STEVE ALMOND:  I wanted to start with a basic question I get a lot as a story writer: Why do publishers view story collections as risky? I have my own theory, but I’m curious what you think.

BRUCE MACHART:  There’s no question in my mind that, as a rule, collections receive only slivers of the big publishing house pie in terms of publicity and marketing attention. We can all point to the exceptions, but it’s become a self-fulfilling prophecy among publishers that “short stories don’t sell.” Because they believe this, they don’t want to commit resources (whether it be time or dollars) to promote books of short stories. The surprising result? Well, most collections don’t sell.

I once watched Bruce Machart teach a class. It was a humbling experience. Machart was eloquent and funny and inspiring. He made me think about fiction –- the mechanics of plot, specifically, but all of fiction really -– in an entirely new way. When the class was over, I asked, only half-joking, if I could audit.