I like music as much as the next person, and my iPod betrays my eclectic approach – some Tegan and Sara, all of Dar Williams, recently The Essential Michael Jackson, the soundtrack to the movies Once and Moulin Rouge. But recently I’ve been adding short stories to my iPod… and suddenly my commute is flying by!
One source for short stories is the podcast for Selected Shorts from Public Radio International – it’s free and available on iTunes. Subscribing means you get them as they come out, automatically loaded to your iTunes library and synched to your iPod whenever you remember to synch it. Upside: there are usually 3-4 stories per podcast, they’re really fantastic short stories, they’re read by famous actors with recognizable voices (Stockard Channing, Patricia Kalember, etc.), and there’s a theme. Downside -it’s an hour for each podcast and I haven’t been able to figure out how to skip from one story to another (although I have been assured that this is possible) so I’m stuck listening all the way through no matter what.
Another source I’ve been delving into is Sniplits.com. Sniplits has dozens of stories available, all under a dollar and many under 50 cents. They’re nicely categorized by type (horror, mystery, literary, etc.), author (with many recognizable names, such as Chicago’s own Libby Fischer Hellman), and length of story. This last is ideal for me – I find that any story over 20 minutes can be confusing… my mind tends to wander… so I’ve been selecting the 10-20 minute length. You have the opportunity to rate the stories you’ve purchased, and I’ve been trying to do so, because it is so helpful to me to read others’ ratings. Every author has a “fan club” page, which is fun if you like to know more about the author. Readers are Chicago actors, so buying Sniplits stories contributes to the livelihoods of the not-so-famous, but talented.
I’ve listened to several by Laird Long, who writes PI stories in the noir style – it’s a little over the top but fun. Mort Castle’s Henderson’s Place: The Girl with the Summer Eyes sets a mild-mannered salesman with some serious mental problems and a normal high school girl on ever-so-slowly converging paths, with tragic results. And my most recent favorite is Robert Friedman’s story, It Had to be Done. A fun, funny and heartwarming story of family life, the story’s “voice” is the not-quite-teenage son. Between goofy mother, stern father, stoner brother, and the family handyman (no matter what the quote, everything that needs to be done ends up costing $1000!), life is interesting. Friedman has two other stories on Sniplits and I bought them tonight, looking forward to tomorrow morning’s ride on the el.
For authors, Sniplits is another possible publishing opportunity – most print pubs don’t purchase the audio rights, so even if you’ve sold the story, you can sell it again! And with few general interest print publications (save the New Yorker and the Atlantic fiction issue) publishing short fiction these days, every outlet is welcome!