Short stories that model how to write short stories

Winter. Outside my office window, rafts of ice cover the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal. The crew of a dredge crew climbs aboard a tug, headed to work on the icy water. In the distance, hunters are setting up decoys around their blind for goose season.

It’s also a good season for writing. The project that’s on my mind is the upcoming Eastern Shore Writers anthology, tentatively named, Bay to Ocean. I am working on a short story to submit. I don’t write much short fiction, so I turned to some of my favorites for inspiration. At the top of the list were “They” by David Morrell and “The Ledge” by Lawrence Sargent Hall.

Hall’s hunting story is more famous; you can find it in more than a few anthologies for high school and college classes where fiction is still taught. Written 60 years ago, the story has a timeless quality, perhaps because it’s so easy to imagine ourselves in the hunters’ boots as the tide comes in.

“They” is more of a twisted take on Little House on the Prairie. Written by David Morrell, best known as the creator of Rambo, this is one of those stories that I turn to again and again when I need a refresher in voice and pacing and tension. In getting to the climax of a short story, there’s no time for the long slope of rising action; there’s an escalator. As writers, our best teachers are these great authors. Writing this story for the anthology has been a good excuse to dip deep into my Kindle and bookshelf.

CURIOSITY OF THE DAY: Favorite pens for writing.

Another reason that I’m excited about the anthology is because I remember well the Shore Sampler that ESWA published many years ago. I was a student then at Washington College in Chestertown, and one of my classmates, Dean Hebert, had a poem in the anthology. Another writer, Douglass Wallop, had a piece in the Shore Sampler anthology. This interested me because as a student I had been granted use of the Douglass Wallop room at the O’Neill Literary House at the college.

Due to fire codes, students were no longer allowed to live in the Lit House, but it was a fine place to write and study and hang out. On the desk was the typewriter on which Wallop had written The Year the Yankees Lost the Pennant. I had actually read the Reader’s Digest Condensed Books version as a bored kid one summer afternoon, in the days before smart phones and the internet. That story became the basis for the hit Broadway musical, Damn Yankees.

The upcoming anthology is picking up where a great tradition left off, and it’s long overdue. What will you submit? If you don’t have a story, essay, or poem ready, there is still time.

Pour a cup of coffee. Read. Gaze out at the ice. Write.

____________

(Members of the Eastern Shore Writers Association can submit their work by February 15, 2018, to eswapresident17@gmail.com)

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