Short Story Reading Clubs
Booklist has just published an article on their blog entitled “How to run a short story group”. The things I’ve gleaned from it are as follows: In addition to having read the story and prepared questions for discussion, have some background on the author to use as your introduction. Print it out for your attendees. On how to select your stories, I’ve re-posted what was said on the Booklist site as follows:
“Pick stories. I’ve relied on the Norton Anthology of Short Fiction, The Best American Short Stories of the Century, and the annual Best American Short Stories collections. But I’ve also dipped into Best American Mystery Stories, 50 Great Short Stories, and various themed anthologies. I’ve tried to group stories to read that offered opportunities for discussion. So, at times I’ve picked authors whose work gets lumped together by critics – such as Edith Wharton and Henry James. At other times I’ve picked authors by country of origin, such as Chekhov and Turgenev. I chose many contemporary authors, and many woman authors because these are often, but not always, popular with the group. The first two stories I chose were “Guest s of the Nation,” by Frank O’Connor and “A Good Man Is Hard To Find,” by Flannery O’Connor. Frank O’Connor was a pen name of the Irish author Michael O’Donovan, and Flannery O’Connor was an Irish-American author from Savannah, Georgia. Is that enough of a connection? Sure, because the stories are really great works of art about which there is lots to say, and lots to ponder, and lots to try to figure out. So be creative, mix and match, pick stories you’ve loved, pick authors you’ve heard a lot about, pick a wide variety and figure it out as you go.” I would be tempted to make thematically linked sessions – say popular Canadian authors’ short stories, or short mysteries, or three stories from an anthology spread out over three sessions.
Another thing Booklist points out is that you should have some knowledge of past reviews of the stories you’re reading.
One of the comments was especially helpful. Alex says,
“We run our short story group differently and market it more as a ’story time for adults’ type event. No preparation is required for the attendees – they show up and we listen to the story together.
Either I’ll read it or I’ll get a CD version. The stories are about 40 minutes long (20 pages for me) and then we spend the rest of the time talking about it.
Group members like it because it’s low stress – they just pop in and have the group.”
I think Alex’ way is the way to go.