning to recognize and buy these collections. Is their smaller form easier to finish in our busy-bee lifestyles? Are they better suited to our oft-thought shrinking attention spans? Is it a result of a plethora of talented short story artists coming out of MFA programs? Or perhaps the many different places to find short stories – literary magazines, collections of prize-winners, e-books, online?

The makeup and background of literature is changing, from MFA programs to e-books. It will be interesting to see if novels soon become less ubiquitous and short stories more popular and accessible. In a few more years, will bookstores be selling out of popular short story collections more often than popular novels?

Are eBooks Pushing Print to Extinction?

There is something about the aroma of a worn book that induces a sense of nostalgia. Print aficionados have fought to maintain the sanctity of printed press, but as the popularity of eReaders and tablets continues to rise, how long can book-advocates withstand the pressures of a technology-driven society?

With Apple’s iPad, Amazon’s Kindle, and Barnes & Noble’s Nook leading the revolution, more and more readers are turning to the instant gratification of eBooks and digital readers over more traditional mediums. They can now hold entire libraries in their hands, buy a book with the tap of a finger, and read until their screens go dark. So what’s not to love?

Some argue the experience is not the same. A book’s battery never goes dead. Browsing an App Store can’t compete with wandering the shelves of a bookstore and running your fingers along the spines. Holding a book in your hands, with its binding and tangible pages, doesn’t feel the same as holding plastic, aluminum, or glass. Books are permanent entities whereas digital media feels ephemeral; an ebook you own could be there one day and gone the next, but a printed media will withstand decades. Actor and journalist Stephen Fry said recently, “Books are no more threatened by the Kindle than stairs by elevators.” Other authors would agree that while eBooks are convenient, they will never replace print.

However, some statistics show that the move towards eReaders is happening more aggressively. In a recent article, The Wall Street Journal estimated that one in six Americans now uses an eReader, a number that has nearly doubled since 2010. That statistic is estimated to more than triple in these next few years, which leads to the question, what will become of print?

The bright side to this new trend is that eReaders aren’t entirely replacing books in American households; many readers own both an eReader and a hearty bookshelf filled with volumes of print. According to the Wall Street Journal, amongst eReader users only 6% admit to not purchasing a single book in the past year, which is a much better percentage than the 32% of Americans who haven’t purchased a book at all in the past year. Perhaps the accessibility of books on an eReader increases not only book sales, but also reading and literacy rates.

Both book lovers and eReader advocates have strong feelings on the topic. It will be interesting to see what the future holds for both print books and their digital counterparts.

Meet the Interns: Lauren Brown, Art Editor

Lauren Brown is about to graduate from the Literature, Writing, and Film program at ASU’s Polytechnic campus.

Superstition Review: What is your position with Superstition Review and what are your responsibilities?

Lauren Brown: I am one of two Art Editors for Superstition Review. My job is to review the art submitted to the magazine and choose which pieces to include in Issue 5. I also created a list of artists whose work I would like to solicit and interview questions for two artists.

SR: How did you hear about Superstition Review and what made you decide to get involved?

LB: I was a student in Professor Murphy’s beginning poetry workshop and she announced internship opportunities for Superstition Review. I had worked for my high school’s literary magazine and really enjoyed it, and I was really interested in getting a chance to work on a professional literary magazine.

SR: What are you hoping to take away from your Superstition Review experience?

LB: I hope to take away many things from Superstition Review: experience working for a professional literary magazine, learning about publishing a magazine, working in online publishing. I am looking forward to working with writers and artists and working within the writing community.

SR: Describe one of your favorite literary or artistic works.

LB: I don’t think its possible for me to pick a favorite literary work, both my parents were educators and instilled a love of books in me from a young age. I feel like for each stage of my life there is a book that goes along with it, Charlotte’s Web in kindergarten up to Pride and Prejudice my senior year of high school, and every book in between and since then. I feel the same way about art, but I will always have a special place in my heart for Monet, especially his landscapes. Monet’s work taught me so much about the use of color and all his paintings give me a feeling of peace.

SR: What are you currently reading?

LB: Currently I am reading a collection of poems by Langston Hughes, I fell in love with his work during my American Poetry class last semester, and since then I have read any work of his that I can get my hands on.

SR: What other position(s) for Superstition Review would you like to try out?

LB: If I weren’t an Art Editor, I would love to try the position of either Poetry or Nonfiction Editor. I think it would be great to read such a large variety of work from so many different authors.

SR: Do you prefer reading literary magazines online or in print?

LB: I used to feel like reading online versions of literary magazines was too difficult and hard on my eyes. However, with new technology preventing glare from the computer screen and the many different types of devices to read electronic media on, I have come to depend on online media for most of my reading. I feel the easy accessibility of the work and the ability to take many books, journals, and magazines with me on my phone, laptop, or electronic reader really makes online versions my preferred option.

SR: Do you write or create art? What are you currently working on?

LB: I enjoy both writing and creating art, and I like to combine the two whenever possible. I am currently working on a portfolio of work which includes art, poetry, and nonfiction elements. In addition, I am working on a portrait series of my nieces and nephews using photography and pastels.

SR: Besides interning for Superstition Review, how do you spend your time?

LB: I have two part time jobs outside Superstition Review, I am a Habilitation Therapist for special needs kids and a bookseller at Barnes and Noble. In my work as a Habilitation Therapist, I work to include art and writing therapy for both stress relief and to develop fine motor skills. I have worked for Barnes and Noble since I was in high school and realized if I was going to read as much as I did I need to find a way to pay for it, and what better way to pay for books than to work at a bookstore and receive a discount.

SR: What is your favorite mode of relaxation?

LB: Whenever I am not working I am usually reading. I also enjoy taking my camera and my two dogs, Louie and Ringo, on hikes around Phoenix.