Popular Short Story Advent Calendar series to end in 2020

Alberta publisher Hingston & Olsen Publishing notes it is "bittersweet" but promises the curated stories by North American authors will go out on a high note.

The 2020 edition will feature stories by Sara O'Leary, Jim Shepard, Amber Sparks, Adam Sternbergh and more

The 2020 edition of the Short Story Advent Calendar will be the last, according to publisher Michael Hingston. (Pederson, Hingston & Olsen Publishing)

The 2020 edition of the popular Short Story Advent Calendar will be the last in the series, according to the publisher.

Edmonton-based Hingston & Olsen Publishing announced the sixth and final iteration of the Advent calendar, that gives readers a new short story to read each day over the holidays, will feature contributions from authors such as Sara O'Leary, Jim Shepard, Amber Sparks, Adam Sternbergh and a surprise author to be named at a later date. 

Independent publisher Michael Hingston, who is also a journalist and author, told CBC Books that while it is "bittersweet" that the short fiction series is ending, this year's version of the deluxe box set series goes out on a high note.

For the past five years, the Short Story Advent Calendar has featured a curated selection of short fiction from notable North American authors, Hingston said.

Each morning in December, readers can crack the seal on that day's booklet and discover the author and title inside. Once they're done reading, they can head over to the publisher website to read an exclusive interview with the author.

Margaret Atwood's tweeted about it in the past, but the book club's most influential member is American actor Patton Oswalt. The comedian ordered himself a copy last year, and tweeted his full progress. He's such a fan that he even pitched Hingston & Olsen a similar, Halloween-themed project — The Ghost Box — which they later published.

Michael Hingston talks to Shelagh Rogers about what inspired the Short Story Advent Calendar and what to expect in the 2018 edition.

As in past years, each booklet in the set is sealed, so readers won't know what story they are getting until the morning it is opened. Over its entire run, the series has featured more than 100 stories and sold nearly 15,000 copies, Hingston added.

The most gratifying part has been the response on social media about the series, and seeing people surprised by what story and author they found each day, Hingston said. 

"We've always tried to have a mixture of established writers and emerging writers.  We also try to make sure that we do have different perspectives of writers from different countries, tones and genres under the broad umbrella of literary fiction," said Hingston. 

"Even better is when they discover a new writer and we're able to bring their work to the new audience. I'm a writer myself, so I can relate to that."

The 2020 edition of the Short Story Advent Calendar features stories by Sara O'Leary, Jim Shepard, Adam Sternbergh and more. (Hingston & Olsen Publishing)

The decision to end the series isn't related to the current COVID-19 pandemic but rather a decision that was always in the works, he added. 

Regardless of how well-received the series has been, Hingston is adamant that this is indeed the final year for the series.

"I don't want to be cagey about it as we love the Advent calendar format. The truth is the calendar takes so much work. We put so much effort into building it, but this being the last year is going to free up some time for us to work on some really exciting new ideas," he said.

—With files from CBC Arts

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