"No one's buying story collections anymore."
If you're an exasperated short-story writer, you've heard it before. Ellen Morris Prewitt, a short-story writer, has heard it too, again (and again), until she got so tired of hearing it, she decided to take matters into her own hands.
Beginning this week, she's making her collection of 14 stories, titled Cain't Do Nothing With Love, available to the public and on her own terms. Meaning: The stories will be available for free in audio — with the author herself doing the reading — in a variety of forms: iTunes, YouTube, and Prewitt's own website, caintdonothingwithlove.wordpress.com.
But readers can also be on hand in person when Prewitt throws a "Download Party" (including food and drink) on Thursday, June 27th, at the Booksellers at Laurelwood. A "sampler" CD of the four initial stories will be available for purchase that evening, with subsequent stories appearing online once a week for the remainder of the summer.
Nine of these stories have been published elsewhere, including the story "Just Now," which took top place in 2009 in Memphis magazine's annual fiction contest. (For Five That Grabbed the Gold, a volume of contest winners from 2008 to 2012, see the e-book by that title, available on Kindle.)
But there's more to this project. If Prewitt — a former lawyer and onetime commentator on WKNO-FM/NPR for the Mid-South — has donated these stories to listeners, listeners can donate too.
Each story has been tied thematically to a national or local charity — among them, the Church Health Center, Caritas Village, and the Mid-South Peace & Justice Center. Like the sound of a story? Give, if you so choose, to the charity attached to it. You're partial to a particular organization? Go to the story inspired by it.
"This is an experiment. We'll see how it goes," Prewitt says on her website, with this added grace note: "Thanks for coming along."
Ellen Morris Prewitt Download Party, The Booksellers at Laurelwood, Thursday, June 27th, 6-7 p.m.