Photo by Casey Page
THE SHORT STORY PROJECT
The Short Story Project is an online collection of Craig's award-winning short and micro fiction, in addition to some of the magazine-length essays he's written, all presented in PDF form for reading on your device of choice or for downloading. Please check back for new content.
An unabashedly sentimental Christmas story, the kind Craig loved growing up (and continues to love to this day). This was the anchor story in Craig's first collection of short fiction, originally titled Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure, which came out in 2011. It was subsequently revamped in 2019 and re-released as The Art of Departure. Enjoy!
Sad Tomato: A Love Story
From Craig: Years ago, when I was living in a small condo just off downtown Billings, a man and a woman in the building across the way had some sort of confrontation, and she stabbed him in the chest, killing him. It was a harrowing thing, an act of passion and violence that seemed at once inexplicable and easily imagined, if those things can exist in the same space. I didn't know them, but I thought about them a lot in the immediate aftermath, and I'm sure, somehow, that incident informed this story, one of the shortest (and oddest) I've ever written. I shopped it around a bit, but I think in length and content, it just wasn't a very good fit anywhere. It ended up in The Art of Departure, my collection of short stories. You can read it here.
The Small Things
Craig's first published piece for Montana Quarterly, where he's now been on the masthead for nearly a decade. It's an essay about a visit to the Montana dairy farm where Craig's father, Ron, grew up and suffered abuse and neglect. This piece was written in 2010; ensuing years have brought greater clarity to what happened there and the lives that intersected with that of a little boy. Read it here.
From Craig: Several years before the above piece ran in Montana Quarterly, I published an account of what became of my paternal grandfather, Fred, in the years after my father, Ron, last saw him in the 1950s. A lot of what I thought I knew at the time has been overtaken by emergent information over these past 17 years. Getting at long-buried truths happens that way sometimes. There are the things you think you know, the things you actually do know, and the things you haven't yet discovered. Read it here.
From Craig: The fiction that most insistently compels me to the writing table is that which occurs at the intersection of memory and imagination. This story, from The Art of Departure, has the childhood elements of my summers spent with my father, an itinerant well digger, as well as the sort of turns that can only happen in fiction. It even features an appearance from Jim Quillen, the father in my novel The Summer Son, whom I did not expect to see until he wandered onto the page of his own volition. Read the story here.
Originally published in the Winter 2018 issue of Montana Quarterly, this story is about running to something. Often, by definition, that means running away from something else. Picture this: You're on a road in Kansas in the dead of winter, and you're heading somewhere that's both familiar and unknown … Now, continue the trip.
A broken-down car on a snowy night. A couple at loose ends. Accessible and divisive memories. This story saw publication when Craig overhauled and enhanced his award-winning collection of stories in 2017. It is now is offered here for your consideration. Step into the picture.
Another from Craig's award-winning collection, The Art of Departure, "The Paper Weight" is devilishly subversive, the story of a veteran newspaper reporter who's being pushed to the margins and isn't quite ready to go quietly. The story takes place at the fictional Billings Herald-Gleaner newspaper, which shows up in several of Craig's books and stories. Here's the news.
This is a weird one, written specifically as a gratis offering to a weird magazine in Billings, Montana, the kind of magazine every town should have, put out by a bunch of young artist types, a magazine of sloppiness and brilliance, one that chronicled goings-on in town that were often decidedly out of the mainstream. You're missed, Noise and Color. Come on and get weird.
A late-night bus ride. A marriage in collapse. A now-obsolete technology, the perfect illustration that everything new eventually becomes old. This story, from Craig's collection The Art of Departure, is a deep dive into crushing loneliness and fleeting connection. A travelogue and an inner dialogue. Ride along, won't you?
This one is personal. (They're all personal, but this one is especially so.) Duaine Lancaster was a mystery, a ghost, a father's brother who was separated from his family of origin and divorced from his family of choice. But redemption and reconciliation have many forms, and they come in their own time. Click here to read/download the story of how Craig found his uncle, and a wider family.
Most of Craig's fiction is set in Montana, where he lived for twelve years and (knock wood) will live again. But he's from Texas. Several years ago, he wrote a lot of microfiction—pieces generally no longer than 500 words—set in his home state, stories full of vituperative children and struggling mothers and fathers and broken people. Here are five for your consideration. Click here to read/download.
At nearly 14,000 words, it's too long for most publications that offer short fiction, yet it's too short to be a novella. It was right at home in The Art of Departure. The story of a town and its high school basketball team, it gets at a fundamental truth: Even in youth sports—maybe especially in youth sports—it's never a game. Everybody has an angle. Click here to read/download.
This is the first piece of short fiction Craig ever sold (and one of his favorites to do in live readings). Originally published by Montana Quarterly, it has had a varied life: It was part of Craig's award-winning collection of short stories and later included in Warts and All, the book published by the Quarterly to celebrate its first decade in print. Click here to read/download.
This short story was originally published by Montana Quarterly magazine in 2013. It was the building block for what became Craig's 2014 novel The Fallow Season of Hugo Hunter. In this story, Hugo, a fading boxing star, grapples with the loss that threatens to end his career, such as it is. Click here to read/download.
This story originally appeared in Craig's collection Quantum Physics and the Art of Departure (later re-released as The Art of Departure). That collection won a gold medal in the 2012 Independent Publisher Book Awards. The Star of the North is a story of friendship in a desperate place, and of the devastating consequences our choices can hold. Click here to read/download.
This essay, originally published on this site, was inspired by a couple of work trips Craig took to the town of Marshfield, Wisconsin, where he reconciled memories of a childhood friend who'd grown up there and reflected on how that friendship has changed, and endured, in the intervening years. Marshfield, too, carries on. Click here to read/download.
In February 2017, Craig's older brother, Keith, died in a Texas hospital. In this essay, originally published by the online newspaper Last Best News, Craig reflects on the nature of their relationship—its distance, its protracted silences, and also its love. They were brothers with very different backgrounds and sensibilities, but brothers nonetheless. Click here to read/download.
In this essay, originally published by the Los Angeles Review of Books, Craig details life on the road as a pipeline worker. Motels aren't just for those passing through; they've become home for the working poor, the pensioned-off, and others living at the margins of a society that has left them behind. Click here to read/download. Click here to read the original version.