Originally published in Between the Lines JCPL Blog, February 18, 2011
Ready for Spring? Think Shorts
Think of shorts and you might think summer, or light, or even casual and care-free. If you’re talking about short stories instead of pants, you’ve only just scratched the surface.
Welcome to Wheatfield Library's Reading Shorts program. This program, aimed at adults, has been gathering a small but loyal crowd at the library as Wheatfield Branch Manager Diana Kooy reads aloud selections from literary magazines such as The New Yorker as well as a variety of short stories from across a wide range of genres.
“They have been a variety of styles from light suspense, character studies, ones with surprise endings, or ones that made you smile,” said Kooy, who came up with the idea for the program after attending a library conference in 2010.
“The presenter did this same thing twice a month using thriller type stories at the downtown Seattle Public Library,” she explained. “The idea intrigued me, since we have a number of retired educators who attend programs at this library and appreciate programs like this.”
Kooy started the program not knowing how it would be received, but said the regular and attentive attendance has made the program a favorite.
“Those that come enjoy the stories and like the variety. After each one they do a little bit of discussion, which is fun. I had told them to make themselves comfortable, and one brought a pillow to rest her chin on while listening. One person brings her knitting or crocheting project while she listens.” Kooy said she also furnishes coffee and hot water for tea, hot chocolate or hot cider.
Kooy said she tries to draw on her family’s experiences with community theater when doing the program.
“My husband and my two children have been involved in high school and community theater plays in the past, but I was generally playing keyboard for musicals so I was in the pit out front, or behind. I didn’t want to be on stage myself, but having watched all the rehearsals, hearing the director’s notes and listening to my family discuss things, I’ve picked up some pointers to try to keep something like story reading interesting for the attendees. I also always liked reading out loud to my kids when they were young.”
Some of her favorite stories to date have included “The Year of Silence” by Kevin Brockmeier, “In the Eye of the Beholder” by Jeffrey Archer, and “By the Side of the Road” by Jules Feiffer. “That is actually a children’s book,” Kooy noted, “but I had heard the author read it on Public Radio and loved it.”
Kooy says she reads the stories through at least four times and once out loud before presenting them and makes notes for pronunciation. “I’m not good with accents,” she said, adding that the conference presenter had provided the reassuring tip that “unless you are a professional, it’s best to let the words of the story speak for themselves.”
“I have decided the stories are better if they aren’t more than 30 minutes long each. The audience is always attentive, but I think they like more variety, so I try to do shorter ones to keep up the pace.”
Kooy said sometimes a little extra work is involved in the process.
“It is a challenge to find stories that I think are worthy to read out loud. I keep them clean, so sometimes I have to scratch out an objectionable word and use a tamer version of it.”
The program is held in the library’s large meeting room and patrons are encouraged to come with a quiet craft and to make themselves comfortable. “I aim for no more than an hour,” she said, adding the audience has some say in the matter.
“The last time one person forgot her hearing aids and had to go back home to get them, so we started 10 minutes late. I asked before I started the last story if they wanted to keep going or stop. No one had a hot date, they said, so they wanted to keep on reading.”
For the latest date for this program, check our calendar!