"I don't want to read short fiction. I don't want to curl up with a collection of short stories. It's totally boring." Whether you agree with them or not, those words, spoken by agent Jeff Kleinman during the Agents and Editors interview published in the January/February 2009 issue, represent the views of a not-insignificant number of publishing professionals. (Which is partly why some people are trying to get a Short Story Month going, but that's another story.)
Fortunately, for short story writers (and readers) everywhere there are still contests like the annual Flannery O'Connor Awards series, which offers two prizes of $1,000 each and publication by University of Georgia Press for short story collections. Some great books have been published as a result of the competition: Just last fall, Andrew Porter's The Theory of Light and Matter and Peter Selgin's Drowning Lessons were published. And this fall will see the publication of last year's winners: Geoffrey Becker (Black Elvis) and Lori Ostlund (The Bigness of the World).
The University of Georgia Press recently named a new editor for the series, former Flannery O'Connor Award-winner Nancy Zafris, who offers a note about the blind selection process on the press's Web site. She also adds a little description of how she approaches her reading of the finalists as series editor: "I always begin with an open mind—a mood of receptivity. However, it is the author’s job to meet my expectations, my desire to be delighted or charmed or moved. This means that writers need to work very hard on their opening pages. Tell your story in your own (authentic) quiet or loud or funny voice and I’ll give your story a chance."
If you want to give her a chance to give you a chance, submit your story collection by May 31.