At the recent ottawa small press fair, I picked up a cerlox bound notebook called Fledgelings published by Artsytype Press. I just got around to reading it yesterday and thank goodness I did. The collection contained just three bits: a short story by Ian Roy, rob mclennan's unpublished novel and a story by the publisher of Artsy Type, Tina-Frances Trineer. It was the latter who completely caught me by surprise. The story, One of Those River Cats, is incredibly well-written, hauntingly sad and beautiful. To my knowledge, Ms. Trineer has not had anything published elsewhere. I consider her work to be a revelation that the short story genre in Ottawa is not dead and buried as I previously believed.
I haven't been impressed with much of the short fiction I've read in the past few years by Ottawa writers because it seems to follow either two styles: nostalgic memories of wartime or angst ridden fiction about hip chicks and their tatoos...with a few exceptions: Ian Roy who seems to come and go from Ottawa has had quite a bit of publishing success, both as poet and fiction writer. His collection of short stories, People Leaving, is good. Recently I also enjoyed reading Alan Cumyn's short story in the Ottawa Magazine, but aside from the well published short fiction writers in Ottawa (Nicole McGill, former Ottawan Melanie Little, Matthew Firth), I know there are others who are still undiscovered. At the Tree Reading Series I've had the pleasure of hearing talented writer and Ottawa Citizen columnist Kate Heartfield many times and she's had a few pieces published.
We need a good publication for these emerging Ottawa short fiction writers, whether it be in print or on line. I'm happy to discover the great writing of Tina Trineer, but I'm also frustrated.
Short fiction is not, to my knowlege, highlighted that much in Ottawa and that's a mistake. I suspect we have some great writers around, but how do readers who love a good yarn discover them? Most reading series focus on poetry and it's awful to sit thru a long prose reading anyway. Most prose readers don't know how to choose a piece of fiction able to sustain the attention of readers.
So what's the point of this ramble? I guess to say, I am relieved that there are a few interesting and excellent writers of short fiction around in a genre that I'd pretty much written off in Ottawa, given the evidence, and that we need some kind of a publication to discover them. If it exists and I don't know about it, please let me know!