Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Guest Blogger Jennifer Silva Redmond on 5 Favorite Short Story Collections

Guest-blogging today is my amiga, Baja Buff Jennifer Silva Redmond, who wears three sombreros, as it were: blogger, writer, and editor. Her new blog is Jenny Redbug: Words and Pictures About Writing, Books, and Life Aboard a Sailboat; her recent short fiction appears in Daniel Olivas's recent anthology, Latinos in Lotusland: An Anthology of Contemporary Southern California Literature and, as editor, her latest publication is an anthology she edited with Roger Aplon, A Year in Ink, which she tells you about below. Over to you, Jennifer!

Five Favorite Short Story Collections

These five are my current favorites-- and I'm so into short stories right now having read dozens of short stories last year, in order to prepare myself to read 150+ story submissions as prose editor of an anthology. More on that later.

1. I started with a great collection edited by Stephen King, The Best American Short Stories 2007; sure, it was a couple years "old" but with timeless literature, who cares? Plus, I love Stephen King and I don't care who knows it! (No one can mix the awful/gruesome/eerie with the hilarious like King. No one.) Anyway, the 2007 collection is excellent and varied, and King's intro is a wonder-- I wish he would write more essays. As to the stories/authors included, any book that includes T.C. Boyle's story "Balto" can't help but move you, and the list goes on and on. Here's a fine review of the collection from bookslut.

2. The beautiful pieces in Lavanderia: A Mixed Load of Women, Wash and Word were often heartbreakingly sad, but always rang true. Poet Jimmy Santiago Baca called Lavanderia "the nitty-gritty life of suds, soap, bleach, love, hurt, loss, resentment - in short, life with blood stains that don't wash out, of memories blowing like sheets in the wind." The story behind the collection of spoken word pieces, prose, poetry and photographs is a pretty good story, too-- you can read about the project and The Wash House Collective on their website.

3. I reread Guacamole Dip: From Baja, tales of love, faith--and magic by Daniel Reveles, which I'd edited a couple of years earlier. And, yes, it was just as good, if not better than I remembered. I especially like the story about the modern-day "hardboiled" P.I. who takes a job in Tecate, not having ever been south of the border; the character is a Latino who speaks no Spanish and the results are hilarious and eventually life-changing for him. Reveles' characters are real and warm and funny, but don't think for a moment that this talented author can't still shock you-- one of these stories has an ending that you definitely won't see coming! Daniel's website is a lot of fun--take a minute to visit him there, or read this exceptional article about Reveles by Arthur Salm. One of Reveles' stories, from Tequila Lemon and Salt, was also featured in the very fine anthology Mexico: A Travelers Literary Companion, edited by Madam Mayo herself.

4. Having finished the anthology selection, I swore off short story reading for a while-- then I met Midge Raymond at the Southern California Writers Conference and was inspired to buy her new collection, Forgetting English. A wise choice: the stories all have a theme of strangers in a strange land-- sometimes the characters may think they are in familiar territory, but that usually turns out not to be the case. I like this short interview with Raymond in The Short Review.

5. As I said earlier, I edited the prose for A Year in Ink, vol 3, an anthology published by the San Diego Writers, Ink (SDWI); I'm adding that collection to this list, because it's an exciting and eclectic mix of voices and of pieces (many are flash fiction and some are short-shorts). The anthology also contains poetry, which was edited by Roger Aplon, a great poet--you may hear him read his poetry on his very cool author site. Should you care to buy a copy, you might like to know that all the proceeds benefit ongoing writing programs at the non-profit SDWI; check out their site to buy the book or to read all about them. The book is also available on Amazon, here.

--- Jennifer Silva Redmond

---> For the archive of Madam Mayo guest-blog posts, including from King of the Baja Buffs Graham Mackintosh, travel writer Isabella Tree, Zen organizer Regina Leeds, and writer and blogger Daniel Olivas, click here.

---> See also Jennifer Silva Redmond's previous guest-blog post for Madam Mayo, Five Favorite Baja California Writers' Websites.

P.S. My anthology, Mexico: A Traveler's Literary Companion, which Jennifer mentions, is a collection of 24 works by contemporary Mexican writers. These include leading literary figures such as Agustin Cadena, Carlos Fuentes, Monica Lavin, Angeles Mastretta, Carlos Monsivais, Pedro Angel Palou, and Juan Villoro. Daniel Reveles's story, set on the border in Tecate, was so hilariously perfect, it opens the collection.