Please welcome back to the blog author Debra H. Goldstein. In addition to the previous guest blogs here, she also recently wrote about this topic on the blog of the Short Mystery Fiction Society.
Why I Do What I Do for the Love of Short Stories by Debra H. Goldstein
In 2015, Sisters in Crime President Leslie Budewitz approached me about an ad-hoc committee investigating concerns about the health of short story markets. She observed that many SinC members, including her, earned their first publishing credits with short mysteries. While twisting my arm to help, she explained short stories “remain a tremendous avenue for new writers to break in; for published authors, they provide an opportunity to tell stories that would not support a novel or to hold reader interest between books. Other authors simply prefer the form. They’re fun to write, and fun to read.”
It wasn’t a hard sell for me to agree to chair the committee. Like Leslie, my first published credit was a short story: Legal Magic. The characters introduced in that story became the comic foil in my second novel, Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery, released in April 2016 by Five Star. Besides, how could I go wrong working with Art Taylor and Deb Lacey?
Together, Art, Deb and I explored the different markets and found that:
1) The paying market for short stories was shrinking,
2) The print publications traditionally publishing short stories were experiencing a major decrease in circulation numbers, and
3) Online markets, many of short duration, had increased, but few provided paying opportunities for writers.
We proposed and the national Sisters in Crime board adopted the creation of a “We Love Short Stories” initiative. Leslie launched it at Malice Domestic 2016. Her oral presentation was followed by an e-mail blast and an article in the quarterly inSinC publication which discussed the importance of short stories. To further effectuate the initiative, partnerships were established with several publishers and corporations to provide discounts and other subscription incentives to SinC members and it was decided that a series of articles encompassing different aspects related to short stories would be run in subsequent issues of inSinC. Materials also were shared with local SinC chapters suggesting programs or activities they could adopt supporting the “We Love Short Stories” initiative.
So, why do I believe in this project and short stories so much, especially when I also write novels and essays? Because not only are they where I got my start as a writer, but because they have intrigued me since I was a child. Stories by O’Henry and Shirley Jackson showed me how an idea can be developed in a few pages with an air of simplicity and then pack a punch. Who can forget the twisted endings O’Henry specialized in or the final paragraphs of The Lottery?
Back then, it was the story’s flow that carried me with it. Today, as a writer, I read differently. I mentally break down the structure, word choices, and ideas of other writers. It is only when a story reaches a level of one by O’Henry or Shirley Jackson that I forget to be a critic and again read with joy. The first story to take me to that level after I began writing in earnest was B.K. Stevens’ Thea’s First Husband (AHMM 2012), but many others have done it since then (check out stories by Art Taylor, John Floyd, Craig Faustus Buck, and Barb Goffman – just to name a few).
It would be a shame for works like theirs to disappear. That’s why I’m involved in SinC’s “We Love Short Stories” initiative and groups like the Short Mystery Fiction Society. I hope you share my feelings.
Debra H. Goldstein ©2016
Judge Debra H. Goldstein is the author of Should Have Played Poker: a Carrie Martin and the Mah Jongg Players Mystery (Five Star Publishing – April 2016) and the 2012 IPPY Award winning Maze in Blue, a mystery set on the University of Michigan’s campus. Her short stories and essays have been published in anthologies including Mardi Gras Murder and The Killer Wore Cranberry: a Fourth Meal of Mayhem as well as in The Birmingham Arts Journal, More Magazine Online, Bethlehem Writers Roundtable, Alalit.com, Kings River Life Magazine, Over My Dead Body! and Mysterical-E. . Debra serves on the national Sisters in Crime and Guppy Chapter boards and is an MWA member. She lives in Birmingham, Alabama with her husband, Joel, whose blood runs crimson.