Eileen R. Tabios is a poet working in multiple genres and in-between. She also loves books by writing, reading, publishing, critiquing, romancing and advocating for them. This blog will feature her bibliophilic activities with posts on current book engagements and links to her books and projects related to books.

Thursday, July 30, 2015


The considerations over how to order a short story collection overlap with those over ordering a poetry collection. But one difference I’ve noticed is the tension between thematic content and literary quality.

Of course all of the stories are supposed to be good, otherwise they shouldn’t be part of the intended book. But in looking at a group of stories (or group of poems), one always feels that perhaps this particular one is better than another. And one always wants to lead with the best. ("Best", of course, is not just subjective but can be defined by other parameters besides quality, like its effectiveness as a manifestation of the book's overall theme...)

This morning, I moved a story that was originally fourth in my intended line-up to be the second story. I did so because I thought it offered a perspective on the theme (aftermath of the Ferdinand Marcos dictatorship) that contrasted more with the first story than did the story I originally intended to be second.

I also made the change because of length: the originally intended first and second short stories are both long; the new second story, by being short, inserts (I thought) some good breathing space. While this consideration may also rear itself up in ordering a poetry collection, there is a difference due to scale, thus, pace. Short stories are usually longer than poems—it seems to me that if a particular poem doesn’t work for a reader, the reader can move forward quickly to the next poem. For prose, if it doesn’t work, the reader might skip moving on to the next piece but instead just give up on the book or defer its reading to a later time (which has been my reading experience).

Here's what the dining table looked like this morning as I muttered these thoughts over the manuscript... each individual story was stapled together; for me, it helped to physically move the stories about as I considered their order for the book ... 

... as I turned my attention away from poetry to fiction…

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