The Province

Book lovers scramble for daily advent read

Annual boxed set calendar features a short story for every day from Dec. 1 until Christmas Day


Since 2015, the publicatio­n of the Short Story Advent Calendar has been anticipate­d like an album drop, and the arrival of the limited-edition boxed set of short stories is one of the markers of the festive season for authors.

The annual boxed set features a short story for every day from Dec. 1 through 24, plus one extra for Christmas Day.

“One of the things I love about it is that, like an album drop that releases different tracks on different days that we all listen to together, we are all reading the same story together, and each one is a new surprise,” said publisher Michael Hingston.

The daily advent read has created a community on social media among readers who get to unwrap a short story every day, and share a reading experience throughout the advent period.

The collection has developed a cult following, including comedian Patton Oswalt, who now works with Hingston on an annual Halloween boxed set of scary stories called The Ghost Box.

“The possibilit­ies are endless,” said Hingston, a former arts journalist who is considerin­g other themed boxed sets. The success has made it easy to attract internatio­nal and acclaimed authors (The Ghost Box II includes stories by Stephen King and the late Harlan Ellison).

Because the element of surprise is so important, Hingston won’t reveal all the authors involved in this year’s Short Story Advent Calendar, but it does include two of his favourite Vancouver-based authors, Doretta Lau and Kim Fu.

The success of what started as a whimsical enterprise has surprised Hingston, who was raised in Deep Cove and now lives in Edmonton.

“It started with a beer advent calendar I bought on a whim one day,” said Hingston. “I loved it and decided to go buy the book version, and discovered that there wasn’t one.”

The former English major says he always felt short stories got lost when wedged into non-fiction magazines.

“I realized this was something I could do that would give short stories the form I’d always felt they should have.”

He brought the concept to designer Natlie Olsen in July 2015, who designed the boxed set of individual­ly bound booklets. The first Short Story Advent Calendar was published that year. “It sold out faster than we had even dared to imagine.”

Olsen’s design concept is part of the pleasure of the calendar — it’s different each year, featuring unique motifs and hidden elements that connect and give clues to the story content. Hingston solicits stories from Canadian and internatio­nal authors he loves, looking for a range of lengths, genres and subject matter.

The Short Story Advent Calendar is available in Vancouver at Pulp Fiction Books, and online at hingstonan­

 ?? SHAUGHN BUTTS ?? Author and publisher Michael Hingston with his third annual Short Story Advent Calendar.
SHAUGHN BUTTS Author and publisher Michael Hingston with his third annual Short Story Advent Calendar.

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