Friday, March 27, 2009

Do We Need a National Short Story Month?

April is National Poetry Month, but you probably already knew that. The Academy of American Poets, which has done a great job of promoting it, established NPM in 1996 (though it feels like it's been around even longer) to:
"...widen the attention of individuals and the media to the art of poetry, to living poets, to our complex poetic heritage, and to poetry books and journals of wide aesthetic range and concern. We hope to increase the visibility and availability of poetry in popular culture while acknowledging and celebrating poetry’s ability to sustain itself in the many places where it is practiced and appreciated. "
The question I've been pondering since we started The Story Prize--and even further back when I was series editor of Prize Stories: The O. Henry Awards--is whether the short story needs a similar boost. Among the goals of a National Short Story Month (NSSM) would be to:
  • Highlight the extraordinary legacy and ongoing achievement of American short story writers.
  • Introduce more Americans to the pleasures of reading short stories.
  • Bring authors and short stories to the public in immediate and innovative ways.
  • Make short fiction a more important part of the school curriculum.
  • Increase the attention paid to short stories by national and local media.
  • Encourage increased publication, distribution, and sales of short story collections.
  • Increase public and private philanthropic support for short story writers and short stories.
This statement is straight from the National Poetry Month FAQ, except I've more or less substituted "short stories" for "poems" and "short story writers" for "poets."*

National Poetry Month seems to have been very successful in enlisting the support of schools, libraries, publishers, and booksellers, among others. And the short story, like poetry, reaches a small audience of readers compared to novels and nonfiction. Could an NSSM change this? Or would creating one in some way be admitting that the form is marginal and needs to enlist widespread cultural support? Sounds like time for a poll.

Should there be a National Short Story Month?
Yes. It would be good for short stories and those who write and publish them.
No. Who needs another National Something-or-Other Month?
Maybe. I'm ambivalent. free polls

*And while we're at it, how about a single word for those who write stories, something equivalent to "poet" or "novelist"? "Storyist"?