Monday, August 20, 2012

It took three years but...

Today a short story I started working on in 2006 is published! Yes, the story may "only" be 800 words, but it took me three years to get those 800 words the way I wanted them. The story, Under the Tree, was accepted by Electric Velocipede at the end of 2009 - and today it's published in Issue 24. (The story is also included in my new collection, with Electric Velocipede's permission.)

I wanted to share a few words about the story, but SPOILER ALERT stop reading now if you'd prefer to just read the story.

Okay. It started with an image in my head: a mother watching her son sitting under a tree in his own garden. And I couldn't figure out - nor could she - what he was doing there. I got very bogged down in trying to find an explanation. Then I took the story-in-progress, which was written quite traditionally at that point, to a workshop run by the wondrous and inspiring Aimee Bender in June 2007. She encouraged us not to look for direct causes for our characters' behaviour, pointing out, quite rightly I think, that we humans very rarely have one cause for our actions and we often have no idea what has spured us to do something. Let go of cause and effect. Great. This began to release something in me ...

The next step which helped me progress with the story was reading two short story collections: Roy Kesey's All Over and Paddy O'Reilly's The End of the World. Roy's was the first example I'd seen of minimalism and experimentalism and that inspired me to move away from the traditional, take some risks, make the reader work. And Paddy's collection had a story in it (completely different from mine) which was divided into sections which each had section headings - and suddenly, using this structure, my story began to fall into place. Someone said once that sometimes structure can ride in like a knight on a white horse and save a story - and that certainly was the case here. It all started to come together.

Anyway, if you'd like to, you can read the finished story, all 800 words, here. I hope you enjoy it!

16 comments:

Vanessa Gebbie said...

One delightful comment coming up -

What a joy to read this, T. Having read a few versions that almost, nearly, but weren't quite... this is just great! It's like an extended poem, a series of prose poems, you could plot the emotional journey on a graph.
Many congratulations!

(and it was accepted in 2009, and published three years later ...? Golly!)

Tania Hershman said...

V - thank you! You saw it from quite early on, I think. It makes me very happy that it's found a home - EV is a new market for me, kind of science fic and fantasy, so I'm thrilled it's in there. It's in my book too, which is also great, in a different way. Yes, long long time from acceptance to publication! They were a print mag, then I think they lost funding etc... I'm immensely grateful to EV and glad they are still going! And it's interesting to remember and highlight that short stories can and do take a long time, that their word length doesn't have much correlation with the time and effort taken. It's a good reminder to me, too! Instant gratification is nice... but so is delayed gratifiction ;)

Vanessa Gebbie said...

It is a good reminder that short stories are tough things to get right, and there are so many twists and turns along the way. WFAGB took me a long time too - I think loads of stories turn out 'just OK ish' because the writer doesn't wait and let the story find its own way into the telling. Sometimes, it takes time!

Tim Love said...

On http://homepage.ntlworld.com/mariella.gregori/tim/prose/publishedstories.html I list when stories were started and when they were published. A story I wrote in 2009 was accepted this year by Stand for publication in 2014 or so. But my record is a story I started in 1987 than was published in 2008.

josephinecorcoran said...

This was such a pleasurable reading experience. I sensed my brain tumbling within the story, speculating about reasons and explanations. And how fantastic that you don't explain exactly why he is out there - I shared his mother's acceptance of him and felt so moved. Thank you for sharing your writing process and your comments are spot-on, Vanessa, really helpful. Thank you - have shared on my facebook page.

Nora Nadjarian said...

Beautifully written and very moving, Tania! You never cease to amaze and inspire me. xx

Jim Murdoch said...

This story reminded me of the novel Bed where a boy one day refuses to get out of bed and eats and eats until his health is at risk. My problem with the novel is that the author skipped over practical details (like going to the toilet—it’s astounding the number of literary characters who never poop) and as much as I wanted to rise above it a part of my mind kept wondering. I was the same with your story. Tried not to be but couldn’t help myself. That said there was a lot I did like about it and read it over several times. I can see that you’ve weighed every word. A haunting study of the nature of grief. At least that’s my reading of it. I do like the structure very much.

Tania Hershman said...

V - I am certain I'm guilty of being too impatient, i guess that's why I still want to edit stories that have already been published!

Tim, wow, that is a long time! I really like your list, very interesting. Congrats on STAND, I look forward to 2014 ;)

Josephine, thanks so much, I'm really glad you liked it. Thanks for sharing it on FB, that's very kind!

Nora, you're very kind, we have a mutual inspiration society!

Jim, thanks for your comment, I really appreciate it, and understand why this story may be somewhat frustrating. I had to let got of knowing and those are the kinds of stories I like, without too many answers, but I fully understand that others don't, and that this piece will leave them unsatisfied. Yes, grief, that is definitely in there for me, this is a story that does make me very sad, but I'm happy I don't have to think about the writing of it anymore!


Helena Halme said...

Lovely, but so, so sad. Helena xx

Tania Hershman said...

Thanks, Helena. And yes, I know. Very sad. That does seem to be my default - sadness with a hint of hope, or at least some kind of attempt!

Laura said...

Gosh, Tania, I really "felt" this one, what a moving story. Nice to know, too, that sometimes taking a long time to get a particular story right is just the way it is. Will try to remember that! Lx

dan powell said...

Great story, Tania. Love the structure and the voice. Your account of the writing of it gives me hope for a few of my own stories that currently aren't quite working. I'll be taking a hard look at the structure of each I think after this. Thanks for posting this glimpse into how the story grew into being.

Tania Hershman said...

Laura, thanks so much!

Dan, that's so kind of you, I'm glad you liked it. Yes, sometimes it seems, structure can change everything. Hope it works for some of your stories. Some of mind that aren't working I can just abandon, but some just stick in your mind, don't they, niggling at you, demanding to be "done"!

dan powell said...

Some certainly do. I have one in particular that has been sitting in my WIP folder for at least two years now. In its current form it's simply not working, but I can't seem to shake the central idea or remove the story to my scrapped folder. This post has given me some motivation to tackle it again. Here's hoping a reworked structure can help bring it to life.

Rachel Fenton said...

Had me in tears by Friday - very moving piece. Congratulations.

Tania Hershman said...

Rachel, part of me wants to say, I'm so sorry my story did that to you, but I am always happy reading something that makes me cry, so thank you, it means a lot that it touched you.