Short story publishing opportunities in New Hampshire are few and far between, so when Sid Hall of Hobblebush Books offered to take on author (and associate Hippo publisher) Dan Szczesny’s collection, Sing, and Other Short Stories, Szczesny jumped at the chance.
Hobblebush had never published fiction before; the tiny Hollis company (located in a cabin surrounded by woods) is best known for its nonfiction and Granite State Poetry Series, all by New Hampshire writers. But Hall, who had worked with Szczesny for his last book, The Nepal Chronicles, and who also knew the writer was known locally for his hiking memoir, The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie, felt if anyone could jumpstart a short stories book series, Szczesny could.
Szczesny thinks what Hobblebush is doing is remarkable.
“No publishing house, big or small, is doing a series of short stories,” he said, coffee in hand during an interview at Barnes & Noble last week. “No one does that. I mean, short stories are almost dead. The whole industry.”
The collection’s release is Thursday, April 2, and Szczesny celebrates at a Gibson’s Bookstore launch party that day at 7 p.m.
Sing is Volume I in Hobblebush’s Granite State Short Story Series, and it comprises 10 tales. All except one — “Blue Lady,” the first short story Szczesny ever had published — have never seen print before. He wrote them all during different points of his life.
“I wanted the first [short story] I’d ever had published in there — it was in the Buffalo Spree, which is the Buffalo equivalent of New Hampshire Magazine — and I wanted to put together a collection that encompassed my whole career. There are stories from 1990, 1994, 1998. … And I also wanted to have all these different styles of short stories,” Szczesny said.
Three, including the lead, “Sing”— which, by the way, has “adult content,” but Szczesny assures it was written before the whole Fifty Shades of Grey pop culture phenomenon — are set in New Hampshire, while the rest occur in places where Szczesny lived or traveled, including Nebraska, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Alaska and South Dakota.
Still, Szczesny says his real interest is not the places, but the people. The Adventures of Buffalo and Tough Cookie, published two years ago, is a hiking guide to the lesser-known New Hampshire “52 With a View” list, “But it’s really about me and Janelle [his foster daughter]. It’s about our relationship,” he said. “The Nepal Chronicles is about the Mt. Everest base camp, but it’s really about me and Meena [his wife]. ... I come from a blue-collar family and live in a blue-collar city, and I’m interested in blue-collar lives.”
The stories are about ordinary people whose lives are interrupted by extraordinary circumstances, like traveling circuses, daytime television, shady sex businesses and the construction of Mount Rushmore.
Hall expects the company will publish one or two short story collections a year — just as with the Granite State Poetry Series — and said during a phone call that Hobblebush is looking for submissions. Writers must be from New Hampshire or have a very strong New Hampshire connection, and manuscripts should be between 45,000 and 50,000 words.
“We want to maintain the same high level of quality we established for the Granite State Poetry series,” Hall said. “We have the ability to showcase some New Hampshire writers who really deserve it. There are a plethora of great writers in New Hampshire, and we feel like we’re in a unique position to do that.”
As seen in the March 26, 2015 issue of the Hippo.