More Bull on the Short Story











On NPR’s Weekend Edition last Saturday, May 21, 2011, while talking with Roddy Doyle about his new story collection, Bullfighting, the usually savvy Scott Simon asked: “Do you write short stories just to warm up these days?”

“No, not at all,” Doyle answered (thank God.) He went on to say more, including how short stories often encapsulate for him “little moments in a life that seemed to be quite revelatory.”

C’mon, Scott! You, yourself are a writer. You should know that we short story writers have a hard enough time getting folks to respect the form. A little help, here, please.

The rest of this interview can be found at the NPR website.

Gerard Woodward, one of our conversationalists on the short story, reviewed Bullfighting for The Guardian recently, and said this about Doyle’s work with the short form: “Scenes are conjured from a few dabs, narratives held together with invisible thread. It is a technique he has been honing since his earliest books, and one that is particularly suited to the short story.”

Sounds like more than just a warm-up act to me, Scott Simon.

Oh, and one more thing–the UK cover of Bullfighting looks like this: 

 Why does the American version have Doyle’s name the most prominent image on the book, do you suppose? Does it have something to do with our celebrity fascination? Are we more willing to buy the guy than his stories? Hmmm…



Bath Spa and Tessa Hadley

In the fall term of 2008, I had the remarkable opportunity to be a visiting lecturer at Bath Spa University in their very impressive Creative Writing program. This was part of our on-going exchange between Columbia College Chicago, where I direct the undergraduate programs in Fiction Writing, and Bath Spa University. It is a good match, CCC and BSU, two schools who each find the teaching of creative writing an important thing to do, not just to educate artists and writers, but to teach these same students how to use these skills in the working world. Creative problem solving, effective communication, analytical thinking, a willingness to listen: these are just a few of the things that Columbia and Bath help their students learn and practice before turning them loose on the world.

There were many things that were exciting about my time at Bath. A morning run on the River Avon where a pair of swans swooped and settled in the water nearby. Living in a Georgian-period building made into a modern apartment block, on a road that Jane Austen herself walked (unhappily.) My desk in a re-purposed centuries-old stable on the castle grounds where BSU’s main campus is situated. Students who were being given their first real chance to have their writing taken seriously (far fewer creative writing programs at the high school level than here.) Talented and interesting colleagues, among them Tim Middleton and Steve May, administrators who are teachers, researchers and writers themselves; Mimi Thebo; Carrie Etter; Lucy English; Annie McGann; Julia Greene; Nic Jeune; Michael Johnson, poets, novelists, young adult writers, and filmmakers. The list goes on and on and includes Gerard Woodward, who is currently writer-in-residence here in the Fiction Writing Department at Columbia and whose ideas on the short story you’ll find on another page of this blog, and Tessa Hadley, who was just featured in the Guardian in this fine profile.

You can see that Tessa takes her work very seriously, even as she writes with delightful humo(u)r. You can see, too, if you follow a link or two here, that Bath Spa University is a fine place to study and to teach creative writing, and that we at Columbia College Chicago are lucky to be partners with such a place.