myalamtorontoIdentity politics and the conditions of production:
Reflections on writing Short Stories

A paper presented by M Y Alam at the 11th International Conference
on the Short Story in English, Toronto June 2010.

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This paper is based on elements of my own professional, and to a large extent, personal and political identity. As such, it’s drawn from my practice as a writer and teacher of creative fiction as well as research and teaching endeavours which are grounded in the world of sociology and social policy.

I’ll start with something of a preamble as a means of situating the short story as an efficient and effective means of communicating every day life, including experiences and voices that may otherwise go unnoticed, hidden, or, as the literature would have it, remain marginal and perhaps marginalized. Of course, we all know that the short story presents writers with an opportunity to be heard, to leave a calling card that may elicit further engagement with their work; for some, a short story is more than an advert but the fact remains, it can serve as an invitation for our reader to discover more of the authorial same. Additionally, the shape, duration and, of course, the nature of the stories themselves – including questions of theme, genre and the audiences they aim to serve – are all part of the larger equation of what a short story is. As Susan Lohafer notes:

‘Whatever a story is, how it behaves, the important thing is what it reveals. It’s a magnifying glass for examining the techniques of impressionism, say, or the assumptions of postmodernism, or the social data caught in its prism. Famously associated with “submerged populations” and the “lonely voice” of the individual, the short story is the window on marginalized identities.’ (Lohafer, 2003: 1-2)

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