Eric Shay Howard

Bad blogger. Complicated. Gay.

Read the blog, below. Eric blogs about creative writing, business, education, lgbtq+ AND DIVERSITY, and other things. he’s a little bit complicated. he blogs in first-person.

the blog ⬇️

  • I’m Reading The Best American Short Stories 2021

    I’m Reading The Best American Short Stories 2021

    I used to read The Best American Short Stories pretty regularly ever since I started studying creative writing. Somehow I sort of fell off the wagon for the last few years, though. I haven’t read since Roxane Gay was the guest editor for the 2018 edition. Well, I’m catching up. I’m starting with the newest edition, 2021, and going backwards until my set is complete on my bookshelf.

    The Best American Short Stories 2021

    My copy of The Best American Short Stories 2021 edition arrived on Sunday. I’m two stories in so far. I always get the paperback version of these, for some reason. I think it’s because I like to carry them around and look pretentious. Or desperate, maybe?

    They always pick twenty stories for the book every year, so I’ve got eighteen more to go. I can’t read it at work since I didn’t get this one on Audible. I’ve been getting novels read to me by Audible because I can put my headphones on all day and do whatever I need to do throughout the day and still finish a book fairly quickly. For these short stories, though, I have to do it old-school. They do have an Audible edition of these now, but I think I’ll force myself to read these traditionally, because– I don’t know– moderation?

    The Best American Series Helps Me Find Novels, Too

    Once I’m done with the year’s short stories, I usually look for recent or upcoming novels or collections from the authors of the stories that I really liked and read those as soon as I can. I’m sure some people wouldn’t like this because it’s probably super elitist. I do miss a lot of small press stuff this way, unfortunately. This method was always a good way to sort of stay a little current on the literary side of things, though. I almost always had a book or something to talk about with fellow writers and with any professors who wandered into my um, area.

    Anyway, my goal is to read all of the short stories in this book by the end of the week.

    If you like short stories, here is my short story, “Replacement Parts”, that I posted on my blog last week. It’s certainly no Best American material, but hey, maybe one day.

  • Replacement Parts – Short Story

    Replacement Parts – Short Story

    I hope you like this week’s short story, “Replacement Parts”. Typo hunters are welcome. If you like this story, check out my other short stories that I post on Fridays. You can also buy my fiction collection, Crushes, if you’re into that.

    Replacement Parts

    I dropped the fifty on the white countertop and eyed how round my middle was in the bell of the French Horn on the stand by the register. I’m sure it really wasn’t, but I could almost see the jiggle when my arm hit my side. It was how I always imagined I’d realize I was fat, when the time came for it. I never guessed through a musical instrument exactly, but a funhouse mirror, maybe a trophy case, or something like that. When Tom came from the back with a ziplock back of bubble wrapped pieces, and exchanged the fifty for a twenty, Matthew must’ve felt his skills were needed.

    “Every time someone loses one, you have to buy four?” Matthew switched from a smile to a pucker in-between the oversized chews of his bubble gum. Matthew cleared his throat and looked from the counter, ending on Tom with his chin down and his eyes up.

    “Most people don’t lose these,” the man said. He looked at me. I had just watched myself through the brass as I poked my belly.

    “Don’t you have to take these off to oil them?” My partner looked at me. When no one else talked, I picked up the twenty.

    “It’s fine, Matthew. Thanks, Tom,” I said. The man behind the counter nodded as he squished his bottom lip with the muscle behind the other. I started towards the door with my box of valves. Matthew walked after me. When the bell dinged and the door shut, Matthew whispered to me on our way to his Honda Accord.

    “Too much? That’s what you meant right? I can be too much sometimes?” He said. We crossed at the crosswalk. He put his hand on my back. “I just thought it would be like picking up a pick at the guitar store.”

    “It wasn’t like that?” I asked on the other side of the street. He pulled his hand away. I went to the passenger door. When he got closer to the driver’s side, my door unlocked. I caught my reflection in the car window, my belly stretched thin this time. My head wrapped around a scratch in the glass, as tall as the storefront behind me.

    “No, it wasn’t like that,” he said. He smiled before he went down to his seat. I watched my eyes in the mirror hanging on the visor until we got back to his place.

  • I’m Reading The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

    I’m Reading The Night Watchman by Louise Erdrich

    Yesterday, I finished up Less by Andrew Sean Greer, so I started my next audiobook. Today’s task is to get as finished with The Night Watchman as I can. I’ve got a lot of books to get through that I’ve acquired over some time. I don’t really like to write actual reviews of books anymore, because if I’ve invested time in finishing the book, that means I at least respect it and would hopefully only say constructive things about it to the author in-person. I’d probably only answer what I didn’t like about it if asked directly, which won’t happen. These Pulitzer Prize-winning authors have, as their title states, won a Pulitzer, and probably have enough writing experience to be comfortable doing their own thing regardless of what anyone says. I always imagine I’m in a workshop group with the authors or something. Maybe that just means I’m not the best at workshopping.

    Anyway, this one is 13 hours of audio, so I’ve got to pretty much wear my AirPods Max headphones all day. I’ve got to really pay attention to this one too, because it switches between characters quite a bit. It’s a fictional novel based on historic events, inspired by the author’s real grandfather. It’s set on the Turtle Mountain Reservation. I’m only an hour into it, which may be 50 pages or so? Probably not quite 100 pages yet. Somewhere in-between.

    Anyway, maybe over time I’ll go back and add more thoughts and stuff to this post, and maybe other blog posts about other books. Again, I’m not a “reviewer”, just a reader who writes a lot, too.

    I have to go to the office now. I’ll post a very short story tomorrow.

  • I’m Reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer

    I’m Reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer

    I’m reading the novel Less by Andrew Sean Greer. I know. Big deal. A writer reads. Whatever. I actually kind of feel bad because I’ve also been reading less (not as much of) for a year or so. I finally finished The Goldfinch in 2020 after starting it in 2015, Right after that I bought a whole bunch of books that I was going to read right away. Well, I didn’t, and here we are. Also, the books I bought were audiobooks. I get read to now. It’s just nicer. More nice? Hold on, I have to google this one. Okay, it’s nicer.

    Reading Less by Andrew Sean Greer

    Anyway, Less is actually pretty good so far. I try to read the Pulitzers when it comes to novels because I don’t get assigned reading anymore and it’s a list that’s already available with supposedly good books on it. I appreciate the gay protagonist. There’s also some humor to it, but not haha funny, just sort oh okay ha funny. I’m going to have to get a print copy because I really like it. Yes, that’s what I do now. I get the audiobook first and then if that goes well I get the print copy. I’m sorry but I’m busy and I can’t read everything.

    Listening To Audiobooks

    My thirty-minute walks to work and back are great for being read to. I put on my Apple AirPods Max and walk down the street laughing and making faces and shaking my head. I just really stopped caring what people think once it turned 35. Not sure why 35, but whatever.

    I still want to look at the words of the books I really like at some point to study them for craft, but if I try to read everything I’ll be back to where I was with The Goldfinch and I won’t finish anything unless a professor holds it over my head for a grade or something.

    Gotta go into the office now. In case you missed it yesterday, I posted about some books that really helped me with my writing.

  • Books That Helped Me With My Writing

    Books That Helped Me With My Writing

    Last week, I applied to several low-residency MFA programs. While I’d LOVE to get accepted into one of those programs, I’m trying to remember that there are other ways to learn about writing literary fiction, too. The chances of getting accepted into an MFA program seem like they’re getting lower and lower these days, even in low-residency programs as universities get more and more selective. I’m not complaining; I’m just managing my expectations. That being said, there are a few books that helped me with my writing over the years that I’ve been revisiting.

    Books That Helped Me With My Writing

    Most of these books I read during my undergrad years of my English degree. They provided a lot of really useful ways of thinking about my work both during the early draft stages and the many, many, many editing stages. Of course the professors were super helpful at my university, too. I think a lot of them picked books that would stay with us over the years if we needed to go back and re-assess our writing every now and then. Also, they don’t cost very much. If I don’t get into any of the MFA programs I recently applied to, at least I will have these.

    Cane by Jean Toomer

    This books is a novel. Or a poem. Actually it’s a prose poem novel. Or a manuscript. Okay, to be honest, it’s really different, and that’s why it’s helpful to me. My professor in Intro to Creative Writing assigned it because models are very important when you are studying craft. This book is largely unedited for the most part. This results in a very interesting look at the process of writing, or even creativity in general. It’s a good starting place to just get a feel for how you might want to start a draft of something. It’s a good first step, whether you’re into writing traditional stuff or experimental, weird or whatever.

    Ron Carlson Writes A Story by Ron Carlson

    Ron Carlson is on the faculty at the University of California, Irvine. I’ve never met him, but I workshopped with Michelle Latiolais once, who is also on the faculty there. She was a visiting author giving a masterclass at my university. One of my professors was a student under both of them there.

    Anyway, Ron Carlson’s theory of inventory is one of the best ways to think about the craft of writing I’ve heard yet. Ron Carlson takes you through how he wrote one of his short stories, “The Governor’s Ball”. The story was published in The New Yorker at some point. He almost goes through sentence by sentence. It’s really cool. Not only is this a really good book for your writing in the intermediate stage, but it’s also really great to help you with workshopping pieces on their own merrit.

    The Portable MFA in Creative Writing by The New York Writers Workshop

    I was not assigned this book in any curriculum, but I got it anyway. I read the section on fiction and still check out the poetry section every now and then. It basically gives you an overview of some of the stuff you might discuss about craft during an MFA. I’m just now applying to some MFA programs, so I really don’t know how accurate it is of an experience. I imagine it’s the nuts and bolts of it all and is a decent reference every so often.

    This book is also nice because it has sections on lots of different genres: fiction, poetry, personal essay and memoir, and journalism. You never now what you might want to write some day. Most MFA programs only focus on one concentration, with maybe a few chances here and there to explore other crafts. It’s helpful to have something to look back on for those other genres as the years go by.

    The One Hour MFA (in fiction) by Michael Kimball

    I think the as originally published serialized in RealPants (a literary journal.) This is a nice quick read if you’re into it. It goes over some very important topics such as language, character, plot, dialogue, and other aspects of fiction. It’s all stuff I imagine an MFA candidate will encounter, but the material is a little deeper than in The Portable MFA in Creative Writing.

    Widow by Michelle Latiolais

    Again, models of great work are super important when you are studying creative writing. Widow is a great fiction collection by Michelle Latiolais that pretty much gets an A+ on everything that all of the other books talk about, plus it’s just also really good. Worth having around to look at when you are needing inspiration on how to play with language as well. It’s also a good advanced study for when you are trying to put together your own fiction collection (if you’re into that) and trying to determine story order, pacing, theme, and lots of other stuff.

    The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Short Stories edited by Tobias Wolff

    I was also assigned this book during an advanced fiction class. The stories in it are great models no matter what type of short stories you write. The publisher released another book eventually, The Anchor Book of New American Short Stories edited by Ben Marcus. It has more contemporary stories in it and may be worth checking out, too. Anchor may also include a little more diversity in it. But, I found the stories in Vintage to be more interesting to me, probably honestly just because I read it first.

    Instead of putting each affiliate link throughout the text and having to say each time that it’s an affiliate link, I’m grouping them all together. Here are the links to the books I mentioned on Amazon. These are all affiliate links – which means I may get money from Amazon if you use these links.

    Other Books?

    There are the books that helped me with my writing. Do you have any books that you read that really helped you with your writing? I’d love to check them out. Who knows, maybe if I get into an MFA program they’ll turn up in those.

    If you like short stories, you can check out my fiction collection, Crushes. It’s also available to read for free on Kindle Unlimited for a while. Yo can also read some of my short stories that I post on my blog on Fridays.

  • Application Fees – A New Episode of My Podcast – Equipment Test!

    Application Fees – A New Episode of My Podcast – Equipment Test!

    I still don’t really have a good reason why, but I’m still making my podcast every weekend. It’s called Equipment Test! and it’s just me reading my short stories and talking about my blog. I figure I’ll just recored an awful episode every weekend while I’m alive and maybe in like 10 years it’ll be an okay podcast.

    This week’s episode is about an application fee for a low-residency MFA program that really kind of rubbed me the wrong way.

    How Do I Feel About Application Fees?

    With the powers I gained from my MBA, I understand some of the reasons that for application fees probably exist. For instance, they keep admission departments from being as overwhelmed. They even provide some additional funding. Application fees also encourage people to really think about the programs they apply to. At the same time, I feel like there are limits to what’s reasonable what isn’t. Everyone probably has a different idea of what that limit is.

    Some universities are doing away with application fees, others are doubling down. There is probably still a lot of planning for alternative ways to fund departments and programs if tuition were to be cut by the government at some point.

    Listen to the episode Equipment Test! below. It’s also available on Apple Podcasts and other platforms.

    Episode 8 – To Be Submitted Via Submittable…

    You can find previous episodes at If you like the short story I read in this episode, check out my other stories that I post on my blog on Fridays.

  • Binoculars – Short Story

    Binoculars – Short Story

    Here is my short story for today’s Friday Fiction post – “Binoculars”. Typo hunters, welcome. If you like my work, check out my fiction collection, Crushes.


    I liked his binoculars hanging down his back. One of the eye pieces was missing a cap. I touched the cold dark green metal and told him I liked them. He turned around, backed his head up, and stuffed his hands in his pockets. He smiled and went about is day, picking up a box of oatmeal, some Tums, and a bag of disposable razors. When he looked at me, I picked up a set of razors, too. He didn’t smile that time. I walked faster than him to get ahead. In the self-checkout, his card wouldn’t work. I tapped his shoulder, careful not to touch his binoculars. When he turned his head to look at me, his binoculars bounced against his arm. I told him I’d buy his stuff if he’d let me look through his binoculars. I held out my bag with the razors in it. He looked behind him, beside him, and then handed the binoculars to me. My bag crumpled against his leg as I brought the lenses to my eyes. Save big. Lights and skin. Speckles of denim. Surgeon general warning. The rims of someone’s glasses. Gray concrete. My plastic of my bag of razors crinkled in his squeeze. 

    When I handed the binoculars back to him, he asked me what I saw. I said the most. He said interesting and held out my bag of razors. I told him to keep them. He sat them on the bagging area. The people in line behind us coughed. I took my razors home. 

Bluegrass Writers Studio MFA Summer Residency, 2022. Photo by Ben Keeling.

I’m Eric Shay Howard and I’m a bad blogger. I’m also an author. I live in Louisville, Kentucky and work at a law firm.

I’m currently a graduate student in a Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing program. Lately, I’ve been blogging about that. I also have a Master of Business Administration and have completed a few certificate programs in Human Resource related studies. Occasionally I blog about business and other MBA-related things. Blogging about my day, bad dates, or package delivery issues are also not out of the question.

I wrote a fiction collection called Crushes and self-published it because sometimes I just like to push buttons and see what happens. I think this book is pretty alright, I suppose. Buying a copy helps me out. Feel free to leave a review on Amazon as well.

crushes by eric shay howard fiction collection book cover

I’m an Amazon Affiliate and occasionally post affiliate links to products in my blog posts and throughout my website. I always disclose these links, just so there’s no confusion. There’s more information about this on my page about my privacy policies and disclosures.

If there’s ever any confusion about this feel free to drop me a comment below the post in question, or you can email me or reach out to me through my social media. Other contact methods are here.

Eric’s bookshelf: currently-reading

The Silkworm
tagged: currently-reading
Words of Radiance
tagged: currently-reading
The Cloven Viscount
tagged: currently-reading
Dark Rise
tagged: currently-reading
The Gunslinger
tagged: currently-reading
tagged: currently-reading
Mistborn: The Final Empire
tagged: currently-reading

Blogs and People I Like

Here are some other blogs and people that I like to read or keep up with. The order is arbitrary because I started out going for alphabetical order but then got busy with classes or something so now sometimes I just rearrange them for no reason.

Equipment Test! Podcast Artwork

I made a really bad podcast over the summer called Equipment Test! because I bought a microphone. But if you like really bad podcasts, you can listen to it here, or find it on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, and other places.