Today the ever so delightful Katherine Hall Page has stopped by to celebrate her book birthday! Small Plates is now on sale and ready to be reserved at your local library, so make sure you are on the list!
I wrote my first short story when I was about nine years old. And then didn’t write another one for over thirty years. The first one has been lost in the mists of time, but I believe it was about my dolls coming to life and I’m pretty sure fairies played a part. What I do recall is sending it in to my favorite magazine, Jack & Jill. They sent back a very kind rejection letter, which I found some years ago in a box of things my mother had saved.
Essentially we start our reading lives with short stories and I, for one, have continued to love them. In school, our readers were made up of short stories, each chapter, even in Dick and Jane, was a complete tale. Then there was My Weekly Reader, which always had a piece of fiction mixed in with the news.
My Livingston, New Jersey librarian, Ruth Rockwood, must have also been a fan of the genre. When I was older and allowed to check out books from the adult section, she steered me toward many authors: O. Henry, Willa Cather, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Herman Melville, Eudora Welty, Katherine Mansfield, to name a few. It was through an anthology from the library that I discovered the pleasure of spine tingling reading—Edgar Allan Poe, Ambrose Bierce, Shirley Jackson and Saki in particular.
As a writer, I find short stories much more difficult to write than novels. And, although I quite like the ones I’ve done for Small Plates, I do not kid myself that I have mastered the form. To be as able at longer fiction as short is rare, especially in the mystery genre—Agatha Christie, Dorothy Sayers, and, more recently, Robert Barnard are without equal. Henry David Thoreau summed it up best, perhaps, observing to a friend: “Not that the story need be long, but it will take a long while to make it short.”
I don’t understand why some readers avoid short stories—“I want to read something that’s not over so quickly” is one comment I often hear. A good short story not only lingers on the palate, but also prods us to think deeply about what might happen next—and even what might have occurred earlier. Small Plates is all about the pleasure of ordering tapas or several appetizers instead of an entrée.