Every month last year we featured a genre or a format of YA fiction, talked about the defining characteristics, resources for learning more about them, and then a book list of current titles. If you go back and check out last month’s guide on humor, you can get through to all of the guides before. Because we enjoyed writing the series, we’re continuing it this year, and we have twelve new genres and/or formats to tackle. To kick it off, we’re going to start with the short story.
Like graphic novels, short stories are a format, rather than a genre, since they can be written in any genre. Short stories can be fiction or non-fiction; there are short stories that are more about personal experiences (think very short memoirs) and they’re non-fiction. They may also be written and illustrated in graphic format.
Short stories are shorter in length than a novel or a novella, though the word counts on what defines each of those varies. The Science Fiction Writers of America define a short story as being under 7,500 words, a novelette as a story between 7,500 and 17,500 words, a novella as a story between 17,500 and 40,000 words and a novel as something over 40,000 words in length. These aren’t strict rules or laws, and there’s a lot of flexibility and leeway, but they give a general idea of how short stories differ from novels.
There’s not a huge market for short stories in the YA world. The bulk of YA short stories are published in anthologies, which contain stories written by more than one author and they either revolve around a theme, a mood, or a genre. There are a few notable authors who write entire books of short stories, as well — Margo Lanagan quickly comes to mind. Over the last few years, there’s been a trend toward more publishers having authors of well-known and popular series write short story companions set within the worlds of their books. The bulk of these have been produced as e-originals, releasing at various times during the first runs of the series; most of the time, they’re meant to be extras and aren’t essential to understanding or enjoying the series. Veronica Roth’s Divergent series, for example, has a handful of short stories and all of them are e-only. Lauren Oliver’s Delirium series included a handful of short stories, but rather than keep them exclusively electronic, they were bound up and republished in print form.
Sometimes short stories can be published entirely online, as a means of giving fans a bit more or as a way of getting those who haven’t read the author’s work to try it — for example, there’s an e-short story by Courtney Summers to her book Fall for Anything told from the perspective of the main character’s best friend available on the publisher’s webpage. Other times, short stories can be included as a bonus in a release of a new print edition of a book — the paperback editions of Malinda Lo’s Huntress and Marissa Meyer’s Cinder, as well as the paperback of Kiersten White’s Mind Games include extra material in them. The paperback of Tiffany Schmidt’s Send Me A Sign will include a bonus story told from the point of view of one of the main male characters. Sara Ryan’s Empress of the World included bonus short stories in comic form, as well as other extras, and those were included in the book’s reissue, rather than in its initial paperback release.
The YA novella arena has been growing, thanks in part to these digital companions to popular series books. Harper Teen Impulse is an entire line of YA novellas written by well-known YA authors that are either somehow related to the author’s novels, re-worked pieces from prior anthology inclusions, or are entirely brand new material. Bloomsbury published a series of e-novellas that coincided with Sarah J. Maas’s Throne of Glass series. These were originally e-only, but they will be put to print later on this year. Penguin did a prequel novella to Marie Lu’s Legend series, too, which is an e-only title.
YA short stories can also be found in other places, as well. One Teen Story is a journal dedicated to exactly what it says: publishing one teen short story. The journal publishes one issue — and one story — nine times a year. It’s very much like a zine in shape, size, format, and appearance. Cicada, as well as Sucker Literary, also publish YA short stories. There are also places like the Young Adult Review Network (YARN) that publish short stories. YARN is particularly interesting because readers may be familiar with some of the names of authors who publish short stories or poetry there; many have also published novels that are familiar.
All of these sources vet their submissions and the stories go through some sort of editorial process, so not just anyone can share something they’ve written. I recommend spending some time reading YA Highway’s post about literary journals, as they offer even more outlets for finding YA short stories.
For readers who are eager to read short stories, there are many places and outlets in which to find them. It’s a format that’s adaptable to print, to digital, and to books, as well as magazines and online journals, publishers websites, and more. For books which are doing exceptionally well with readers, it’s more than worthwhile to develop a reading guide to places where fans can find more stories. Perhaps noting this in a circulating copy of the book would help guide readers to more work they’d enjoy. If you work in a library that circulates e-readers to teens, one way to offer those e-original short stories or novellas would be to purchase them for that device and catalog the titles as being available on the e-reader.
There aren’t any specific short story writers associations, though there are awards and honors for well-done short stories offered through many outlets. Likewise, there aren’t a lot of solid short story resources which include reviews or discussions of the format for YA. Bloggers who review short stories tend to review anthologies as they’re published, often discussion the individual stories on their own and within the bigger context. Books of short stories tend to be reviewed in traditional sources, as well. It’ll be interesting to see what happens as e-only novellas and short stories continue to emerge: it’s a trend that I see value in but question audience for (teens who have the technology and teens who have access to credit cards to use aren’t necessarily large nor overlapping groups).
Here’s a look at a number of YA short story collections from the last few years, as well as a preview of a few to come soon. All descriptions are from WorldCat, though much of the description of the anthologies are pretty straightforward from the titles. If you know of others published in the last five or so years, feel free to add them to the comments!
Defy the Dark edited by Saundra Mitchell: Seventeen original stories that take place in the absence of light.
Extremities by David Lubar: A group of high school girls takes revenge on their sadistic gym teacher in the most fitting way possible. Two stowaways find themselves on a ship for the dead. An ancient predator stalks the wrong victim. Here are thirteen tales of death, murder, and revenge.
Shards & Ashes edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong: Original stories of dystopian worlds from New York Times bestselling authors.
After edited by Ellen Datlow and Terri Windling: An anthology of nineteen tales by well-known authors of young adult and adult literature which explore the lives of teens raised after a catastrophe, either in the first few years after the change or in the distant future.
Unnatural Creatures edited by Neil Gaiman: A collection of sixteen stories introduces a host of strange, wondrous beings that have never existed anywhere but in the imagination, with stories from Neil Gaiman, Diana Wynne Jones, and E. Nesbit.
Yellowcake by Margo Lanagan: A collection of ten short stories of unusual people, places, and events, including reimagined classic tales and original works, most of which were previously published.
Brave New Love edited by Paula Guran: Presents a collection of fifteen stories about finding romance and danger in repressive, futuristic societies by such authors as Steve Berman, Jesse Karp, Diana Peterfreund, and Amanda Downum.
Cornered: 14 Stories of Bullying and Defiance edited by Rhoda Belleza: An anthology of fourteen stories illuminates the experiences of being bullied in today’s world, in a volume that includes contributions from such established writers as Kirsten Miller, Jennifer Brown, and James Lecesne.
The Curiosities by Maggie Stiefvater, Tessa Gratton, and Brenna Yovanoff: An anthology of darkly paranormal stories, with comments by the authors on their writing process.
Faery Tales & Nightmares by Melissa Marr: A collection of short stories featuring tales of characters from the Wicked Lovely novels that mix with accounts of new characters.
Guys Read: Funny Business edited by Jon Scieszka: A collection of humorous stories featuring a teenaged mummy, a homicidal turkey, and the world’s largest pool of chocolate milk. (“Guys Read” is an entire series of short story anthologies).
Starry, Starry Night by Lurlene McDaniel: A collection of three stories in which teenagers face life-altering situations. (This is an older anthology but it recently got a facelift).
Geektastic: Stories from the Nerd Herd edited by Holly Black and Cecil Castellucci: A collection of twenty-nine short stories about geeks.
Owning It: Stories About Teens with Disabilities edited by Donald Gallo: Presents ten stories of teenagers facing all of the usual challenges of school, parents, boyfriends and girlfriends, plus the additional complications that come with having a physical or psychological disability.
There is No Long Distance Now by Naomi Shihab Nye: Forty short stories by an award-winning author and poet.
Diverse Energies edited by Tobias S. Buckell and Joe Monti: In this collection of original and rediscovered stories of tragedy and hope, the diverse stars are students, street kids, “good girls,” kidnappers, and child laborers pitted against their environments, their governments, and sometimes one another as they seek answers in their dystopian worlds.
Steampunk edited by Kelley Link and Gavin J. Grant: A collection of fourteen fantasy stories by well-known authors, set in the age of steam engines and featuring automatons, clockworks, calculating machines, and other marvels that never existed.
Tortall and Other Lands by Tamora Pierce: A collection of fantasy stories by Tamora Pierce that are set in her created land of Tortall and feature a range of familiar and unknown characters.
Free? Stories About Human Rights edited by Amnesty International: An anthology of fourteen stories by young adult authors from around the world, on such themes as asylum, law, education, and faith, compiled in honor of the sixtieth anniversary of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.
Kiss Me Deadly edited by Trisha Telep and Michelle Zink: A collection of short stories combining dark seduction and modern romance presents a variety of tales featuring the romantic lives of humans and werewolves, ghosts, fallen angels, zombies, and shape-shifters.
Zombies vs. Unicorns edited by Holly Black and Justine Larbalestier: Twelve short stories by a variety of authors seek to answer the question of whether zombies are better than unicorns.
Lips Touch Three Times by Laini Taylor and illustrated by Jim di Bartolo: Three short stories about kissing, featuring elements of the supernatural.
The Poison Eaters by Holly Black: A girl wagers her soul in a sour-gummy-frog-eating contest with the devil. Love and a homemade coat rescue a boy from his fairyland jailers. A newly bitten teenage vampire uses the Internet to show the world just how uncool the “cold” life is. In this collection of stories, the supernatural intersects with everyday life in surprising and dangerous ways.
You Don’t Even Know Me by Sharon G. Flake: Tow-Kaye just learned that the love of his life is pregnant–and though he knows what the right thing to do is, he’s scared to death to do it. Jeffrey hates having a mom who dresses like a teenager, but when another sexy mom moves in next door–well, that’s a different kind of problem. In these and twenty-two other short stories and poems, readers plumb the inner lives of African American teenage boys.
Open Mic: Riffs on Life Between Cultures edited by Mitali Perkins: Shares stories about growing up in diverse homes or communities, from an Asian youth who gains temporary popularity by making up a false background, to a biracial girl whose father clears subway seats by calmly sitting between two prejudiced women.
Dear Teen Me edited by E. Kristin Anderson and Miranda Kenneally: How many times have you looked back on your teenage years and cringed, wishing you could offer your younger self some guidance? This book of nearly 70 letters by top young adult authors — including bestselling writers Lauren Oliver, Ellen Hopkins, and Nancy Holder — does just that, and today’s teens will benefit.
Girl Meets Boy edited by Kelly Milner Halls: Twelve authors of young adult fiction collaborate on this collection of paired stories told alternately from the point of view of the boy and the girl.
Fear: 13 Stories of Suspense and Horror edited by RL Stine: A collection of thirteen horror stories.
Enthralled edited by Melissa Marr and Kelley Armstrong: A collection of sixteen original short stories by writers of paranormal tales, featuring journeys made by teens and magical beings.
Rags & Bones: New Twists on Timeless Tales edited by Melissa Marr and Tim Pratt: In this collection, award-winning and bestselling authors reimagine their favorite classic stories, the ones that have inspired, awed, and enraged them, the ones that have become ingrained in modern culture, and the ones that have been too long overlooked.
Foretold: 14 Stories of Prophecy and Prediction edited by Carrie Ryan: Collects fourteen stories that delve into the obsession with life’s unknowns and the prospect of altering the future, by such authors as Meg Cabot, Diana Peterfreund, and Michael Grant.
Break These Rules: 35 YA Authors on Speaking Up, Standing Out, and Being Yourself edited by Luke Reynolds: Middle grade and young adult authors speak candidly on the unspoken “rules” of adolescence in this collection of moving, inspiring, and often funny essays. This unique volume encourages readers to break with conformity and defy age-old, and typically inaccurate, orthodoxy–including such conventions as Boys can’t be gentle, kind, or caring; One must wear Abercrombie & Fitch in order to fit in; Girls should act like girls; and One must go to college after finishing high school. With contributions from acclaimed, bestselling, and award-winning young adult authors–including Gary D. Schmidt, author of The Wednesday Wars; Matthew Quick, author of The Silver Linings Playbook; Sara Zarr, author of Story of a Girl; and Wendy Mass, author of A Mango-Shaped Space–this collection encourages individuality by breaking traditionally held norms, making it an ideal resource for tweens and teens.
Losing It edited by Keith Gray: An anthology of ten stories about teens losing their virginity.
Starry-Eyed: 16 Stories that Steal the Spotlight edited by Ted Michael and Josh Pultz: Sixteen star-studded YA voices explore the glamour, struggles, and backstage chaos of the performing arts, while some of the biggest stars of stage and screen share their real-life stories of how they achieved their dreams–including American Idol finalist, Broadway star, and recording artists Clay Aiken.
Grim edited by Christine Johnson (February 2014): Inspired by classic fairy tales, but with a dark and sinister twist, Grim contains short stories from some of the best voices in young adult literature today. (Description via Goodreads).
Slasher Girls & Monster Boys edited by April Genevieve Tucholke (forthcoming 2015): Tales of gritty girls fighting back, seeking revenge, and claiming their victims. (Description via Goodreads).