the marginalized short-story cycle

i’m working my short-story cycle through Humber College and the structure of it has got me thinking: i don’t know a fucking thing about the structure of a short-story cycle. sure, there’s the various structures for stories that i’ve experienced, largely by a combination of trial and error, modelling, and falling into something by accident. but the overall structure of a collection? virtually unknown.

this has me wondering how best to understand the genre. it isn’t taught in universities. the novel is the big piece of the chicken, yet in the creative workshop the short story is emphasized, probably because it’s a “manageable” unit of writing. short stories? manageable, my ass.  my stories need wrangling.

in an on-line article by Jennifer J. Smith (, she discusses how modern short-story cycles are largely born out of the MFA workshop experience, and provides modern-day examples:

  • Russell Banks
  • Sandra Cisneros
  • Denis Johnson
  • Rebecca Barry
  • Junot Diaz

Smith states “one reason short-story cycles have been so marginalized is the perception that they are apprentice works, produced before an author reaches maturity” then goes on to point out mature authors, such as Faulkner and Tan, who created rather nuanced short-story cycles late in their writing lives.

i think i’ve got some reading to do. MY EYES; MY EYES.