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1. Why Plot Focus is Important in Picture Books and Short Stories

Writing Instruction Video

As I have worked with various beginning picture book authors, a common problem that a lot of them run into is difficulty in conveying what their story is really about or going off in to many directions. Creative writing instructors in school may run into a similar problem when they assign students to write short stories. This writing instruction video on picture book plot addresses this issue.

If you enjoyed or found this writing instruction video useful, please share it with others. Thanks.

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2. The Weekend Writer: Interested In Writing For Magazines?

Writing a novel is the gold ring of publishing. But realistically speaking, you might want to start out by writing something more manageable, something for magazines. How do you get started writing for magazines?  According to The Renegade Writer, you start writing for magazines by reading them.

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3. #NoiseforNess Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness Giveaway

It’s no surprise I’m a huge Patrick Ness fan. In the past I’ve written about how inspiring his work is as well as the time when I was actually able to meet him in person. I’ve also reviewed quite a few of his books:

The Knife of Never Letting Go
The Ask and the Answer
Monsters of Men
A Monster Calls

I’ve also interviewed the narrator for the audiobooks, Nick Podehl, whom is a personal favorite of mine. The way that Nick narrates The Knife of Never Letting Go will turn any non-audiobook fan into a audiobook listener for life. He’s brilliant!

Chaos Walking paperback

So when the publisher, Candlewick Press, reached out to me to offer a giveaway featuring the newly designed paperback covers for The Chaos Walking series I couldn’t resist. Not only do I love the redesign, but it also reminds me a bit of the UK edition that I love. Also, they’ve added additional content to each book! Each paperback includes a short story that was only previously available in eBook format. Candlewick has really done an excellent job with this new edition and I’m thrilled to have a full set to giveaway to one There’s A Book reader!

Giveaway!

Thanks to the wonderful people at Candlewick Press I have ONE FULL SET of this new edition of The Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness which also includes a bonus short story within each book! Be sure to enter using the rafflecopter form below and be aware that this one is for US and Canadian residents only.

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Find the new paperback edition of The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness at the following spots:
Amazon | Barnes & Noble | Powell’s Books | Indiebound | Book Depository | Goodreads | ISBN10/ISBN13: 0763676187 / 9780763676186

Thank you so much to the publisher, Candlewick Press, for providing a copy of this book for review! Connect with them on Twitter, Google+ and on Facebook!
Purchasing products by clicking through the links in this post will provide us a modest commission through our various affiliate relationships.

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Original article: #NoiseforNess Chaos Walking series by Patrick Ness Giveaway

©2014 There's A Book. All Rights Reserved.

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4. Out Soon On Kindle!

Final editing underway then ‘Unlucky For Some’ will be released on Kindle. Here you will find 13 short, macabre, Twist in the Tale stories better read with the light on, and not alone. You have been warned. This book is definitely NOT for children. Watch this space…

Unlucky For Some_Final

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5. The Narrative Arcade: On Vikram Chandra's "Artha"


Vikram Chandra's collection of interconnected stories, Love and Longing in Bombay, is a book I had thought of writing about in some detail, but I'm afraid time is not on my side with that, and a number of other writing projects need attention. One story I managed to make some notes on is "Artha", and here are those notes, in case some thoughts on the story are useful to someone else...

In thinking about Love and Longing in Bombay, I’m going to start by grasping some tiny pieces within the wholes, and see what I can do with them.

First, a single story, and a single page of that story, and not the words but the blank space.

The story: “Artha”. The page: 165 of the 1998 Back Bay Books paperback edition.

The two blank spaces between narrators and their narratives.

The first narrative is the introduction common to all of the stories, a frame that remains mysterious until “Shanti”, the final story. If we assume, as I think we can, that the narrator of the introductions is the same in each of the stories, then his name is Ranjit Sharma.

The second narrative is that spoken by Subramaniam, who has been the putative narrator (storyteller) of the previous tales within the frame.

But “Artha” becomes distinctive with the next blank space, for here we are ushered into yet another story, that told by “the young man” to Subramaniam. The young man’s name is Iqbal. He will be the narrator for the remainder of the tale.

Another item of distinction: after each blank space, the speaker is identified within parentheses. Previously, there has been no need for this. Now, though, there must be no mistake. Is the reason that there is a story-within-the-story? Possibly, but I’m not convinced of that, because the transitions into the tales are no more confusing than those in previous parts of the book, and the multiple embedded stories in the only remaining tale, “Shanti”, are, arguably, more confusing and do not have such clear, interrupting markers.

Let’s return to the idea of the blank space for a moment. Printers, or so I’ve been told, call these spaces “slugs”. I like the positive sense of that, rather than the negative of blank space. Slugs are an insertion, a something. Slugs disrupt the text from within — they give it order and shape by signaling some unspoken drift, thus taming what would otherwise be a jarring slip, an incoherence, by making it visible. The slug is a sign: Mind the gap.

Once we’ve minded that gap, though, we get a stutter in the story: “(Subramaniam said)”, “(the young man said)”. I shall now indulge in a moment of paranoid reading: Are these stutters a distancing technique inspired by the über-narrator’s fear of being mistaken for a homosexual? The parenthetical speech tags are unnecessary; they are excessive intrusions, and, unless my memory and notes are failing me, the only such intrusions into embedded narratives anywhere in a book comprised of embedded narratives. (The most complex such embeddings are achieved in “Shanti” via typographical changes — separated visually from the main text, but without their own text interrupted.)

We should note, though, that even if we assume that the parenthetical speech tags are motivated by the über-narrator’s fear-laden desire to distance himself from any perception of being a/the homosexual man, the insertion of “(the young man said)” puts those words within the homosexual text. Ranjit’s words enter Subramaniam’s story, and then Subramaniam’s words enter Iqbal’s. All of these words are part of one text, “Artha”, that is part of a larger text, Love and Longing in Bombay. The attempt to create distance from the homosexual narration has, paradoxically, done exactly the opposite. It is not the homosexual narration that desires separation, but the heterosexist; the heterosexist narration’s effort to separate and distance itself has placed it within the homosexual narration.

(Now would be the time — this would be the space — to discuss mimicry and postcolonialism. I am not going to do so. Instead, consider this paragraph a slug.)

Walter Benjamin wants to get into the conversation. Here he is, via Mark Jackson:
The arcade [says Jackson] acted as a spectacular landscape that opened up the city as an illusory, sleepy, standstill world of the phantasmagoria, while at the same time, in the form of the more intimate and decided ambiguous, street-but-not-street of the arcade, it closed around the modern subject as if a room, reassuring with “felt knowledge” (Benjamin, 1999, p. 880) intuitive semblances of domestic wish fulfillment. (39)
The idea of the arcade as street-but-not-street could be extended to the idea of Love and Longing in Bombay as an arcade, a book of x-but-not-x. How do we solve for that x? Can we locate an “illusory, sleepy, standstill world of the phantasmagoria” within the book? For Jackson-via-Benjamin, commodities are phantasmagoric, and “phantasmagoria” is a quality of mystification and even misrecognition: “Desired and consumable things, they embodied and thus represented, dreamt wish images of futurity, and, at the same time, the imminent (and immanent) undoing of that indwelling mythic aspiration” (38)

Must phantasmagoria always be mystifying? Is mystification itself always undesirable?

I would like to keep open the question of phantasmagoria’s usefulness, for as a mode of fantasy it should (shouldn’t it?) possess some of the power of fantasy to reveal structures and discourses of desire otherwise inaccessible.

Is it meaningful to suggest that the insertions of speech tags into the narrations of “Artha” are traces of phantasmagoric desire? That the otherness of Iqbal — located not only in his sexual identity, but his name, which indicates religion — is itself desired. But desired how? To what end? Perhaps the cosmopolitanism of the post-colonial/post-modern city, the place where identities can flow into each other, where mimicry and fantasy themselves create identities (for, after all, isn’t identity without any trace of mimicry and fantasy illegible?). Iqbal as we receive him is not Iqbal, but rather the voice of Iqbal mediated through the voice of Subramaniam mediated through the voice of Ranjit, and all of which is constructed by Chandra.

The arcade of voices, the phantasmagoria of identification.

For Iqbal, religious difference can be dismissed “in one smile” (198) if desire is present. Perhaps that is what the inserted speech tags, and their paradoxes, suggest. The simultanous desire not to be mistaken for a homosexual and to be part of the narrative of the homosexual.

To walk the arcade.

To fantasize.

To be present without losing identity.

To smile.

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6. How well do you know short stories?

By Maggie Belnap


Short stories populate many childhoods, with the aim to instill morals and virtues in undeveloped and wandering minds. Whether it’s the tale of Rumpelstiltskin or the Boy Who Cried Wolf, these tales make a powerful impression. Take our short stories quiz, based off of Oscar Wilde’s The Complete Short Stories and The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, 2nd ed, edited by Joyce Carol Oates, and see if you really know your short stories.

Scene on the Hudson (Rip Van Winkle) by James Hamilton. Public Domain, via Wikimedia Commons

Your Score:  

Your Ranking:  

Maggie Belnap is a Social Media Intern at Oxford University Press. She attends Amherst College.

The Complete Short Stories by Oscar Wilde is edited by John Sloan. He is Fellow and Tutor in English, Harris Manchester College, Oxford. The Oxford Book of American Short Stories, 2nd ed, is edited by Joyce Carol Oates. Oates is the National Book Award-winning author of over fifty novels, including bestsellers We Were the Mulvaneys, Blonde, and The Gravedigger’s Daughter. She is the Roger S. Berlind Distinguished Professor of the Humanities at Princeton University.

Oscar Wilde is the author of “The Happy Prince,” “The Fisherman and His Soul,” “The Nightengale and the Rose,” “The Star Child,” and “The Young King.” Washington Irving is the author of “Rip Van Winkle.” James Baldwin is the author of “Sonny’s Blues.”

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The post How well do you know short stories? appeared first on OUPblog.

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7. Review: Lo que trae la marea. Stanford book choice. Mail Bag.


Xánath Caraza. Lo que trae la marea / What the tide brings. Translated by Sandra Kingery, Stephen Holland-Wempe, and Xánath Caraza. El Paso, Texas : Mouthfeel Press, 2013.
ISBN: 0984426884 9780984426881

Michael Sedano

I reshelved the paperback, The World’s Great Short Stories, satisfied that this 1960s era collection, from my English major years in a pre-homicidal Isla Vista, still had moxie. I love old gems like “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” “Big Blonde,” de Maupassant in translation. In fact, nostalgic pangs rose for Bocaccio, Chaucer, the whole shebang of Euro-United Statesian belles lettres, until I shook off looking back. Instead, I picked up a copy of Xánath Caraza’s bilingual collection Lo que trae la marea What the Tide Brings. Welcome to the future.

Lo que trae la marea What the Tide Brings makes important contribution to understanding America’s contemporary literary environment. Written in Spanish and translated by a team including the author, the collection of Spanish-then-English stories doesn’t carve out readership so much as it opens markets on both sides of the nation’s and continent’s language frontera.

The publisher’s location in Spanglish-speaking El Paso positions Mouthfeel Press to ride the swell of a rising tide of books that take in the two dominant American readerships in a single volume. Such are few, but with publishers challenged to find new markets, chicana writers like Caraza-- a Mexicana who lives in Missouri—offer rich possibilities. Simultaneous translation welcomes monolinguals of either idiom while enriching a bilingual’s literary choices.

The quality of Caraza’s 17 stories--34 in all, counting both languages--already has bloguera Caraza on numerous “best of” prize rosters. Xánath Caraza is the Monday La Bloga columnist, alternating with Daniel Olivas. Watch Xánath’s columns for updates on myriad nominations and honors coming to rest on Caraza’s mantle.

Lo que trae la marea What the Tide Brings features its Spanish-language version, followed by English. Language learners will appreciate an opportunity to flip from page to page to catch nuances in ways language works across meaning. Examples of these enrich the experience of each language’s expressive resources. The collection is rich in small triumphs of translation that add texture to one’s enjoyment.

A vivid example occurs in “After the Bridges.” A busy office slows down. Occupants notice the absence of noise. In English, silence intrudes on the natural order of the world of work:
“She knew that the end of the day was approaching because the pace was gradually slowing down. As the minutes went by, silence encroached upon them until almost no one,” 116

In Spanish, silence offers a return to normal:
“Supo que el final del día se estaba acercando porque poco a poco el ritmo se fue haciendo más lento. Por cada minuto que pasaba el silencio fue acrecentándose hasta que casí nadie,” 110

The difference between crecer and encroach elicits cultural approaches to workplaces. In Spanish,
silence enlarges naturally, evoking Boyle’s law that silence expands to fill the space where it belongs. In English, silence kicks down the door and takes over.

Among the highlights of the collection are Caraza’s masterful synaesthesia skills, exhibited in story after story. In “After the Bridges” the worker enjoys a cup of coffee accompanied by taste, smell, touch, color, vision, hearing:

“The next morning, as she took the first sip of coffee, she closed her eyes and inhaled the aroma of coffee with cardamom from her ceramic cup. With the first sip, she heard the sound of marimbas in the distance. With the second sip, the turquoise sky over the town square of La Antigua and its lush green trees materialized in her mind. Another sip of coffee and the candy vendors in the town square offered her white milk candy and shredded coconut sweets dyed pink.”117

In Lo que trae la marea / What the tide brings, Xánath Caraza puts together a fast-moving collection, varying the pace spacing one- and two-page pieces between more extended 5- or ten page stories. Each comes self-contained, no need to look for links from story to story. Each reads quickly, allowing the writer to sneak up on readers, leaving a reader leafing back a few paragraphs to confirm a detail, or to savor the synaesthesia of a moment, and especially to savor the magic that permeates nearly every story.

Among the most interesting of the puro magic stories is the sensual, “Café On Huanjue Xiang Street.” A woman wanders into a basement coffee den, the solitary customer. She drinks in the ambiente and passes out. When she comes to, the place is filled with stolid gente ignoring her. This key scene illustrates the skill Caraza weaves her magic pluma:

“She remained very attentive to the small blue flame that contrasted with the red, airy atmosphere of the place. She waited until the blue flame was extinguished while the coffee aroma penetrated her nose. She introduced the spoon into the black fluid, and as the sugar touched the coffee, a spirit emerged from the cup. The spirit wrapped around her in a smoky spiral. It traversed her, lightly touched her nipples and sex until she lost consciousness.” 128

Writers will take a lot of pleasure from the magic when a writer meets a mysterious stranger who hands her a book. Inside, the writer finds the finished story she has only drafted in her notebook. She reads it to find out how it comes out. Then there’s the teacher’s lament about the copier, how it transfers the teacher’s identity to the page and when the student answers the question the teacher feels each pen stroke on each of the hundred copies she ran through the copy machine. Caraza even gets in an hommage to Bierce’s “An Occurrence at Owl Creek Bridge,” in her “Flower in the Mist.”

Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings is not to be missed. A woman’s point of view, in the two dominant American languages, this book is the future of United States literature. It’s not a secret, it’s demographics. Salvation for American publishing means make the books American, like Lo que trae la marea/What the Tide Brings.


Stanford Book Club Choice: Give It To Me


Southern California Stanford Latina Latino Alumni Book Club meets regularly for company, food, and excellent discussions of a book by a Chicana Chicano Latina Latino writer.

The August 24, 2014 selection is Ana Castillo's Give It To Me.

The group meets at 1:00 p.m. in Monrovia, California. Click here for information.



Mail Bag
Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference Discount Ends

Early bird discount deadline 6/1: 

La Bloga friend Marcela Landrés reminds writers of the Fall conference on the East Coast. Marcela sends datos:

The 3rd Annual Comadres and Compadres Writers Conference will provide Latino writers with access to published Latino authors as well as agents and editors who have a proven track record of publishing Latino books. We invite you to join us this year as a sponsor, advertiser, and/or attendee.

WHEN: Saturday, September 27, 2014

WHERE: Medgar Evers College, Brooklyn, NY

WHO: Esmeralda Santiago, author of the New York Times best-seller Conquistadora, will serve as keynote speaker. Panelists include: Meg Medina, author of Yaqui Delgado Wants to Kick Your Ass; Johanna Castillo, Vice President & Senior Editor, Atria/Simon & Schuster; and Jeff Ourvan, Literary Agent, Jennifer Lyons Literary Agency. For more details regarding the conference program, visit http://lascomadres.com/latinolit/latino-writers-conference/ 

Mail Bag
Troncoso Updates Truth

La Bloga friend Sergio Troncoso wants gente to know about the recent edition of his novel. Here's Sergio's email:

Dear Friends:

I am delighted to let you know that a revised and updated edition of my novel, The Nature of Truth, is now available in paperback for the first time (Arte Publico Press, 2014). I hope you will consider reading it. I wrote the novel because I loved that mix of philosophy and literature in writers like Dostoyevsky, Sartre, Camus, and Kafka, and also because I wanted to expand the literary terrain of Latino writers. I made some important changes in the plot and tightened the language, which I think makes this edition a better experience for readers.

Helmut Sanchez, a research assistant at Yale, discovers that his boss, a renowned professor, hides a Nazi past. By chance Helmut discovers an old letter written decades ago, which absolves Germany and Austria of any guilt for the Holocaust. As he digs into the origins of who wrote the letter, Helmut discovers it could be his boss, Werner Hopfgartner. Helmut travels to Austria and Italy with his girlfriend, Ariane Sassolini, in his quest to find the truth about Hopfgartner's past. Meanwhile, Professor Regina Neumann is determined to make Hopfgartner pay for his many sexual liaisons with undergraduate and graduate students. What will Helmut do with the awful truth he discovers? Will Werner Hopfgartner ever face justice for his past or present transgressions? Ultimately, what is the nature of truth?

Here is an interview I did with Maria Hinojosa on National Public Radio's Latino USA:
http://sergiotroncoso.podomatic.com/entry/2014-04-22T04_40_46-07_00

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8. FOODFIC: Shards & Ashes - Melissa Marr, Kelley Armstrong, and More!

https://www.goodreads.com/book/show/14811468-shards-and-ashes



Asking me as a writer to choose one short story from an anthology to blog about it almost as difficult as asking me as a parent to name my favorite child! So let me begin by saying that since this collection brings together the work of pretty much every big writer in YA today, every piece is terrific.

That being said, I chose to focus on Corpse Eaters by Melissa Marr, not so much for the obvious reasons (her name headlining the cover plus the “eat” right there in the title), but because I haven’t yet read her Wicked Lovely series.*

Now, since the stories from authors whose books I’ve read previously – Margaret Stohl, Veronica Roth, Kelley Armstrong  – were written in their recognizable styles, I do feel like I have a good idea now of how Marr writes as well. And it’s gruesome. Or might I say gruesomely good. Because the detail is so fine that it will both put you right into the middle of the scene, as well as reclaim your senses hours later.

Here, let me show you:
In Eaters, there’s a vat for storing bodies that “[looks] remarkably like a cross between an aquarium and one of the coffee dispensers at every church dinner [Harmony] remembered.” Can you see it? Horrific, right? But that’s not what I found to be the most disturb/gusting thing in the story.

No, I awarded that honor when I read how Harmony and Chris came to be partners in the war against the Nidos (devotees of the new god on Earth, Nidhogg), and I got a glimpse into Chris’s back-story:
The fourth [bottle] had a good inch of liquid – hopefully gin – in it. Unfortunately, it also had a cigarette butt floating in it. He paused, shrugged, and lifted the bottle to his lips.

Blech! That moment is so clear on so many sensory levels – sight, touch, taste – that there is no doubt that this character was devastated by the loss of his first partner. Yup, if we were playing Meta-Me and the prompt was “rock bottom,” Marr would absolutely be the uncontested winner.

Of course, there are many other facets to the story – action, love, family dysfunction, dystopia – told with equal detail, but none resonated more strongly with me than that foul taste. I mean, even the dead corpses floating in giant serving vessels I could get past – maybe because they were unreal to get to me. But I can too easily feel exactly what an old soggy Marlboro stub sloshing around in a mouthful of gin would feel like. And I. Just. Can’t. Sooo awful…ly well-written. ;)


*I read awhile back that Wicked Lovely had been optioned for film and, whenever that happens, I try to hold off on the book until close to the movie premiere to best compare them. However, in this case, I’m still not seeing production schedule or predicted release date, so I may have to just start reading. ;)

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9. Past Perfect Sheena Wilkinson

I have a secret other career.

Though I’m most known – insofar as I’m known at all – as a writer of contemporary YA, I have since 2006 (four years before my first novel was published) been writing, and publishing, short stories for adults, mostly historical, almost all about World War One or its aftermath. 

Now I’m having the chance to combine my two great writing passions – realistic YA and historical fiction – as I have a story included in Walker’s forthcoming anthology The Great War (pub. 3 July 2014). All the stories are inspired by actual artefacts, and my story, ‘Each Slow Dusk’, is inspired by a collection of 1914-19 school magazines, from the school where I taught for nineteen years. I curated an exhibition based on these magazines in 2004, so in a way this story has been ten years in the making.
school magazines from WW1 

 I fictionalised details of the school’s war effort, foregrounding the experience (often overlooked in war literature) of a schoolgirl, sixteen-year-old Edith, whose dreams of higher education are shattered when she has to leave school to care for her older brother, invalided out of the army with rheumatism. It’s very like the rest of my World War 1 stories, apart from the fact that the main character and the intended readership are younger.

Historical fiction always produces tension between wanting to evoke the period so that it comes alive for the reader, but not recreating it so systematically that it lapses into pastiche. The story must work as modern fiction, so it has to feel fresh, especially to a teen reader, who is likely to baulk at anything that feels worthy or schooly. This was a big challenge for me: there are no battles, no gore; the story takes place in a single day in a Belfast suburb. How could I make duty and quiet desperation interesting to a modern teenager?
music from the period

Unlike the intended readership, who are likely to have a prolonged period of young adulthood, the teenage characters in ‘Each Slow Dusk’ are children at school one minute and adults the next – not only leading men into battle, but, in Edith’s case, taking an adult caring role. Notions of duty are much more pronounced than they would be today, and Edith seems both older and younger than a modern sixteen year old.  How could I make her voice and choices accessible to a modern teen reader without compromising the sensibilities of the 1917 narrator?

In trying to evoke the Zeitgeist of 1917 I was scrupulous, but not heavy-handed, about period detail, and about ensuring these details are used only when it is natural to do so – when it would be equally natural to mention them in a story set in modern times, rather than have them come blazing signs shouting Period Detail. Being a geek, getting every detail exactly right matters to me, but accuracy isn’t always enough. In ‘Each Slow Dusk’ Edith and her friend Maud pass notes in class, and in one note they use the @ symbol – Meet you @ break. I spent some time checking that this sign was in common usage in 1917, and was pleased to find that it was. I liked the fact that it looks so modern, and hoped it would be one of the many small details to help bring 1917 alive for my reader. My editor agreed – but in the end the @ sign had to go. Why? Because, although I and my editor knew it was correct, it was flagged up at the copy-editing and proofing stages as looking anachronistic. And it only takes one little detail to break the reader’s trust in you. On the night before we went to print, @ was replaced by at.

I once started to read a novel set in the thirties, where the characters’ sexual attitudes were anachronistically modern. When they gathered round a television to watch the coronation of George VI, I flung the book away in disgust, saying ‘Wrong coronation! Can’t even get that right!’ Later I discovered that it was technically possible, if highly unusual, to have watched the 1937 coronation on television, but by getting the tone wrong in other areas, the writer had compromised my trust. Once that compact between writer and reader is broken, all the accurate period detail in the world will not restore it.

the first in Wilson's excellent Victorian series 
I’ve been thinking a lot about historical fiction recently. I’ve just finished Bring Up the Bodies, where Mantel established that trust so confidently that she could have told me anything about the 1530s and I’d have believed her. Last month I blogged about temporarily abandoning an academic paper in favour of a week’s uninterrupted first-draft scribbling: that paper was a chapter about Jacqueline Wilson’s Victorian novels for a forthcoming Casebook study of Wilson. It’s now finished and submitted, and the whole process was invaluable to me, even though it kept me away from my real work for weeks on end. I loved the Hetty Feather books, and thought Wilson dealt deftly with all the tensions I’ve noted above. This week I’m coming back to the present, for a big edit of my next novel. Set in 2014. I hope I get the details right.


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10. Review: The Complete Western Stories of Elmore Leonard

9780061242922Elmore Leonard is known for his fantastic crime novels and his cool, crisp dialogue but he started out writing westerns way back in the 1950s. This collections showcases his western short stories and his immense talent as a writer.

I think it is easy to pass Elmore Leonard off as a writer of crime novels that have been turned into countless films and television adaptations but you would only do that at your own peril. Yes Elmore Leonard has become known for a few of his own tropes; brilliant dialogue, idiotic crooks, plots involving schemes that unravel and precise prose but these tropes fit the crime genre perfectly. Reading Leonard in another genre shows a completely different side to his writing and I think in many ways it is even better.

The Western genre is of course the precursor to the modern American crime novel. The lines between right and wrong are blurred by lawlessness and greed but there are still heroes and villains, both of which are not easily decipherable which makes for very interesting characters. The landscape has more significance and there is a minefield of politics to explore; post-Civil War, race, slavery, Native Americans, immigration, government, Mexico. Issues still alive and kicking today.

In many ways Elmore Leonard’s crime novels are more Westerns than mysteries. His favourite hero/protagonist is often a US Marshall and that is directly born from his western stories. What I found most interesting about Leonard’s western writing was that he explored more themes. His western stories are much more political than his crime novels. Dialogue also takes a back seat, or more correctly his dialogue becomes more prominent in his later writing. This maybe because he was still learning his craft but I suspect it is more reflective of the understated nature of the western genre. Leonard is also much more descriptive in his western writing and again I think this is because there is more significance on the landscape in the genre. Which only proves, even in his early days, Leonard was a master writer who knew his craft like few other writers.

Buy the book here…

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11. From the short story: The Boy In The Leaves by J.D. Holiday

The Boy In The Leaves


from Short Stories and Other Imaginings for The Reading Spot


by J.D. Holiday


All Rights Reserved


Copyright 2014 by J.D. Holiday
The Boy  In The Leaves B&W FINISHEDFinal 3-25-13  JDHOLIDAY


A small boy laid there, motionless. Unlike the leaves around him he lay undisturbed by the wind gust.


Max stepped away. It was just a little kid. He looked asleep, his dark skinwas a shade of blue and purple, almost translucent. Thin parchment spanning a fragile frame.


The boy wore black jeans and an orange T-shirt with a ‘Save The Oceans’ logo across his chest. A crusted gash was on his forehead. Any time now he’d move, open his eyes and jump up, laughing.


“He’s dead,” Tony said again, this time contemptuously, his eyes wells of tears.


Max’s chest felt crushed like the time he’d fallen on his back from the school yardjungle gym and he couldn’t pull air in. He managed to say, “Maybe he’s not.”


Tony shook his head. “The little piss head. Dumb shit! He didn’t do whathe should have and now he’s dead. Stupid kid!”


Max stared at the kid. For a moment he sawTonylying in the boy’s place.Max choked. “He’s sick or something.” He hedged closer and squatted down, hesitantly touching the boy’s face. The skin was unusually cold, and the cheek dented in easily, like clay. Max jumped back falling on his backside.


“He’s dead. Can’t you see that cut on his head? They smashed him with something.Hard!” Richie loudly told him, his hands clutched at his side.


“No. Maybe it was an accident. Or a car hit him.”


“Grow up, Max. It happens,”Tony said softly now, grabbing Max’s sleeveand jerking him to his feet. “We have to tell.”


On his feet again, Max let Tony continue pulling him toward his own house. At the front door Tony using his key, lead Max inside.


They softly moved through the silent house to the kitchen in back, bright light from the many windows illuminating their way. Nothing was ever out of place there. Alwaysa bleachy smell in the air as if someone wiped off everything to disinfect and kill all the germs before they contaminated the inhabitants of the house. This house gave Max the creeps. There was something missing from it. What it was Max knew well, though things have changed since his stepfather now sucks it all up in their family. There was no love and what was there, felt like old toast taste; brittle, crackly and harsh. Most times Max could get Tony to come over to his house and hang out.When Max was here though, at Tony‘s, he felt it. Something always spooked him, only worse this time. Finding the boy did it, never having seen someone dead before.


He could almost see Tony getting beaten up here. Marus broke Tony‘s leg with thebaseball bat Tony usually kept leaning inside the garage door. Tony said he was batted to short stop, the patio doors calling him out. His parents told people he’d fallen from a backyard tree. Afterwards, Tony put the bat through the lattice work decorating the front porch, out of sight under the stairs so Maris couldn’t use it again.


Copyright by J.D. Holiday 2014

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12. Sherlock Holmes’ beginnings

owc_standard

Here at Oxford University Press we occasionally get the chance to discover a new and exciting piece of literary history. We’re excited to share the newest short story addition to the Sherlock Holmes mysteries in Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories. Never before published, our editorial team has acquired The Mystery of the Green Garden, now believed to be Sir Arthur Conan Doyle’s first use of the Sherlock Holmes’ character in his writing. Written during Doyle’s time at Stonyhurst College before entering medical school, the short story displays an early, amateur style of writing not seen in his later published works.

The Mystery of the Green Garden is set during Sherlock Holmes’ childhood – a rarely discussed part of Holmes’ life. Holmes’ is only sixteen years old when he is called to his first case. Unlike many of the stories in the Holmes series which are narrated by the loyal Dr. Watson, Holmes himself tells the short, endearing tale of his mother’s beloved garden. Getting our first look at his parents, Holmes briefly describes his mother as a “lively but often brooding woman.” We catch only a glimpse of his father who he calls a tireless civil serviceman with, “rarely enough time to fix even a long ago missing board in the kitchen’s creaking floor.”

Before attending university where he first acquired his detective skills, and moving to 221S Baker Street to practice his craft, Holmes lived at 45 Tilly Lane overlooking “a lush, never ignored garden.” Described as his mother’s favorite pastime, she gardened tirelessly day in and day out. As a young boy he recalls “spending countless hours playing in the dirt as mother tended to her beloved flowers and ferns.”

One morning, Holmes wakes to discover the garden destroyed. Flower beds are overturned, and shrubbery and plants are ripped apart. His mother is beside herself upon seeing her hard work demolished, and Holmes vows to discover the foolish culprit behind the dastardly act. A neighbor provides the first clue that sets the wheels in motion. His elderly neighbor who often wakes “before the sun has met the sky,” describes to Holmes a “tall, lean man with a crooked gray cap” that he saw running down the pathway between their two houses in the early hours of the morning while everyone in town still slept. Without any experience at solving cases, Doyle displays the first use of Holmes’ abductive reasoning skills later developed in the stories. As Holmes gathers clues as to what seems to be a random act, a story bigger than anyone can imagine slowly unravels.

April Fools! We hope we haven’t disappointed you too much. Although The Mystery in the Green Garden is just the work of a fool’s mind, there are seven Sherlock Holmes novels in the Oxford World’s Classics series. Sherlock Holmes: Selected Stories includes over a dozen stories truly written by Sir Arthur Conan Doyle.

9780199672066For over 100 years Oxford World’s Classics has made available the broadest spectrum of literature from around the globe. Each affordable volume reflects Oxford’s commitment to scholarship, providing the most accurate text plus a wealth of other valuable features, including expert introductions by leading authorities, voluminous notes to clarify the text, up-to-date bibliographies for further study, and much more. You can follow Oxford World’s Classics on Twitter, Facebook, or here on the OUPblog. Subscribe to only Oxford World’s Classics articles on the OUPblog via email or RSS.

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13. Review – Redeployment by Phil Klay

9780857864239What an amazing book! This is a firm candidate for my book of the year already and it is beyond doubt the best collection of short stories I have ever read. I literally could not put this book down but at the same time wanted each story to last as long as possible. I went into total procrastination mode today before reading the final story because I was not prepared for this book to end but resistance was futile.

I first read the title story of this collection in last year’s Fire & Forget. It was one of the standout pieces in a standout collection. I knew at the time reading Fire & Forget that the contributors in the collection were destined for big things. And Phil Klay not only reaffirms that but announces himself in a massive way with his first book.

I have blogged a couple of times here that short stories are not usually my thing. Often there is a story I wish there was more of or a story that leaves me unsatisfied. But absolutely every story in Redeployment was spot on. This was writing as close to perfection as I have ever read and I want to read the book again right now.

I am a big reader of war fiction. They are stories I am drawn to, that seem to resonate with me more than any other fiction. What I loved about Phil Klay’s collection was that each story resonated in a different way. One of the unique aspects to Klay’s collection are the different points of view he conveys in his stories. It is impossible for me to highlight one story and I don’t wish to go through each story one by one because that would spoil the magnificent reading experience.

Klay covers stories about soldiers in action and soldiers coming home. Soldiers wounded in action and soldiers haunted by the fact they saw little or no action. We read about a Marine chaplain, a Marine in Mortuary Affairs, a Foreign Affairs officer sent to Iraq to help rebuild. And through all these stories Klay shows the war in all its messy permutations and consequences, the good and the bad, the humanity and the inhumanity. He even explores the art of telling these stories and the different ways stories can be used and told, hidden and untold.

Every story packs an emotional intensity not only rare in short stories but rare in longer fiction too. Imagine the emotional wallop of The Yellow Birds with the frank and brutal insight of Matterhorn distilled into a short story and you get close to the impact each of these stories makes on their own. Put together as a collection and you have something very special that will be read (and should be read) by many long into the future.

Buy the book here…

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14. Reread #12 Long Way From Chicago

A Long Way From Chicago. Richard Peck. 1998. Penguin. 148 pages. [Source: Library book]

  A Long Way From Chicago has a great premise. Joey Dowdel and his younger sister, Mary Alice, are "forced" to visit their Grandma Dowdel every summer. Each chapter in the novel tells the story of a summer visit. There is a story for 1929, 1930, 1931, 1932, 1933, 1934, 1935, and 1942. The prologue says it all, "As the years went by, though, Mary Alice and I grew up, and though Grandma never changed, we'd seem to see a different woman every summer."

Through the stories, readers catch glimpses of the past. These stories capture family moments. There is plenty of humor and a good bit of heart.

For any reader who enjoys quirky small-town, long-ago, family-based stories from the heart, this one is a must.

I think I prefer Peck's more traditional novels to his stories.


I loved this one the first time I read and reviewed it in 2008

© 2014 Becky Laney of Becky's Book Reviews

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15. Review – The Tenth of December by George Saunders

9781408837368I don’t read a lot of short stories. As whole I find them unsatisfying and would much rather sink my teeth into something longer. All though in saying that I am a massive convert to serial fiction where you get to read 100-200 pages of a continuous story every 3-4 months. There has been a lot of buzz about George Saunders’ latest collection of stories and after receiving a strong recommendation to give him a go I did exactly that.

The first story, Victory Lap, was amazing. The way Saunders got into the head of the three characters so quickly and fully was something to behold. It is a powerful and dark story, told very delicately, that really kicked off the collection well. Saunders followed this up with Sticks, a really shorty story consisting of only two paragraphs that again packed a punch that belied its size. My other favourites in the collection were Escape From Spiderhead, which is about an unusual experiment conducted on prisoners and the powerful The Semplica-Girl Diaries which lures you into some absolutely biting satire.

The writing is amazing but by the end of the collection my feelings about short stories bore true again. I felt unsatisfied and wanting more exploration of the ideas Saunders was bringing up and commenting on. As a writer I can see that he is a masterful storyteller, as reader I just wanted a bit more to sink my teeth into.

Buy the book here…

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16. Short Story Published in Plasma Frequency Magazine, Issue 9

Plasma Frequency Magazine, Issue 9, December 2013/January 2014

Plasma Frequency Magazine, Issue 9, December 2013/January 2014

SO excited to announce my adult sci-fi short story DUST, just published in Plasma Frequency Magazine! It was by far one of my favorites to write, and I’m so glad it found a home with Plasma Frequency.

Interestingly, I wrote the story while I was getting used to a new migraine medicine. One of the side-effects of the medicine was vibrating gold spots behind my eyelids whenever I closed my eyes. This side-effect, among others, became the inspiration for some of the side-effects of DUST. Luckily, I’m no longer taking that med, so the pharmaceutical-induced hallucinations and periodic brain fog are long gone.

I did get a nice story out of the experience. You just never know what’s going to get that imagination stirring.

You can get a hold of a copy for Kindle here or a Print copy here. Just remember kiddies, this is an adults only story…

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17. The Seven Caves & Other Spine-tingling Short Stories

 

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The Seven Caves

Lucia is a small seaside town perched on the cliffs of central California. Discovered by Don Gaspar de Portola and his soldiers late in the 18th century, the town is named after the day of its discovery––December 14, Santa Lucia Day.

On a day not too long ago, a local caretaker of an estate just to the south of Lucia, known only as Point 16, received a visitor. The stranger said he was from The Vatican and inquired as to seven caves that The Vatican had listed in its archives from the manifest of the town’s discovery centuries ago. As he further stated that the caves were sure to be located off the coast of Point 16, the caretaker dismissed the man’s strange way of talking but became obsessed by his manner of dress which included a spectacular sword with rubies inlaid in its handle.

The caretaker scratched his head. He’d kayaked up to the caves a time or two and had paddled inside a little ways. The only person the caretaker knew that ever sailed inside the caves any distance at all, and at that only a quarter of a mile, was long dead. Rumor was that the seven caves all met up in the very center of The Santa Lucia Mountains. The mysterious visitor surprised the caretaker when he knew that the caves were the color of blood and shocked him when he spoke of a great temple with treasure inside.

The caretaker told the stranger that the caves were real enough, but that no one he knew had ever been able to sail deep into the caves to discover any temples or treasure.

The stranger thanked the caretaker and went on his way. The caretaker, uneasy about the stranger, decided to follow. The stranger rode his horse to the beach beside the caves and climbed into a simple dugout canoe. Primitive by any standards. Its oars like branches.

The stranger paddled and paddled. The caretaker could only watch from shore. As the surf drew out to sea more of the cave entrances became exposed. When the great swells crashed into the cliffs the waves churned powerfully in the caves and splashed back out to the open sea. Yet, the stranger didn’t veer from his course, one that would soon place him inside the nearest cave.

The caretaker began to sweat. The stranger had paddled his small canoe in an angry sea yet his navigation, indeed the boat itself, seemed unaffected by it. The caretaker searched the coast close by for a kayak sometimes hidden in the brush by the owner of Point 16.

He longed to paddle into the caves. Make that discovery. For, he knew the sea better than most around these parts. Certainly, he would be able to keep up with the stranger. As luck would have it, he found an abandoned canoe. And so he too paddled out to sea.

The sun disappeared behind a cloud and the chill of the fog invaded the caretaker’s bones. A great cloud river of fog moved from north to south over the Pacific, inching to shore. Upon a great break of an early evening wave the stranger disappeared into the first cave.

The caretaker followed.

The next thing the caretaker remembered was fading in and out of consciousness as Search and Rescue revived him. The caretaker asked about the stranger but was told no other body and no other boat was found, not unusual in the rugged depths of the central coast.

The caretaker’s dreams were filled with the stranger and endless trips into the caves, alive with treasure.

 

When the caretaker came to he was quite inconsolable. Gone mad with a fear of the sea. He tossed back and forth in the sandy soil trying to get away from those that had saved him when he spotted the stranger’s sword, stuck in the sagebrush. The caretaker wrapped his hands around the rubies and pulled the sword out of the brush. Don Gaspar de Portola was engraved in the silver blade, dripping with blood.

 

Get the anthology free for The Nook here.

Happy Halloween!

 

 


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18. 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing Competition Winners

Writer’s Digest would like to congratulate the 101 winners of the 82nd Annual Writer’s Digest Writing CompetitionNovember/December 2013 issue of Writer’s Digestextended Q&A with our grand prize winner, Dan J. Fiore,genre short story, “Masks.”November/December 2013 Issue of Writer's Digest

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19. A New Anthology of Russia's Greatest Gothic Writers

Muireann Maguire's Red Spectres: Russian Gothic Tales from the Twentieth Century, a new collection of supernatural fiction featuring eleven short stories from both classic and lesser known Russian writers, is out later this week. Featuring nine pieces never before translated into English, the anthology combines many of the best-loved aspects of the traditional ghost story with the full Gothic

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20. Alexander Drake Blog Tour & Giveaway with Elizabeth Parkinson-Bellows

alexander-tour

Today I’m reviewing the first two books in the Azra’s Pith Series. This is a middle grade fantasy series by Elizabeth Parkinson-Bellows.

alexander 1

In Book 1, Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit, we meet young Alexander Drake. He lives alone with his distant father and has recurring dreams of his mother who has passed away. When his father leaves on another trip, Alexander is sent to stay with his grandmother. In his father’s old room, Alexander discovers a box in the bottom drawer of the dresser. Inside is an odd-looking key and maps and pictures drawn on a tweed fabric. His curiosity gets the better of him, leading him into the forest near his grandmother’s home and on an adventure that will change his life.

Alexander 2

The second book, The Return of General Drake, picks up immediately where the first book left off. Alexander makes it to Verhonia, which angers the evil Imperius. His minion, Roman, prepares his murk army to attack the city. With the safety of the realm in jeopardy and Alexander under a spell that has placed him in grave danger, General John William Drake returns to Verhonia. Can evil be defeated or is all lost?

The premise of this series is a great one. A young boy without friends, who is feeling neglected by his only living parent, is sent away and ends up on a life-changing adventure. In Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit, Alexander discovers many surprises about his destiny and his family. The book ends with a cliffhanger that leads into the next book.

By Book 2, Alexander is starting to put some of the pieces together. What he underestimates, however, is how far the evil Imperius is willing to go. With his plan to stop Alexander from reaching Verhonia a failure, Imperius wages war on the city and casts a spell over Alexander, sending him on a journey to Cantilonia. Though General Drake had vowed never to return to Verhonia, but with Alexander in danger he has no choice.

What I feel Parkinson-Bellows does well in these books is create a series set primarily in a mythical land filled with quirky characters like Ferdinand, a talking frog and Cozmo, a cunning wolf. These are exciting adventure books filled with action that middle grade readers will devour. Where the books fell a bit short for me was in the stilted dialogue and lack of depth in character development. My feeling is that the focus on creating quirky characters might have led to how the dialogue didn’t flow well. The conversations didn’t seem natural. There are also places in both books where resolutions came too quickly for the characters, so there isn’t a deep digging into the character’s–primarily Alexander’s–emotions and thought process.

That said, both books were enjoyable light reads. Though, I don’t like it when a book ends in a cliffhanger that forces you to buy the next book in order to see how it all plays out, these are short and economically-priced stories, so it doesn’t prevent the reader from continuing.

Rating (for both): :) :) :) :)

Alexander Drake’s Extraordinary Pursuit
File Size: 1169 KB
Print Length: 110 pages
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing (June 6, 2011)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B0054RFVTY

The Return of General Drake
File Size: 269 KB
Simultaneous Device Usage: Unlimited
Publisher: Wild Child Publishing (April 25, 2013)
Sold by: Amazon Digital Services, Inc.
Language: English
ASIN: B00CK12HEE

lizzie

Being the frizzy-haired tomboy with buck teeth gave me a slight case of shyness as a kid. A colorful imagination meant escape and adventure at the drop of a hat.

Over the years I learned that the insecurities I carried around were a waste of time. I still prefer a football game to a manicure any day of the week. That indispensable imagination has found its way into my writing providing a sense of joy and a true purpose.

Website * Twitter * Facebook

Blog Tour Giveaway

$25 Amazon Gift Card or Paypal Cash (Ends 5/15/13)

Enter for your chance to win at http://www.iamareader.com/2013/02/alexander-drake-blog-tour.html

 


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21. May Is Short Story Month. That Kind Of Got By Me.

It has come to my attention that May is Short Story Month. Unfortunately, the month is half gone. If I'd only realized this was coming up, I would have planned my May Days project around writing short stories. I must make a note for next year. And put it someplace where I have a prayer of finding it.

The Emerging Writers Network is getting into this in a big way. The Oxford University Press provided a reading list. The Missouri Review is highlighting a short story every day at its blog. In fact, Short Story Month is all over the Internet.

This seems like an appropriate time to remind everyone of my short story publication this year, Rosemary and Olive Oil, at Alimentum.

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22. Flash Fiction for YA? Y Not?!

flashfictionchronicles

Flash on over to Flash Fiction Chronicles today and I’ll tell you all about writing micro fiction for children!

http://www.everydayfiction.com/flashfictionblog/flash-fiction-for-ya-y-not


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23. Player Profile: Maria Takolander, author of The Double

takolander-blog-author-photo-by-nicholas-walton-healeyMaria Takolander, author of The Double

Tell us about your latest creation:

The Double is a book of short stories. The stories range in their subject matter from rural Australia to northern Europe and beyond, and from the dark past of the Soviet era to a terrifying vision of the near future. The stories are bold and original, unnerving and unforgettable.

9781922079763Where are you from / where do you call home?:

I am the only Australian-born member of my family. My parents and my sister were born in Finland, and then migrated to Melbourne. I now call Geelong home.

When you were a kid, what did you want to become?  An author?:

I always wanted to be a writer. I think it had something to do with learning English as a second language when I was very young, and feeling like an outsider in Australia for quite a long time. As a result, language and the world never seemed ‘given’. Writing gave me the opportunity to ‘get to know’ language
and the world better.

What do you consider to be your best work? Why?:

The Double! I worked on it very intensively, and I had an excellent publisher supporting me.

Describe your writing environment to us – your writing room, desk, etc.; is it ordered or chaotic?:

I’m not fussy about where I write. I write wherever I can–at the kitchen table, in the train, at my daughter’s desk. All I need is my laptop and some time. Quiet, of course, also helps.

When you’re not writing, who/what do you like to read?:

I love the poetry and prose of Jorge Luis Borges  for its thrilling ideas, cool irony and lavish language. His writing reminds me that it’s exciting to be alive in a world that we don’t understand but that offers experiences of such intellectual and emotional intensity. JM Coetzee’s work is also brilliant. His writing evokes the suffering and complexity that unavoidably comes with living.

What was the defining book(s) of your childhood/schooling?:

I’ll single out Enid Blyton’s The Wishing Chair. It was so wholesome and otherworldly, and I loved the idea of a magical escape. I think the book also intuitively represented for me the power of books more generally to facilitate
mesmerising flights of fancy.

If you were a literary character, who would you be?:

Feeling like an outsider, I have always strongly identified with Gregor Samsa! In more romantic moments, I saw myself as Jane Eyre.

Apart from books, what do you do in your spare time (surprise us!)?:

I play with my young son, who loves books and imaginative play. Who wants to live solely in this world, when you can also inhabit so many others?

What is your favourite food and favourite drink?:

I love Finnish comfort foods and drinks, so I’d say Karelian pasties and milk.

Who is your hero? Why?:

My mum. She is an incredible survivor. Her family were exiled from their homes during the Finno-Russian war during the Second World War, and they endured significant hardship and privation. Nevertheless, my mother is the most loving and joyful person I know.

Crystal ball time – what is the biggest challenge for the future of books and reading?:

Finding readers for books, which are about probing the surface of things, in a society that’s increasingly content with surfaces.

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24. 7 Things I’ve Learned So Far, by Ben Stroud

This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”

where writers (this installment written by Ben Stroud, author of the short story collection, BYZANTIUM) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent — by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Ben is excited to give away a free copy of his collection to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

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Ben Stroud’s stories have appeared in Harper’s, One Story, and Boston Review,
among other magazines, and have been anthologized in New Stories from the
South and Best American Mystery Stories. A native of Texas, he now lives in
Ohio and teaches creative writing at the University of Toledo. His debut story
collection,
BYZANTIUM



on Twitter. Credit: Bering Photography

 

1. Writing Routines Are Only So Valuable. I used to be a stickler for routine. My desk needed to be just so. I needed the room (and preferably the apartment) to myself. I needed non-vocal music (classical or soundtracks). Then I moved to a one-bedroom apartment in Germany. I couldn’t get a good radio station—this surprised me. The only option for a desk in my furnished apartment was a slatted folding table not much larger than one square foot that I had to stick in the corner of the living room. Gone were all the little things I depended on. But I worked that year, every day, and learned that all that other stuff was unnecessary. I needed only the desk.

2. However, a Schedule Is Key. Writers get this advice a lot, and I’ll put it here, because it’s true. I write every morning. A few hours, the exact number depending upon the other current demands on my time. This is the way stories and novels get built. You can have a good day, a bad day, but so long as you’re there, you’re producing, you’re learning. The lesson here—schedule trumps pretty much everything.

3. Residencies Can Be As Much Harm as Help. I’ve been lucky to spend time at Yaddo and MacDowell. On the plus side, while at these place I learned to revise my work in a deeper way—to sit longer with it, to have the patience to test each sentence out. On the minus side, with the day sprawling ahead of me at a residency, I would linger over breakfast, have long morning conversations, and I brought the bad habit of sitting around too long in the morning (subbing the internet for conversation) back home. A problem, since back home I didn’t have full days to give to my work. So the lesson here, for me, is that a residency can be good to shake things up, to learning something new about your work. But there’s great value in having a steady schedule and a steady place to write and not messing with that too much.

4. The Agent Will Come When The Agent Will Come. When I was a college student, I asked my writing professor about agents. He told me to not think about them, to focus on that other stuff and that getting an agent would take care of itself. In my case, he ended up being right. Now, it’s true, at a certain point you’ll have to worry about this. But the main thing is the writing, making sure it’s good. If that’s your focus, then eventually the other stuff will work itself out, too.

5. The Writing World Works in Hidden Ways, and Can Surprise You. I never thought I’d be able to sell a story to a magazine like Harper’s. It was a dream, of course, but one I thought impossible. Then one day I got an email from my agent. A Harper’s editor had read some of my stories in a few other magazines (stories that I thought had largely gone unnoticed) and wanted to read some of my work. It took two years and four tries, but eventually I got a story to him that he and the other editors liked. I couldn’t have planned that. I couldn’t have made this happen through strategy. All I could do was write the stories and hope that someone on the other end liked them.

6. That Said… That said, while luck and chance are involved in everyone’s career, the most important thing is that you keep doing the work. It was through writing those early stories that I caught this editor’s attention. And it’s because I kept at it, day in and day out, that I was able to produce those four stories to show him. (The other three all found homes as well.)

7. Write What You Want to Write. This is a lesson I learned early on as a writer. It seems self-evident, but every year I have students struggling with this. One of the important tasks of a young writer is to discover what she or he wants to write. You can only figure this out through a heavy combination of reading and writing and following your own taste. If you don’t know what you want to write and where it fits in the writing world, then your just going to struggle and struggle.

GIVEAWAY: Ben is excited to give away a free copy of his collection to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Please note that comments may take a little while to appear; this is normal).

 

Agent Donald Maass, who is also an author
himself, is one of the top instructors nationwide
on crafting quality fiction. His recent guide,
The Fire in Fiction


Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:How to Interact With Agents on Facebook and Twitter.
  • How to Create a Simple Writer Blog.
  • How to Back Up Your Blog and Save Content.
  • So You Have a Blog — Now What?
  • Sell More Books by Building Your Author Platform
  • .
  • Follow Chuck Sambuchino on Twitter
  • or find him on Facebook. Learn all about his writing guides on how to get published, how to find a literary agent, and how to write a query letter.

     

    Want to build your visibility and sell more books?
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    25. Dahl And Hitchcock

    Today, September 13th, is Roald Dahl Day. Instead of speculating on just what a person has to do around here to get her own day, I'm going to insist, once again, that you just have to read his adult short stories.

    You can start with Lamb to the Slaughter, published in Harper's in 1953. Don't have time to look for it? Well, in 1958, it was adapted for television for Alfred Hitchcock Presents.Yeah, Alfred Hitchcock. That's the kind of  story we're talking about.

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