Wednesday, May 9, 2012

National Short Stories Month: No more ugly stepchild!


First, November became National Novel Writing Month, aka NaNoWriMo; then came National Poetry Writing Month, NaPoWriMo, set naturally in April when the bees start buzzing and dandelions dance on the lawn--and writers start to feel all warm and poem-y inside.  Both of them have been around for years, NaNoWriMo started in 1999 and NaPoWriMo began in 2003, and have a an enormous number of participants.
And so, of course, the next logical step is NaShoStoMo, which has staked its claim on May. But, just like short stories themselves, the month is something of an ugly stepchild of the literary world. It doesn't seem to have to following of the other two writing months--heck it doesn't even have it's own Wikipedia entry yet. I can find references to it on the web as far back as 2010, and in them it's referred to as something that is being done "again," which implies it's been around longer than that. The official NaShoStoMo.org webpage still thinks it's 2011, the Facebook page has 6 followers and the #NaShoStoMo discussion in Twitter has only 2 posts, though we are already 9 days into May 2012.
Nobody seems quite sure of what to do with NaShoStoMo. The website says to write 30 short stories in 30 days. "Wha-huh?!?" says the procrastimaster in me. 
People have interpreted the month as being a time to highlight great short story writers. Others show their support by talking about buying anthologies or subscribing to journals. Still others blog about all the ways you can celebrate the month. Nobody really talks about the 30 in 30 days concept--I think they are a little afraid.   
NaNoWriMo and NaPoWriMo are so organized, so driven. NaShoStoMo seems to be helter skelter, hit and miss, stop and go. What is it with short stories? They are supposed to be gaining favor in the literary world, with the new advantages of ePublishing. They are fun to read, fun to write and easier to finish than a novel. So why the chronic wallflower status? Is it because we can't get past the old stigma? Is that the only thing holding back short stories?
What we really need to do for short story month is to throw off the old chains and stop seeing short stories as the ugly stepchild. It's time to embrace them, accept them, and finally give them a place at the literary table. No more making short stories sleep in the cinders!
Let's really throw a party for short stories this month. Celebrate with me and tell me what some of your favorite short stories are.

©2012 Amanda June Hagarty

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