Back in 1999, an issue of Quarterly West—a literary journal out of the University of Utah in Salt Lake City—ran a novella contest, something they and a few other markets periodically do. As a preface to the winning entries, Valerie Miner shared some insight about the novella form in an essay titled, "A Novella, a Window Seat and a Cornish Pasty."
Here is the beginning of the piece:
"I blame it on trains. If we had an adequate train system in this country, more people would read novellas. I'm convinced. Hour-and-a-half journeys (ban the cell phones) would be perfect. Think of it—sit back, make yourself comfortable, then start reading. Clickety-clack, clickety-clack. And before you know—you'll be there—at your destination, at the end of the novella. Eager to start a new one on the return trip."
As you know, the novella form is nowhere nearly as popular as the short story nor the complete novel; it's almost like an orphan, looking for a safe and reliable home, caught in the middle. Regrettably, Summerset has not included any novellas (nor novels) in its pages, but we do acknowledge the form and respect it greatly.
So why, then, mention this preface to the novella contest's winning entries? Well, for anyone who appreciates good literature and good reading, doesn't the excerpt above strike you as comforting? Whether it be a novella, a short story collection, an anthology, a novel or creative nonfiction, imagine a good book in your hands as you journey by train. The perfect opportunity to lose yourself in the narration and the characters and the goings-on as you turn each page. It almost makes me want to take the rail journey specifically so I can read.
Here's a suggestion: If you live near a railroad, a light rail system, a subway—buy a ticket and hop on. Destination: Anywhere. If you can find a "quiet car," all the better. Have a seat, hear the doors close, feel the clickety-clack as you begin to move, and open that book.
Theme graphics this issue - "Stark"
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