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From reading and writing to publishing

/by  Krystyna Fedosejevs/

December 2013, not a mouse stirred in the house. The timer struck a tinny chime. Shortbread cookies raced out of my oven, row after row. The holiday season was approaching quickly.

A friend steered my eyes to a website, introducing me to a new kind of shortbread. Where words are used instead of cookie dough to entice a sweet tooth. Fairy-like creatures strutted in red-hooded jackets, hot-air balloons taking flight … inviting me to take an expedition of discovery. It couldn’t be a bad thing having ‘shortbread’ in its title.

Within minutes, I latched onto the strings and joined ShortbreadStories. Overall, it’s format looked appealing, offering written and audio stories. Poetry, flash fiction and short stories made up the repertoire.

I started contributing my own writing. One of the first ventures was a Christmas contest I entered. To date I have 37 stories posted at ShortbreadStories. The last one appeared approximately three months ago. I vowed I’d return one day. I will.

For now, I’m delighted to be basking in the limelight of publishing elsewhere. There’s so much variety, so many opportunities to be published online and in print.

I’ve been asked, ‘What impact ShortbreadStories has on my publishing?’ If, in fact, it was ShortbreadStories that started my publishing adventure? I’ll answer by first saying ‘no’ to the second question. I have had several short flash fiction, as well as poetry, published before my initial rendezvous. Also, several poetry contest winnings have placed me on a favourable board.

As to ShortbreadStories’ impact, the interaction with other writers, their comments and the opportunity to ‘publish’ have only reinforced my passion for writing. Since the start of my membership at Shortbread, several of my ultra short fiction have appeared at:

Fifty Word Stories (one story chosen as a runner-up in November 2013 contest)

100 Word Story

Nail Polish Stories (one story published in October2013; it was featured in the ‘Best of 2013’ issue; three more stories appeared in April 2014)

Espresso Stories

Haunted Waters Press

In nonfiction, I wrote and had published a review of an art history book at Alberta Wilderness.

In the fall issue of the Boston Literary Magazine, three of my haiku will be available for viewing.

I know I’ve been absent from the ShortbreadStories site too long. Most likely, those who got to know me there are disappointed in my disappearance. I say to them ‘Forgive me, please’. I’m only human; an adventurous being in pursuit of words.

I will be back.

Krystyna Fedosejevs

Aug. 2014.

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Re-blogges from: From reading and writing to publishing | Shortbread

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Sam and Charlie: Questions for the talented Mr Fish

/by Sam Kandej and Rachel Marsh/

The Talented Mr Fish

Our very own Sam got in touch with Mr Fish at Fiction on the Web to ask about his take on writing and the short story. Charlie Fish is a popular short story writer and screenwriter. His short stories have been published in several countries and inspired dozens of short film adaptations. Since 1996, he has edited Fiction on the Web, the longest-running short story site on the web. Every single story on Fiction on the Web is hand-picked and carefully edited by Charlie Fish. He was born in Mount Kisco, New York in 1980; and now lives in south London with his wife and daughters.

Sam Kandej: Nothing in this world is more enjoyable than having a few words with the writer whom you love and admire. Today, I have got the honor of spending a few minutes with Mr. Charlie Fish. How do you do Mr. Fish?

Charlie Fish: Very well, thank you.

Sam: Let us start with the short story itself. Are you in love with writing short stories?

Charlie: Actually, I often find the process of writing laborious and frustrating, especially when starting something new. What ends up on the page seems to fall short of the images in my head. I have to persist and write myself into the story until I reach that golden territory where the ideas and characters take on a life of their own. Not all stories get there, but when they do – that’s when I fall in love.

The great thing about short stories is that if I write one that’s no good, I can discard it and write a new one. Each time I have to discard a story I learn something new. Writing a novel is considerably more challenging – persisting past the doubt and frustration is a much longer slog.

Sam:  Do you remember the very first time you told yourself “I must become a writer”? What made you say that?

Charlie: I’ve written stories all my life, but for many years it never occurred to me to think of myself as a writer. I assumed I had to get a desk job with a decent salary. But then it occurred to me the only difference between being a rat-racer who dabbled with writing – and a writer – was declaring myself as such. I didn’t have to make money, or win awards, I just had to write, and put myself out there and tell people I was a writer until they started believing me.

As soon as I started calling myself a writer, I paid more attention to my craft and my writing has been getting better ever since.

Sam: And do you remember the first short story you read?

Charlie: The first? No. But there are several short stories I read in my youth that left a lasting impression – some of which I am revisiting now as I read them again to my three-year-old daughter. Like The Sneetches by Dr Seuss or The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein.

Sam: How many short stories have you written?

Charlie: More than 50, of which there are maybe 15 that I consider worthy of general consumption.

Sam: Which one is the most popular?

Charlie: “Death by Scrabble”. It was first published in 2005, and since then I get at least an email a week from someone asking to reprint it, or adapt it into a film, or use it for a speech competition. It’s been translated into French, Spanish, Dutch, Polish, Flemish, Hebrew, Turkish, Chinese, Telugu, Gurani – and that’s just the ones I can remember. If you search “Death by Scrabble” on YouTube you’ll find nearly 100 short films inspired by the story. It features in standard textbooks for English comprehension in three countries.

There is no way I could have predicted how much of a chord that story would strike with people – and probably no way I’ll match its success again. But that won’t stop me from trying!

Sam: Is it your own favorite story too?

Charlie: I’m immensely proud of “Death by Scrabble”, but my latest favourite story is probably “Remission”, which I wrote last year for a horror anthology called BLEED, published to raise money for The Children’s Cancer Society. I poured a lot of raw emotional honesty into the story – it’s a science fiction space tale, but also a metaphor for the loneliness of dealing with a serious illness. My baby daughter was very ill when I wrote it, and I think the story was infused with some of the trauma and desperate hopefulness I was feeling.

(She’s happy and well now!)

Sam: Typically, How much time do you spend on reading short stories, and how much time do you spend on writing?

Charlie: Not enough time writing! Never enough time. But I read a lot of short stories – I usually get about a dozen submissions a week for my website, Fiction on the Web. I read them all during my lunch breaks at work, and choose the ones I want to publish. At home, at the moment, I’m reading Gardner Dozois’ Best of the Best anthology of science fiction short stories, which is thoroughly enlightening.

Sam: I’m really interested to know more about your writing habits. Do you have any unusual habits for writing short stories?

Charlie: My favourite writing environment is sitting in the bar of the Ritzy Cinema in Brixton with my laptop and a beer. No kids, no “To Do” list, and a very poor Internet connection. Perfect.

Sam: What do you do in your free time when you don’t feel like writing and reading?

Charlie: For the last couple of years I’ve been pretty obsessed with board games. Not the old school ones I grew up with, but the new wave that’s sparked a growing subculture. I recently attended the world’s largest board gaming convention in Essen, Germany, along with 150,000 other people. I had a blast. If “board games” to you means Monopoly, Risk and Scrabble, you’re missing out. Try Carcassonne, or Ticket to Ride, or King of Tokyo, or any of the other thousands of amazing games published in the last twenty years.

Sam: Have you ever been jealous of a writer?

Charlie: Envious, yes. One of my heroes is Terry Rossio, the screenwriter responsible for Aladdin, Shrek and Pirates of the Caribbean. I wrote to him once to thank him for an inspiring series of columns he’s published online (at wordplayer.com), and he invited me to a house party. I dropped everything and flew to LA to go. It wasn’t his palatial house that I was envious of, or his two hot tubs, but the fact that this man had the ear of Hollywood. He could write a screenplay and it would get taken seriously, get made for millions of dollars, and get shown to a packed audience at my local cinema 5000 miles away. I want that!

Sam: I have noticed that you are a humorous writer. You even mix horror and humor together. Is it a way to attract more readers? Or do you do that because you love humorous stories?

Charlie: I don’t really think of myself as a humorous writer. I’m no Douglas Adams. But humour is an excellent tool to charm readers and get their defences down. The louder they’re laughing, the more open and vulnerable they are when you hit them with the real emotion of the piece.

Sam: In your opinion, what would life be like if all politicians, presidents, kings, and prime ministers were short story writers?

Charlie: A lot of politicians are writers, which makes sense because they spend most of their lives making stuff up and manipulating people anyway. Perhaps if they all wrote fiction they’d have a keener sense of the ironies inherent in their day jobs, which could only be a good thing.

Sam: If I were a Short Story Genie, what three wishes would you make?

Charlie: Discipline, flair and courage.

Sam: You have a great website called Fiction on the Web. Why did you create it? And how many writers cooperate with you in order to keep this website up?

Charlie: Fiction on the Web gives me an opportunity to showcase amazing short stories, encourage fledgling authors, and contribute to the wider community of writers. No-one helps me with the site, it’s a labour of love.

Sam: What are your plans for the future? Are you going to write more short stories? Are you going to publish any new books?

Charlie: I’m intending to self-publish a collection of my best short stories from the last 15 years. Keep an eye out at fictionontheweb.co.uk for the announcement.

Meanwhile, I’ll keep writing – working on the collection for the next 15 years.

Sam: Thank you so much dear Mr. Fish for taking the time and answering my questions. I look forward to reading more of your short stories.

Charlie: Thank you Sam for such interesting questions!

If you follow an author online or in print and would like to interview him/her for ShortbreadStories, get in touch with Rachel at rachel@shortbreadstories.com, and we’ll try to get you that interview.

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Re-blogged from: Shortbread Stories’s Blog › Sam and Charlie: Questions for the talented Mr Fish | Shortbread

A Writer Responds: The Whole Reason

Everyone uses ShortbreadStories differently: as a portfolio of polished work, as a learning exercise, as a library, or as a writing community. Others use it as a stop gap, sometimes already knowing that their piece needs work. Karen, who’s been a long-time member of ShortbreadStories, has been reading on the site for years, but only recently began uploading work. In this blog she talks about why she uses ShortbreadStories and about how Shortbreader comments help her move forward with her writing. Karen also hoped by addressing all of ShortbreadStories in a blog, it would get us all thinking about how we use the site’s comments.

If you want to write a post for ‘A Writer Responds’ send it to rachel@shortbreadstories.com.

Rebloged from : Karen Graham’s Blog › A Writer Responds: The Whole Reason | Shortbread

/by Karen Graham/

I’ve had my head stuck in thesis-land for the past month, and — while I’ve read everyone’s comments on my little poem — I haven’t gotten round to thanking everyone and responding. I will do shortly, but I have to get past this next deadline first.

Nevertheless, a couple of the comments got me thinking about the difference between my perception of the poem and the way my readers responded to it. I was under no illusions that this was a finished piece, and I’m still not. I’ve spent a good deal of time lurking about on ShortbreadStories reading stories and blog posts and comments, and I came to the conclusion some time ago that Shortbread is a bit like Kings Cross Station – you can spend an enjoyable time there, you can meet people and shop and eat and drink, but it’s only ever a stop on a journey to your final destination. It’s not home. Shortbread is not the home for my writing, or for yours either. It is a place that it needs to go through to get where it’s going.

Some of the comments I got reflected this, like those expressing the hope that this first step into submitting with ShortbreadStories helps me get the confidence to submit more, or those informing me of poetry competitions that I could submit to in a search to find a home for my writing.

Another brought up a different point entirely on my poem Mother:

“Hi Karen, just something for you to consider. To me (Only a thought!) the second lines after the ‘Mother’ line seem a little too long. I think the last stanza with the line ‘I am trying not to cry’ sounds as if it has the right rhythm and length to it. It follows the ‘Mother’ line very well. The content is strong and sad and makes you consider that the poor soul will now have two voids in their life. All the best. Hugh

It was not a surprise to me, as the author of the poem (wow that’s a weird thing to write), that a reader noticed a difference between the rhythm of the first long stanza and the final short one. This was sort of the idea I was going for, but without being too precious about it. I was at the stage of getting something semi-finished. The right amount of lines, the right tone, telling a story from beginning to end. I wasn’t at the stage of sitting down and thrashing out my rhythm and metre with dashes and slashes. Yet.

The rhythm is there, and there’s a difference in the way that last stanza feels — from my perspective. This difference is, to me, the opposite of Hugh’s interpretation. I’m not for a moment saying that he’s wrong. Indeed, I greatly believe that if the reader doesn’t get what I’m trying to say then I haven’t made my point well enough. This is normally something that I talk about with students when discussing their academic writing; however it is equally true for creative writing. Hugh’s comment shows me that the discord between the beginning and the end of the poem is there. The reader feels the change and they notice the twist. This is all a very good start.

For me, the rhythm and meter in the final stanza are too short. I’m left feeling the desolate, finite, rushed end of that stanza. But, I can see my character. I can hear their words and the lilt of their accent. I can see where they leave the note to their mother, and what they do after the close of that last line.

My job as an author is not to bend my reader to that exact image of the character. Instead of taking their head in my hands and forcing them to see my character through my perspective, I take a step back and see what they look like to the reader(s).

And so, like the mother in my poem, I have no choice but to watch. My character and their story no longer belong to just me. They belong to you, reader. No longer mine, but ours. And that is the whole reason that I write in the first place.

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On Being an AFWA – an Ageing, Female, Would-be Author

/by Kate Smart/

Do men and women grow old differently?  Of course they do, at least in a superficial sense: biologically, socially, politically and culturally. But do these superficial aspects count?  We all must face ageing and death.

 Western culture has been under various forms of patriarchal control for centuries.  Women, supposedly, lacked the capacity to reason, to manage their own property, or to vote. That has changed, of course, and yet when I look on the internet and television, and at Western media in general, I marvel at how little change there has been since the 1970s in terms of how women are perceived and portrayed. In some respects, we even seem to have travelled backwards.  But, perhaps, the media doesn’t really count.  Perhaps real lives are different.  They generally are.

 The great thing about getting older and becoming an AFWA (or an AMWA) is that, as time passes, you – I – become aware of a multiplicity of selves, and you – I– might even find, at some point, that you – I –  can become friends with some of these selves.  Or, more intriguingly, from the point of view of my own writing, you – I – can become frenemies with these selves.

 As a writer you – I – can draw on these patterns of light and shade, and on an evolving  appreciation of process, growth, decay, loss, and the ultimate poignancy of love in the knowledge of mortality.

So much for the positive side.

But what does it mean?  And what are the wider implications?

It means that you become aware that you are subject to yet another of these well-known,  invidious, pseudo-ironical, and rather offensively-flavoured ‘laws’, such as ‘Murphy’s’, and ‘Sod’s’.

I’ll now provide an example:  I dropped my toast this morning, and it landed butter side down.  Har de har.  How amusing (not).  Butter is too expensive and nourishing to fling willy-nilly straight in the bin, but who, aside from my neighbour’s dog, would choose to eat toast with cat hairs, carrot scrapings and dust on it? Someone with very strange tastes, that’s who, and I wouldn’t want them living next door.  Perhaps your floor is cleaner than mine; perhaps I’m being presumptuous.  If I’m not, you are, like me, thusly (yes, unlikely though it sounds, ‘thusly’ is a real word) thrust into a ghastly dilemma-style vortex of, quite frankly, horrific and unimaginable proportions.

You think I exaggerate?  I do not.  Please Read On.

You have choices. To remove the butter and save the bread, perhaps re-toasting it under the grill (the toaster would be ruined by the inevitably residual butter), thereby turning it into shoe-leather, which might come in handy at some point, but which is likely to be quite inedible. Or start from scratch and make fresh toast. Only (imagine!) the post-person is hammering relentlessly at the door with an Amazon parcel for the dreadful shouty woman three doors up, and you are in a hurry to get your washing out before the rain comes on and you don’t want to miss the Jeremy Kyle Show because your disabled cousin’s dentally-challenged adult children are on it with their…oh who cares.  This is a prime example of how Time gets Wasted as Life Goes By.  And AFWAs have no time to spare.

 The ‘law’ to which I refer, by the way, is a strange law for which no name has yet been invented (I might give it some thought). The essence is that the more years that go by, the more quickly they pass, and the more aware you become of every wasted second.

 There is urgency to life as one ages.  You have only just adjusted to the shock of looking in the mirror and seeing one’s mother, when friends, family and acquaintances start succumbing to the various ghastly diseases that inevitably occur in later life, and one wonders how long one’s own luck will hold out. It was Alexander Pope who said, rather stating the obvious, that terminal illness in the young was like a premature old age.  And Bette Davis said that ageing isn’t for (excuse the politically incorrect term) ‘sissies’.  We AFWAs cannot afford to be ‘sissies’.  We must press on, making the most of every minute, before the Grim Reaper steps on our coat tails and yanks us down to the Nether World.

However, it’s all an awful lot of Hard Work and sometimes one just wants to sit by the fire in one’s velour slippers and winceyette jammies and ‘veg out’, and, if you’re lucky, have someone congenial bring you a mug of cocoa with a hefty slug of sherry in. It must be understood that time spent ‘relaxing’ like this is never wasted, because it is times like this that worthwhile ideas tend to swim up  from the unconscious and puzzles are solved.

It must be acknowledged, equally, that sometimes it is simply too late.  Once you get past a certain age (and I am unsure of what that age is, because it varies from one individual to the next) you have to recognise that there are many things that you will never do again, and that many early ambitions will be left unfulfilled.  The sense of promise and possibility at a new-day dawning diminishes.  That is for sure.

You – I – must come to terms with all of this, because it is the essence of How Things Are. We must travel to a point within ourselves where it is somehow all, all right. And if it is not all right, we must somehow learn to tolerate and accept it. This is my journey, now.

We as writers bear witness to our lives and to the times in which we live.  Even if we write about the past, we are writing it through a prism, which is our own present perception.  We cannot recapture a moment, ever.  We can only describe it as we think it was, or would like it to have been.

What keeps me writing as I age?  I have never stopped wondering ‘why’?  ‘Why are we here?’ and ‘why is life so poignant and short and filled with apparent loss?’  I don’t expect ever to find an answer, but my ambition is to keep on wondering, and seeking, and learning, and I thank God, or Fortune, or whichever, for my faculties and my remaining health and the ability to do so.

Re-blogged from: On Being an AFWA – an Ageing, Female, Would-be Author | Shortbread 

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NaNoWriMo 2012: Derek’s Second Blog Entry

/by Derek Elsby/

Well, my own little National Short Story Writing Month is coming along fairly nicely. What I mean by that is that I haven’t given up and broken down in tears. Or it least if I have broken down in tears (which I’m not saying I have!) then I certainly haven’t quit. And that’s the most important thing, isn’t it? Getting a story out of your head and down on paper can be a battle sometimes. Events don’t go the way you planned them, characters aren’t who you thought they were, sometimes the world itself – your world! – seems to be conspiring against you.  It’s easy to find yourself written into a corner with no satisfying way of getting things moving again. And even all of that assumes that you can actually beat the lazy and  start putting the words down the first place. Other than not starting, giving up can often be the easiest thing to do with an unfinished story.

One of my writing buddies recently asked if it was normal to hit the proverbial wall. She was finding it hard to get going, keep going and even figure out where to go. As one, we responded that this was normal and, what’s more, that it does indeed get better.

I’ve mentioned, superfluously I’m sure, that the unadulterated thrill of writing – good writing – is unique and almost unmatchable. Thinking back to my first NaNoWriMo, before I knew exactly what that was like, I can understand how a ‘new writer’ might dismiss such talk in the same way that the average person dismisses an adrenaline junkie talking about sky diving. Back then, I had distant memories of that writing thrill from the odd short story from way back in school and such, but those memories were long and distant. When I first hit the literary wall I gave up. I still have that story lying in my “unfinished works” folder. It is not alone. I’ve given up plenty of times. Sometimes it’s good to give up. After all, if something has stopped being exciting for you to write then, by all means, ditch it. Some things can’t be fixed and knowing when to give up and move on is an important skill. Giving up can sometimes be the answer.

I started on my second short story of the month last week and gave up after only 265 words. I didn’t know exactly how to get to where I wanted to and, frankly, I couldn’t be arsed digging through the situation I had created to find out.

Instead I started again, with the same characters from my first short story, and battered out just under 2000 words in two sittings. I’m loving it again. And that, for me at least, is what NaNo is all about: finding the joy in writing.

Without question, National Novel Writing Month is invaluable in introducing people to the hardships and problems of writing. Learning to overcome these problems is a valuable lesson to learn for anyone. It can also teach people the value and rewards of hard work. I referenced NaNoWriMo, and the lessons it taught me, in my university application and I’m certain it had an impact on my acceptance (I got my qualifications before some of the people in my course were born, so I’m fairly sure my written statement was more important for the selection process). Valuable lessons are, well, valuable, but why endure the hardships and struggle to overcome the obstacles of writing if the reward isn’t worth it?

Writing rocks! NaNoWriMo is an excellent excuse to ignore all the bad stuff that can come with it and get to the fun bits. The hard stuff will always be there. My advice? If you’re doing NaNo this year, and you find yourself stuck, try a few things before giving up. There are plenty of things to try – check nanowrimo.org for plenty of tricks and tips. But if the tricks don’t work, give up! And start again! The starting again is the important part. Insert a page break, add a new title and keep on battering the keyboard. Eventually, I promise, something good will fall out.

Shortbreader of the Year 2011: Diane Dickson

/by Diane Dickson/

Round about this time last year the ShortbreadStories Team asked members to cast votes for their chosen “Shortbreader of the Year 2011”.  I thought it was a lovely idea and so put together my vote with a couple of supporting paragraphs and sent it in.  I then consigned the thing to the back of my mind, duty done, with a good luck wish for my chosen “candidate”. 

When the winner was announced in January of this year I simply could not believe what I was reading.  I had no prior notice and found out on the same day as everyone else that the wonderful people of ShortbreadStories had decided that I would be awarded the title.

Well, for the next couple of days I walked around with what must have been a really silly grin pasted on my face while trying to work out ways to tell my friends and family without seeming to brag, though in truth I did want to brag.  It felt so special to me and I was thrilled.

Well to be totally honest the honour itself would have been enough but then the fun really took off.  I think the experience was enhanced for me because we were out of the country at the time and so my son and daughter agreed to receive my prizes for me.  There were books, there was a beautiful shiny trophy and there was the biggest box of Walker’s Shortbread in the entire world.  Each time something arrived my son would send me a picture of the parcel with a note saying what shall I do and each time my impatience got the better of me and I said “Open it” and so he would send little emails of the proceedings. 

It was lovely because my grandsons got to be a real part of granny’s prize and in fact the whole family had fun.  Fiona and Rachel were wonderfully patient sending things to different addresses and responding to all my requests with great good humour.  I was able to choose a book from the Dundee University bookshop and my Son in Law was involved with that, helping me to pick something that he would be able to help me understand!! And that has been great, although to be honest I’m still struggling with a lot of it. 

The hamper of shortbread was put away untouched and kept in safety for me until we came back and then oh boy did we pig out.  The boys were allowed to choose one thing each (darn it Charlie picked the chocolate chip ones – but a bargain’s a bargain especially with your grandson). 

I have lovely mementos in the form of books, a treasured copy of Short Breaks, New Writing Dundee and a Celebration of Burns – For A’ That

One of my stories featured in the Friday spot, and anyone who has experienced that will know what a glow it gives you.

Since then every time Fiona has mentioned my name she has given me my full title and I thank you Fiona for that, I did notice.

All this was wonderful of course but I did feel that it carried with it a degree of responsibility on my part.  The members of the site had been so very kind and generous and I felt honour bound to respect that.  I have tried very hard to read as much as I possibly could over the last year, to comment as helpfully and in as friendly a way as possible, I have tried to take part in all the competitions, to read and respond to blog posts and forum discussions and just generally to be worthy of the title of Shortbreader of the Year.  I have continued to submit my scribblings and actually it has been my pleasure, all of it, I love the site and the people who visit and so I have enjoyed it immensely.

I have a link on my blog and have mentioned ShortbreadStories whenever it has been appropriate and I know that there are people who are now members due to that.  I have self-published a couple of novellas and have mentioned this wonderful site in those and have visited the site every day that it has been possible for me to so.  I hope that I have repaid the kindness of the people who were instrumental in my winning the award for 2011 and I really wish whoever is chosen as Shortbreader of the Year 2012 as much joy from it as I have had. 

NaNoWriMo 2012: Derek’s First Blog Entry

/by Derek Elsby/

Blog Entry 1:

I have a horrible confession to make. I’ve just logged into the NaNoWriMo website and set myself up for National Novel Writing Month, 2012. That’s not the confession; it’s connected, but I’ll save that for later.

It was way back in 2007 that a good bunch of friends introduced me to National Novel Writing Month and it’s become a fun tradition for us every year since. For those who aren’t aware, NaNoWriMo is a fun way to try and write a fifty thousand word novel during the month of November – that equates to writing around 1,500 words every day for the entire month. It’s said that everyone has a novel within them, NaNoWriMo is a chance to get it out.

What I’ve always liked about NaNo (yep, we’re shortening the acronym even more) is that it can be as serious as you want it to be. I’ve seen some people treat it like a life or death situation while others simply enjoy just being a part of it. I’ve treated it differently every year I’ve participated. The one year I actually hit the target 50k was the most intense and satisfying fun I’ve ever had with a keyboard. In other years  I’ve thrown the word count out the window (admittedly, usually after falling behind) and simply enjoyed the writing and socialising aspects that the month offers.

 

For me, the socialising is an important part of NaNo. Writing can be lonely, so our weekly write-ins make it fun, productive and social! It’s also a great way of sharing your work; our write-ins usually comprise of initial socialising, a few hours of tappity-silence, followed by readings of what we’ve written. This not only helps you realise where you’ve made mistakes, but getting live feedback can be incredibly simulating, and can encourage you to write more.

But back to my confession. I’ve already admitted that I’ve only reached the 50k target once. What can I say, often real life intrudes and while 1500 words a day isn’t all that much, keeping it up continuously for thirty days is a challenge. When real life doesn’t intrude, real laziness is always there to pick up the slack. That said, the feeling of my victory, “way back in oh-nine” will probably stay with me forever. I still get a little bloom of pride every time I look at the book on my shelf with my name on it. Sure, it’s a free-sample proof copy. Yes, it’s a rushed out, un-edited first draft and, as such, has got more plot holes and inconsistencies than your average conspiracy theory, but dammit, I wrote that! That feeling alone is worth, well fifty thousand words easily (it’s actually closer to ninety thousand – I kept going into December to finish the story).

Sorry, that wasn’t the confession either; got sidetracked by my ego, sorry.

My confession is that, even though we are now four days into NaNoWriMo 2012, I haven’t written any words. Well, that’s not true either (I know! The web of lies!). I have written about 1500, but they are all part of an essay that’s due in tomorrow. As I said, life intrudes. I have another essay due in another week so NaNo will be taking a back seat to university studies this year. But that’s also a good thing. You see, despite being a member of this fine website, ShortbreadStories, I’m actually really bad at writing short stories. The only story I have on Shortbread is about 7,000 words – not the shortest story on the planet. I tend to want to keep going into details, background, the world etc. So, I’ve decided that instead of NaNoWriMo, this year I’ll shall be doing NaShoStoWriMo. Doesn’t quite roll off the tongue in the same way, admittedly. I’m aiming to complete four or five short stories this month. I think that’s on crazy-par with 50k words. Bring it on (in short installments) November!

Derek’s first NaShoStoWriMo attempt can be found here, and if you’d like to read more thoughts from Derek check out his blog. 

Note: This blog was first posted on www.shortbreadstories.com in the second week of November.

Donkeyness

/by Angela Dyer/

Hello, I haven’t made an appearance on Shortbread Stories for a while as I have been preoccupied writing a book, non-fiction. But now it is out in the world, for good or ill, and I am back in the world (ditto), so Fiona has asked me to write a few words about the difference between writing fiction and non-fiction.

If pressed to put it in one word I would say that word is imagination. The other necessary components – the idea, putting it into words, getting them on paper (or keyboard) and then paring them down, feeling stuck, sleepless nights, pre-print nerves – are all sickeningly familiar, whether you are writing fiction or non-fiction. For both, observation is key, as is letting ideas simmer and evolve, allowing the pace to dictate itself. (My biggest Shortbread flop – I won’t say which one – was a story I dashed off in a fit of over-confidence and have regretted ever since.)

But without imagination fiction is a poor lifeless thing, stifled before birth. And I don’t just mean the ability to imagine oneself on a beach in the Bahamas or driving a Lamborghini, but that quirk, that leap, that tantalising twist or sudden spark which those of us who lack it know, sadly, we could never come up with though we sat at the computer trying for a hundred years . . . So for me, back to non-fiction. But to you, good luck, maybe you have it.

Angela Dyer has just published her non-fiction book Donkeyness, which is available to buy on Amazon. 

The Edinburgh International Book Festival 2012

Our regular Festival go-er, Carol Ford, shares with us her experiences at this year’s Edinburgh International Book Festival.

Sunday, 19th August

Charlotte Square is situated near the west end of Princes Street, currently amidst road works, traffic cones and redirected traffic routes due to the laying of tram lines. The Book Festival marquees, which are set up in the circular garden in the middle of Charlotte Square, surround the magnificent equestrian statue of Prince Albert.

Sunday was a humid, sunny, day and people of all ages were sitting at tables, enjoying the weather in the centre courtyard. Others were either queuing up for events or milling around on the wooden walkways.

The first event my friend Sandra and I attended featured Ali Smith, an Inverness-born lass now living in Cambridge. Ali has a few books under her belt; her last novel being ‘There But For The’.  To be honest I had never heard of her previously, but I found her sense of humour and use of puns very entertaining. She writes about love, sexuality and  relationships, all with an amazing wit.

After coffee and cake our next event was a ‘threesome’.  Allan GuthrieSara Sheridan and Gavin Inglis talked firstly about themselves and their achievements in the book world followed by some very interesting information on how to get ‘plugged in’ to the literary community.  Facebook, Twitter, blogs, media, libraries and book groups are all ways in which we can let people see our work.  They also talked about entering the E-book world, as this technology is the way of the future.

Time for lunch  – you do a lot of eating at book festivals! We wandered along nearby Rose Street, which used to be great for shopping when I lived in the town. Now there are numerous wine bars, cafes, takeaways and restaurants.

Anne Enright was our next port of call,  a very clever Irish writer whose books have won various prizes over the years. She read from her latest novel ‘The Forgotten Waltz’ set in Ireland,  and it is a dark, humorous tale about adultery.  She left us wanting to hear more.

After browsing around the bookshop tents and wandering out for tea, and more cake, we returned to find the queue for our next event wound round the entire walkway TWICE!  Nile Rodgers is an American musician, producer, songwriter and guitarist, born in the fifties; no doubt you have all heard of him. His first claim to fame was in a band named ‘Chic’ who had the enormous hit with ‘Le Freak’. Yes – you oldies out there will remember disco dancing to it. Come on now, own up. His book is about his life of sex, drugs and music, hmmmm…

The place was packed, mostly with fans, and as I scanned the audience, particularly the guys, I saw trance-like faces. With wide eyes and mouths hanging open, it was like being at a teenage rock concert – only the teenagers weren’t teenagers…!

Tiring fast, it was time for a taxi back to Sandra’s sister and a good night’s sleep. Looking back on Book Festival Sunday, I admit to some disappointment – I thought it would have been busier.

Paperless Back Writer

/by Lee Crompton/

If you read my last blog about self-publishing, you may have thought it all sounded quite difficult. The initial capital outlay required to print the paperbacks can be substantial and there is no guarantee of recouping the money through sales. ISBN’s and sourcing a printer can be a headache, so what if you could get your book “out there” with minimum cost and effort?

I’ve never really embraced the concept of the digital book. There had been many success stories but like anything, not everyone can become a bestseller. Amazon make a shed load of cash from the hundreds of thousands of people who sell a handful of copies. Aside from this, I’m not keen on the idea of reading a novel from a rigid slab.

However, curiosity got the better of me. All I needed was an Amazon account. I signed up for free and once I’d read the publishing guidelines it didn’t take long to format the book and insert the page breaks into my Word document. It was then just a case of uploading the file and waiting for it to become available.

I chose to experiment with my latest novel, Digging Deeper. Having already released it as a paperback, I was curious to find out if making it available on Kindle would add anything? It wasn’t going to cost me, so I decided to sell each copy for just a £1 (even with Amazon clearly wanting a cut of the profits).

And so there it was … on Amazon … available, ranked as #300,000 and not 1 copy sold. I made a cup of coffee and thought I’d tell the world, through Facebook and Twitter that Digging Deeper was available for £1. I went to bed.

To my amazement, I woke up the following morning to discover that it had moved up to #85,776. I needed to tell the world. I tweeted some more, Facebooked friends. Two hours later it had reached a sales ranking of #17,546. There were re-tweets, friends told their friends, momentum gathered. By the end of the following day, Digging Deeper had reached #87 of all books available in the horror/thriller genre on Kindle, outselling the likes of Stephen King and John Grisham.

Now, this may have lasted for a matter of hours but without really trying very hard I had broken the top #100. However brief, it had become an instant success and the secret would have been to keep the momentum going.

It was an experiment, maybe something to consider with the new book, but it had given me an insight in the possibilities. If I was prepared to put more time into the marketing, maybe build up a snowball effect with more and more retweets on Twitter, then who knew where it would lead.

So if you’re looking to self-publish but not sure where you start, releasing a Kindle edition might be the way forward. After all, it costs you nothing to dip your toe into the publishing pool, and you might be surprised with the results.

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