July 2024
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Guest Blog & A Giveaway: Eleanor Bluestein on Why Short Stories?

Please welcome Eleanor Bluestein, the author of Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales, which I reviewed yesterday.  Today she’s here to talk about why she chose to write short stories rather than a novel.  Please give Eleanor a warm welcome and don’t forget to check out the giveaway at the bottom of this post!

Meghan suggested I discuss why I chose the short story format rather than the novel for this book. I’ve been asked that before, and I realize now that I’ve given only a partial answer.

I started this book after traveling to Bangkok to attend my nephew’s wedding. On that trip, my husband and I toured Thailand and then flew to Cambodia. I hadn’t considered writing fiction set in South East Asia—I was working on a novel at the time—and didn’t even take notes. Writing a novel requires keeping many threads aligned, but soon after returning home, my father became ill, and as the person responsible for his care, I needed and wanted to spend time with him. My attention became scattered and I kept dropping one or another of the novel’s threads, so I decided to try writing short stories instead. My recent travels had been vivid, and when I started the first story, I found myself setting it in South East Asia. This is the answer I’d given to the question and it is accurate as far as it goes.

It’s clear to me now that something else was also at work. Fiction is an invention, and there is some sleight of hand involved in drawing readers into a world the author devises and into characters’ lives and holding them there. Of the ten stories in Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales, only one is written from the point of view of an American. The rest are narrated by South East Asians. I would not have thought I could create a world a reader would believe in with such an exotic setting or write from a South East Asian point of view for an entire novel. I would have believed that world and those characters too different from the one I knew, culturally and historically, for the work to feel true. But I was willing to risk that I could pull it off for a short story. I don’t mean that this was conscious—it wasn’t. But it seems obvious, looking back, that I could commit to baby steps, not the entire marathon. One at a time, though, the stories piled up, and finally, I’d run the whole course.

Could I have done this book as a novel? Perhaps. I’m not sure, but I don’t think I ever would have tried. The processing of the travel, the imaginative leap into a world and culture so different from my own, probably would never have occurred. Among the many opportunities my father made possible for me, this, it turns out, was another one.

Thank you, Meghan, for the opportunity to share these thoughts with your readers.


Thank you for that great post, Eleanor!

And now, the giveaway!  I have one copy of Tea and Other Ayama Na Tales to give away to a resident of the US or Canada.  To enter:

  1. Leave a comment on this post telling me either why you’d like to read this book, commenting about Eleanor’s guest post, or recommending me another short story collection, since I liked this one!  That is your first entry.
  2. For another entry, leave a comment on yesterday’s review post after you’ve entered here first.  If you already commented, please mention it in your comment here, that still counts.
  3. For a third or fourth entry, tweet or blog (or both!) about this contest.  Make sure to come back with the link in a separate comment so I can count you again.

The contest will end on Wednesday, May 13th.  I’ll announce the winner on May 14th.  Good luck!


14 comments to Guest Blog & A Giveaway: Eleanor Bluestein on Why Short Stories?

  • I have loved every guest post by Eleanor on her tour. She always comes up with amazing stuff.

    Even I am puzzled by why authors would think of writing short stories instead of a novel as I’ve heard that short stories are difficult to sell. But after reading the post it feels like this was the only way to go.

    (P.S: not entering the contest)

    Violet’s last blog post..Triumph of Deborah by Eva Etzioni-Havely

  • I’ve been hearing about this book for months and it has really captured my attention. I’m not a big fan of short stories but I’ve read a few collections recently that are beginning to change that opinion. I’d love to win a copy and check it out for myself.

    Also, I enjoyed hearing how the author is rethinking the reasons behind her venture into short stories – very interesting!

    Heather J.’s last blog post..What’s On My Nightstand? … the April ’09 edition

  • I don’t often enjoy short stories (too short!) but I do love reading about Asia.

    Word Lily’s last blog post..Words from my reading

  • It’s so interesting that only one of her narrators is an American.

    Kathy’s last blog post..Wondrous Words Wednesday

  • I would really love to win this book. I’m originally from Southeast Asia and it’s rare to see books set in that part of the world, even if you lived there! And this book sounds so wonderful. Thanks for the giveaway!

    claire’s last blog post..Diversity in Reading Meme

  • Eleanor

    Thank you, Violet, for following the tour and all the posts and for this lovely comment. Thanks also to Heather, Word Lily and Kathy for your interest.

    And thank you again Meghan for a great review, for giving me the opportunity to think through the answer to the short story/novel question, and for all your enthusiasm.

  • You don’t have to enter me in this contest, I already have a copy of the book. I think it’s interesting that the author felt she was better able to commit to a short story format instead of a novel, and I am wondering if the author will be considering a novel in the future? I haven’t yet read this book, but it does sound really good, and I am really looking forward to it.

    Zibilee’s last blog post..That Went Well: Adventures in Caring for My Sister byTerrell Harris Dougan – 224 pages

  • I think it’s interesting that all but one of Eleanor’s narrators are South Asian, that she was able to tackle that viewpoint because each story was a short story.

  • Zibilee–in answer to your question about whether or not I’d consider writing a novel, I am in the middle of one that takes place in San Diego where I live. I also have a completed novel with an agent right now…that one takes place in Los Angeles and Paris, France, where I lived for a year. If I get lucky, you’ll see more of my work in print!

    Belle–it’s interesting to me too and so obvious after I wrote this post for Meghan, although I hadn’t realized it before.

  • Lisette

    I find the book premise interesting. I’m a fan of reading short stories so this definitely sounds like my kind of read. :)

  • Kim V

    I’ve always loved Flannery O’Connor’s short stories.
    Thanks for the giveaway!

  • Deborah R

    For most of my life, I wasn’t interested in short stores…probably because they reminded me of the (poor) literature classes we had in high school. A couple of months ago, I was given a copy of Donald Ray Pollock’s “Knockemstiff” and I was hooked on the genre. I’d recommend the book if you like your stories raw and powerful.

  • Karen

    I really enjoy reading short stories — a book of short stories is just right to bring when waiting in a doctor office, or sitting at soccer practice, or snatching a few minutes to read while waiting to pick up the kids. I enjoy Asian literature, and another book of short stories I would recommend is The Bridegroom by Ha Jin.