Tag Archive for: Kathy Lynn Emerson

Meet the Authors of the 2014 Agatha Best Short Story Nominees!

year at Malice Domestic, writing excellence is recognized by the Agatha awards.
This year’s nominees for Best Short Story are:
“The Blessing
Witch” (PDF)

by Kathy Lynn Emerson, Best New England Crime Stories 2015: Rogue Wave
(Level Best Books)
Desserts for Johnny” (PDF)
by Edith Maxwell (Kings River Life Magazine)
Shadow Knows”
by Barb Goffman, Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays
(Wildside Press)
Odds are Against Us” (PDF)
by Art Taylor, Ellery Queen Mystery Magazine, Nov.
“Premonition” by Art Taylor,
Chesapeake Crimes Homicidal Holidays (Wildside Press)
enjoy the opportunity to read these stories, if you haven’t already. We are so
fortunate to have with us today
Kathy Lynn Emerson, Edith Maxwell, Barb Goffman, and Art Taylor. All are not
only fabulous writers, but also delightful people. Thanks, Kathy, Edith, Barb,
and Art, for stopping by to share your work and thoughts with us!
How do you compare short story writing with
novel writing?
Writing short stories is much
harder. In quite a few cases, it took me longer to finish a short story than it
did to write an entire 80,000 word novel. With at least one story, it took me
years to get it right. When I write novels, they get longer with each revision.
When I revise a short story, it almost always ends up even shorter.
A heck of a lot shorter, for one thing!
When I had two-thirds of a novel in the drawer twenty years ago and then
reentered the paid work force while raising two sons, there was no way I could
carry the plot and characters of a book around in my head and fit them into the
tiny snatches of time I had available to writer. But I could manage a short
story, and wrote nearly a dozen, five of which were eventually published in
juried anthologies. Short stories are simpler. They’re not necessarily easier,
but they don’t take as much time or brain space to complete.
For me, writing a novel is like the
long con. I start in one place, and I know that eventually I’ll bring the
reader to another place. But in the middle there will be detours and red
herrings and subplots. I want to keep readers from seeing where we’re going. I
want to fool them. To surprise them. I might set something up in chapter two
that will pay benefits three hundred pages later. That’s the long con.
With a short story, there’s no space
for the long con. I’m writing the equivalent of a bank robbery. I get in, get
the cash, and get out. No detours. No subplots. It’s a quick ride. Sure, short
stories and novels both should have a great beginning and ending and hopefully
a surprise or two, but the way I approach the middle is different.
Each time I’ve tried to write a full
novel, I’ve struggled with structure and pacing to the point that the results
have always been bumpy at best, dismal at worst—and none of them has seen the
light of day. With my upcoming novel-in-stories, On the Road with Del and
(coming out this September from Henery Press), I’ve tried to
capitalize on what I think I do well: manage the narrative arc—the structure
and pacing—of a short story, and link those stories together in contribution to
a larger narrative arc featuring the bigger story of these characters. To some
degree, I think I just understand short stories better, for better or worse.
What advice would you give to short story
Keep it simple. In a short
story there is no room for subplots, information dumps, or complicated
relationships. I’d say limit the number of characters, but that would be a tad
hypocritical since I’ve never managed to follow that piece of advice myself.
Don’t send it in too early. Get the
first draft done and let it stew for a while. Then work to eliminate everything
unnecessary, whether a description that doesn’t move the story forward or a character
you can do without. And then work it over again, polishing, trimming. I’ve seen
a couple of beginning writers dash off a short and send it in (well, I did the
same myself when I was starting out) when it wasn’t quite ready.
Read. Read novels. Read short stories.
Read, read, read. It gets your brain moving. It teaches you technique, even if
you don’t realize it as it’s happening. It helps you learn what works and what
And when you write, keep two things in
mind: (1) Everything in the story should move the plot forward. If a scene or
character can come out without affecting the plot, it doesn’t belong in the
story. (2) But don’t make your plot move so quickly that your main character
doesn’t have the time to react to what’s happening. Reactions are interesting.
They bring the character to life and add richness to the story. So show us her
thoughts, and then move that plot along.
Write the biggest story you can and
then cut and fold, cut and fold, cut and fold until the only words left are
those that are key to the story—that’s the ideal for me, even I personally feel
like I’m always falling short of that goal. The novelist’s art strikes
me generally as one of accumulation, where the short story writer should
ideally focus on subtraction—the most effect in the fewest words—and training
yourself to see where to cut and combine and condense is a challenge. Beyond
that, read widely in the short story form. There are so so many great
short story writers out there, each of them with different stylistic and
structural approaches, and there’s so much to learn from them and then maybe
apply in your own way to your own craft.
For the Agatha banquet, what kind of shoes would you (or if
you prefer, your protagonist, a character from your story, or your spouse)
wear? [This is, after all, The Stiletto Gang!]
The same ones I wear every
year—black SAS sandals with one-inch heels. Definitely no stilettos. I have
trouble enough walking in the sandals. By rights I should be wearing old-lady-with-arthritis
orthopedic lace-ups!
I’m so shoe impaired in terms of what’s
conventional. I’m trying to come up with a pair of party shoes that aren’t
either stilettos or some version of little-girl shoes. I have short wide feet
and refuse to wear heels, so it isn’t easy! You’re going to have to wait and
see what I find. Maybe we can do a follow up post with a picture of all our
Agatha banquet shoes…
[Edith sent her picture early, so I
wanted to share it. I’ll see if I can get shots of the shoes actually worn at
the banquet!—Paula]
Gus, my main character from my
Agatha-nominated story “The Shadow Knows,” wouldn’t go to a banquet. It’s way
too fancy for him. But if he were forced, Gus would wear plain, comfortable
shoes. I’m similar in that respect. My shoes will be black and nearly flat and
above all else, comfortable. I want to enjoy the evening, which means doing
what I can to avoid aching feet.
I’ve got a pair of suede saddle shoes that
I regularly want to wear (khaki green panel over off-white), but my wife Tara
says they don’t ever match what I put them with, so…. We’ll see if I can ever
come up with a good combination! [Here are Art’s shoes for your viewing pleasure!—Paula]