Sunshine = Happy people

It’s Autumn, but the sun is out and the sky is a perfect blue. The Australian sky still fills me with awe, even after 16 years. Maybe because the Irish sky always seemed so close and grey. I remember arriving back here after a trip home and being amazed at the vastness. I’m sitting by the pool with a beer and the kids are having a ball. Too cold for me, I like a temp of at least 40 C before I venture in. Bees are buzzing around the bananas tasting the sweet juice that falls from them (I’ve tried it). A cobweb, silver in the sun is attached to the Gargoyle’s bum. And Stella the dog, in between chewing the hose is going crazy checking out the perimeter making sure no one is going to get her human kids. She’s not allowed in here normally and I can see why, she’s just squashed a few plants. Sunday in the sun :)
Oops she just fell in the pool.

Condensing Scenes

I found this article on Busybird Publishing. They have some very interesting writing articles and competitions so check them out. I know I’m guilty of creating one-dimensional scenes, time to go rewrite!

Something a lot of authors miss when writing are the opportunities to collapse two or more scenes into a single scene. This means that whatever they’re writing is longer than it needs to be, and also might contain static, one-dimensional scenes – scenes that singularly exist to deliver their point and nothing else.

Let’s say we’re writing a first-person story about a relationship. The narrator lives alone and we want to establish the domesticity of their life. Of course, being in a relationship, the narrator talks regularly with their partner. Obviously, these are very broad strokes, but we need only a general scenario to set up our examples.

Okay, next, let’s consider two scenes – the first is a conversation between the couple. It might begin like this:
I was driving home when the phone rang. I pulled over to the side of the road to answer it.
‘Hey!’
‘Hi, honey.’
‘What’s up?’
‘I wanted to talk about tonight.’
Now imagine this conversation goes on for a page or so as they talk about something to establish the rapport of their relationship. For the sake of this example, the specifics aren’t important.

In the second scene, we’ll deal with the narrator coming home. This follows directly after the conversation …
I hung up and swung the car back onto the road, contending with peak-hour traffic. It was dark by the time I got home. I pulled into the drive and hauled the shopping out of the boot. There was so much I should’ve made two trips, but instead slipped my hand through the handles of all the plastic bags until they cut into my palms, then started for the front door.
From here, the narrator goes inside and puts the shopping away. The point of this second scene might be to establish the narrator’s domesticity so that we see their everyday routine – they’re busy, like to do things all at once, buy plenty of shopping to tide them over rather than just shop for the day, etc. It’s part of the world and character building of this piece.

So what we have are two scenes that deliver different pieces of necessary information, (or for the sake of this blog, let’s imagine they’re necessary for whatever story they’re part of).

There exists, however, the opportunity to collapse these scenes into one another. After all, visualise this as if it was a movie playing out in your mind. How exciting a scene is a narrator sitting in a car on the side of the road having a conversation, or the protagonist lifting the shopping out of their car and then putting it away?

Imagine we do it like this, though:
It was just getting on dark when I pulled the car into the drive. I opened the boot and stared at the shopping. There was so much I should’ve made two trips, but slipped my hands through the handles of all the plastic bags until they cut into my palms, then started for the front door. That’s when my phone rang.
I lowered the bags in my right hand on the doorstep and wrestled my phone out of my pocket. A orange rolled out of one of the bags. I nudged at it with my foot while I patted myself down to find my keys, only to realise they were clenched between my teeth.
I flipped open the phone. ‘Hey.’
‘Hi, honey, it’s me.’
‘What’s up?’
‘You sound puffed. What’s wrong?’
And so it would go on, the narrator juggling the conversation as they goes inside their house, wrestle with all their shopping bags, and put their shopping away.

By merging these scenes we’ve layered what’s happening. The narrator is no longer just sitting on the side of the road talking with their partner. And the domestic scene is no longer just a tour of the narrator’s life, but becomes integrated with a conversation that has to happen.

This also helps in another regard – actions interspersed through dialogue. So often, I see something like this:
‘What’s going to happen tonight?’
‘I’m still thinking about.’ I run my hand through my hair. ‘What do you think?’
‘I’m not sure.’
I bite my lip. ‘How about a movie?’
Authors constantly feel the need to break up their dialogue with action, but are the actions of the character running their hand through their hair and biting their lip essential, or just something for the character to be doing? Often, they exist simply for the sake of existing. Using our example of the protagonist putting away their shopping whilst holding a conversation, everything that happens is needing to happen.

Moreover, presenting the situation like this – and let’s remember, this is the most basic example – actually contextualises the scene in a new light. Sitting on the side of the road having a phone conversation, there’s no emotional resonance, other than what the narrator brings in. Here, the narrator might be frustrated because they’re interrupted, they might be harried, the phone call might be the picker-upper they need, etc. The story drives what’s happening. And in trying to juggle everything, not only do things happen, but we’re challenged with new opportunities.

When writing scenes, question if you’re getting everything out of them, and/or whether you can merge them with other scenes.

It’s a simple technique, but it can help unfold your story in a whole new world.
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Cape Open Submissions

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CALL FOR SUBMISSIONS

From 1–30 June, 2014, Jonathan Cape will be open for fiction submissions from new writers of high calibre and imagination.

Submissions should be an initial 50 pages of prose fiction. These can be part of a novel or novella, or short stories. The pages can be finished work or a work in progress.

For graphic-novel submissions, please contact the editors through http://www.capegraphicnovels.co.uk

Submissions should be emailed as attachments to capesubmissions@randomhouse.co.uk. Please include contact details, and a covering paragraph of any information you think might prove helpful in considering your submission.

Regrettably, due to the number of submissions we receive, we cannot respond in every instance, but all entries will be read. Submissions received after 30 June will not be considered.

Bad Advice: 10 writers on the tips that did no good

I found this good advice on bad advice ;) on Facebook. It’s a wonderful article from The Stinging Fly.
A google search for ‘writing tips’ provides 1.9 million results. And you can’t walk down a Twitter-street without someone proffering their #WritingTips (we’re even guilty of it ourselves). But one of the most difficult tasks is learning how to filter the good from the bad, and the useful from the not-quite-so-useful-at-the-moment.

So we asked ten authors to share an experience of counsel that isn’t/wasn’t all that constructive. (Bearing in mind that one man’s baguette is another man’s reminder of his gluten intolerance…)

Write The Book Only You Can Write!

—Colin Barrett

Advice I’ve heard more than once, in different scenarios, and which I’ve always thought to be wary of, more than anything because of the scope for misinterpretation, is the idea that you must ‘write the book only you can write’. Broadly speaking I suppose, there is behind this tautology the relatively benign notion that you should write to your ‘strengths’ (another slippery conger of a concept) but too often I think writers can succumb to the illusion that Book X is the one they must write. It is The One. And so they hang onto it for too long, whether in terms of physically writing it, or pursuing its publication thereafter. There are plenty of legitimate examples of such tenacity paying off, of course, but as dismaying (and habitually necessary) as it is to admit defeat in a given project, with that capitulation/emancipation comes access to one of the few consolations the living, failing scribbler can reliably know: the next thing can, or may, or might be better.

Play The Game!

—Eimear McBride

While in the midst of my dystopian publication nightmare, a—considerably more successful and critically lauded—writer went to pains to impress upon me the paramount importance of choosing single word titles because ‘that’s what’s in fashion now’ which, for me, displays a combination of such industrial-strength savvy and soul-crunching cynicism that I’ve never since been able to pass a display of their impecuniously-titled novels without a rush of infuriated blood to the head.

Don’t Be Selfish!

—Billy Ramsell

‘Don’t be selfish’—that’s one you hear a lot, especially growing up from parents, guardians, teachers and so on. It’s terrible advice for writers though. Writing practically demands that one exhibit a high degree of selfishness. Not I hasten to add with regard to money, prizes and acclaim but when it comes to time, that most definitively finite of commodities. Can you taste it in the back of your mouth? The almost tangibly metallic tang of wasted time as you sit there reading this blog? Writing, especially for those of us not in the position to go at it full-time, requires a maniacal degree of possessiveness about your every spare quarter hour. It means letting down and fobbing off lovers and dependents, cousins and confidants. You have to master the gentle art of inflicting disappointment.

Be More Specific!

—Dimitra Xidous

I used to be part of a writer’s group back in Canada—myself, four other women and one man. One evening, I brought in a poem, ending on the lines:

I confess that I laid myself down then

like a dog, for love

The women ‘got’ it. Understood what I meant by ‘like a dog’. The man kept asking ‘how, like a dog’ exactly? He wanted me to make it explicit, to take away all the ambiguity—which, to my mind, and to the other members’ minds—was the reason the poem worked. He went on—‘was it salivating’, was it ‘hungry’ etc. And everything he suggested only served to lessen the impact.

Needless to say, I did not take him up his advice—I left it. I know what ‘like a dog’ means to me—and it may or may not have meant the same thing to the other women in the group. I wouldn’t dream of taking the pleasure that ambiguity, when used well (and I am going to go out on a limb here and say that in this case, I’ve used it well) affords a reader to come to their own conclusion as to what dog-like thing love can sometimes turn us into. It is different for everyone. Making something like that explicit makes assumptions about love, the experience of it, not to mention the reader/audience. Now, this is not to say I am advocating for more ambiguity in poetry—it is a difficult thing to use and use well.

But in this poem’s case, I think it works because of that metaphor. Gauging by the man’s reaction, I think, yes, in this case, the use of ambiguity is perfect.

Stay Clear Of The Following Things!

—Daniel Seery

When I was nine, our class went on a trip to Clara Lara Fun Park. Before we went, my mother took me aside and told me to stay clear of any water. Of course she wasn’t to know that every activity in Clara Lara was based around water. Being a literal kind of a child I dodged the rafts and the water slide and the swings dangling above the lake. I spent my day continuously walking back and forth under a tunnel, the only dry place in the park.

If my mother had seen Clara Lara for herself I’m sure her advice would have been different. ‘Don’t drown yourself!’ or ‘Don’t drown anyone else!’—or some other equally useful tip.

I guess the same concept applies to writing—the whole idea of taking inflexible advice before you fully understand where you’re going, before you are 100% sure what your novel is going to be about, before a word has even been written.

e.g. Do not use flashbacks. Do not use mannerisms in your dialogue. Do not write a novel over 100,000 words. Do not have a domestic pet as a central character!

For me, writing doesn’t work well with limitations. Writers have the luxury of making mistakes. We have been given the gift of editing. And I prefer to leave the editing until I actually have something to edit.

Do Something Else Instead!

—Nuala Ní Chonchúir

People love to advise writers. I get the following said to me: (1) ‘You should write in Irish.’ (2) ‘Write a book for children!’ and (3) ‘Write one of them chick-lits and earn a fortune.’

No, no and no.

I tried (1) — I wrote a few poems in Irish but my heart wasn’t in it; I don’t think through Irish so find it unnatural to write in it.

(2) I was commissioned by a publisher to write a kids’ book, but I just couldn’t muster interest in the project so it didn’t get very far.

As for (3), I don’t read chick-lit so wouldn’t have the first idea how to write that kind of book.

We write what we write and it’s distracting and time-consuming to follow other paths. I’m happy where I am, and I will only veer away from that if an excellent opportunity—one that I am fully enthused about—comes up.

Quit What You’re Doing!

—Rob Doyle

Ages ago, an editor urged me to leave behind the motifs that recurred consistently in my fiction at the time—sexual obsession, strippers, earnest young literary men with porn fixations—and represent the day to day experiences of people from a similar social background to my own. I briefly gave this a try, but found, as I have found with so many things in life, that I just couldn’t be fucked. What is clear to me now is that, as an artist of any kind, all you really have are your obsessions, fascinations and perversions, and the way to artistic self-definition is to be trenchantly faithful to them. All the rest is dreary obligation: in other words, community service.

Three Classic Pieces of Advice!

—Niamh Boyce

1) Write What You Know!

This one makes my soul shrink. Write what I know? What do I know? Oh hell, I’m so limited! If I write what I know—my books will be minuscule novellas of doom. Not even doom, my life’s too dull for doom… I wish I was a Parisian. Maybe I should learn—I don’t know—to trapeze before I even think about starting to write. I’ve never bungee-jumped or taken acid at an orgy. I’ve never even been invited to an orgy. I prefer, ‘Write anything you damn well like…’ That’s different. That I can do.

2) Find Your Voice!

This one irritates me. By listening to my characters, I hope that each piece of work, each novel, each story, will have its own distinctive voice. I know it’s not a completely rational response, but I don’t even like the sound of this advice. And years since I first heard it, I still don’t know what it means. Find what voice? What’s to find? Don’t I have a voice? (Or am I channelling Victor Meldrew’s here?) And, why does a writer need a Voice with a capital V? Doesn’t a writer give voice to her characters? Aren’t they the important ones?

3) You Need A Room Of Your Own! (Sorry Virginia!)

Who doesn’t want a room? Make mine a red boudoir, with a coffee maker, a balcony and an open fire. But for now, and the foreseeable future, I don’t have a room and I’m getting along fine. So, don’t wait till conditions are perfect, or even half-perfect. Don’t wait for the room, the cash, the time, the space or the ‘inspiration’ … write on loo roll if you have to. Use spare minutes. Writing can be done anywhere, almost. After all, when De Sade was stuck, he used his blood as ink and the walls of his cell as parchment… you and I don’t have to stretch that far (unless we want to) but let’s not wait for that illusive room. Life’s too short, there’s work to be done.

Have Something To Say!

—Gavin Corbett

I’m not sure if anyone has ever said this to me directly, but I regularly enough come across the advice that a writer ‘should have something to say’, which I think is terrible guidance. Writers who write because they have nothing to say are my favourite kind. If you’re uncertain about your place in the world, about how you feel about the world, then that’s the best starting point of all. In the process of figuring it out, you’ll create something valuable. Revel in the noise-making, and in the feel of the words under your nails, and don’t worry about what you’re ‘saying’. Let others decide on that.

Wait Your Turn!

—Sarah Maria Griffin

During my MA in Writing, we had a guest speaker in. She was a poet. At this point I was twenty-two and absolutely tenacious, I really wanted to get my start. I asked, during the Q&A at the end, how does a person go about getting a book of poetry in the world? I mean, it’s a green question, sure. I was only a bit more of a kid than I am today. I honestly wanted to know, because it’s something I wanted to do. Make a book.

She replied, slightly scornfully, that one usually had to be asked. It wasn’t as simple as just going and getting a book put out there. You had to wait. You can’t really just go and do it. That’s not done. You had to be asked for a collection, you didn’t just make one. I took this to heart pretty badly and felt embarrassed for quite a while for even imagining that I was someone who should even be considering putting a book out in the world. This moment was gatekeeping at its finest, and it’s a terrible thing to tell any young writer.

Stop telling people to wait. Tell them to work hard, make good art, and wake up fighting. Tell them to staple together a chapbook and sell it five quid a pop—like a musician would with a home-recorded EP or a mixtape. Tell them to write query letters and go to readings and meet people and make friends and network and write and write and really, really, wake up fighting and make good art. Don’t tell them it’s not as simple as going and making a book. It’s exactly that simple.

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Colin Barrett’s debut collection, Young Skins, is published by The Stinging Fly in Ireland and by Jonathan Cape in the UK.

Niamh Boyce’s debut novel, The Herbalist, won the 2013 Bord Gais Irish Book Awards Newcomer of the Year.

Gavin Corbett’s second novel, This Is The Way, won the 2013 Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year.

Rob Doyle’s debut novel, Here Come The Young Men, will be published in May (Lilliput Press). His review of Markus Werner’s Zúndel’s Exit appears in our current issue and can be read here.

Sarah Maria Griffin’s poetry collection Follies was pubished by Lapwing Press. Her latest book, Not Lost: A Story About Leaving Home, is published by New Island.

Eimear McBride’s debut novel, A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing, is published by Galley Beggar Press. The novel won the Goldsmiths Prize for Fiction 2013 and is currently shortlisted for many more awards.

Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s second novel, The Closet of Savage Mementos, will be published in Spring 2014 by New Island. Nuala guest-edited the fiction in our current issue.

Billy Ramsell’s second poetry collection, The Architect’s Dream of Winter, is published by Dedalus Press. His essay on Patrick Galvin appears in our current issue and can be read here.

Daniel Seery’s debut novel, A Model Partner, has just been published by Liberties Press.

Dimitra Xidous’ debut poetry collection, Keeping Bees, is forthcoming with Doire Press. Dimitra is the featured poet in our current issue.
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Away with the Fairies

My mother has epilepsy. She’s had it for nearly 17 years and no longer drives. On Sunday she had two seizures in the night, on Monday she stayed in bed all day, exhausted and ill. On Tuesday she was back to normal for a few hours. Then my dad rang and everything changed. She was completely out of it. We took her to emergency and ended up in hospital with her for 9 hours. She was away with the fairies. Alternating between, crying, screaming, laughing and praying. She’s not religious, but she was constantly blessing herself and asking my brother to bless her. Then she started screaming and trying to escape. The Doctor tried to get a drip into her arm and she sat quietly for a few minutes and then went crazy and ripped it out. Eventually we were moved to a private room where my dad had the pleasure of sleeping in a reclining chair for 3 nights. My brother gave him a break during the day, but it’s been a week of hell not knowing what’s wrong with her. Her potassium and salt levels were very low, but her epilepsy medication also has side effects. During one episode she asked my brother if she should throw her tea over him. Then she poured it into her slipper and then into my bag. Some of the things she did were funny, but it was mostly deranged. My brother is so patient with her, as were the Doctors and nurses, they’ve seen it all before. She’s home now but still not 100%, my brother and Dr Google think she might have postictal psychosis
Whatever it is I hope it doesn’t last.

LAUNCESTON, TASMANIA LITERARY AWARD, 2014

Open to worldwide writers.

Here’s a great opportunity for you, the writer, to take time and sharpen up the word-tools in the imagination box to create something unique and wonderful as an entry in this inaugural writing competition.

The Society of Women Writers, Tasmania, Inc. is calling on anyone interested in writing short stories to consider an entry in the Launceston, Tasmania Literary Award, 2014. With a great prize pool, the Award is open to all—worldwide!

First Prize: AUD$2,500.00

Second Prize: AUD$750.00

Third Prize: AUD$500.00

Highly Commended & Commended certificates
Email entries only
The Rules
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Submit to the School Magazine

The School Magazine has been around since 1916 so they are obviously good at what they do. They accept poetry and prose for ages 7-14 and from ANYWHERE in the WORLD. They also accept work from illustrators and also for Comic Serials
Check out their Submission Guidelines. The pay really well too :)

Eggplant Literary Productions

Eggplant Literary Productions is a small electronic press, specializing in speculative fiction. We love fantasy, science fiction and horror in all its myriad flavours. They are currently looking for submissions of fairy tales for their Spellbound and Spindles anthology.
Check out their guidelines

YA Novel contest, short story markets and more

Rachel's Ramblings:

Reblogged from Cindi Myers

Originally posted on Cindi Myers Market News's Blog:

After nourishment, shelter and companionship, stories are the thing we need most in the world.”  Philip Pullman

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Rocky Mountain Rescue is on sale in stores and online now!

9780373697496

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Eggplant Literary Productions is looking for speculative fiction treatments of traditional fairy tales for upcoming anthologies for both children and adults. Your story should feature diverse and marginalized characters and may include non-North American and non-Western European settings. Stories for children 8-12 should be no longer than 2,500 words, while stories for adults may be up to 5,000 words. Eggplant Literary pays five cents a word for stories. The deadline for submissions is April 30, 2014. Read the guidelines here. 

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Shades of Romance, an online magazine for readers and writers, pays $25 for romantic short stories, 500 to 1,500 words, in any romantic sub-genre. Shades of Romance also accepts articles on the craft and business of…

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Short Story Writing Tips From Dr Susan Midalia

I found this tip sheet when I was browsing the Peter Cowan 600 competition. I have linked to it in the blog but decided to include it separately for those who might not read to the end ;)

2014 PETER COWAN SHORT STORY COMPETITION LAUNCH
Question responses provided by Dr Susan Midalia, 2014 PCWC Writer-in-Residence
and author of An Unknown Sky and
1. Why do you think competitions such as the Peter Cowan 600 Short Story Competition are important for the writing community in general?
A word limit of 600 words is very useful for writers for a number of reasons. Firstly, it disciplines them to think very carefully about their linguistic choices. Regardless of the genre, a writer must try to ensure that every word is necessary, and exactly the right one, in order to achieve the meanings and effects they’re aiming for. Secondly, a 600-word limit encourages writers to see the value of compression: to understand the ways in which complex meanings can be suggested in relatively few words. Finally, the word limit encourages writers to make use of what it not said: the unspoken, the implied, the repressed, the silenced, of which every life is constituted.
2. Why is entering the Peter Cowan 600SS competition important for new and emerging writers including university writing students?
The 600-word limit is particularly useful for relatively inexperienced writers because it can help to eliminate one of the biggest problems for novices: the tendency to overwrite. Overwriting – what’s usually called purple prose – is writing that’s heavily adjectival or verbose; language that tends to be chosen to display the writer’s extensive vocabulary instead of communicating an experience. It suggests a kind of insecurity or anxiety about writing, and an inability to recognise that often plain or pared-back language can be used in very engaging ways. In short, a 600-word limit encourages new writers to see the value of linguistic restraint and subtlety. Secondly, the 600-word limit helps new writers to improve their self-editing skills. When they re-read their story, they need to ask themselves: do I really need that sentence? Is that particular adjective necessary? Would a different word make an important change to the kinds of effects I’m aiming to achieve? So the word limit makes writers look very closely at what they’ve written, to be ruthlessly self-critical.
3. The competition is also open to experienced writers. Is this type of competition also valuable for experienced writers?
Certainly. Even experienced writers need to be reminded of the importance of those ideas and suggestions I’ve described. It’s also a whole lot of fun to be challenged in this way: to write an engaging and memorable story in only 600 words is hard work for experienced writers as well. One of my favourite short story writers, the American writer Lydia Davis, has written some wonderfully resonant stories that consist of only a few sentences or one brief paragraph. Try, for example, her dystopian short story “Smoke.”
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4. Peter Cowan was an accomplished short story writer. He published several volumes of short fiction and won several major literary awards. What do you think are the main tips that writers entering the competition need to consider when compiling their short story entries?
My first tip is to ask yourself why you needed to write a particular story. Why did it matter to you to try to put an experience into words? Because if you can’t answer that question – if you don’t know why it matters – then it probably won’t matter to a reader either. Secondly, try to eliminate flaws in your story. This includes getting rid of clichés, mixed metaphors and inadvertent repetitions, all of which writers are prone to and which they don’t always notice when they’re writing. Thirdly, read your story aloud. You will hear what works and doesn’t. The rhythms of sentences, for example: whether a sentence “sings” or is clunky. You will hear the overall shape of a paragraph and of the story as a whole: whether certain sections need to be extended or shortened, or left out entirely. You will hear inadvertent repetitions. You will hear the unnecessary use of words like ‘and’, ‘the’ and ‘that’, the overuse of which can ruin the rhythm of a sentence. A final tip is to let your story “sit” for a while. Don’t send it to a competition as soon as you’ve finished it, but leave it for a few days, a few weeks, and then re-read it, because you’ll always find ways to improve it. As the writer Ernest Hemingway observed, and if I may be permitted a vulgarism: “The first draft of anything is shit.” Intelligent and rigorous self-editing is a crucial part of the writing process.
5. What do you think is the essence of writing a great 600-word short story?
a. Every word must be necessary to the overall meanings and effects a writer wishes to achieve.
b. Compression: suggesting a range of meanings in relatively few words. In this way, a story can be both economical and evocative, concise and resonant.
c. Being restrained; respecting your reader’s intelligence. In other words, don’t tell your readers what to think, but allow them the pleasure and the challenge of working it out for themselves. A writer can suggest her/his meaning by using, for example, symbolism or imagery; by describing the appearance of a character or setting; by drawing on the sounds of words or the musical properties of language; by using figurative language, that is, making unusual or striking comparisons.
d. An engaging short story also often has a strong sense of voice or tone. This means that the point of view from which you choose to narrate a story is crucial.
6. The competition is now in its fifth year and is growing in popularity with the writing community throughout Australia. Why do you think short story competitions are flourishing within the Australian writing community?
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I think it’s partly because these days many people are time-poor. They simply don’t have the time, or the mental energy, to write a longer piece, but they still want to experience the pleasure of creating something from nothing, of giving shape to and communicating an experience.
Winning a prize or place in a competition also looks good on your writing CV. It’s a way of gaining a readership and getting yourself noticed by publishers.
More experienced writers especially love the challenge of writing a good short story, because they understand that it’s aesthetically exacting task. It’s fun, but it’s also damned hard work to write a story that creates the illusion of a bigger world beyond the relatively few words on the page. A story that can leave readers thinking about it long after they’ve read it. A story that a reader can return to and find something new each time.
7. You are facilitating a workshop for the centre in March. Can you tell me a little bit more about the focus of this workshop?
The workshop is 3 hours long –with a break for tea and Tim Tams, of course – and it’s open to both new and more experienced writers.
In terms of content, we’ll be covering what you might call the “big picture” issues involved in writing short stories. These are the four narrative conventions: point of view, characterisation, setting and structure. I would like people to get some sense of the different ways in which these four elements can and have been used. In the process, we’ll also be working on how to use language imaginatively, creatively, intelligently; language that will encourage readers to think and to feel, both while they’re reading and for some time afterwards.
In terms of process or procedure, the workshop will combine tips and advice from me with a discussion of sample pieces of good writing by well-known writers. The aim is to help participants understand what makes for a “good” or publishable story. Importantly, too, there will be plenty of opportunity for participants to do short writing exercises on the spot, and to get feedback on what they’ve written in a constructive and supportive environment. I also want to reassure people that they mustn’t feel obliged to read out every effort; I understand that writing on the spot is a rather artificial exercise, and we might not always be pleased with what we manage to produce in these circumstances. But I would encourage every one to “have a go” at some point and to be open to advice for improvement.
And I won’t forget to have some fun! Because if we’re not enjoying the process, we probably won’t learn much at all.
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