Friday, April 30, 2010

Talking Short Stories at Short Fuse With Vanessa and Dave

Time is flying by and I just realised that it's 9 days until I take part in an exciting event in Brighton:

Short Fuse

Event - 9 May 2010 - 20:00
Short Fuse, Brighton's premier short fiction cabaret showcase presents...Story Salon
Rising stars of short fiction Vanessa Gebbie, Tania Hershman and Dave Swann in conversation about the short story, its importance, its growing popularity and its possibilities as a form, with Q & A and readings.
Two talented new writers will also be featured at this event.

I'm really thrilled to be taking part - if you are anywhere nearby, come and give us your thoughts about short stories, etc... I plan to bring along some of my recent favourite collections, and to read other people's stories instead of my own, for a change! Vanessa's Words from a Glass Bubble is already one of the most prized collections on my shelf, and now I have just been introduced to Dave Swann's work, and I am devouring his collection, The Last Days of Jonny North. And looking forward to the other writers, whose identities have so far been kept from me. So - this should be a great evening!

The event is held in the gorgeous Komedia, click here for more information and to get tickets.

Sunday, April 25, 2010

Beautiful Blogger Award

It's been a while since I did one of these, so here goes. Thanks so much to Writer in the Wilderness for nominating me. OK, I am supposed to tell you 7 interesting things about me, then nominate a load more beautiful bloggers.

First, though, I have done a complete redesign of my website, - please check it out, let me know what you think! Link opens in a new window, so you can do both...

  1. My grandfather was born in Newport, Wales. The family were fleeing from pogroms in Russia in the early years of the 20th century... and somehow ended up in Wales! It has helped me not a whit in terms of entering for "Welsh-writer-only" anthologies and comps. And I've never been to Newport. Now we're not that far, we may do a day trip. No family left there anymore. 
  2. I'm going to be 40 on my next birthday, and despite being told by a kindly hairdresser many years ago that I would never go grey but "fade to a pale blonde", I have begun spotting white hairs here and there. I quite like them. Someone told me recently that I looked 13, which I really hope isn't true, so if white hairs make me distinguished, then so be it!
  3. I have a toe ring. Is that interesting? I've worn one for years. 
  4. I have a weakness for vampires which hugely predates the current fashion, and stretches back to somewhere around when the Lost Boys film came out. I may have been 13. What was it about that film? What is it about vampires?
  5. When I was a kid and I was out with my mother, I used to make her stop while I ran ahead and then she would have to pretend to be meeting me for the first time, and I would be someone entirely different. She played along with this, sensing, perhaps, the burgeoning creativity? Or just avoiding tantrums? My pretend name was just my middle name, Caroline. Not that creative, eh?
  6. I hate mornings. Hate 'em. I feel like I don't become me until around 4pm, at least. I wish society was divided into two sectors, so I didn't feel guilty about everything I might be missing from sunrise onwards.
  7. I went to a healer/clairvoyant in Ireland a few years ago who could see spirits and she told me that "someone who looks like Albert Einstein" was watching me. I asked if it could be Albert Einstein and she said yes it could and that he finds me amusing. I have had two larged framed pictures of Albert on my wall for many years, I'm glad I might be providing him with some afterlife entertainment!

I am going to nominate some new-ish blogs I've stumbled across for this award, just to give you some ideas:

Wet Rock Writing (which really is a beautiful blog)

Mira's List

Mixed Messages

Original Impulse

AL Kennedy on Writing

David Lebovitz (food, mmm...)

Robin Black

Jacqueline Nicholls (art...)

Poetry, Science and Other Tales of Writing


Sunday, April 18, 2010

Enjoying a Bristol Sun-day

It took me quite a few years in Jerusalem to get used to not having a Sunday - it's the first day of the Israeli working week. That was hard! But after 15 years, now we're back in England and yippee, a Sunday is a Sunday again! It feels like a double weekend now... and today J and I went a-wandering and a-brunching through sunny Bristol. Here are a few snaps:

This is Bristol's beautiful harbourside, it's about a 20 minute walk from our house - all uphill on the way home!

And when we came home, these two wanted their turn out in the sun...

We're off shortly to hear the local candidates give their election pitches - general & local elections on May 6th. First time I've voted in the UK for 16 years, might as well go and hear what it's all about. I hope it doesn't ruin my lovely Sunday!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

A quickie

I haven't felt much like blogging recently, not had that much to say. So this is me saying not much at all. Lovely to see everyone at the Willesden Herald event at the weekend, see Women Rule Writer and Vanessa G for pics. Huge congrats to Wena, the competition winner (read a recent interview I did with Wena here), and all the other shortlisted writers, including Women Rule Writer (aka Nuala) and Tom "How to Write a Novel" Vowler (lovely to meet you!).

I just wanted to say that I am still adding to my Ever-Growing List of UK &  Ireland Lit Mags that Publish Short Stories and as of today there are 108 publications. New ones keep cropping up. So get those stories out of your (virtual) drawer, give them a shine and send them off! Go on.

Monday, April 05, 2010

Accepting rejecting

I've finished my deliberations now for Southword and picked six stories for the summer issue. I am this year's Fiction Editor but in fact it is only this issue that I get to choose stories for, since the second issue of the year will run the winning and runner-up stories from the Sean O'Faolain competition, which I am judging. Which made my task that much harder. My one shot at choosing the fiction section of a literary journal!

To be honest, I hadn't thought it would be that hard. I thought, Ok, find the six stories that speak to me the most. But it wasn't that simple, not by any means, and I thought writing about it here might be informative in some way.

I feel extremely honoured to be asked to do this, and it gave me an invaluable glimpse at the other side of the business that we, as writers who send our work out, are involved in. As a writer I have received - and continue to receive, on a weekly if not daily basis -  many rejections from many literary magazines of all shapes, sizes and nationalities. I have also been delighted to receive acceptances, far far less of them than the rejections, but those are the odds. That's how it works. At first, each rejection really stung. I took it personally, that I had been turned away, that I wasn't good enough. Often, I was submitting entirely the wrong kinds of stories to journals - sending magical realism to a journal that only publishes traditional fiction, things like that. I naively thought I could "persuade" them with the sheer perfection of my story! But no. An editor likes what an editor likes. That was the lesson I had to learn.

I received one rejection that really stuck with me, where the editor said he had loved my flash story but that it just didn't fit with the others he was choosing for that month. If he could have, he would have designed the issue so that it did fit, but those weren't the stories he received. I liked that. I felt that it wasn't just a brush-off; after all, he didn't have to say anything, did he? A form rejection. Or, as sometimes happens, total silence.

It wasn't until I was picking the 6 Southword stories did I understand what "fitting together" meant. I wanted the stories to mean something as a whole, to say something together, not just to be great stories in their own right. I wanted to put my personal stamp on the issue. But how they would fit together isn't something I could put my finger on. Just a gut feeling.

Now, the problem was, over 180 stories were submitted, and there were more than 6 stories that spoke to me. Quite a few more. I started sending out rejection emails to the ones that didn't speak to me, a fairly kind - I hoped - sort of general rejection. But I did feel each one that I sent out, because I knew, in my gut, how it would be received. And because this was not done anonymously, some of the names were familiar to me, some were friends. That was not fun at all.

Then I held on longer to the yesses and the maybes, re-reading them, changing my mind every few days. But I had a deadline. So I had to choose. And that was really difficult.

In the end, I went with my gut. I took the plunge, and the delighted responses to my acceptances almost cancelled out the distress of having to reject 174 stories. I was rejecting the stories but even I felt I was rejecting the person. Don't hate me, I wanted to say. It's just my job. What kind of defence is that? But I couldn't even publish 10, let alone 180.

It wasn't until I had all my six that I suddenly saw how they fit together. Now, if you read the issue, you may not think they do at all. But for me, they make up something, a whole. And that turned out to be very important. I had to turn down several stories I really loved. And a whole lot more that I liked a great deal. That's the way it goes. I think I did it as best I could, but it's never going to be easy to receive the email that doesn't say "Yes! I want to publish your story".

If you've never received a rejection, odds are that you've never sent your stories anywhere at all. That is the safe way to do it. Very safe. Sending your words out there, to be read by a stranger or even a friend, to allow that person the power to accept or turn down your work, is very unsafe. It's scary. And believe me when I say to all 180 of those who submitted: I do not take that lightly. I thank you for letting me read your stories. Well done for taking that risk. 

I look forward to reading all the stories sent in by those taking that risk again, for the Sean O'Faolain competition. This time my task is easier in that it is anonymous, and I only have to choose winners, not reject anyone at all. But there will be hundreds more stories, and there will be many more that speak to me than the number I am designated to pick. It is, once again, a privilege. But afterwards - and I would not have said this before - I think I might just stick to being the one sending out my stories, happier to jump off that cliff instead.