I was very happy to be part of Short Fuse Story Salon at Komedia yesterday. Writers were invited to submit stories that "pushes the boundaries of what a short story can be, and experiments in some way with voice or form."
The story I read is called EX LOVE, and is a very short poetic piece that uses a feeling as a narrator. Chris Callard who also read on the night had written a story called A HOUSE IS NOT A HOME with the subtitle: Memo: Revised Tritona Corporation company guidelines. The whole story was written as a protocol which I thought was a clever idea.
Before Chris and I went on, the big stars Tania Hershman and Dave Swann warmed up the stage for us by reading a few of their stories. The reason there was time for "a few" stories is that they both write flash fiction. Their pieces are normally just one or two pages long, which is quite fascinating as they still manage to grab you.
Their readings were followed by a discussion and Q&A from the audience. I made a few notes and one of the things I remember was the point that short story collections are harder work than novels because you have to muster up the energy to constantly meet new characters and environments. At the same they can be, to quote Tania: "a box of chocolates" waited to sampled. Also with short stories you might be able to read something that is really intense, because you know it's going to finish quite soon.
Tania and Dave are quite different in their approach to what they write about. Tania makes everything up (often inspired by articles in the New Scientist) whilst Dave starts with a real life experience and transforms it into fiction. (Even though he might start off writing about a tree and end up with a car.) He also "steals" stories from his friends. I feel that I'm more of a "Dave"-writer, but after listening to Tania I feel inspired to write out of my comfort zone.
Someone, it might have been Dave, posed the question: "What's the most important in a short story?" One of his students once replied: "Does anyone get eaten?" That could translate into is anyone in danger? It doesn't have to be literal danger, but something has to be at stake. A situation, a relationship etc.
Another interesting thing that came up is how people interpret stories. Once someone told Tania "I really like your one page story about lust." She had no idea which story the person was talking about ... And I think that's quite similar to poetry. Short stories and poems are more open for interpretation compared to novels. One person thought my story was about a one-night stand whilst someone else thought it was about a long relationship that had finished ... I thought the title EX LOVE made it obvious, but obviously not!
Vanessa Gebbie was also supposed to read and take part in the discussion, but unfortunately she fell over and hurt herself - in Sweden of all places ... At least we got a little flavour of her work as the organiser Tara Gould read one of her stories.