College semesters seem, at the same time, to pass quickly and last forever. As I’ve caught up on regular life during spring break this week, I’ve taken stock of the fact that the students in my undergraduate class have read, researched, and reviewed twenty short stories so far. With five weeks still left once the break ends, we’re not done yet. It’s been an education for all of us in how snippets of life from varying times, places, and cultures can be expressed and considered through fictional short stories. Universal experiences and themes can be found in each of the stories we’ve read. Anton Chekhov, Chinua Achebe, Katherine Mansfield, Ernest Hemingway, Isaac Bashevis Singer, Isabel Allende…every great writer has something to say to us.
I’ve enjoyed focusing on short stories so much that I’ve been inspired to write more of my own. Over the years, I’ve published several short fictional works in literary journals. One of my first publications, a short story called “B.B.” based on a true-life incident, appeared in Void Magazine some years ago. “Jude,” a very short piece, appeared in an online journal called The Whistling Fire, and “The Old Man,” based on a non-fiction piece I wrote first, was published by Connotation Press: An Online Artifact. I then ventured into mystery fiction with the fun story “Who Let the Cats Out?” which won third place in a mystery writing contest and was published in the anthology Mystery Times Ten 2013 and anthologized again in Nine Deadly Lives: An Anthology of Feline Fiction. My most recently published short story was “Capture the Moon,” which appeared in Red Earth Review last summer, and my most recently completed effort, “The Man,” is being considered by a couple of journals now.
Just last week I started something new, but I don’t want to say more than that. I find that when I’m starting a new project, it’s best to say very little until I’ve completed a draft I’m ready to send to early readers for feedback — and that takes time.
Teaching is the gift that keeps on giving — in addition to the rewards of introducing literature and creative writing to students, it has inspired me to fill in the gaps in my own literary knowledge and write more of my own work. The stories we’ve discussed this semester have stayed with me for weeks or months as I’ve re-read and thought about them. I hope that someday my own stories will affect readers the same way.