Writer says short stories as valuable as novel form

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Release of 'This Ramshackle Tabernacle' on time, despite publisher's fire damage

Undeterred by the Roebothan McKay and Marshall fire that forced it from its own, attached offices, the team at Breakwater Books has gone ahead as per schedule with the release of Samuel Thomas Martin's 12-story collection "This Ramshackle Tabernacle."

Martin, a phD student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, told The Telegram he developed the collection while completing his master's degree at the University of Toronto.

Undeterred by the Roebothan McKay and Marshall fire that forced it from its own, attached offices, the team at Breakwater Books has gone ahead as per schedule with the release of Samuel Thomas Martin's 12-story collection "This Ramshackle Tabernacle."

Martin, a phD student at Memorial University of Newfoundland, told The Telegram he developed the collection while completing his master's degree at the University of Toronto.

"I was going to do a novel. It was kind of what I wanted to do, but because we had been working in the workshop aspect of the course in the first year with short fiction, I was encouraged to keep working on the stuff I had been doing and kind of work towards a collection," he said.

"The thing with short stories, although you can get them published, often you can't go very far with them because they just don't sell." At least that's what he was told by a Toronto-based literary agent who was eager to take on the author - with a novel manuscript in hand.

"My response is ... the thing that is becoming more popular now and maybe in the last 15 years or something, is the short story novel. Something like Michael Winter's collections that follow one protagonist. They are separate stories, so you can read them separately. They stand on their own and yet you can begin at the first page of the collection, read it all the way through and you get a sense of this character's life," he said.

"I think that's an exciting development and I kind of hope it begins to turn the tables back towards the recognition of the short story."

In "This Ramshackle Tabernacle," Martin uses the idea of connected stories, pieces of a whole, to explore the inhabitants of a small town in northeastern Ontario.

"The idea I more wanted to get at with 'This Ramshackle Tabernacle' was the idea of the value of the human lives that are dealt with in the story - the idea that they in their own way are sacred, even though some of these characters are really, really screwed up. But the idea that there's something of value in their lives.

The idea there's something they may not even be aware of but that hopefully comes through in the telling.

"And that's one of the neat things with changing perspectives from story to story. You can have a character who's not necessarily aware of themselves and yet you can have a reflection on them in another story in which a character is looking at them or dealing with them," he said.

Martin's release benefits from mentorship provided by author David Adams Richards ("God Is," "Mercy Among the Children"). Martin received advice from Richards while he was still developing the work at U of T. The author said he and Richards had about 10 meetings wherein Richards would talk about his story drafts.

Richards subsequently provided a blurb for Martin's publishers: "Sam Martin is an exceptional writer. In all ways this is a highly original work."

The work, "This Ramshackle Tabernacle," is now available.

afitzpatrick@thetelegram.com

Organizations: Memorial University of Newfoundland, The Telegram, University of Toronto Martin's

Geographic location: Northeastern Ontario

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