Concise anecdotes

Fishtown resident set to release self-published book of extremely short stories, “Shortliners.”

Man of few words: Harry Simons stands in front of his house in Fishtown. He plans to release his self-published book, Shortliners, in the next few months. MELISSA KOMAR / STAR PHOTO

By Melissa Komar

In the literary world, short stories typically run a couple of thousand words, but Harry Simons is giving a whole new meaning to brevity.

The Fishtown resident is preparing to release his self-published book of approximately 80 stories, “Shortliners,” within the next couple of months.

The title refers to the the name he bestowed upon his stories for their structure: Each story is composed of exactly four lines.

“I call my stories shortliners and basically that evolved because when I first decided to write, I was going to write a crime novel,” Simons said. “And then I realized that I didn’t have the patience to write long stories. Whenever I ended something, I realized I needed to write something much shorter. So, then I dabbled with poetry and short stories and even that was too monotonous for me. And, then I came up with stories that didn’t exceed four sentences.”

Each story begins with “I watched,” and themes range from funny to political, all with the intent of being thought provoking and potentially controversial, but not offensive.

“I like the challenge of putting as much information into four sentences and I really welcome the challenge,” Simons said. “You want a story that’s thought provoking or even controversial, but not offensive. I don’t really censor myself. It’s on paper, but it’s harmless. Agree or disagree, I hope someone takes something away from it although it was primarily written with me in mind.”

Take, for instance, his shortliner about a bird watcher:

I WATCHED THE BIRD WATCHER

BEING WATCHED BY A BEAR

THE LAST TIME I WATCHED HIM

HE WAS IN INTENSIVE CARE

Or, his story about poverty:

I WATCHED POVERTY

IN ALL ITS DIVERSITY

AS THE PAIN AND SUFFERING

ARE EQUAL IN EACH COMMUNITY

Simons had no intention to publish his writings; it was merely a hobby.

“I’ve been writing since I was a young teenager and I think my brain is conditioned to always write,” he said. “I guess I’ve been writing Shortliners for 14 or 15 years, and then I just decided to put a book together. I have a huge body of work that’s been shelved for many years.”

Simons spent most of his adult life working in the corporate world, and recently transitioned to a career in real estate.

His writing is a self-taught side pleasure, but it’s a talent that’s in his blood.

“My grandfather and my mother were both poets, also self taught, but pretty phenomenal poets in their own right, so I guess it was passed on from generation to generation.”

The 62-year-old European native has a cottage in Ireland, and his book will be published in a bookstore about 15 minutes from his cottage. The bookstore has one of 60 printers around the world that prints an entire book enclosed in glass, allowing a visual of the entire process, according to Simons.

“The bookstore is in a remote village, but it’s become sort of a community center,” he said. “Many authors living in that area do book readings and special events. And, they have this amazing printer.”

Simons travels to Ireland about three times a year and stays an entire month in September.

“That’s when I do a lot of writing. The environment really boosts your creativity. It’s really beautiful,” he said.

But, inspiration can strike anywhere, and Simons often finds himself pulling over when driving to jot down a shortliner for fear of forgetting it forever. He rejects nine out of the 10 he writes.

Simons anticipates sending his final PDF for “Shortliners” in the next couple of weeks and will include a few sketches he drew more than 30 years ago.

He hopes to have a physical copy in his hands within four to six weeks. Copies will be available for purchase on American soil in two to three months. He has yet to determine a price, but it will be based on shipping costs and how many copies he orders.

“I’m not really looking to make a profit. It’s already a stretch. I’m going this far to have books printed,” Simons said. “I don’t see this as a business project. It’s just fun. It’s a side project and I can get it to people who would be interested in reading it and would get a kick out of it, that’s great. It’s really meant to be food for thought.”