The StEP (Short Stories, Essays, & Poems) Sub-Project

Various anthology books on short stories, essays, and poems

“The great thing about a short story is that it doesn’t have to trawl through someone’s whole life; it can come in glancingly from the side.” – Emma Donoghue

Thanks to my friend Cleo from the Classical Carousel, I heard about the Deal Me In Reading Challenge hosted over at Bibliophilopolis each year. The goal of the project is to read 52 short stories in 52 weeks, with a story assigned to each card in a standard deck of playing cards (each participant makes up their own list). Each week you draw a card at random and–voila!–that’s the story you’ll read that week. (There are also some variations on this challenge with lesser reading requirements offered; a “Full Moon” version, for instance, which is only 1 story per month.)

Deal Me In: Short Stories Challenge

My 2016 Deal Me In Challenge

I only just heard of this challenge at the end of March with 40 weeks left in the year. I’ve decided on the following “Fortnight Version” structure (drawing a card every 2 weeks):

  • Drawing from 10 short stories and 10 essays at random every 2 weeks
  • Drawing from 20 poems at random, every other 2 weeks

I struggle to keep up with my daily reading goals as it is for my primary and SF&F projects, so I wanted to give myself 2 weeks to read a short story or essay. I’ve also been wanting to read more poetry, so I thought I would give myself a single poem to read every other week. So, I’ll draw from the 2 suites of short stories and essays one week, and draw from the 2 suites of poetry the next.

Why Just a Single Poem Every 2 Weeks?

Certainly I can read more than just a single poem every 2 weeks can’t I? More than just one of Shakespeare’s Sonnets in one sitting? Of course, and I’m sure I probably will. But I’ve decided I really want to focus on one specific poem for a longer period of time; to mull it over again and again, to carry it around in my subconscious for several days, and to come back to it with a new perspective each time. And if it’s a poem I particularly like, I’ll make the effort to memorize it so I can recite it by heart.

Jane Austin's "Love and Freindship and Other Early Works"

The Reading List

Since there are 40 weeks left in the year at this point, each of my suites will only contain 10 cards, or, Ace through 10. I’m drawing my first card on March 25th.

Short Stories (Spades)

  • A – Gabriel Garcia Marquez’s En Este Pueblo No Hay Ladrones
  • 2 – Edgar Allan Poe’s The Masque of The Red Death
  • 3 – Jane Austen’s Love and Freindship [sic]
  • 4 – Isaac Asimov’s I, Robot
  • 5 – Arthur Conan Doyle’s A Scandal in Bohemia
  • 6 – George R.R. Martin’s Sandkings
  • 7 – Ernest Hemingway’s The Three-Day Blow
  • 8 – John Steinbeck’s The Chrysanthemums
  • 9 – Sylvia Townsend Warner’s The Pheonix
  • 10 – Katherine Anne Porter’s Theft

Essays (Clubs)

Poems (Diamonds)

  • A – Alexander Pope’s Ode on Solitude
  • 2 – Edgar Allan Poe’s The Coliseum
  • 3 – Lewis Carroll’s Jabberwocky
  • 4 – Emily Bronte’s The Old Stoic
  • 5 – Emily Dickinson’s The Soul Selects Her Own Society
  • 6 – Christina Rossetti’s Remember
  • 7 – Ella Wheeler Wilcox’s Solitude
  • 8 – Adelaide Crapsey’s November Night
  • 9 – T.S. Eliot’s The Boston Evening Transcript
  • 10 – Emma Lazarus’s The New Colossus

Poems (Hearts)

  • A – José Martí’s Versos Sencillos
  • 2 – Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz’s A Su Retrato
  • 3 – José Asunción Silva’s Nocturno III
  • 4 – José Eusebio Caro’s En Boca del Último Inca
  • 5 – Gabriela Mistral’s Balada de la Estrella
  • 6 – Anne Bradstreet’s To My Dear and Loving Husband
  • 7 – Christopher Marlowe’s The Passionate Shepherd to His Love
  • 8 – Elizabeth Barrett Browning’s Sonnet XLIII (“How do I love thee? Let me count the ways“)
  • 9 – William Wordsworth’s She Dwelt Among the Untrodden Ways
  • 10 – Shakespeare’s Sonnet CXVI (“Let me not to the marriage of true minds“)
  • Cleo @ Classical Carousel

    Oh, yay! Welcome to the “Deal”! You have such interesting choices. I always get excited when I read other lists because I get to glean reads that I might never have thought of otherwise.

    “I really want to focus on one specific poem for a longer period of time; to mull it over again and again, to carry it around in my subconscious for several days, and to come back to it with a new perspective each time. And if it’s a poem I particularly like, I’ll make the effort to memorize it so I can recite it by heart”

    I love that goal! I was just talking to another blog friend about our habit of trying to read and get through books as fast as we can. Readers who want to dig deeply into a story, poem, etc. have to read slowly. And the deeper you dig, and the more time you spend, the more you get out of it. I loved my read-alongs (and posting weekly) of Paradise Lost, The Odyssey, Hamlet, etc. because I was really able to engage with the characters, the action and therefore the complete work. I feel like I now have a personal relationship with the work and even at times, the author, which is a wonderful feeling!

    As for your choices, I can’t wait until you read Tolstoy’s What is Art?; David Foster Wallace is probably best read in essay form first —- I tried to read his Infinite Jest and failed; I LOVE Jabberwocky and have memorized it; and you’ve given me some Spanish poems to investigate — some of my most viewed posts are the couple of poems I read from the Spanish Renaissance. Who’d have thought? 🙂

    In any case, great list and I can’t wait to read your reviews!

    • I’m very excited to be doing this! When I put together my choices, I did a Google search for “best essays/short stories” and ran across a couple great lists online. I also visited my own bookshelves…I had some short story and poetry anthologies I’m ashamed to say I’d never gotten to, and an “Introduction to Philosophy” textbook full of essays on a wide variety of topics. Between all those sources, I pulled together my reading lists. I also made a conscious effort to have some diversity: representation from women authors, people of color, and even animal rights (“Consider the Lobster”), so it wasn’t *all* white men. I’m bilingual (fluent in Spanish), and so it felt wrong not to have some Spanish thrown in there too. That’s so interesting that your Spanish poems are some of your more popular posts!

      I know what you mean about having a close relationship with the work when you read slowly! Doing read-alongs and posting weekly sounds like the perfect way to dig deep, rather than rush through. It’s just so tough…there’s so much to read and we want to get to it all! But I’ve always struggled with reading poetry, maybe because it can usually be more abstract than prose, so I thought it’s definitely an area that could use more slowness from me.

      • Cleo @ Classical Carousel

        Gasp! I became all paranoid when I read your comment about variety, but thankfully (and completely inadvertently) my lists have women, Catholics, Anglicans, environmentalists, a serial womanizer, and a couple of odd balls, so I feel much better now! 😉

        In case you didn’t find my list, it’s here: Just look at the bottom of the challenges. The post is a little hard to find because my 2016 challenges under my Current Pages only list the items from it that I’ve already read.

        I know exactly what you mean about poetry. I, too, am trying to read more of it, but really, you have to go line by line and consider almost every word. It requires the ultimate amount of patience, but I really regret that we, as a society, don’t read more of it. It would be so helpful in so many areas, and especially with writers. I think modern writers would be so much more adept at their craft if they had a solid poetry background behind them.

        Happy “deal me in” reading! 🙂

  • Jay

    I love your list! Like Cleo, I always like perusing everyone else’s deck of cards. I haven’t read many of your poems or essays, but I have read five of the shirt stories, one of which (“Theft”) I discovered during a previous year’s deal me in. I also discovered GRRM’s Sandkings last year and really liked it. I’ve found coming up with the list is sometimes half the fun. I hope you enjoy the deal me in challenge as much as I do. Good luck!

    • You’re so right: coming up with the list is definitely half the fun! I’ve been really enjoying myself so far. Thanks for hosting such a marvelous idea!