This Week in Short Fiction


This week was the third annual #TwitterFiction Festival, held here, there, and everywhere in typical Twitter style. The Association of American Publishers and Penguin Random House partnered to host the event this year, bringing in such big names as Margaret Atwood (@MargaretAtwood), Celeste Ng (@pronounced_ing), Eric Jerome Dickey (@EricJDickey), Jackie Collins (@JackieCollins), and Maggie Stiefvater (@mstiefvater).

While the festival features original and sometimes live-tweeted stories, it also offered spontaneous open submissions throughout the week from followers. Some of its authors also crowd-sourced for dialogue or image captions. Such interactive features really put the “fest” in the “ival” as it were.

For a few highlights, visit Celeste Ng’s library love story told in pictures of post-it notes and a labyrinth of call numbers at Storify. Or, check out Margaret Atwood’s found phrases from movies playing on a plane on this timeline. Beth Cato (@BethCato) took up a 2-hour residency at the festival on Wednesday, “posting fantasy & scifi poetry & tweet-sized story prompts.” On her process, Cato tweeted that she wrote over 70 posts, a process she began this past January and wrote the majority of in April. We couldn’t find a timeline on this one, but it starts in her feed at 2:00 p.m. EST Wednesday, and there are some delightful nuggets:

Phone books rot into
the roots of
a desert tree
to the whisper
of numbers
among the branches

And this opening line she offers for someone else to construct a story around: “Some angels fall from heaven. Others are shoved.”

The party continues on throughout today, schedule here.


In April, book-lovers were graced with Lit Hub, a delightful “partnership of publishers, bookstores, journals, and non-profits” working to be “a place where readers can return each day for smart, engaged, and entertaining writing about all things books.” One month later, Little, Brown released Edna O’Brien’s The Love Object: Selected Stories, a collection of some of the Irish writer’s best short fictions written between the years of 1968 and 2011. In light of their mission, it only makes sense then, that LitHub would publish one story from O’Brien’s collection. They did. It’s called “The Creature.”

This is one of those distant first person narrator stories where the story isn’t about the narrator at all. This is a narrator who simply receives and presents to us the story of a sad, older woman who lives alone in a small western town in Ireland, up until the fateful moment where our narrator enters and disturbs the story, forever altering her landscape. O’Brien doesn’t tell us much about our narrator. We can assume (possibly incorrectly) that it is a woman from the details O’Brien gives us: that she had taken a teaching assignment and “come to get over a love affair… [with] the man I had come away to forget” and that at one point she is wearing “patent boots” and a “tweed cape.”

Still, there is a burden in any first person story—an answer to the question: why is this person telling this story? And with O’Brien’s story, the answer to that question is only clear in a quiet but shattering moment at the end, which you’ll have to read to discover. First, though, the opening to the story, which houses a most unexpected fritter metaphor:

She was always referred to as The Creature by the townspeople, the dressmaker for whom she did buttonholing, the sacristan, who used to search for her in the pews on the dark winter evenings before locking up, and even the little girl Sally, for whom she wrote out the words of a famine song. Life had treated her rottenly, yet she never complained but always had a ready smile, so that her face with its round rosy cheeks, was more like something you could eat or lick; she reminded me of nothing so much as an apple fritter.

Spend some time with this apple fritter. You won’t be disappointed.

Jill Schepmann's stories have been read on NPR and have appeared in Parcel and Midwestern Gothic, among others. She worked as a fiction and nonfiction editor at Nashville Review while getting her MFA at Vanderbilt. She lives in San Francisco and tweets @jillypants. More from this author →