Award-winning author Wayne Grady writes, “As a geneticist, Margaret Nowaczyk has seen ‘the enduring misery of the human condition.' But as a writer, she has turned that misery into pure art. Chasing Zebras is a brilliant testimony to the healing power of words.”
And, unsurprisingly for someone who's crafted such a compelling narrative from her own life experiences, Margaret Nowaczyk is a reader with an eye for story. In the following fabulous reading list, she recommends some of her favourite short fiction collections.
Ever since Ursula LeGuin’s “Mazes” broke my heart forty years ago, I have admired short story writers. There is nothing more devastating, more poignant than a short story that packs an emotional wallop in four pages. I love how it leaves me wanting more, how it leaves me thinking about it for days, weeks, some for years.
After years of writing and reading innumerable short stories, I am left with seven published stories and twice as many in various stage of undress. No collection to my name. Which is why I especially admire writers who not only write great short stories but who also produce complete and cohesive collections.
Here are a few that stoked my admiration by subject matt …
Somewhere along the way I got the impression that the fundamental property of a novella isn’t its brevity, or that it’s stuck somewhere between a story and a novel, but that it’s this: a novella wrestles with the worst day of a protagonist’s life. I like the German tradition in novellen that the story comes to a surprising but logical end, which for me as a writer means I need to convince the reader there is no other possible outcome than the ending we arrive at together.
You’ll read a lot of different definitions of novellas, mainly about word length (10,000 to 50,000 words by some accounts, shorter or longer by others), but for me, the novella, like a poem, loves a turn, tastes its words as it delivers them, and lasts in the mind long after the book is closed.
This selection of Canadian works is short on novellas but each one is novella-ish in its love of language, its unforgettable characters, or its inarguable nature—some of these read like ur-texts, like they’ve always existed and we were lucky enough to find them washed up intact onshore.
One aspect or another of each of these books echoes a …