Short Story Cycles

On Smith Street and short stories in the Digi-social world

The notion that digital publishing has altered the way we read is one that is being increasingly studied. Less attention has been paid to whether digital publishing has changed the way writers write. As a short story writer I am most interested in this form and whether it is being impacted by the digitisation of our reading and writing practices. The short story as a form has constantly undergone change. It is malleable and adaptable and goes through periods of popularity and periods where it is ignored or scorned. Recently, there has been speculation that short stories are suited to the digital age. In this exegesis I attempt to understand the role of the short story in the current writing and publishing climate by asking the following questions: is the short story changing with increasing digitisation of writing and reading spaces? What does digimodernism tell us about writing and reading in the current climate? And, how did experimenting with digital writing and researching experimental print forms impact my own print-based practice? When I began writing the creative work, it was with a simple goal: to write good stories. As I researched and wrote deeper into the project it became increasingly important to understand my own relationship with digital publishing. My stories seemed to suit the page, even though I was challenging myself to experiment with the digital form. The stories in On Smith Street began life as disconnected, independent entities. Each story was written to explore an idea that resonated with me as a writer. Towards the end of the project, it became clear to me that presenting the stories within a structure made them stronger. From this, the idea of connecting the stories by the geographical location of the characters (Smith Street) eventually emerged. This then allowed me to look more deeply at the characters and find themes and ways to connect them. Links between characters began to emerge without effort: they were already there. These links then allowed me to provide the reader with pathways through the narrative that are at once unconventional and conventional. The writing process was in part informed by digital technology and digital storytelling, but the resultant story collection is firmly entrenched in print conventions. In examining what writers were doing online, I discovered that my writer ‘home’ was on the page, rather than the screen. But by swinging my writer’s pendulum into the digital world, I was able to bring ideas from there onto my page. The stories are influenced by this oscillation between the screen and the page.

from: Washington, Lynette: On Smith Street and short stories in the Digi-social world, thesis (Ph.D.), University of Adelaide, 2016.


Note: These stories have become available in a newer version, published as the linked short story collection Plane Tree Drive. The stories in this version have been updated and edited, some with new endings!


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