Writers have to read. It’s not a chore. Chef’s taste food; athletes watch footage of other athletes; cars get waxed.
St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves by Karen Russell
It occurs to me as a writer with a full time job that short stories may be the way to start. I was fearful after I read a preface by Stephen King in one of his short story collections (“Until Sunset” I think). He said short stories are a totally different creature than books and left me with the impression that it would be hard to break out of one mold (that of a short story writer) to become another (author of a novel). So I delayed, dabbled, delayed some more. Then I started reading this book.
I didn’t realize it was a collection of short stories when I started. It may be possible that the stories will overlap somehow as I read more. I’m less than half way through this book and so thrilled at the way it allows the author to flex more than one writing muscle. The first story tells of a pair of girls who live in swamp lands and have been left alone for a time. I could state its storyline follows that of the children of Alligator wrestlers but that wouldn’t even cover it. Besides, you’d miss out on the sister’s jaw dropping relationship with the ghost/demon, and then might abandon it altogether for fear it’s a paranormal story when, in fact, it is not. My favorite story tells of a camp for youth who suffer from a myriad of sleep disorders (some that will make you want to google them to see if they are indeed real). I could state that the campers must band together to solve the mystery of a serial sheep killer, but you’d probably mistake that to mean this is full of cliches and a “cute” story. It is not on either of those counts.
My point here, and I do have one, is how lovely it feels to dip my feet in, and even at ankle deep, this author has shown me how refreshing it can be to shift gears, change paradigms, and even genres, all within the same book. My fear erased, I will honor the summer and start writing some shorts! While I’m at it, I’m definitely adding some of her other books to my reading list: Vampires in the Lemon Grove, Swamplandia, and Sleep Donation.
by Sue Grafton (Editor), Michael Connelly, Tess Gerritsen, Tony Hillerman, Sara Paretsky, Fay Kellerman, Ann Rule, Linda Fairstein, Jonathan Kellerman, John Lutz, Nancy Pickard, Jan Burke, Barry Zeman, Lawrence Block, Laurie R. King, Margaret Maron, Loren D. Estleman
I know what you’re thinking – “Who are these people and why should I care?” If you’re a mystery writer and this is, indeed, what you were thinking, you might want to consider writing for dairy ads.
Yes, it’s true! In just one book you can have the mentoring of all those mystery writers. Sue Grafton edited it and each chapter speaks to a different aspect of the genre. I’m reading this book because, to not read it and go on writing mysteries would be like the child who pulls away from his parent and says, “No! I can cut my own food!” and then progresses to let fly everything on the plate. My favorite sections so far have been Faye and Jonathan Kellerman’s piece on research and Julie Smith’s on “Background, Location, and Setting.”
I hope you’re listening – mystery writers – this book has it all. From dialogue and perspectives to short story mysteries and YA, you’ll find some inspiration or new information here. The only thing better than reading this book would be to sit in my writing tank while listening to this as an audio book being read by each of the contributors. Wait. Is that too creepy? Did I cross a line? #authorgroupie