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Short Stories: A Brief History of American Voices

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The short story is defined as a "brief fictional narrative that is shorter than a novel and that usually deals with only a few characters." Here, I describe the origins of my book, American Voices, as a series of blog posts and its metamorphosis into the final short story collection.

Remember the 1980s and the World Wide Web? British computer scientist, Tim Berners Lee, linked hypertext documents into information systems that could be accessed from any point in the network. The ‘90s rolled around and the process of logging all the interesting links sprouting across the Web became known as the “logging of the web.”1999 marked a turning point, when programmer, Peter Merholz, jokingly referred to his web log as a ‘wee blog’ or ‘blog.’ Today, blogs are ubiquitous tools of online communication. There are traditional news media blogs, topic-based blogs (work, hobbies, tech, family, religion, entertainment, etc.), and of course blogs that performing double duties as short stories.

I stumbled into writing short story blogs by accident. Perhaps it was my penchant for scribbling ideas onto scraps of paper or napkins, only to lose those thoughts in my bag or the laundry. Who knows? Memory fades over time. In any event, blogging was the perfect outlet for my organizing my creative juices into organized and tangible outputs. I published my first blog post, “Hide Thou Me,” in the Norwalk Patch on March 1, 2012. Over the years, I kept honing my craft, compiling a catalog of daily life, mainly in South Norwalk. These posts eventually metamorphosed into my short story collection, “American Voices.”

Along the way, I also delved into the rich history of the short story genre, or as Amazon refers to it, “short reads.” Encyclopedia Britannica’s definition of the short story is: “brief fictional prose narrative that is shorter than a novel and that usually deals with only a few characters.” Long before Twitter invented the #140charnovel, short prose fiction was delivered by masters of the craft. Edgar Allan Poe, William Faulkner, Ernest Hemingway, Mark Twain, and Kurt Vonnegut, are among the literary luminaries who articulated American experiences, hopes, and fears in pithy prose.

Although I could only dream of approaching the imaginative genius of Vonnegut, I find myself relating to his experiences. He stitched together a living writing feature articles and press releases, while laboring over his short stories and novels at night (sound familiar!). Best known for his anti-Vietnam breakthrough novel, “Slaughterhouse Five,” it is also true that fewer than half of his stories were published in his lifetime. There is a perverse solace to be had for writers struggling to rise above the global chorus of voices expressing their stories online.

But, I digress. I have been inspired by these writers to mix my imagination with everyday life in 21st century American suburbia. I chose Connecticut, with its rich suburbs interspersed with pockets of poverty, as a backdrop for most of the stories. The result is a blend of brief inspirational stories, short allegorical relationships, historical anecdotes, and tales of the diasporic existences of select immigrants. Together, these stories form the fictional framework of peoples’ lives in American Voices.

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