Brevity is the Soul of Lingerie ~ Dorothy Parker at the Keyboard

Another great photo from Flavorwire and Life Magazine. Dorothy Parker at the keyboard in 1937. Do you suppose her magazines were always lined up so beautifully? And look at the view! Man and landscape. All very inspiring.

My invitation still stands to submit your writers’ space photos and brief excerpts from your work. Click the View From the Keyboard Guidelines button in the blogroll at the right and you’ll see how.

Coming soon: writers at the kitchen table.

The Hits Just Keep On Coming ~ Congratulations, Vanessa!

A bit ago I wrote a short post about my colleagues in conversation Gerard Woodward, Gina Frangello, Dennis McFadden and Vanessa Gebbie and all the well-deserved attention their work (especially their short story work) has received since we started collaborating on “Why The Short Story – A Conversation Among Writers.” Well, the good news keeps on coming. Vanessa Gebbie’s Storm Warning is on the long list for this year’s Edge Hill Prize for short story collections, sponsored by Edge Hill University. Well done, Vanessa. Best of luck.

Keep Calm and Carry On ~ A View From The Keyboard

The first of our submissions to the series “View From The Keyboard” comes from almost-done Columbia College Chicago Creative Writing-Fiction MFA candidate Kathy Churay. Even as she scrambles to complete her thesis (a story of grief, alcohol, bagpipes, and love), Kathy has taken time out to send this photo of her writing space.

Kathy: Here’s a photo of my bedroom writing desk.  I share an apartment so this is the only place I can go to shut the door.  It’s a bit cramped, but it’s noise- and cat-proof.

Anxiety is ever-present when I write — thus the large poster over the desk.  The motto was originally designed to encourage civilians in London during the Blitz.  It’s a great reminder to me that not writing the Great American Novel isn’t such a big problem after all. ~

Thanks for the submission, Kathy!

A reminder that you, too, can submit your photo and words to Please read the first post in this blog series to find out the guidelines for submission.

Coming soon: an excerpt from a play by award-winning playwright Lisa Schlesinger!←

My Mother is a Fish

William Faulkner hard at work. Thanks to Flavorwire for having the same idea I have of peeking into the workspaces of writers. This photo originally in Life Magazine. Still eager to see your spaces and work; you can find out how to submit in a previous post on this blog.

View From the Keyboard ~ An Open Call

Is it because I am a writer, or am I just plain nosy? There is something about peeking into other folks’ lives and habitats that I find fascinating. Should I confess? I am a bit of a voyeur.

I remember one winter’s eve when I was writer-in-residence at Interlochen Arts Academy a couple of months after September 11, 2001, and I was in the backseat of a colleague’s Subaru as we headed across snowy landscapes to a restaurant on one of the many small lakes up north in Michigan. All that snow and all that dark, dark sky made the houses, few and far between, loom up from the shadows, their windows bright and glowing from the lights within. And as we passed, I looked in each of them, saw husbands and wives sitting in reclining chairs staring at a television set bringing that time’s bad news from the world. I saw an old man with a messy ring of white hair dressed in a flannel robe sitting by himself at a kitchen table, his face tilted towards a big bowl of something. I saw children reading and children playing video games. I saw empty rooms. And despite the cold and the snow-covered earth and the bleak blackness of the sky and the knowledge that things out there, out in the world beyond the warmth of the Subaru, were a bit out of our–of my–control, I found comfort in these quick, bright glimpses of the lives of others.

I’m in the city now, and at night walking or driving or sitting in my third floor apartment with a unique view of this Chicago neighborhood, I continue to look towards the windows of light, to see what art my neighbors hang on their walls, what is playing on their absurdly wide-screen television sets, where their cats like to sit, what they wear in the evenings, who still has Christmas decorations up (it is, after all, April, folks!) I am drawn to and enamored with these surroundings not my own.

And so, it is in that spirit of voyeurism, maybe, that I invite you, my writerly friends, to submit to me a picture of your writing space. I’ll call this segment of the blog “View From the Keyboard,” but know that I am not limiting submissions to those of you who write on a keyboard. Whatever space you write in, whatever tools you use to write, whatever trinkets or photos or books or animals or libations, etc.,  you surround yourself with can be part of your photo. I’d also like to know what you are writing. And once I start to gather these submissions, I will begin to post them now and again, and share your spaces and your writing with others as well.

The How:

  1. Take a photo of your writing space (with or without you in it.)
  2. Write a brief description/explanation of this space. Say whatever you want about it. Some ideas–why this space? What little thing here inspires you? What can’t we see in the photo? How much time do you spend there? What time of day do you write? And so on. You get the idea.
  3. Submit–if you are willing–no more than 250 words of something you have written in this space.
  4. Self-promote anything you might want to here. Website? Publications? Etc.
  5. Make sure to let me know how to contact you in return.
  6. Send jpeg of photo. Cut and paste text into an email. Send to
  7. In your email, please put the words “I agree to let Patricia McNair edit this submission for publication on her website/blog.” And don’t submit if you don’t agree to this. I will respect your work and your words as best I can.

The What Next:

  1. Be patient. I will respond as soon as I can. I am hoping to use each submission I get, but may have to discriminate along the way depending on number of submissions and their appropriateness.
  2. I will contact you if I use your submission on my blog, but may post it before you receive and respond to the notification (see #7 above.)
  3. Check back regularly to see what others are posting. Share the site with friends. Expand this community of writers.


  • Thanks in advance to everyone who participates in any way, either by submitting, reading, or sharing. Looking forward to hearing from you!

And The Winner Is… Pt 2

All right, you’re right, I promised to tell you these results a lllllooooonnnnngggg time ago, but who knew how hard it would be to compile all of the nominations for your favorite short stories? New titles just kept on coming, and old favorites kept resurfacing. Thanks to all of you who cast a vote via my Facebook page.

The folks who named writers and titles of short stories they admire come from various communities. Some are writers themselves, either published widely or just getting started. Respondents are teachers, waiters, students, actors, librarians, young, old, salespeople, politicians, administrators, and on and on and on. What they have in common is that they are all readers. And, they all read–and in many cases, love–the short story.

Long live the short story.

And speaking of living long, a number of the stories on the list happen to be classics, written generations ago. A number of writers came up more than once: Hemingway, Checkov, Shirley Jackson, our writerly ancestors; but, too, a number of contemporary writers (Lahiri, Hempel, Diaz) were high on the list of favorites. In fact, the most oft-picked short story was “Pet Milk,” by Stuart Dybek. Dybek is a Midwestern (Chicago) native who is still writing and writing and writing.

I’ve discovered other patterns in this list as well, but I’ll hold off on that for a bit. I know you can’t wait to see if your own favorite short story made the top. So below you will find those stories with the most votes, in the top four slots:


Pet Milk, Stuart Dybek 


Sonny’s Blues, James Baldwin

A Good Man Is Hard To Find, Flannery O’Connor


A Distant Episode, Paul Bowles

Fiesta, Junot Diaz

The Ledge, Lawrence Sargent Hall

Hills Like White Elephants, Ernest Hemingway

The Dead, James Joyce

Where are You Going, Where Have you Been, Joyce Carol Oates


Big Me, Dan Chaon

The Lady With The Little Dog, Anton Chekov

We Didn’t, Stuart Dybek

Vomitorium, John McNally

The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

Pastoralia, George Saunders

The Death of Ivan Ilyich, Leo Tolstoy

Bullet in the Brain, Tobias Wolff

Rape, Gerard Woodward


And there are more than seventy other stories that were named as well that I will post in a day or so, along with comments made by the readers who sent titles and writers’ names. So get your notebooks and pens ready; I know you will want to write these down so you, too, can find them and enjoy.

What’s that? You didn’t get to vote for your favorite? No worries, add a comment here (add comment button at the top of this post) and we’ll get it in the list!