Monday, January 31, 2011

First acceptance of 2011

I had one day in December when I got 4 rejections in 24 hours. That wasn't much fun. I can handle them one by one, but that was a bit like being whacked... and then whacked again, and again! Well, 2011 is off to a better start with the first acceptance, sneaking in just before January ended: my poem, Moss, will be published in the next issue of Alba: A Journal of Short Poetry. So, my 5th published poem, what does this mean?

I've been reading the excellent Rose Metal Press Field Guide to Prose Poetry and feeling very inspired about poems that look a little like prose but aren't. Then J and I went to the TS Eliot prize shortlistees reading and I was blown away by Simon Armitage's odd and darkly humourous pieces from Seeing Stars, and Sam Willett's poems from New Light for the Old Dark (neither of whom, sadly, won). And then I bought Jo Shapcott's Costa-winning collection, Of Mutability, which is astonishing, and which suddenly taught me something about line breaks, the power of the word chosen to end a line, the word chosen to begin the next. Wow.

So I am being beautifully bombarded (by choice) on all sides by poetry, perhaps it's no surprise when sometimes that's what comes out when I write. I am remembering that as a kid it was always easy for me to makes up rhymes to impress classmates (it was the only thing I did that did impress them - my maths skills weren't really very cool). Maybe I am tapping into something that was always there? Whatever it is, I am enjoying playing around with other forms, all other forms. I am going on an Arvon Foundation course in Writing for Radio in the summer - another form that really appeals to me - and one of the tutors is Simon Armitage, so I am very excited about that! The other is Sue Roberts, executive producer for BBC Radio Drama in the North, I am really looking forward to meeting her too.

And on that note - yes, the wonderful Sarah Salway and I are teaching an Arvon Foundation course on the short story in May, and booking is now open! We'd love to meet you...!

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Thought lab life was dull and boring? Think again!

One of the scientists at the lab I am writer-in-residence in sent this around yesterday and I think it's wonderful! It's for all of you who think science is about hard fact, about right and wrong, about automatons in lab coats who reveal the truth of existence on a daily basis. Umm, no, not quite...

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Upcoming deadlines

It's been a while since I did one of my "writers' service announcement" blog posts with some upcoming deadlines, and I am feeling pretty congested today and not up to anything more thoughtful, so here are some places to send your very talented short stories (and the odd poem). Good luck!

Hippocrates Prize for Poetry and Medicine contest deadline Jan 31st.
£5000  1st prize , £1000  2nd prize, £ 500  3rd prize, 20 commended entries £50. "‘Medical’ is to be interpreted in the widest sense, including the nature of the body, and anatomy; the history, evolution, current and future state of medical science; the nature and experience of tests; the experience of doctors, nurses and other staff in hospitals and in the community; the experience of patients, families, friends and carers in these situations; the experiences of acute and long-term illness and dying, of birth, of cure and convalescence; the patient journey; the nature and experience of treatment with herbs, chemicals and devices used in medicine". Entry maximum of 50 lines not including title or blank lines. Entry fee £6, entry online or by post. Open to all. 

Orlando Prize contest deadline Jan 31st. (women only)
poetry (90 lines), creative non-fiction (4000words), short fiction (4000 words) & Flash fiction(1000 words). £1000 1st prize in each category .Entry fee $15. Women only. Online entry only. 

Readers' Digest 100 Word Story competition deadline Jan 31st
£5000 1st prize in each category. Entries should be an original, previously unpublished story of exactly 100 words (excluding title). There is no limit to the number of entries you can make. No entry fee. Online entry only. 

Lumen/Camden Poetry Competition deadline  feb 14th
£5000 1st prize in each category Poems up to 40 lines. £2.50 per poem, 6 poems £10. Poetry must not be previously published. Judge: Carol Ann Duffy, Poet Laureate. Proceeds to the Cold Weather Shelter. Pamphlet publication collection of winner's poems - 50 free copies plus a reading. 

Binnacle Ultra-Short Story deadline Feb 15th
"We are looking for prose works of 150 words or fewer and poetry of sixteen lines or fewer and fewer than 150 words. All works should have a narrative element to them.  Please include the work in the body of the email message, if possible. A minimum of $300 in cash prizes will be awarded, with a minimum prize of $50.  Please submit no more than two works total, prose and/or poetry." No entry fee. Online entry only. 

Vestal Review Ten Years in Flash Fiction contest deadline Feb 28th (extended)
£100  1st prize, 2nd prize £ 50. Guest judge Steve Almond will award the first prize of $100, the second prize of $50, and the third prize a signed copy of Mark Budman's novel “My Life at First Try” [I interviewed mark about his fabulous "novel-in-flash" here] and publication in Vestal Review. Results will be announced at Vestal Review website on or about March 1, 2011.Entry fee $4. Open to all. Online entry only.  

Redivider Journal First Annual Fiction Contest deadline March 1st
1st prize: $1000 +publication; 2nd prize: $250; 3rd prize: $100. Max word count 8000. Entry fee is $15 and includes a one year subscription to Redivider. Open to all. Online or postal entry.  

Fish Publishing One Page Story Prize deadline March 20th
1st prize:  €1000 +publication; 9 runners up published in anthology. Max word count 300.Entry fee is €14 online or  €16 postal entry. Open to all

Bristol Short Story Prize deadline March 31st [I am one of the judges] 
PRIZE MONEY HAS DOUBLED THIS YEAR! 1st prize: £1000 +£150 Waterstone's Gift Card: 2nd prize: £700 + £100 Waterstone's Gift Card; 3rd prize: £ 400 + £100 Waterstone's Gift Card; 17 finalists £100. Max word count 3000, no minimum. Entry fee £7. Open to all. Online or postal entry.  

The Collagist 2011 Chapbook Contest deadline April 15th
1st prize: publication by Dzanc Books, plus $250 and 25 author copies; 2 Honorable mentions, possible publication. Entries will be accepted in all genres, including short stories, flash fiction, novellas, poetry, and non-fiction. Manuscripts for all genres should be between 35 and 80 pages in length. Previously-published excerpts or individual pieces are acceptable as part of your entry, but the manuscript as a whole must be unpublished. Entry fees: $15:; $20: Includes contest entry fee plus a copy of the winning chapbook (only available to U.S. entrants) Includes contest entry fee only. Open to all except relatives, close friends, and former students of the judge, Matt Bell.

Addendum: A few more!
Treehouse Press Three-in-One Chapbook Contest deadline March 15th

First, second and third prize winners will each be published in a chapbook by Treehouse Press in September 2011. Winners will receive £100, £75 and £50 respectively, as well as 20 copies of their chapbook. Each entry must contain 3 short stories by the same author (between 10,000 and 15,000 words in total). Winning entries will each have their own chapbook published. Stories can be in any genre. We welcome experimental work, cross−genre work, work that combines text and image, graphic short stories (ie. comics). Treehouse Press will not select winning entries based on race, sex, gender identity, sexuality, religion, age, nationality, physical ability, or geographic location. Quality of work is what we're looking for, as well as work that reflect our ethos.. Entry fees: £10/$15. Open to all.

Short FICTION's short story competition, deadline is 30th April
First prize £500. Word limit is 6,000. Judge: Gerard Donovan. Here's the link. Open to writers at any stage of their career, so ones with books out too. Entry fee: 2 stories for £10, which includes copy of the journal's next issue (which costs £10).

Sunday, January 16, 2011

New Rules for Writers

Thanks to Twitter, I came across this thought-provoking article by Anis Shivani called
"New Rules For Writers: Ignore Publicity, Shun Crowds, Refuse Recognition And More". This is what he has the fabulous temerity to suggest: on the Huffington Post,
These "rules" totally go against every prescription for writing success you'll hear as a young writer from all quarters: the conformity-driven MFA system, the publishing industry's hype-machine, successful writers who act either like prima donnas or untouchable mystics, the marketing experts who seek to impose advertising rules on the writing product. Overpaid editors, illiterate agents, arrogant gatekeepers, and stupid reviewers want you to bargain away your soul for a pittance -- the bids in the market escalate downward, a reverse auction where you compete with the lowest of the low to be acknowledged as an entity that counts.
Why take part in the game at all? Who has ever come out of it alive, able to set up tent and build followers on the other side? Why not accept the reality that writers aren't forged in social harmony and peer input and obedient fellowship, but in a region where madmen and insomniacs find no comfort? To get you started on a regimen designed to pull you away from the mother-teat of the writing industry, here are the ten commandments:
His 10 Commandments include such words of wisdom (and I really mean that) as: "Disobey the System. The system--from the MFA program to that fat-ass editor sitting in glorious judgment over your manuscript--will never reward originality. So fuck it!...Once you're on everyone's shit list, then your mind will open up--visions you never thought possible, leaps of imagination, idle curiosity revving up into high gear--knowing that no one will ever be pleased by anything you write" and "Seek Unemployment.... Find ways to be unemployed, doing nothing, finding enough time on your hands, after you've met your basic needs, to wander into unknown realms of thought and imagination."

These really are excellent "rules", I'm tempted to print them out and stick 'em above my desk. I do take issue with his one rule about only reading dead writers ("Treat every contemporary with dire suspicion, until they stand they test of time--and most of them won't, you'll see. Read no one living with attention and gratitude, unless they've proven themselves in relation to your eternal touchstones.") That seems a little much. And we'll turn a blind eye to Mr Shivani's website, which is an excellent example of the evil publicity he is cautioning writers against indulging in!

But there's a lot of common sense in here. I will leave you with: 
Don't Pursue a Niche. You're told, in every dimension of life, find a niche, find your own little corner, and become really good at it. Find that unique voice of yours, stemming from your involuntary pain and pleasure, find it and hold on to it and dispense it with greater and greater intensity until the end of your writing life. Don't do it. Be all over the place. The only way to expand the boundaries of your art is if you recognize no specialties. Try your hand at things you're sure you'll fail at. Find the most ludicrous, nonsensical, absurd ventures to spend/waste your time at, and you'll discover unforeseeable payoffs. 
Yes. I like that. Read the whole article here.

Friday, January 14, 2011

Lit mags in the UK & ireland

For those who are new to this blog, I just wanted to let you know that I have just updated my Ever-Growing List of Uk & Ireland Literary Magazines that published short stories... we're up to 117 now, although a few have shut down since I began keeping the list. If you go to the blog post, you can download a PDF of the updated list too. And see the Addendum - good news, the Best of British Short Stories has been resurrected by my publisher, Salt, and Nicholas Royle is at the moment compiling the stories, the book will be published in April!

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

The Perfect Egg in Nature

I'm delighted to have a short story in the Futures section of the venerable science magazine Nature this week - it's just gone online today and is in the print issue which I believe comes out tomorrow. It's called The Perfect Egg,  and it was sort of my first real attempt to write science fiction. Yes, some of the short stories in my book might be kind of SF-ish, but that wasn't my aim when I was writing them. Nature Futures is "a forum for the best new science-fiction writing, exploring some of the themes that might challenge us as the future unfold" and I never expected to get my first submission to them accepted. This story seems a bit different from the other Futures stories I have read, so I am delighted to have made it - and rather thrilled that in their email to me they addressed me as "Dr Hershman"! (Don't worry, I put them straight on that...) Anyway, comments can be left on the online version, should you feel moved to! (No pressure). Read it here.

Tuesday, January 04, 2011

Eureka moments turned into fiction

So, my first publication of 2011! Comma Press are doing something very close to my heart: commissioning fiction writers to be inspired by "eureka" moments in science across various disciplines, pairing them up with a scientist, and asking them produce short stories that explore this concept which will be published in an anthology in May.

Being commissioned is both wonderful and fairly scary. First, there was quite a detailed brief for this project. And second, it had to be a minimum of 2500 words. For someone like me who hasn't written anything over 1500 for 3 years, that was like asking me to write a novel (ok, not quite, but fairly daunting!)

 Transgenic tadpoles expressing Green Fluorescent Protein

Well, I managed it by approaching it as a set of short short fictions, and got to 2500, just... And the result, We Are All Made of Protein but Some Of Us Glow More Than Others, is inspired by the discovery of Green Fluorescent Protein (GFP), which has transformed molecular biology, as I have learned well from the biochemistry lab I am writer-in-residence in and from Nicholas Love, the researcher in the Amaya Lab at Manchester University that I was paired with. GFP allows a researcher to see inside a living organism in real time. It's amazing, as the pic above from his lab shows...

You can read my story here and Nicholas' afterword here. And there are more stories on the Comma site, for physics, chemistry and neuroscience, written by, among others, Annie Clarkson, Stella Duffy and Kate Clanchy. This is very exciting, I'm delighted to be involved...!