A Short Story a Day for a Year: Catch Up

Three weeks in (two as a warm up and one official) to reading a short story a day I have a little catch up to do.

To date I’ve read two anthologies and have begun my third.

I started of with 10 Short Stories you Must Read this Year, which was a not for sale promotional anthology as part of the Books Alive campaign last year (an initiative of Art Council Australia).

It features the work of ten well known Australian writers, most of whom, sadly I had not read prior to picking up the anthology.

While all the stories were interesting in their own ways, the stand out was the final story of the anthology by Jack Marx, Letter from a Drunk to a Long Gone Wife. He explores a terrain which I have been long interested in, where do you  stop when you cross your moral boundaries. Just when you think Marx’s unnamed MC can’t possibly sink any lower, you are punched in the stomach – over and over again as he reveals all in a letter to his wife. Dark and brilliant writing.

Other greatly enjoyed stories were Melina Marchetta’s Twelve Minutes for the emotional landscape it explores juxtaposing the happiest of times with the most lost of times, Anita Heiss’s Manhattan Dreaming especially for it’s local references and use of colloquial Aboriginal language and Toni Jordan’s You Can Change Your Life because it sends up self development as the shallow and sensationalist activity I’ve always thought it was.

Kathy’s Lette’s Hate at First Sight reinforced to me, all the things I hate about chick-lit and why I won’t be picking up one of her books or any others of the ilk,  in the near future.

Moving on from 10 Short Stories you Must Read this Year I grabbed One Book, Many Brisbanes: an anthology of Brisbane Stories, which is the big competition all Brisbane writers aspire to win and be published in.

I have the special 150th Queensland edition from last year – where five writers were chosen as part of the competition and five well known Brisbane writers were invited to contribute. Given this mix I had high expectations of what would be between the covers.

All in all, it was a great disappointment as far as stories and Brisbane go. Many stories I felt could have occurred anywhere – just substitute suburb A for suburb B in any other Australian city. Most of the characters I really didn’t care too much about and I felt entirely lukewarm about Karen Foxlee’s winning entry Little Bird.

The stand-out stories were Adair Jones’ thought provoking 100 Points about a silent protest (the scene where he sews his lips together is chilling) and Janet McFadden’s Tunnel. McFadden’s story is all the more powerful for the fact it is a true tale with an unexpected twist at the end. She also masters and potrays the Irish accent with authenticity in the dialogue.

Along with many other Brisbane writers, I can’t understand how many of the stories ended up in the anthology. The other two thirds of my writing group both submitted stories last year which were brilliant, had fantastic twists and truly embodied the essence of Brisbane, but neither made the final cut.

I am thrilled to see, after doing a little bit of research that Beverly Fitzgerald, who I met in Kate Eltham’s short story writing class last year, secured a place in the 2010 One Book Many Brisbanes with her excellent story Sixteen Years of Beetroot. Congratulations Beverly.

At the moment I am enjoying Em Newman’s eAnthology From Dark Places. Well and truly worth the five and a bit dollars it cost to download from SmashWords. More on Em’s stories when I finish the anthology.

What has the past three weeks has shown me?

The short fiction written by ‘unknown’ and unpublished writers’ both on and off the web is of a far higher standard in many cases, than that of published and well known writers being picked up and published in the mainstream. I think we’re spoilt for choice and given most of the short fiction available on the web is free, very lucky.

Dan Powell was mad enough to join me on this reading adventure. You can find his week one wrap up here.

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6 thoughts on “A Short Story a Day for a Year: Catch Up

  1. Cool roundup, Jodi. Emma’s collection is on my to do list at some point during this challenge. The Jack Marx story sounds interesting, I’ll take a look for some of his stuff. In fact, the understandable Australian focus of your reading so far means that most of the authors you mention are new to me. The one that isn’t, Kathy Lette, I avoid also. Might be interesting for us to trade UK/Australian author names to see what the other thinks.

    Oh and your friends title ‘Sixteen Years of Beetroot’ is awesome too.

    • Yes, Bev’s ‘Sixteen Years of Beetroot’ was brilliant in its original state during writing class last year -I can only imagine, in Bev’s hands and with the writing retreat which goes with winning a spot in the anthology, just how amazing it will be when in print.

      Funnily enough, it was one of the stories I read last year, which had been previously rejected in the competition, which I felt duly deserved space between the covers. I’m ecstastic to see it is finally there.

      I must remember to email her and congratulate her.

  2. I am posting the 10 Stories You Must Read to Jen B when I get myself to the post office… maybe she can post it on to you when she’s done.

    I’ve neglected Australian authors for so long, that I feel I owe something back – though I’m less enthused about last years Best Australian Stories which is on the to-read list after comments made at my writers group today about the editor of the collection and her take on the short story.

    It might have to be something I delve into occassionally, rather than a cover to cover job.

    Have you ever read “Points of View: An anthology of short stories” – it was a uni book of mine from 20 odd years ago. It has the true big names in there – Capote, Henry James, Turgenev, Checkhov, Poe, Updike etc. This is where I am going to next after Em’s collection.

    I read it cover to cover a few years ago, but still, the only story which sticks with me is ‘Flowers for Algernon’.

    Now… off to read that short story before I go to bed, seeings my morning was an upside down kind of an affair.

  3. I haven’t committed myself to the story a day thing, but despite that I’m eating up the short stories anyway… Recently I finished “Like a Charm,” which was disturbing but well written. And today I tried to read something called “Electric Literature,” from Smashwords, but the first few stories were just too miserable to deal with.

    I like your round up. It really is high quality, out there. Some of the FF stuff I’ve seen blows me away.

  4. There are always a few puzzling inclusions in those OBMB anthologies. Some of the stories are brilliant and some would have just scraped a pass in the creative writing course I did at uni. But then, they keep rejecting my stories so maybe this is just sour grapes.

    • Puzzling is such a diplomatic way of commenting on it Evie. I don’t get it? As I mentioned, both friends in my writers group had really outstanding stories and I was certain at least one would get in.

      I am glad however to see Bev got a place this year.

      How is your story writing and reading going? I actually got brave and included a sex scene in the prologe for the next Chinese Whisperings anthology. Had one of those ‘holy shit’ moments after I sent it out to be beta read and then again, when I passed it onto the first two writers in the project.

      I did however get some positive feedback – so, who knows. Maybe I’ll write more sex this year?

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