Musicals and Anthologies


Travis Richardson_5x7_300dpi (1)  by Travis Richardson

Before I start into today’s blog post, I have to mention that I’ve been behind in just about everything this year. There is a blog that I will write someday analyzing award nominated short stories to see if there are any patterns, but that’s for some future date. Unfortunately I have neither time or brain capacity for it. I thought about writing a Prince tribute and comparing his life to writing, sort of what I did with David Bowie a few months back.  Perhaps because I’ve done that already or maybe because Prince is even more enigmatic than Bowie, I’ll pass on the analysis except for saying that we can learn from The Purple One’s hard working, non-stop drive full of oversized ambition (read Spin Magazine’s wild oral history about the film Purple Rain) without compromise to be his/your own true funky self. Okay, I guess this could have been a blog.

Instead, I was thinking about a conversation I had with a coworker about musicals. I’ve seen several, but usually don’t gravitate towards them. I often think of them in terms of musical numbers and less as a total complete story with a few exceptions. Sometimes characters talk about something that has little or nothing to do with a plot, but it’s just a setup to go singing for three or four minutes about that particular topic. When I was thinking of my favorite musical moments it was more about the physicality of the scenes than any singing. These two came to my mind first:

Make Em Laugh 

This insane number performed by Donald O’Connor in Singin’ in the Rain is a definite scene stealer and it still astounds me to this day. O’Connor reportedly had to spend several days in bed after shooting the scene because he was a chain smoker as well as madcap comic dancer.
Jumpin’ Jive 
This might be my favorite dance routine of all time (not that I have many.) The gravity defying athleticism of the Nicholas Brothers in the 1943 film Stormy Weather is amazing. Until writing this, I have not watched this scene since I first saw it and it is as great as I remembered it when I watched it on VHS with my Grandfather in the 1990s.
Anthology Analogy
So how do these two numbers relate to fiction anthologies? In both of these cases, Donald O’Connor and the Nicholas Brothers were not the main attractions. They were part of an ensemble anchored with headliners like Gene Kelly in Singin’ In The Rain and Lena Horne, Bill Robinson, and Cab Calloway in Stormy Weather. But when it came time for their part, they put everything they had into it. Multi-author short story anthologies are collections stories collected by editors around a unifying theme of some sort. Like a musical, each story has an opportunity to shine for a brief moment in front of the readers eyes.
If you are invited to an anthology, it is your moment to make a one of a kind performance. Give the editor a story like the way O’Connor did 2 backflips on a single take. If you enter a submission, give it the same energy the Nicholas Brother performed their flying splits.
This year at Bouchercon there is a category for anthologies in the Anthony Awards. I’m proud to say  JEWISH NOIR is in there along with several other great titles. You can find that list and other categories here:!anthony-awards/qqyiv  I hope recognition for anthologies will continue in following Bouchercons and other events. If anthologies get a higher profile, then so will the stories inside them as well. Perhaps readers will find unexpected jewels and treasure them forever.


Travis Richardson has been a finalist for the Macavity, Anthony, and Derringer short story awards. His novella LOST IN CLOVER was listed in Spinetingler Magazine’s Best Crime Fiction of 2012. He has published stories in crime fiction publications such as Thuglit, Shotgun Honey, Flash Fiction Offensive, Jewish Noir, and All Due Respect. He edits the Sisters-In-Crime Los Angeles newsletter Ransom Notes, reviews Anton Chekhov short stories at, and sometimes shoots a short movie. His novella, KEEPING THE RECORD, concerns a disgraced baseball player who will do anything to keep his tainted home run record. 

My short story “Quack and Dwight” in JEWISH NOIR is a finalist for an Anthony in the short story category. The same story was a top ten finalist in Screencraft’s 2015 Short Story contest. You can read a copy of the story here.

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15 thoughts on “Musicals and Anthologies

  1. Great advice and blog, Travis. I really enjoyed the clips and your advice after watching them. I marvel at the talent exhibited in a suit or tuxedo back then, with class and no distracting costumes or bare flesh. It is inspiring when you realize the effort that must go into those acts, and into writing anything of any length, and the hidden gems within a larger works, as an anthology or a musical.


  2. I enjoyed the clips. We love musicals. There’s no good ones on TV any more. I go back and watch the old ones. Congrats. I like Anthologies. I have a dog story in one that’s coming out in June. I’m in several other ones and I’ve put together a couple of great ones. Cher’ley


  3. “Stormy Weather” was one of my late husband’s favorite songs, and I sang it at his graveside service. What does this have to do with anthologies and writing? Absolutely nothing, but I liked the post.


  4. Interesting juxtaposition. Of course with dancing it’s easy to see the effort, but with writing the work is hidden. And few people have any idea how difficult it is to craft a good short story. Fun post.


  5. Travis,
    Great blog! I’ve often noticed that the side characters can steal the show. The main characters are usually the straight man and the side characters can be goofy and fun which adds to the whole of the book being entertaining.
    What’s also good about anthologies is that you usually have to write to a theme and that tests us as writers too.


  6. I’m not big on musicals, never have been. I think anthologies offer the reader a great variety and hope they continue to gain in popularity. You get so many perspectives on a given subject that can’t be found elsewhere.


  7. Interesting post, Travis. I’ve loved musicals too. All types. I can remember watching TV as a kid and seeing those 1930s and 1940s musicals with their extravaganza numbers. Remember Buddy Ebsen dancing in that Shirley Temple movie? Or all those Fred Astaire movies? Every now and then I’ll re-watch a movie with a setting in the 1890s’ Tin Pan Alley. In the 1970s I watched an off-Broadway performance of ‘The Wiz’ at the 1920s Ohio Theatre in Columbus and couldn’t believe the intricate nature of the choreography.


  8. I love musicals. My favorite is The Music Man, the story of a sensible librarian who recognizes a valuable flim-flam when she sees it. From my point of view anyway. ~ But those Nicholas Brothers!

    Congratulations on your Anthony nomination. My fingers are crossed.


  9. I love musicals now…much more than I used to. Although growing up, I adored The Sound of Music. My favorites now are Wicked and The Fiddler on the Roof. It’s interesting you don’t think of them as complete stories but more as separate musical numbers. I enjoy musicals, both for the storyline and the songs. I like your comparison to anthologies.


  10. I agree with your anology. Having performed and enjoyed musicals, you are correct in that certain scenes can be the making or breaking of a piece. I also agree, anthologies deserve more recognition.
    Congratulations on ‘Jewish Noir’. Continued success, and now onto watching scenes from the show “Hamilton”. Doris


  11. I am blessed to be part of the Chicken Soup for the Soul anthologies: five to date and #6 coming out in early June. I’m also to be part of a July release called “Pawprints on My Heart,” published by Prairie Rose Publications. I’m looking more seriously at anthologies for I think I write better short stories than longer works. Great post, Travis!


  12. I agree that the whole of a musical is often made a success by the contributing parts, some of which can seem less memorable until someone jogs the memory like you’ve done here, Travis. I’ve only once contributed a story to a Crooked Cat Anthology (my publisher) where the profits have gone to a Charity. I’m not a short story writer by inclination but it was a good exercise where I had a ‘goal’ to achieve with minor characters from one of my mysteries having their own short story told in 3000 words.


  13. An interesting concept I hadn’t considered before. I hope I can be a part of an anthology someday. It is something I need to pursue. Thanks for the neat post!


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