Tuesday, July 29, 2008


For many years, editors have requested manuscripts that tell a complete story, but do it succinctly. The development of computer drives with many gigabytes of storage makes it possible for us to store large amounts of text efficiently and cheaply, but it has caused many of us to develop some bad writing habits. Our novels have become longer, more expensive to print, but not necessarily better. Recently, I joined a group writing Flash Fiction. I had a brief idea of what this involved. A story of this type is ideally only five hundred words in length. I knew that, but I did not know how hard it was to gather all of the elements of a story together into a coherent pattern. Then I ran across a short anecdote about Ernest Hemingway that was rather amusing. According to the story, he made a bar bet that he could write the shortest story on earth. His contribution consisted of only six words, and it is definitely a complete story.

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.”

I haven’t reached Hemingway’s proficiency yet, but I am working on it.

Sunday, July 6, 2008


When someone visits my office, their eyes always go to the top shelf of my bookcase where I have a long row of books from Reader’s Digest Select Editions displayed. For guests who aren’t familiar with Select Editions, it is probably the attractiveness of the books that catch their eye, but for others, it is almost like they are waking up on Christmas morning when they were a kid. I often hear, “I love to read, and I wonder if I could borrow just one . . .”

I always allow them to do so, because after a half century of reading almost all of the 800 novels the editors at Reader’s Digest have selected, I am still as excited as I was when I held that first edition in my hand. Many readers spend long hours in book stores trying to find something they haven’t read, while others depend on the New York Times Bestseller List. You might be surprised to learn that most of the books on the bestseller list also appear in Select Editions. If you love James Patterson, John Grisham, Nora Roberts, and all of the other great writers, you will find them there. I could go on for hours about this, but I am in the middle of one of the best novels I have read in a long time. The name of it is Iris and Ruby, and yes, it is in the current issue of Select Editions. You might want to check their website to see a complete list of the books Reader’s Digest has published since 1950. It is an astonishing list, but I need to get back to my book . . .

For more information visit the Select Editions blogsite at:


Joe Prentis