Monday, September 14, 2009

Short story news roundup

I'm not yet ready to blog about what it's like to have moved countries, that kind of thing, I am still musing, so I thought I'd bring some exciting news from Short Story World. First, Electric Literature, the new lit zine that is available in print, as an eBook, or for your Kindle of iPhone, and pays its contributors a wonderful $1000 per story (!) has taken an exciting step into the world of animation and asked animators to create a very short film based on one line from each of the pieces they published in Issue 1. Here, for example, is Jonathon Ashley's take on a sentence from Michael Cunningham's novel excerpt:

There is one more animation on the Electric Literature YouTube page as well as a trailer for Jim Shepherd's Your Fate Hurtles Down at You. I love the idea of animating short stories... see what you think.

Another very welcome newcomer is Madras press, based in the US. This is what they are all about - and they are publishing the wondrous Aimee Bender as one of their first authors, which is always a great thing!
"Madras Press publishes individually bound short stories and novellas and distributes the proceeds to a growing list of charitable organizations chosen by our authors.

The format of our books provides readers with the opportunity to experience a story on its own, with no advertisements or unrelated articles surrounding it; it also provides a home for stories that are often arbitrarily ignored by commercial publishing outfits, whether because they’re too long for magazines but not trade-book length, or because they don’t resemble certain other stories. These are clumsy, ill-fitting stories made perfect when read in the simplest possible way.

Published in regular series of four, our books also serve as fundraising efforts for a number of charitable causes and organizations. Each of our authors has selected a beneficiary to which all net proceeds generated from the sales of his or her book will be donated; these include organizations dedicated to environmental protection, community development, human services, and much more.

On October 1, our online bookstore will open, at which time you'll be able to order from our first series of titles:The Third Elevator, by Aimee Bender
Proceeds to benefit InsideOUT Writers

Bobcat, by Rebecca Lee
Proceeds to benefit Riverkeeper

Sweet Tomb, by Trinie Dalton
Proceeds to benefit the Theodore Payne Foundation

A Mere Pittance, by Sumanth Prabhaker
Proceeds to benefit Helping Hands: Monkey Helpers for the Disabled

Each book will cost about as much as a greeting card, and will come with your name (or a name of your choice) transcribed in an ex-libris panel on the inside front cover."

A lovely idea, not only boosting the short story, but raising money for worthy causes at the same time. Founding editor Sumanth Prabhaker told me they will be accepting submissions from oct 1st and "We operate on a purely volunteer basis, so that the only cost subtracted from the sticker price of online purchases is for manufacturing. Acquisitions, editing, design, production, and marketing are all done at no cost. Taking inspiration from the Concord Free Press, we are foregoing commercial distribution and working directly with bookstores and consumers." Good luck to them!

Thirdly, going head to head with the BBC National Short Story Award, but with a bigger cheque, the brand new Sunday Times Short Story Prize will award £25,000 (no, you haven't read that wrong) "for a single short story in Britain and Ireland. " Says the announcement:

"The prize, backed by EFG Private Bank, is the latest sign that the genre is once again thriving after many years of falling popularity. The contest is open to authors who have already had work published in Britain and Ireland, and is intended to attract well-established writers as well as relative unknowns."

Now, this is welcome news indeed, as is anything that intends to get more people reading short stories (falling popularity? You're just looking in the wrong places).

However, as with the BBC award, this is not judged anonymously, which bothers me. It always bothers me. Is it about the writing or about the name above the writing? An interesting discussion on Facebook ensued, with Nicola making the excellent point that since this is open to published stories, it can't be anonymous since some of the (six) judges may have read some of the stories submitted and know who they were written by. Very good point. So: just accept unpublished stories. That solves that one.

What do you think? We all know that it is hard enough to read something without simultaneously looking up the author's bio, let alone reading something by a "big name". You just can't really read it in a vacuum. But you can at least attempt that. If it is going to be "award for best previously-published story" then that is something else.

I'm not complaining, not really. Just thinking out loud. £25,000 will mean an enormous amount to any writer unless they are Dan Brown, I highly doubt any writer of literary fiction (if this is what the prize is aiming at) makes that from their books. Yes, the best short story should win. But I say that anything that might stand in the way of that goal should, if at all possible, be removed.



Daniela said...

Hi Tania,

It is open to unpublished stories only, if you read the fine print. Not sure why they are not putting it somewhere more obvious!!!


Quillers said...

Hmm, it hardly makes it an even playing field, does it? And with so much money on offer, I can't help wondering if they'll also be making sure they pick someone they'd want to be associated with the prize in terms of reputation, rather than some unknown writer from the back streets.

Having said that, if I win, I take all that back ;-)

Tania Hershman said...

section 3.5 of the rules (which look almost identical to the BBC Natl Short story award rules) says:

"The story entered must either:
3.5.1 be unpublished; or
3.5.2. be first published or scheduled for publication after 1 January 2009."

So you can submit an unpublished story or a story was published after Jan 1st this year (but online doesn't count....!)

Tania Hershman said...

Sally - hmm, yes...! And yes, I take it all back when I win too ;)

Daniela said...

This doesn't make much sense to me - but yes, I'll join you on taking it back if I win...

Rob said...

You're right, it does seem a bit silly if it's not anonymous.

Regarding the money, I can't help thinking it would be better to spread that prize money more evenly over a few winners, and celebrate the breadth of the genre, rather than just highlighting a single story. ("The short story is alive and well! There's a good one every year!")

Tania Hershman said...

that is both hysterical and spot on! Yes, one excellent short story doth not a healthy short story scene make... Maybe we should set up our own prize?

Vanessa Gebbie said...

I think The Short Review could run a short story competition. Anonymous work. And for newer writers, maybe - ie those who have not yet got a collection out?

Funded by small entry fees and also donations from the publishers who owe you a huge amount for inventing and running this place!

maybe one of them would like to offer to publish the best collection entered, in a Short Review first collection comp?


Elizabeth Bradley said...

What a great post. Yeah, I don't suppose Dan Brown needs any money, or J.K. Rowling. Hope I spelled her name right.

Lauri Kubuitsile said...

The rules also say you must be published in UK. What does that mean? At some point in the past you need soemthing published in UK or do they mean a book published by a UK publishing house?


I put this comment at your TSR blog, I'll put it here too!

Love the look & sound of the Madras single stories. Picador did something similar and I bought all of them. Fab.

I'm v excited about the Sun Times prize, delighted it includes Irish writers.
I think it is better when the ID of the writer is not known - easier all round. Are they really going to toss, say, William Trevor's story onto the 'No' pile, even if they don't like it? I doubt it...but, then again, I always judge with integrity (the best story, IMO, wins) so maybe they will too!!

Teresa Stenson said...

Thanks so much for such a useful and interesting post, Tania. I love the sound of the Electric Literature venture and Madras Press too.