A little while ago, I opened up this blog to the public at large. “Rear in Gear” started as a means to get my derriere planted at my desk, to exercise my fingers and to push myself into the habit of writing. It worked pretty well – so well that I now post once a week, keeping current without overwhelming my writing time. (After all, if your goal is to write a novel, it does no good to blog instead. Unless, like Ms. Chelsea Brown, your blog *is* your novel. 😉 ) After last year’s NJSCBWI Summer Conference, I was inspired by Kathy Temean to take down the wall and let my blog be indexed by the search engines, etc. Now I’m surprised by the number of folks commenting, liking, and noticing “Rear in Gear.” So, thank you, Dear Readers!
One of the many genres I’ve experimented with is the YA short story, inspired mainly by the Children’s Writer Contest. Jeanne Bossert won with “Dough Girl,” an excellent story about a young girl who must stay overnight with a young mother who has just died giving birth to triplets and the surviving two newborns. Catching up on my professional reading, I was drawn to an article in the January/February 2013 SCBWI Bulletin, “The Young Adult Short Story: It’s Kind of a Big Deal!” by Shelli Cornelison. Shelli’s article queries four editors looking for YA short fiction on what they’re seeking, and it was a very interesting read.
Like me, you may wonder why short stories? I knew of a couple of places to submit, but it seems there are many outlets looking for YA short fiction – which allows writers a better shot at publication. However, be aware that short fiction has its own demands; a great short story does allow writers to practice characterization, plotting, and the other elements that make up a novel, but to do so with economy and grace is an art form all its own. Try comparing Emma Donoghue‘s bestselling novel, Room, to her latest work, the collection of stories, Astray. While both works share similarities, it’s also possible to trace differences in style and craft.
Many new writers feel that short stories must be easier because they’re, well, short. Not so. Reading Jeanne Bossert’s story made me all too aware of the shortcomings of the piece I submitted. But practice makes perfect, and I find short stories good practice for craft. Not to mention a great source for future novels! I can’t get my character from the story I submitted out of my head, nor her situation. When I finish revising my middle grade fantasy, looks like I have another project waiting in the wings…