A time for the short story…

Portrait of Porter from frontispiece in his co...
Portrait of Porter from frontispiece in his collection of short stories, Waifs and Strays. O. Henry (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Not long ago I wrote about October being a wonderful time to enjoy the vast array of spooky and creepy stories. It’s also a time to get after some of the classic short stories that we read in school long ago or taught to students through the years.

Thus, I began to recall some of my favorite short stories and their authors, doing some research as a “refresher course” to aid me in remembering why the stories were so good. It’s been many years since I read them, but it didn’t take me long to put each on my list, re-affirming their ranking way up there in my “favorites” list.

Many of the stories fit the “good-for-October” spooky theme I wrote about; others are just good stories that are timeless and worth reading again and again. I will be adding to this list, but here’s the first part:

  • “Lamb to the Slaughter”-Roald Dahl
  • “The Open Window”-H.H. Munro (Saki)
  • “The Interlopers”-H.H. Munro (Saki)
  • “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge” (Ambrose Bierce)
  • “The Last Leaf” (O. Henry)
  • “The Cop & the Anthem” (O. Henry)
  • “The Rocking Horse Winner” (D.H. Lawrence)

What short stories would you add to a “favorites” list? What short story authors are your favorites? Post them in a reply as I’d love to build this list into a long one….CortlandWriter

“R and R” in the Smoky Mountains

Writing today from the mountains of western North Carolina at Carolyn’s brother’s place in Waynesville and am enjoying a day without driving, getting in-and-out of the car, and subsisting on McDonald’s coffee (large, one cream). With our wonderful time in Florida behind us, it’s time to prepare ourselves for the reality of the “northern” climate once more. Our time with Bob and Georgia in North Port was truly magnificent, and our across-the-state journey to Stuart to spend an overnight on Tuesday with Nick and Jane was a great way to wrap up our sunshine-filled vacation. The evening was highlighted by a delicious meal of jumbo sea scallops, prepared by Nick, and several bottles of Yuengling Lager. Such are the good things in life!

Bidding them adieu on Wednesday, Carolyn and I enjoyed a leisurely cruise up to Ron Jon Surf Shop in Cocoa Beach where we spent lots of time (and dollars!) before setting out on I-95 for a “mile-eating” remainder of the day. Our plan was to end up somewhere in South Carolina by 8:30 so the next day’s drive to her brother’s in North Carolina wouldn’t be too arduous. And so it was that we found a nice room at the Rice Planters Inn, just off I-95 near Walterboro, South Carolina, where we settled in for the night. It didn’t take long, either,  for the hum of the motel air conditioner to lull me to sleep.

When we’re in this part of the country, we always pay a visit to nearby Cherokee, which we did right away yesterday, and Carolyn was very disappointed in what she found (or didn’t find) this time. Of course, many of the shops are closed for the season, or those that were opened simply didn’t offer much in the kinds of things she was hoping to find. I’m sure we’ll try once again on our next trek through these parts, and I’m always prepared with a book to enjoy while she roams the various shops of Cherokee.

It’s always nice to spend time here at Carolyn’s brother’s place for a few days whenever we’re heading in either direction. Today is an “R and R” day–rest and recover–before we head back out on the big road and begin the last leg of our journey homeward on Monday. Aside from updating my blogs and doing some quiet reading (it is very quiet here!), we have nothing really planned. And that’s very much OK with me. I had expressed some interest in paying a visit to O. Henry’s grave over in Asheville, but I’ve reconsidered that idea, realizing that I saw a very nice photo of his grave stone on the Internet, and what more could I possibly glean from a physical visit to the cemetery, other than that I could say, “I was there.” Quite frankly, I have no desire to go anywhere near our car today. So O. Henry will have to remain resting in peace without my physical visit. Love your stories, Mr. William Sydney Porter, but I see no need to venture on over to your final resting place today!

Now, it’s time to post this and then check up on some other blogs I subscribe to. It’s rainy and mostly gray outside, so what better way to enjoy this day of “R and R”? …CortlandWriter

Hardy Boys, Chip Hilton, and Quality Teachers

A bookshelf full of dreams and all sorts of magic!

Hardy Boys on a bookshelf

Ever since junior high school, I’ve had a dream of being a writer and writing the kinds of books I loved to read. I so enjoyed my reading classes then, being introduced to authors I’d continue to enjoy for the rest of my life: Twain, Poe, O. Henry, Arthur Conan Doyle, and many, many others. Of course, my love of reading was enhanced all the more when I discovered the Hardy Boys, Chip Hilton, and even Nancy Drew back in the 6th grade! I would eagerly await the next book in the series and lose myself gloriously in each one. Often was the time I’d feign illness to stay home from school for the sole purpose of keeping up with the exploits of the Hardys, Chip Hilton and friends, or Holmes and Watson out and about in the fog shrouded streets of London.

And I had some wonderful, encouraging reading teachers during these early years who showed me it was cool to read and talk about characters in stories and look at how the stories were put together, what made them work, and what the writer had in mind in writing in the first place. Very early on, these guiding lessons helped me look at most stories and books with an eager and hungry eye. At the same time, I was developing my own interests in writing stories of my own.

Off and on for many years, I would always say that someday I’d write my own book. One year, back in the 80s, I completed a course through the Institute of Children’s Literature, which I found to be very rewarding and worthwhile. It was the first time I’d ever had professional folks read and critique my fiction. (I still have those stories, by the way.) Real-life responsibilities and time constraints always seemed to be in the way of my realizing my dream of being a writer. My retirement in 2007 from 35 years of teaching language arts and reading to junior high kids, finally provided me with the perfect opportunity to do that which I’d long ago desired: Write that book!

During the summer of 2000, I began what would be my odyssey, culminating in the publication of my first book ten years later. I started the novel during lulls in the summer school classes I was teaching and continued writing at various times at our cottage up in Michigan. The process was nothing but starts and stops time and time again. For a period of time, I even forgot about the whole thing completely.

A chance comment by my daughter a few summers ago led me to the completion of the great, unfinished manuscript. She simply asked me what ever happened to that story I’d started and had shared with her once. She told me I should finish it because she’d enjoyed what she’d read of it the one time I’d showed it to her in its incomplete state. Her words were all the motivation I needed. Thus, I was able to finish the book, which I named Black Wolf Lodge, and published it in late 2010. Fittingly, the book is dedicated to my wonderful daughter Laura.

I am now at work on my next book, as well as keeping two blogs going and simply loving it! Life’s definitely good, and somewhere, back there in the early 60s, are those great reading and English teachers who sparked me to read and write and appreciate the good written word. Thanks to them…

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