Monday, December 28, 2009

Good news to end the year - and Resolutions starting early!

So, I had all sorts of things I wanted to blog about  - why so many of my favourite short story writers are Scottish, for example - and then the nicest email last night and all my priorities shifted. The Scots will have to wait. The Binnacle, the delightful people who awarded me the Grand Prize in their Sixth Annual Ultra Short Comp last year, wrote to let me know that the publication of the Ultra-Short issue has been a little delayed... but then took my mind off this entirely by telling me that they have become my Favourite Lit Mag Ever by nominating my winning story, My Mother Was an Upright Piano, for a Pushcart Prize!

For those who aren't familiar, here's the Pushcart Prize info:
Little magazine and small book press editors (print or online) may make up to six nominations from their year’s publications by our December 1, (postmark) deadline. The nominations may be any combination of poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot.
Over at his excellent blog, Perpetual Folly, Cliff Garstang does his annual Pushcart rankings, a listing of lit magazines according to how many Pushcart prizes and special mentions for fiction they have received since 2000. Cliff does this with the Pushcart because of the way they call for nominations from the editors themselves rather than getting a guest judge to pick.  It makes for interesting reading - the Top Three are Ploughshares, Conjunctions and Zoetrope-All-Story. Says Cliff:
I'm a fan of the Pushcart Prize Anthology and I happen to think that it is a good indicator of magazine quality. It isn't perfect, and it doesn't mean a whole lot, frankly, but when I'm making my decisions of where I want to submit, I look at this list and aim as high as is realistically possible.
Read the list here for some submission ideas. 

Anyhow, the Pushcart gets 8000 nominations (it's only open to American publications and presses), and publishes 30 pieces of prose and 30 poems in its annual anthology, so the chances of getting any further are very, very slim. But it is an enormous honour to be nominated, I have been looking longingly at other writers' bios where they say "nominated for a Pushcart prize", and it's really thrilling for me to be able to put that too.

So, a good way to end the year that was rather up and down, with the lows being far lower than anything I've ever experienced, and which saw us make the radical decision to move countries - and then actually do it. The cats are more than 2/3 of the way through quarantine, 8 more weeks, which is wonderful, that has been very hard, for us and them. I am really loving being here, every few weeks meeting up with people who just want to talk about short stories and writing!

The main thing, though, that I haven't been doing is writing. So last night I decided to implement my New Year's Resolutions a few days early, in order to avoid that inevitable desire to sabotage the whole thing on Jan 1st. This morning, fighting that self-sabotaging demon, I got dressed before having breakfast and headed out for a walk, with just a notepad and paper (and mobile phone, switched off, and a little money for emergency croissants should I need them).

I walked for about 45 minutes around the neighborhood, avoiding slipping on the frost, and determined to come back with "something". But also determined to give myself a break and not to expect too much. I jotted down some words, a few phrases and things, as I walked, and just tried to follow my thoughts. It didn't help that I couldn't stop humming the damn song I heard on the radio before I left. Note to self: Don't turn the radio on before walk!

I came back, and continued with my new regime by not switching on my phone or the Internet. Not at all. Nope. I went into my study, and didn't check email at all until 4pm. And guess what? Felt much calmer, and was rather more productive. There's a surprise! I  did a radical overhaul of my assortment of short stories and flash fiction and set up a new Folder on my computer called "2010" so that I can start the year with a clean-ish slate, sort of. All those old half-stories that I just haven't got around to doing anything with got swept under the digital carpet just so I don't have to look at them and despair! And I decided not to split up Short Stories and Flash Fiction, just have one Work in Progress Folder. Might make life a little easier.

I actually didn't even want to check my email all day - and of course when I did I found that there was nothing urgent, nothing that coudn't wait, or could even have waited longer.

It's 7pm now, am allowing myself to blog, catch up on FB, Tweet a little... listen to some music. And then... after dinner I am going to try something else that I have wanted to do for ages and can do this week because there's nowhere I have to be in the morning. And that is: come back into my study at 10pm and spend a few hours writing. I have this desire to write at night, I love nighttime. But there's always somewhere to be in the morning etc. Well, this week the diary is clear. Will report back.

If it goes well, the plan is that I can set up my schedule around this: For the 2 days a week that I am at the Nanoscience and Quantum Information centre for my short-story-writer-in-residence, I could go in after 12, and just not plan to do anything before that. I am not aiming to work all night, that would be quite odd, and when would J and I see each other? But I am open to seeing how I feel - apart from tired - and what comes. I know several writers work at night. It's an experiment!

Is there anything else I'm going to do? Hmm. In the last few weeks I have been slowly starting to work on the next issue of The Short Review instead of leaving it all til the 5 days before I want to get the issue up and making myself - and Diane - crazy. That's been more relaxing and enjoyable, so will probably try to keep doing that.

I've also almost almost finished my Arts Council grant application for the residency - just a little unsure about the budget part, it's confusing me. But I really hope to get that printed off and sent tomorrow. Fingers crossed!

This turned into quite a long post, sorry about that. Wishing you all a Happy and Creative New Year. Any Resolutions anyone wants to share?!


Michelle Teasdale said...

Seems like a good idea to start the resolutions early. I like the idea of not turning on the phone or email until you've actually got some writing done, the internet is a big time-waster, as well as all the useful things it allows us to do!

Best of luck with it all, and Happy New Year to you!

Michelle x

Sarah Hilary said...

Great post, Tania, it's inspired me to write a New Year's Resolution-esque blog myself. I finally feel I've wound down sufficiently after the exertions of work etc and am ready to look at Where I Go from Here with a clear(ish) head.

Huge congrats on the Pushcart Nomination - brilliant news! And lovely to know you and the cats will be reunited soon.

Here's to a fruitful, writerly 2010.

Elisabeth said...

You're right here, Tania. I tell myself to stop blogging and get back to work, but I rationalise that blogging is practise writing and so during the holidays it can be justified, at least a little and besides it helps me procrastinate over the tax i should be sorting through and the housework.

Lauri said...

Tania- big congrats on the Pushcart nomination. Crossing fingers you do well! I think walking in the morning is fantastic. I get my head settled a bit before work starts.

I've not made any NY resolutions yet. I have quite a busy year ahead and have been mostly thinking about how I'll manage everything but I do like your staying away from the internet and email. I wonder if I could do it? I'm going to try because I know it's a HUGE time waster for me. I just cannot leave my email alone- I think it may now have become a "disorder" of some sort.

Perhaps when you get a chance you could explain a bit how your writer in residence stint will work for us out in the bush who aren't familiar with such associations. I'm very curious.

annie clarkson said...

Wonderful. So many positive things. Well done for the nomination, that is very good news. And your plan for 2010 sounds great, isn't it wonderful to have a new year/ clean sheet of paper/new folder for your writing...

Group 8 said...

Inspirational! Good luck with it all, my dear. Happy 2010!

Rachel Fenton said...

You certainly make me want to push myself harder! Woah there!

Mega congrats on your nomination - wonderful!

Thanks so much for your support this year - Happy New Year, and I know exactly what you mean about wantong to write at night (not at all sensible for me with 2 kids!) but I find when the stresses of the day have lifted and the half dreams drift in...well, it's all good stuff - hurrah for night lights!

Loree Westron said...

Congratulations on the Pushcart nomination. Very impressive indeed! Regarding old years and new years, I've just made a list of all my writing 'accomplishments' in 2009 which has actually cheered me up a bit. Of the 29 stories and articles I submitted for competitions or publication in 2009, 10 were accepted, and a number of others shortlisted for prizes. I've now made a second list of things I want to achieve in 2010. The challenge is to keep focused.

Anonymous said...

Hi Tania, I am a big fan of yours. I particularly like your book "The White Road and Other Stories". I am a college sophomore with a dual major in Physics and Mathematics @ University of California, Santa Barbara. By the way, i came across these excellent physics flash cards. Its also a great initiative by the FunnelBrain team. Amazing!!

Sue Guiney said...

Wow! Pushcart! First an Orange mention and now this. I'm so happy for you ...and proud. 2009 was a pretty big year for your in lots of ways. And I have a feeling 2010 will be even better. Lots of love and warm wishes for the new year to you and yours. xoxoxo

Tania Hershman said...

actually, it's not quite working out like that, it's not exactly about trying to get writing done before checking email, more about simplifying my life so I have the headspace and am calmer... anyhow, I am going to write another blog post about it in the next few days, how it's all coming together!

Sarah, and to you! I look forward to reading your NY resolutions!

Elisabeth - blogging versus tax? No contest!

what I've found is if I can get through the first hour after waking up without checking email, after that it gets much easier, I lose that urge. Good luck with it! And yes, will explain more about the writer-in-res, I have had to think about how it will work in order to apply for the grant.

Annie - new and clean folders make such a difference!

N - and to you too!

Rachel, ah, night lights, good idea! I will blog a bit more soon about the writing at night thing too, I guess if your kids wake you up early, it really isn't feasible.

Loree, congratulations! you've inspired me to think about doing a round-up of 2009. Yes, focus, a very big challenge.

Laura, lovely to meet you! I studied Maths and Physics too... I feel for you :) Thanks for the link, wonderful idea, will go and check them out.

Sue - thank you!!! Lots of love and wishes to you and yours too.

Happy New Year to all!