Shout Outs and Shorts

OK so I was stuck for a title, but there are indeed shorts, lots of lovely ones in some of the publications I’m writing about.

I have been out and about doing quite a bit of writing-connected activities although it’s a lame excuse for not updating the blog, what is this but a writing activity un-done? In my defence I did over-commit a little on MOOCs and am in the early stages of  the Literature of the Country House which I believe is still open. Plus another one starts tomorrow on Forensic Psychology – it promises to be a busy few weeks.

First things first – a shout out three rather fabulous literary magazines I have discovered during my absence.

The first is the Litzine Jotters United – With 4 very excellent issues under their united belt and a fifth on the way, Jotters aim to publish a couple of times a month featuring 3 short stories and 3 poems. Sometimes an issue may be themed as in the current issue. They are open for submissions and as it says on the website, if they like it, it gets in! You can find them on Facebook too and you can find me in Issue 4 here with Fixing Time! A very supportive and proactive publication; I’m glad Fixing Time found a home here – it’s a good fit. There’s also a competition coming up, hop over and have a look.

I was recommended to take a look at Bare Fiction in my first one-to-one meeting with Room 204. I did, and I was immediately hooked – a fabulous print publication which also offers opportunities in print for plays as well as short fiction and poetry. Bare Fiction was shortlisted for this year’s Saboteur Awards in the category of Best Magazine. Pretty impressive after only 2 issues. They also have a competition opening for entries in July which is definitely one for the calendar. Their website is here and you can find them on Facebook and Twitter also.

My last shout out goes to Confingo, a new Lit Mag I discovered when browsing (with intent) ShortStops. I took a look at their website and ordered a copy. It is very good writing indeed and I am thoroughly enjoying reading it. Publishing twice a year, as far as far as I can see, they are open for submissions and as an added bonus are a paying magazine.

I have been doing a lot of reading and recently finished the Signature of All Things by Elizabeth Gilbert (review to follow) and The BBC National Short Story Award 2013. I did catch some of the broadcasts when I was on vacation last year and interestingly of those I heard, the one which resonated most with me on the radio did not have the same impact in print. To be fair, every single one is a masterclass in the short form and it is not at all hard to see why these were the shortlist stories. My personal favorite is Notes From The House Spirits by Lucy Wood. I loved this story so much I also bought the BBC Radio recording of the story read by Hattie Morahan. What a marriage made in writing heaven of story and reader if ever there was one. You can hear the author reading the story from her collection Diving Belles below.

I listen to audiobooks a lot when I’m out an about with Plottdog and recently finished listening to Stephen King narrate his On Writing, his memoir on the writing craft. There are rare instances when an author reading his or her own work actually gets away with it, and in this case I believe he does. Then again I have a fondness and certain homesickness for the accents of the north-eastern USA which might have something to do with it. The content though is interesting, insightful and encouraging. I add my voice to the very many recommendations of the benefits to writers in reading this book.

I wish the same could be said for two which will probably go on my list of DNF (Did Not Finish). The first is Natalie Goldberg narrating her Writing Down The Bones. This book sat on my shelves for a long, long time. I started it more than once and ran aground on the kinhin, zazen and altogether thoroughly Zen-ness of this book. I have nothing against Zen but I’m afraid the wisdom and there is wisdom in spades in this book, is overwhelmed by it all. So it was that I though I would try the audio version – bad, bad, bad mistake. This is one north-eastern accent that grates like fingernails down a chalkboard and the pace is alarmingly slow. It is a monumental shame particularly as she adds new insights and thoughts.

The Writing Diet – by Julia Cameron serves up the to be expected entrée of Morning Pages, which as readers will know, I am hopeless at on account of being a rubbish morning person. The author does not narrate this book herself, maybe she should have, because I found the narrator condescending in the extreme. I am normally a fan of this writer but am a little unsure if the concept behind this book because all writing has done for me is assist the development of writer’s butt! I am probably being unfair to this book but I think the audio version will be going back on the shelf unfinished.

It pains me not to finish a book, but sometimes you just have to learn to let go and move on because it’s a chunk of time out of your life which never comes back.

One writer who delivers her own work pitch perfect is Katie Bickell, she absolutely blew me away with her reading of As You Swing At The Edge of The World which was posted on YouTube by Bare Fiction. It’s brilliant:

I’m not sure what I’m going to read next – that’s a selection for later in the day – the candidates are Balancing Act – Joanna Trollope (I have a ticket to see her at next week’s Stoke on Trent Literary Festival); Lost for WordsEdward St Aubyn; Saltwater by fellow Ether writer – Lane Ashfeldt, Untold Stories Alan Bennett or On WritingA L Kennedy. I have read predominantly women writers this year and with two pretty large tomes behind me, I will defer The Goldfinch by Donna Tartt for later in the year I think. I cannot however see myself reading the most recent Baileys winner which is just a little too weird groundbreaking for my tastes.

Well that’s a lot about reading, I have been busy pulling together an action plan for the next year and have made the decision I am for the time being going to stick with short stories. Although I have a novel in draft form which needs working on and ideas for others, at this point it is not demanding my attention as much as the desire to stay with short pieces. This has a lot to do with the demands of my day job which leaves little time for writing in anything other than short bursts right now and is not helping either continuity of thought or flow as far as the novel is concerned. I have submitted a couple of competition entries more in hope than expectation; I am rusty but finding inspiration all over the place so I’m hoping for a good crop of stories over the course of the rest of this year.

5 replies »

  1. What an interesting blog. I’m already a fan of Jotters United, have a piece published in Issue One called Day Tripper. I really liked your piece Fixing a Time. Will check out your other suggestions too. Thanks, Karen

    • Hi Karen, thanks for stopping by and your kind words and back at you on Day Tripper, it kept me guessing right to the end! There’s a nice dynamism to Jotters and I am a big fan already. Hope to see some more of your work, Sallie

  2. Hi Sallie,
    I just happened across your blog (ok, I googled myself – how embarrassing, haha), and I wanted to say thank you for watching my youtube video hosted by Bare Fiction, and for sharing it (with such kind words). You made my day!

    Also, I just finished Stephan King’s “On Writing”, as well. I found it very interesting, although unrealistic for my creative method – it takes me a month of writing and rewriting and chewing on an idea just to get a short story, never mind a novel (I, like you, write shorts). A novel could be written in that time, but, if written by me, it would be shit. Oh well, wasn’t it Twain who said, “I didn’t have time to write a short story, so I wrote a long one instead.”?

    Good luck in your journey!

    • Hi Katie, thanks for visiting. I was seriously blown away by your piece, your delivery was just spot on and the story so resonant I can close my eyes and see that shoe falling silently into the wet fog.

      I am so glad I am not the only one who takes an age chewing over my work, I am incredibly slow and so often end up with less words than I started, probably the inverse of Stephen King’s 10%. What I liked about the book was the recounting of his early struggles and seeming honesty.

      All the very best with your work, I look forward to reading and hearing more!

    • Good grief, in my defence I have been on the bubbly today celebrating a friend’s birthday, that should say ‘…fewer words …’. Hangs head in shame and exits right!