So, I just a had an awesome idea! I am ALWAYS looking for examples of excellent short stories written by students to show as models to my students, but sometimes these are hard to come across. They’re hard to find primarily because teachers are busy people, and so we often don’t keep our stuff very well organised, or we simply forget to keep copies of stories that we have loved, and found really powerful pieces of writing. Kinda recently I had a big chat with some English teachers about short stories, and the beauty of the form, and something I noticed was that we all found it hard to find quality models – not just student work, but actually published short stories that are things of beauty, worth sharing and studying. I think it’s because the form that we expect students to write is actually the short-short story form, not the short story… if that makes sense? Basically our students are expected to write compelling narratives, with complex characters, powerful themes, in the context of effective settings, all within a space of 800-1000 words. At my current school it is 800 words. That’s not very many words with which to paint something cool, is it? Not considering that the modern short story is ‘no shorter than 1,000 and no longer than 20,000 words‘ according to Wikipedia. However, I really like the definition of a short story attributed to Poe by Wikipedia: one should be able to read it in one sitting.
So, what’s my cool idea? Well, I imagine that every teacher has come across ‘that’ story at least once in their careers (and hopefully multiple times) – you know, the one where we read it without thinking about the student who wrote it, without stopping to query a phrase, or the tense, or a character’s decisions… where you just read, and feel, and imagine, and love, love, love. The one where at the end you go, ‘Holy crap, I couldn’t write anything that good. How can I be responsible for teaching this kid?’ You know the one, right? Well, what if we collected a bunch of those stories, and put them together in a book, published via Blurb, that could be downloaded for free as a eBook, or bought as a hard copy, depending on the teacher’s preference. It wouldn’t be a book written to make money (cos who wants to deal with the drama of divvying royalties, not me!) but rather would just be there as an epic resource for our students. (The way Blurb works is that you can create a ‘bookshelf’ of books, and when you buy one, you’re just giving money to Blurb for the cost of the printing – if we make it available as an eBook then it can be used digitally, and there’s also a PDF option, so you could print it at school if you wanted to for free.)
I’m totally happy to be responsible for putting the stories together, if people email me the stories they think would be worth including. All students names will be included (school name too if you want), unless they want to use a pseudonym which is totally cool also. I would LOVE a resource like this, because I think it will give insight into a range of story-writing styles that are celebrated and valued at different schools. These would NOT have to be purpose written for this book, although your could use this book as an incentive for kids to write something new. I don’t suppose we need a criteria for something like this, however, I guess there is the possibility that some stories might be ‘sent in’ that (possibly) might not be as good as others, and therefore don’t ‘make the cut’… urgh, am I just over-thinking this now? Yes, probably. But maybe a starting criteria could be:
- story must be original to the writer
- story must be between 700-1000 words
- there must be no spelling, grammar, or punctuation errors
- submissions must be size 12 Times New Roman, double-spaced, justified alignment
Well, that became boring very quickly, haha, maybe you have some suggestions? I focused on boring stuff cos I’ll have to edit them all to add into the Blurb format, so it’s better and easier if they’re consistent.
OK, so maybe no one will reply to this, and it will just be an idea put out into cyberspace, but still worth trying. What do you think, do you wanna contribute?