Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Semester 1 Bibliography

I've been meaning to write about the books I read for this semester, but have not managed to get around to it, and now it's a new semester so I figured I would move on, but then I realized I need to put them into a bibliography for my final thesis anyway, so I figured, what the heck, two birds, one stone and all that. I focused on short story collections, because that's what I'm focusing on writing. Here are the ones I read, with one tidbit of wisdom gleaned from each author or volume:
Katrina Kenison and Kathleen Hirsch, editors
Mothers: Twenty Stories of Contemporary Motherhood
From this book I learned that motherhood is a valid literary topic.
Flannery O’Connor
A Good Man is Hard to Find and Other Stories
From Flannery O'Connor I learned about physical description ("face like a pipe").

Shirley Jackson
Novels and Stories. Edited by Joyce Carol Oates
Just an Ordinary Day (Unpublished and Uncollected Short Stories)
Shirley Jackson: A Study of the Short Fiction. By Joan Wylie Hall
From Shirley Jackson I learned about ending a story in a way that leaves the reader breathless.

Candace Ward, ed.
Great Short Stories by American Women
From this book I discovered a lot more authors whose work I want to read.
Rick Bass
The Watch
In the Loyal Mountains
The Hermit’s Story
The Lives of Rocks
Rick Bass led one of my workshops and is my mentor this semester and I've already learned so much from him (pages and pages of notes from workshop). To choose just one thing, I'll go with I learned to "stay in the dream" when writing a story.
Lorrie Moore 
Birds of America
From Lorrie Moore I learned about witty dialogue and showing your characters while they speak.
Ann Hood
An Ornithologist’s Guide to Life
From Ann Hood I learned about writing sex scenes. Right there. In the middle of the page. Not hinted. No significant section breaks. Whew.
Colm Toibin
Mothers and Sons
From Colm Toibin I learned about slowing time down so that the reader can really see, think and feel right along with your character.
We were also required to read and annotate one craft book, for which I chose 
Janet Burroway's Writing Fiction. And then I also read Rust Hills' Writing in General and the Short Story in Particular, the Writer's Digest Handbook of Short Story Writing, David Jauss's Alone With All That Could Happen, as well as parts of Francine Prose's Reading Like a Writer and Ann Hood's Creating Character Emotions.
This semester I'll be reading more along the canonical lines with the likes of Anton Chekhov, Katherine Mansfield, Katherine Anne Porter, Eudora Welty, Dorothy Parker, Alice Munro, John Cheever, Raymond Carver, Joyce Carol Oates and Mary Gordon. For craft, right now I'm reading David Huddle's The Writing Habit, which I'm enjoying now that I've gotten past the first chapter, in which he describes his sabbatical during which he jogged, wrote, walked, wrote, napped, wrote, because he had "a wife who during those months was willing to look after herself and our daughter." I truly wanted to throw the book across the room when I read that line (and did set it aside for several days out of pure indignation), but now I've gotten past that and am finding it useful.
What have you been reading lately? Who are your favorite short story-ists? Any craft recommendations?

Edited to add:
I forgot to include one book:
Stefanie Freele
Feeding Strays
From which I learned about playing with structure, lenght and point-of-view.


  1. Thank you for sharing. I will definitely put your list to use! Right now I'm reading "How to Write Like Chekhov"
    and "A Day in the Life of a Smiling Woman," by Margaret Drabble.

  2. That made me remember: I read a couple of Flannery O' Connor stories in a literature class I took in middle school. I liked them so much that I read all of her stories that year. Then I realized: a few of her stories: fascinating; all of them: clear evidence of what a hateful,messed-up person she was. I have since often found it true when I read a bunch of short stories by the same author that whatever issues that author has sort of become beat you over the head clear - like: dealing with loss much, sir? I hate to think what some future readers will make of me.

    I particularly enjoyed Kathryn Arnoldi's All Things Are Labor and Karen Russell's St. Lucy's Home For Girls Raised By Wolves, in terms of short story collections I have read as an adult.


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