Longtime readers of this blog will know that last year I feel head over heels in love with Amy Hempel’s short fiction. She is a master of the short form, publishing four collections, one including a novella, over the course of her career. Her output could never be described as prolific but for writing of Hempel’s calibre the wait is more than worth it. Her collected fiction contains so many gems; ‘The Man in Bogota,’ one of the finest pieces of flash fiction ever written, ‘When It’s Human Instead Of When It’s Dog,’ my favourite from her debut collection, featuring the most subtly beautiful fictional relationships I have ever read, ‘The Harvest’ with it’s slowly building avalanche of emotion, ‘Beg, Sl Tog, Inc, Cont, Rep,’ that manages to be a gripping tale of knitting, and then you realise the story is actually about more than togs and needles and your heart breaks under the weight of it.

And when I say your heart breaks when reading Hempel’s best work, I mean proper, shattering, heart breaking. If Amy Hempel has a trademark quality, it has to be her unerring ability to smash your heart into little bitty pieces, then duct tape them back together before you finish reading. It’s why I love her work.

I have yet to find another reader or writer on my various friend lists who has read much Amy Hempel, so as part of Short Story Month 2010, I thought I would run my first competition draw. I have a spare, brand spanking new copy of Amy Hempel’s Collected Stories, that’s all four collections in one handy little paperback. All you need to do to win it is post a comment to this post before midnight, GMT, Monday May 31st, telling my who your favourite short fiction author is and why. Names of comment posters will be entered and the winner pulled from the ubiquitous competition hat.

Please, surprise me. Tell me which short fiction author you think I should be reading.

Amy Hempel on the web:

Listen to her reading a selection of her stories here

Interview with Rob Hart on chuckpalahniuk.net

‘She Breaks Your Heart,’ Palahniuk on Hempel

‘The Harvest’ by Amy Hempel

‘Today Will Be A Quiet Day’ by Amy Hempel

‘Offertory’ by Amy Hempel