A linked story about linked stories

The Circus in Winter

First, an anecdote.

jenny-smithI “met” Jenny Smith when I was teaching at the University of Pittsburgh and she was a graduate student at Indiana University. She’d decided to write her dissertation on the short-story cycle/linked stories/novel-in-stories form, and one of her classmates at IU, Pat Maley said, “You should read The Circus in Winter.”

Pat, you see, had been one of my students at The College of New Jersey, which is where I taught before Pitt.

When I heard that someone from Indiana was writing her dissertation on the linked stories form, I got really excited. I agreed to be interviewed by her. “So, you went to Ball State?” I said. “My brother went there.”

At the time, I had no idea that the book would be adapted into a musical by Ball State students, nor that I’d later end up teaching there.maley_01

Time passed.

Periodically, I wondered, “Whatever happened to that person who was writing her dissertation on the short story cycle?”

The book was adapted into a musical, and Pat wrote about it for Stage magazine. He even came to the NAMT festival so I could hang out with him. He’s a professor now, too, at Centenary College in New Jersey.

Time passed.

And then today, I took a good look at a recent post on our department’s blog. It went up last week, but I hadn’t read it yet. Jenny Smith? Why is that name so familiar. Then I got to the end of the post. Oh! It’s her.

Jenny teaches at Concordia University in Chicago and her book Provisional Identities: The American Short-Story Cycle will be out soon with Rodopi. Hooray!

Here is her dissertation, “One Story, Many Voice: Problems of Unity in the Modern Short Story Cycle.”

And here is her article from TriQuarterly“Born in the Workshop: The MFA and the Short Story Cycle.”

Thank you, Dr. Smith, for doing this work.

And thank you universe for bringing her to my little book.

[This is a crosspost between #iamlinking and The Big Thing.]

Reflective Essays: What They Learned This Semester


It’s that time of year when our students turn in their portfolios–along with the “reflective essay” in which they articulate what they learned this semester. I love reading them. This term, I asked my students to turn those essays into blog posts. NOT something written to me, but to you.

As you know by now, my goal for the last year or so has been to help my students move from “story” to “book” by tweaking how I approach my courses. specifically, how I run (or don’t run) the workshop. I taught three classes this term, two of which had a public course blog attached to them. One was an undergraduate advanced fiction writing class on “novels” and a graduate course on “linked stories.” But really, they were BOTH classes on novel writing–one explicitly (the undergrad) and one implicitly (the grad).

Each class has a blog, which you can peruse. Continue reading