I went through a patch where I tried keeping up with the annual short story anthologies -- The O. Henry Awards and The Best American Short Stories. They were an education in taste. I learned that I wasn’t going to like everything in an anthology, no matter the supposed bestness of the contents. This lesson proved helpful when I moved on to poetry anthologies. In poetry one often wonders if the difficulty is the reader – am I too stupid to read poetry? With stories one has the idea the story ought to deliver. When it doesn’t the reader doesn’t usually feel at fault. The reader of poetry ought not feel at fault either.
I was hoping by reading a lot of short stories that I would get the knack for writing them, too. Poetry doesn’t sell (with the rare exception, right Seventeen?) but there are places that will buy fiction. If I could make a living as a writer that’d sure beat a regular job, I thought.
In a Feb 11, 1985 diary entry I noted, “renewed O. Henry Awards 83 … wrote poetry … got WRITERS OF THE FUTURE contest rules in mail.” The Writers of the Future was a contest designed to encourage new science fiction writers. The contest was the inspiration of L. Ron Hubbard; was it funded by the Church of Scientology? I entered the contest once or twice. I didn’t win or place.