Faculty member's foray into fiction features series of short stories

June 30, 2016

UNIVERSITY PARK, Pa. — For more than 25 years, Penn State College of Communications professor John Affleck has worked as a journalist, writing and editing about everything from the World Series to the election of the pope.

Now he’s trying his hand at something new — fiction.

The Knight Chair in Sports Journalism and Society and the director of the John Curley Center for Sports Journalism, Affleck will see his first collection of short stories, called “Winning and Losing,” published online by the startup Great Jones Street in mid-July.

“I’ve always been interested in fiction, and have worked for several years at the craft of telling a good tale,” said Affleck, whose undergraduate studies included a concentration in American literature and who earned a postgraduate diploma in modern British lit at the University of Dundee, in Scotland. “I feel fortunate that someone liked the work enough to buy it.”

Perhaps unsurprisingly, most of Affleck’s 13 stories are sports-themed, or at least reference sports. And again, perhaps unsurprisingly, as a former reporter and editor for The Associated Press, Affleck’s stories tend to be tight.

“For someone like me, a 2,000-word story seems massive,” Affleck said. “I just don’t have the kind of imagination for an epic landscape. So my stories are about definitive moments of victory or defeat, and how the characters react to them — hence the title. I hope they’ll resonate with readers’ own experiences.”

Affleck’s style of fiction lines up well with the publisher behind Great Jones Street, successful San Diego-based web entrepreneur Kelly Abbott.

Abbott comes from a literary family. His father, Lee Abbott, is a noted short-story writer and ran the creative writing program at Ohio State. The younger Abbott sees it as his mission to boost the profile of literary fiction in the digital age. Part of what that means is pushing fiction to smartphones.

“We have one foot in publishing and one foot in technology, and we’re looking to carve out a niche for ourselves in the fiction reader’s conscience,” Abbott said. “I was able to snap up John’s first collection of fiction and we’re set to release it publicly via our app, our Medium publication and the traditional eBook channels.”

Great Jones Street has released a couple of the stories as “singles,” including a piece called "Immaculate Obsession" that should have an echo for Pittsburgh Steelers fans of a certain age.

  • John Affleck

    John Affleck

    IMAGE: Penn State
Last Updated June 30, 2016