The Short Story. - Eden Prairie Reads



The Short Story. - Eden Prairie Reads
What’s full of words,
can be read in one sitting,
and makes you think?
The Short Story.
Join Eden Prairie Reads
in 2013
as we explore a selection
of 10 short stories from some
of America’s best authors.
Read one or read all ten.
Join us for conversation.
Learn to write short stories.
And become a part of our
community reading program.
How to Read a Short Story
A good short story can have the depth and breadth of a whole novel, distilled and
compressed into a work that can be read in one sitting. To read a good short story is
to lose yourself in time, place, characters and narrative that become more real and
absorbing than your own existence for a little while.
A lot of short stories have some common denominators, no matter how varied and
diverse they are. Many stories follow a narrative arc. There is usually a problem, a
conflict, a current situation which will provide the forward momentum of the story.
A story is something that happens to someone, and we get invested in the character’s
problem, and want to see how things will turn out. Most stories also have back-story,
which is relevant material that helps explain what is at stake in the present situation.
Development involves complications in which the character tries to work out the
problem or get what he or she wants. Yearning or desire is often a key element in a
short story. The story eventually arrives at a climax, a moment when something has
to give, when whatever the character has been dealing with—the problem, the
conflict, the desire—comes to a head. There is a decisive moment in which there is
some shift or change. Things will be different from now on. They might not
necessarily be better or what the character has wanted, but something has been
decided. There is the sense, in the ending that follows the climax, that this is the way
things will be from now on.
The language of a short story is usually alert, charged, even metaphoric. The best
short stories have both a situation, which is the present action or plot, and a “story,”
which is what the writer is emotionally concerned with, the theme or “about” of the
story. When you read a story, think about what happens in the story, and what it is
“about,” the larger comment on human nature or human experience. When these
two elements are fused, the story satisfies on both levels.
If you want to get the most out of a short story, read it twice, the first time as a
consumer, the second to see what the writer is doing and how he or she is doing it.
It’s good to read stories from a variety of sources, because different editors and
publications have different tastes. If you find a story you love, check out a collection
by that author. There are stories for everyone: hilarious stories, profoundly moving
ones, tales of the future and past, characters we come to know better than we know
the “characters” around us, and worlds that we can experience more vividly as our
own familiar world.
- Paulette Alden
Paulette Alden is the author of a collection of short stories, Feeding the Eagles, a memoir,
Crossing the Moon, and a recently published novel, The Answer to Your Question. Alden lives in Minneapolis,
where she blogs on writing and books on her website, For Alden’s “How to Read
Short Stories as a Writer,” visit
The Ten Short Stories
Silver Water by Amy Bloom
Copyright 1993
Silver Water tells the story of Rose, a teenager who experiences a psychotic
break and eventually kills herself. The story is narrated by her sister, Violet,
who brings voice to her sister’s life with beautiful imagery and compassion.
This story evokes powerful emotions in dealing with a family’s painful situation.
The Caretaker by Anthony Doerr
Copyright 2002
The story opens in Liberia, West Africa, where Joseph Saleeby lives and
works. He escapes the civil war there by making his way to the United States
where he finds a job as the caretaker of a large estate, closed for the winter.
When he witnesses whales beached and dying on the sand, he finds himself
deep in sorrow and needing to bury their hearts. He neglects his job and is
fired as soon as the owner returns for the season. With nowhere to go, Joseph
hides out, complicating his life even further. The story highlights one’s inner
angst with redemption, set against the backdrop of nature.
Tiny, Smiling Daddy by Mary Gaitskill
Copyright 1997
Stew was surprised when his daughter wrote an article about him in a popular
magazine. The article talked about his struggle with her sexual identity and
the limitations of his life. Stew’s reflections on his relationship with his
daughter allow us to feel some sympathy for him. The reader can understand
his weakness and confusion and at the same time see the extent of his
intolerance of his daughter. Written from Stew’s perspective, the reader can
see his loneliness and can recognize – if not identify with – his frustration.
Wickedness by Ron Hansen
Copyright 1989
This is a stark and beautiful telling of the January 1888 blizzard in Nebraska.
It is a compilation of vignettes including that of farmers not found until the
spring thaw, a schoolteacher with children who cannot get home, and a
young girl who stays late at a dance and walks home in the storm.The story
tells of the kindnesses and the errors that happen during times of survival,
though blizzards themselves are indifferent to both.
Marie by Edward P. Jones
Copyright 1992
Eighty-six year old Marie Delaveaux Wilson depends on her social security
checks to live. But every time she goes to the Social Security Administration
office to verify her eligibility, she is told to wait by the receptionist. She waits
many hours without being seen. When a college student asks her to be part of
his oral history project, she is finally heard. She shifted from being a nobody
at the Social Security Office to a story in history. This story deals with
inequality, powerlessness and voices not heard.
Orientation by Daniel Orozco
Copyright 1994
This fast-paced story takes the reader through the ins and outs of a typical
first day at a corporate job. It shifts quickly between duties to gossip in the
same tone of voice. While most readers won’t have experienced this level of
absurdity, they will likely identify with it on some level.
A Temporary Matter by Jhumpa Lahiri
Copyright 1999
This story deals with the disintegrating relationship of a married Indian couple.
It takes place over several days at the Boston home of Shoba and Shukumar.
During these days, they must deal with scheduled power outages every
evening, as well as the grief and alienation the two have suffered since the
stillbirth of their child six months earlier. This tension builds to a climax
while they spend every night in the dark sharing secrets with each other. Each
confession becomes bolder and reveals a larger flaw in their marriage.
The Things They Carried by Tim O’Brien
Copyright 1990
An unnamed narrator describes the thoughts and actions of an Army unit on
active combat duty in the Vietnam War. The narrator lists things that the
soldiers carry with them, both tangible and intangible. Soldiers carry deadly
weapons but also everyday, common items like gum, candy, sewing kits,
etc. into war. They also carry memories, love and grief. Ordinary things and
complex emotions of people are wound together in this story of character.
Two Kinds by Amy Tan
Copyright 1989
A woman from a Chinese immigrant family confronts parental expectations
and her personal dreams in this story based on the author’s own life story.
A parent’s idea of success does not always parallel the child’s view of his/her
own life. Yet such expectations provide the backdrop of our lives.
The Rest of Her Life by Steve Yarbrough
Copyright 1998
This story is told from the perspective of the daughter, Dee Ann, whose
father murders her mother. It’s a story of family bonds and betrayal. The
daughter has to live with her decision about whether to lie during her father’s
trial, knowing that her testimony will make the difference in his going to
prison or not.
These stories can be found in the Revised and
Updated 2nd Edition of The Scribner Anthology
of Contemporary Short Fiction. A limited number
of copies of this anthology are available at the
Eden Prairie Library. In addition, many of the
stories are available online.
Community Events
There are many ways to be involved in Eden Prairie Reads!
Reading and Writing the Short Story
Join us on April 11 as we welcome author Brian Malloy
who will examine the 5 parts of the short story: exposition,
rising action, crisis, falling action and conclusion. Brian will also
talk about common mistakes writers make.
Come prepared to write!
April 11, 7:00-9:00 p.m. Eden Prairie Library Meeting Room
Please register for this free session at (space limited)
Short Story Discussion Groups
We will be holding discussion groups for the 10 stories.
Join us to talk about the stories you read. Moderated tables will
be set up for all ten stories.
May 7, 6:30-8:30 p.m., St. Andrew Lutheran Church, Eden Prairie
Eden Prairie Writes
To celebrate the month of May as national Short Story Month,
we invite the Eden Prairie community to submit original
short stories. Details on length and submission are available on
our website at We will post your stories online
for all to enjoy. All ages welcome.
Other ways to become involved in the program
- read the stories and talk about them in your book club
- start an office or neighborhood “book club” discussion group
- read the stories online submitted by community members
These stories can be found in the Revised and
Updated 2nd Edition of The Scribner Anthology
of Contemporary Short Fiction. A limited number
of copies of this anthology are available at the
Eden Prairie Library. In addition, many of the
stories are available online.
Thanks to our...
City of Eden Prairie
Eden Prairie Friends of the Library
Eden Prairie Schools
Hennepin County Library – Eden Prairie
Main Street Bakery
NewPage Corporation
St. Andrew Lutheran Church
The Eden Prairie News
The Loft Literary Center
Thunder Communications Design, Inc.
plus the many volunteers who have served
on the Eden Prairie Reads Committee!

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