Read more, write more
If you want to write you have to read, we’ve heard that many times. And I’m a firm believer in this. And anyone who’s read Stephen King memoir On Writing knows that the author does too. I try to read at least a book a week. Reading stimulates our imagination, improves vocabulary and memory, and is a great form of entertainment and relaxation. It can be beneficial to read outside of your normal genre and/or areas of interest. Don’t just read fiction, soak up books on biography, history, science, poetry, philosophy, essays. Read comics. Inspiration can come in many forms and from different places. When you read something that inspires you jot it down in your notebook for later.
One thing I am not very good at is reading short stories. However this is important if you wish to write short stories (or flash fiction). I admit I love to lose myself in a novel, I love to walk its streets and get lost in its meandering plots. I like time to savour its flavours. But crafting a novel is very different from writing a short story. One is like preparing an elaborate feast, the other a light snack. And that’s why its important to become familiar with the compositions of short stories.
The Writer’s Voice
I recently came across ‘The Writer’s Voice’ section of The New Yorker Magazine. This weekly podcast features writers reading their own short stories.
The latest episode features author Anne Enright reading her story ‘The Hotel’ in which a woman becomes dislocated in a foreign city and gets lost among refugees. According to this article, Enright was interested in:
showing how quickly people can be dehumanized. We need nice soap because of the appalling fact that the body sweats, shits, and becomes shameful. It is so easy to take dignity away from people and then despise them for their lack of dignity.
Anne Enright reads ‘The Hotel’.
Other past authors of ‘The Writer’s Voice’ include Zadie Smith, Robert Coover, Ian McEwan, and Paul Theroux. Access to the website includes a couple of free articles before requiring subscription, but can subscribe and listen to the podcasts via iTunes or TuneIn for free.
Another great podcast from The New Yorker Magazine is its monthly readings and discussions of past New Yorker published stories chosen by contemporary writers. The current episode features American novelist Lauren Groff reading and discussing Shirley Hazzard’s ‘In These Islands’ from a 1990 issue of the magazine. Past episodes featured Salman Rushdie reading Italo Calvino, Karl One Knausgaard reading V.S. Naipaul, Jonathan Franzen reading David Means, Julian Barnes reading Frank O’Connor, and Paul Theroux reading Jorge Luis Borges. It seems an invaluable way to quickly digest short stories and get a glimpse on how other writers interpret and analyse these stories.
Here is Richard Ford reading and discussing John Cheever’s poignant 1,000 word story of a boy meeting his father for the last time. You can subscribe and listen to the fiction podcast on iTunes or TuneIn.
So, if you also prefer to get lost in the vastness of a novel but would wish to become more familiar with shorter stories, then these two podcasts are a great way to start.