Thursday, January 24, 2013


This week, I listened to Brendan DuBois speak and read and answer questions and came away from the experience inspired to write more short stories.

Each winter, I try to bring a crime writer to my school to offer students a different voice (my daughters tell me mine gets old). Usually, my mystery literature students read the author's novel, and the writer makes an appearance, meets with the class to discuss his or her book, then offers a public reading and Q@A. But this year, I'm not teaching American authors. We're reading Children of the Street, by Kwei Quartey, and Let It Bleed, by Ian Rankin. (I wanted to use Aline's Cradle to Grave but my school's bookstore couldn't get it in time.) So Brendan's visit was unique. He sent me a 25-page story for me to disperse to the students instead.

He arrived Monday night around 7:30 to beat an impending storm. Around 10 p.m., I mentioned that a colleague had asked if he had a short, short story, something in the 750-word range. She wanted to use it with her ninth graders the next morning. Brendan said the shortest story he had remained in the 10-page range.

"No problem," I said.

"Can I use your laptop?" he said.

"What do you mean?"

"Well, I don't want to disappoint her."

I handed him my MacBook and sat across from him in the living room and watched as he wrote a 1,200-word story in 35 minutes. We emailed it to my colleague, and he attended her class the next morning and discussed the story, the process, and what he will do with the story when he gets home (revise and submit).

What? A story in 35 minutes? Seriously?

It answered the Q&A session's What-do-you-do-on-the-days-when-you-have-nothing-to-write-about question pretty quickly. And it made me really think. He spoke of working on a novel as a 12- or 18-month marriage. But the short story, he said, that's a day, a week, maybe two. Try a new character, a new point of view, experiment. Brendan writes a story a month, no matter what else he has going on.

Can't I write a story a month? Even when I'm working on a novel?  I, too, was a newspaperman. I know what it means to meet a deadline.

Inspiration shows up in many forms. It's pretty neat, though, when it comes as an example and right before your eyes.

(Photo, from left: Dr. Brian Ford, Deb Davis, Brendan DuBois, Brad Davis, and John Corrigan)


j welling said...

Great story.

It makes my short-story-a-month schedule from the fall look pathetic.

There's no reason for my roughs to linger. This is "spur the horse" month for me to see increased productivity and your post really helps.


Hannah Dennison said...

Wow. I love this! What an inspiration! It's really got me thinking ... I'm so used to the drudgery of slogging away on a novel (aka marriage!) - that perhaps it's time for a quick tryst to brighten up my writing.

Charlotte Hinger said...

I think getting short story readers is a great quiet way to promote a book

Frankie Y. Bailey said...

We all seem to be on the same page. I have, right now, a short story that I have written and am revising. I'm thinking of it as a way -- if I can get it published -- to reach more readers. And it was a fun change of pace.