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Reading short stories: where to start?

In my last blog I suggested some resources where you can find poetry when you’re struggling to know where to start. This time I’m going to suggest where to look for short story recommendations. I’ve written before about the joys and benefits of reading stories from around the world and from the past. But where else can you come across new short fiction that gives you a broader sense of what’s possible in the form?

A good first port of call is Lithub, an excellent website which collates the best literary reviews, essays and criticism online. The Lithub entry on the best short story collections of the last decade is somewhere I often recommend that students look when they’re unsure where to start with short fiction. Many of the writers on this list have had individual stories published in online magazines, so if you don’t want to commit to buying lots of books (or lugging back a pile from your local library) I recommend Googling the authors to get a sense of what their writing is like.

Like poems, short stories are well-suited to online publication. There are leading literary magazines and journals like Granta and the New Yorker which allow you to read some fiction from their latest issues and archives free of charge (for unlimited access you’d need to take out a subscription). 

Other magazines are primarily online and publish a lot of new stories – have a look at the innovatively titled Short Fiction journal and also The Short Form. Most short story websites are run by people passionate about the form, and these two journals include interviews, advice and lots of other information that will help you find your feet in the exciting world of short fiction. Further online magazines include The Short Story (TSS), Short Stops and East of the Web’s short story pages. That’s before we even get on to dedicated flash fiction sites like Flash Fiction Online and Flash Fiction Magazine.

I know from the recent OCA group work sessions I’ve been involved in that creative writers love to receive and pass on reading recommendations (I’m always jotting down titles on bits of scrap paper when discussions take this direction). What could be better, then, than A Personal Anthology, a website which every week asks an author to compile their dream selection of short stories? You can sign up for a weekly email, and where possible the recommendations are available online. You can also browse a large range of authors’ selections on the website.

Before you know it, summer will be over and the leaves will be yellowing on the trees. Then it’s time for Short Story September, an annual, month-long project which showcases new writing, shares short story resources and criticism, and offers writing prompts to get you started on your own fiction. You can follow them on Twitter.

As with poetry, a final way to gauge what’s happening in contemporary short fiction is to look at who has been shortlisted for the leading prizes. These include the BBC National Short Story Award, the Sunday Times Short Story Award and the Bridport Short Story Prize.

So there you have it – go forth and read short stories!

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Posted by author: Garry MacKenzie
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