Preserved Stories Blog


How I write short stories (Alice Munro 1982)

Alice Munro wrote an article in 1982 describing how she writes a short story and how she reads a story written by another person.

In a 1982 interview with Peter Gzowski, Alice Munro refers to the article. She notes that when reading a short story by another writer, she doesn’t go in to find out what happens. The content – what the story is about – is not what interests her. Instead she goes into the story in order to find herself in a certain climate.

In the 1982 article, Alice Munro remarks that she can start reading a story from anywhere – “from beginning to end, from end to beginning, from any point in between in either direction.”

She doesn’t follow the story as if it were a road taking her somewhere. It’s more like being in a house. “Everybody knows what a house does, how it encloses space and makes connections between one enclosed space and another and presents what is outside in a new way.”

A book by Alice Munro, The View from Castle Rock, has particularly captured my imagination. It’s a book that occupies the borderland between fact and fiction. It’s a memoir and it’s fiction.

Updates

The 1982 article by Alice Munro, “How I write short stories,” appears in The art of the short story (2006).

Here’s a Nov. 20, 2012 New Yorker interview with Alice Munro.

Here’s a July 2013 New York Times article about Alice Munro.

Alice Munro is the first Canadian to win the Nobel literature prize.

A Dec. 10, 2013 CBC article about Alice Munro is entitled: “Alice Munro proud of Nobel Prize in literature win.”

 

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4 Responses to How I write short stories (Alice Munro 1982)

  1. Melina says:

    Do you by any chance know where I could access the original 1982 article where she describes her methods of reading short stories?

  2. Jaan Pill Jaan Pill says:

    I will check on where I originally came across the article, or where I came across a reference to it. I will post the information here.

  3. Jaan Pill Jaan Pill says:

    I recall reading a copy of the text of Alice Munro’s 1982 article about how she approaches the reading of a short story. I was so impressed when I read it. I’ve been using her approach — in my case with regard to the reading of non-fiction books from the Toronto Public Library — ever since.

    I have so far not been able to track down the article. I will keeep on looking.

    At this point, the best source regarding the contents of the article is found at the beginning of the following CBC interview featuring Alice Munro:

    http://www.cbc.ca/archives/categories/arts-entertainment/literature/the-lives-of-alice-munro/the-stone-in-the-field.html

  4. Jaan Pill Jaan Pill says:

    I’m pleased to share with you this update. The 1982 article by Alice Munro, “How I write short stories,” appears in The art of the short story. Dana Gioia and R.S. Gwynn, eds. New York, NY: Pearson Longman, 2006. It’s available at the Toronto Public Library: http://www.torontopubliclibrary.ca/detail.jsp?Entt=RDM573795&R=573795

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