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Archive for the category “Motivation and Inspiration”

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

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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Mentors

/by Alisa James/

A few years ago I took early retirement following a long, happy and successful period of employment as the Examinations Officer of the University of Bristol. It’s a wonderful institution but let’s be honest, who wants to spend their life in an institution? My husband and I moved to North Devon, where he could pursue his ambition of becoming the ‘surf bum’ to which he had always aspired and I could put pen to paper, figuratively speaking. To this end I enrolled in The Writer’s Bureau and bought myself a copy of that font of all knowledge, The Writers & Artists Yearbook. Thus equipped I started down the long and often lonely road to my dream to become a writer.

The Writer’s Bureau is a home-study course developed by professional writers. The enrolment cost wasn’t cheap but it did offer a guarantee of a full refund if I didn’t recoup my expenses after completing the course. It’s a flexible study programme structured into thirty modules which cater for all aspects of writing – articles, stories, features, novels, journalism, non-fiction books and scripts. It also contains useful information and advice on how to deal with editors and publishers, how to present your work and, more importantly, how to sell your work. You can choose your own study path and once you’ve provided your Personal Profile you’re given your first assignment. The course is structured so that you start with relatively easy writing and then progress to more complex work as your skills develop. There’s no time limit on your studies so you can proceed at your own pace but as a rough guide I took about 2-4 weeks on each assignment before sending it off to my personal tutor.

One of the reasons I signed up with The Writer’s Bureau is my great reluctance to show others my work. My husband was very keen to be my proof reader and give advice but honestly, he’s one of the world’s original pedants and for the sake of continuing marital bliss I wanted to avoid this route at all costs – criticism from him would be too much for my fragile ego to bear. I found it much easier to deal with the anonymous face of my tutor each month, although this didn’t stop my mortification when my work was returned with adverse comments in the sidelines or the cringing embarrassment of having basic grammatical errors pointed out. In some respects it was like going back to school and receiving a report on your homework ‘7/10 could do better’ but on the plus side there was also the glow when a particular paragraph was praised.

It was the perfect introduction to the wonderland of writing with all its shades and textures, emotions and excitements. Yes, you need both flair and discipline to write really well – whether for fun or profit – but it does provide a framework for creating an organised approach to making the most of your talents as you gradually get a feel for words and the search for those descriptive phrases which enable you to communicate your true feelings. And it did help me to acquire and develop certain skills and techniques which in turn gave me the confidence to think that some of my articles might be worthy of publication. Utilising The Writers & Artists Yearbook, I sent a few away to prospective publications.

The publishing world is a hard nut to crack and each rejection of a piece that you’ve worked so hard upon is extremely demoralising (I have a file full of rejection letters and could easily paper my entire lounge with them) but I did start to have some success – a huge boost to any aspiring writer. I wrote a number of travel articles which were published by MMM (Motorhome and Motorcaravan Monthly). I also had a small contribution published in Reader’s Digest and a couple of poems published by United Press Ltd in books entitled Still Life and People and Places. Within the first year I had more than recouped the cost of the course.

The support and encouragement of having your own tutor certainly helped but I never did complete the course. WHY? Well, a few years ago, whilst attending a meeting of our Harley-Davidson club at a country Pub in Frithelstock (you have to be sober to say that!) I found myself talking to a local man propped on a stool at the bar. Our small talk eventually arrived at his question ‘What do you do?’ and I told him that I was now a lady of leisure but was currently undertaking a course with the The Writer’s Bureau. It turned out that he was Richard Joseph, of Richard Joseph Publishers Ltd and he had one piece of advice for me – ‘Courses won’t do it – you have to get down and write, write, write’. He gave me a signed copy of his book ‘BESTSELLERS Top Writers Tell How’ and told me to get cracking.

Call me naive but I reckoned that he just had to know what he was talking about. I took his advice to heart and knuckled down. I have now written two children’s books; Reggie’s Rambles and The Catash Inn. A romantic novel Blind Justice and I’m currently working on a murder mystery entitled ‘Death Lies Heavy’. None of these have been published – as I said, the publishing world is a hard nut to crack but never-the-less I had great pleasure writing them and hey, you never know, ‘one day’. Last year I won the Trowbridge Short Story Competition with Ellie’s Choice and also had a travel article published in the Harley-Davidson Magazine Hog’s Tales. This year I also had a short travel article published in the Saturday Telegraph, winning two Easy Jet return tickets to Naples.

So, there you have it. The writing course supported me in my infancy and certainly put me on the right road. Richard Joseph’s timely advice set me off in another direction and since then I have tried to follow his advice and write… write…. write.

A couple of years ago a friend in Canada emailed me with details of a website that published short stories. She said how good it was and that she always logged in each morning to grab a story or two whilst enjoying her cup of coffee. That was my introduction to Shortbread Stories – long may it continue.

Shortbreader Inspiration: Suzanne Mays

/by Suzanne Mays/

All kind of things inspire me. I’ll get a title, a word, a group of words that sound right. I’ll think of a story to go along with it. Often I’ll put my pen on a piece of paper and just start writing gibberish. It makes no sense but this leads to that, and then there’s something. Like how did ‘Sign Pine Road’ get its name? Well, I actually found out there was a big pine tree at the cross roads with an arrow sign nailed on it. When they had to come up with a name for that road, and that’s what they called it.

Crazy things like that inspire me, and I don’t care if no one likes these stories but me. Of course, I’d like readers to enjoy my work, but if a story’s clicking heels for me, and I did the best that I could, I don’t care if others don’t respond. Also, it helps that my stories don’t have to pay the electric bill or the rent, so I write what I want. That makes it fun.

It’s a combination of wanting to write and the fun of writing. I love words – love words that make pictures in my mind. Those pictures are beautiful daydreams and, for awhile, I get to live there. Maybe I’m super controlling. Maybe I love it because I get to control every single thing inside my stories. What they say, what they do, what they wear. I can’t do that in real life. But in a story, I can tell everybody what to do. Sometimes the characters tell me what to do and that’s fun, too.

The main thing that inspires me to write is that curling up with a good story and just wanting to stay there, is a wonderful thing. I’m right there in that world, and I don’t want to leave. Lots of writers have done that for me. If I can ever do that for somebody else, it’ll be the coolest day of my life. Anybody can write, but it helps if they want to. I have to want to writer, and I believe that if I just keep at it – I can.

I Get to Write

/by Suzanne May/

I loved to read and when I was little; I’d put myself to sleep at night making up stories. Somewhere around ten, I decided that when I grew up I’d write stories just like the ones I read. When I grew-up, I still wanted to write down stories for a living, but it didn’t sound practical or sensible enough, so I became a nurse instead. I got married and had kids and worked to pay the bills. I had a thousand excuses not to write so I didn’t. However, the desire to write never left me, but over time I began to think that since I never pursued writing, I never would.

When I was forty-seven, I went to a friend’s funeral. We graduated from high school together, and the night before her funeral there was a viewing inside the funeral home. A whole lot of people were packed into a little room; I got churned around and suddenly found myself directly over the open casket. My friend was a pretty girl in life, but in that coffin her face was death.

It was hot in there and I couldn’t breathe. I had to get out. I finally found the door and stood on the steps watching a big red sun going down over the cemetery. I took a deep breath of cold air, and with that breath it hit me that I didn’t have forever. If there was something I wanted to do, I’d better do it.

Shortly after the funeral, I was standing at the sink washing dishes with my sister-in-law, who was a speech therapist, and she’d written some very fine stories. I told her I’d always wanted to write, but hadn’t written anything I’d ever want to read. She just looked at me and said, ‘You can learn to write. There’re all sorts of teachers and courses to help you.’

How did I get to be so old before I understood this? I’d always thought a writer put their pen over a piece of paper and a story came out. Since I hadn’t done that, I wasn’t a writer.

I enrolled in English 101 at the local college, where the teacher looked fourteen to me. He said, ‘We’re going to learn to write by writing stories, whatever you want.’ Then he said, ‘I’m so excited.’

I was so excited as well, I wanted to burst, and I have been excited ever since. When I get down in the dumps, I think back to that moment.

My life’s turning out right for me. I may be older, but I now write because I get to write. You can’t write from inside a coffin.

It’s fun to think up stories and make them better and better. If anyone reads them now — like on ShortbreadStories.com — and they like my work, then it’s a singing day for me. I’m doing my job.

Shortbreaders Respond to Inspiration

/by Rachel Marsh, Jay Leffew, Diane Dickson, Katy Hulme and Maysam Kandej/

Several weeks back ShortbreadStories introduced the topic of ‘inspiration’ by launching our Shortbreader Inspiration series. So far David Appleby, Andy Bottomley and Kate Smart have given us blog posts on what inspires them to write. Additionally, in a Shortbread Writer I asked the authorial body of ShortbreadStories to send in your responses to ‘What inspires you to write?’

We received a number of varying and interesting responses. Jay Leffew argues that she’s not sure if inspiration is a blessing or a curse.’ She states, ‘I’m usually up and about by 6.00, so all my writing is done in the two or three hours before the day really begins.’ Jay’s inspiration seems to come in the form of a busy writing day: starting off with checking her emails and reading through ShortbreadStories’ new posts and works, then writing for her own blog, and next on to completing her writing exercises for two writing groups, where she always writes, ‘something original, as well as digging out works from published authors [as inspiration to her writing group assignments].’ Yet she continues to argue that she doesn’t always need the work of published authors as inspiration,  ‘a phrase, sometimes just one word will trigger me, and I don’t know how many times I’ve had something come to me whilst out and about on my Mobility Scooter.’ For Jay, this curse of inspiration, followed by a fluster of activity, seems to be a necessity of life, because she states, ‘ As long as I don’t fall asleep in the middle of things, I can’t seem to stop unless I focus on something else, like TV, or Spider Solitaire.’

Yet, for others inspiration is not urged on by activity, but is instead stilted by life. Diane Dickson wrote that with her children in boarding school, and her family in another country, she had a lot of spare time, and now – later in life – she wonders if ‘that’s where I went wrong, I should have written far more then.’ She goes on to argue ‘“then” was a long time ago, no home PCs, no internet and a mail system that was “interesting” both in time scales and censorship issues’, so she wrote her first novel in pencil and then pounded it out on a manual typewriter, and posted it off ‘in brown envelopes, and it returned in brown envelopes.’ In retrospect, she now can say, ‘it’s no good saying I should have done more then, I did what I could.’

This I find to be a wonderful attitude, you do what you can, especially because, as Diane argues, it may be ‘easier now.’ ‘One can write, edit, format and even publish sitting at a nice desk with a lovely view out of the window. But it is so very time consuming isn’t it?’ Yes, it is time consuming, and when speaking of inspiration it’s often time we’re speaking of.

Diane continues by talking about trying to balance inspiration and time when working a job that does not have the title ‘novelist’: ‘When I worked full time it was accepted that I would be out of the house from seven thirty in the morning and would be home around six thirty all being well and nobody minded. Now though I know, I just know that if I tried to put in that sort of day “just writing” it would be disapproved of. At the end of the day I think that you just have to do what you can, juggle and knit and try to keep everyone happy while still fulfilling the passion, but good grief it’s difficult and it doesn’t seem that it’ll get any easier any time soon.’

In Diane’s response, she talks about life getting in the way of writing, and she even commented that days of sunshine and travel do not make inspiration any easier, ‘When we are in France there is a large garden, barbecues, trips out and a husband. In UKthere are more trips and there is family and it is so very difficult to fit in writing.’

Katy Hulme of the Storytelling Nomad knows all about trying to write while travelling, about making each day a day of inspiration. In her blog post ‘I is for Inspiration’ she talks about those who went before her, her discoveries of these authors while travelling, and how they inspire her to keep writing.

Where as Maysam Kandej finds inspiration for writing extremely personal, and he writes to escape the pain of missing a loved one. He argues that, ‘For many, writing is a kind of fun. Something like going to the amusement park and having fun with friends, but for me, it’s all a war. A war between me, and of course again me. I’m not going to teach anything to anybody, because I still have a lot to learn. I’m not going to talk about my own sadness in my stories, anymore. But, I’m just going to be a free soul who can fly wherever he wants, and who can see the world through many other bewildered souls.’ He writes not to publish or for mass consumption, he writes to create worlds for those he’s lost.

He argues that while his inspiration may have roots in sadness, he is not sad. ‘You really don’t need to find some extraordinary inspirations somewhere far far away. Your inspirations can be your wife, husband, and lovely children, who may have been taken for granted. We might never learn that “The true story is here. It’s Beside me. It’s my dear spouse. It’s my dear children. And it’s my dear sunny day at home”.’ Maysam then added that the true story may not be ‘writing the Sunday newsletter for “Shortbread.”’ Touché dear Maysam.

Since Maysam has thrown the inspiration ball back into my court, so to speak, I shall take this moment to examine my own feelings about inspiration. I personally do not find the search for inspiration difficult, and I do not believe anyone has trouble instigating that moment of inspiration. How often do we see a scene playing out on a street, and think ‘That would make a wonderful story?’ It’s similar to the moment when something in the house doesn’t work, and we think of a tool or gadget that would make the world – or at least our households – a better place. We have all had these moments of inspiration.

What we do not do is act on those moments. That scene which would ‘make a great’ story never gets written and it floats away from our minds, forever to be lost. Some people will jot a note about that scene, swearing by their little black book that they will later come back to that idea and write the full story – but it never happens. This is same as that gadget which exists in our mind, never to be developed, until one day we’re watching ‘The Dragon’s Den’ and we think, ‘I thought of it first.’ But we never acted.

Notice I am using the royal ‘we’ (or to Americans, the managerial ‘we’), because I have not interviewed all the world on their habits of turning inspiration into action, but I have a feeling that I’m not alone in these fleeting moments of inspiration. They are everywhere. We have them several times a day, we simply do not turn them into action, and this is where I’d like to return to Jay.

She finds her ‘inspirations’ a curse, because she must act on them – even when she does not want to. She writes every day, and she studies the work of others who have written before. She does not let life get in the way of what inspiration could become. Should we all be as active as Jay, as prolific? Perhaps not, perhaps her flourish of activity does not suit us all. Perhaps, as stated by Diane, ‘you just have to do what you can’, and that will have to be enough.

Shortbreader Inspiration: Inspiration or Inspire Ration?

/by Andy Bottomley/

Why is it when someone asks ‘What inspires you?’ a grey fog of nothingness descends, the normally fertile mind goes blank, and where speech once flowed, silence screams? I really do not know because inspiration is an illusive, fragile, multi-coloured butterfly that can take off and go as easily as it arrives.

Perhaps we should look at the converse, we as writers are ‘inspiring’. Is that where inspiration comes from? From other writers or maybe we inspire other writers to write. We as writers are, by all accounts, inspired beings. We stimulate the imagination; we draw pictures with words – words that are then displayed on the canvas of media for others to read.

I have been asked to look at how I am inspired and to be honest if I look at the canon of work I have posted on Shortbread, I have to say I really do not know where the inspiration comes from. I am not one of those people who have loads of ideas in their head all clambering to be heard, anymore than I have a reel of film constantly playing in the cinema of my mind. I think about other things, other things that don’t make up stories – or do they?

Sometimes they do.

Take for example my piece entitled ‘The Beetle Lady’, a tale that recalls the exploits of an elderly shoplifter who with steel toed shoes and a lead lined handbag goes about her regular binge of uplifting items from stores she visits. It’s a piece of nonsense that came about after a spot of people watching in the store that loves to tell you that it’s ‘Yours’. The lady in question walked in, meekly followed by her husband, and having gained her bearings started to rifle through the rails of clothing, seemingly only be interested in black items. The shoes and the handbag came later but the inspiration came merely by watching.

For me inspiration comes through observation, observation that has been viewed through the prism of imagination – and that’s probably true for many us. We see something, something goes ping, the creative juices start to flow and before we know it two and two are adding up, and because we’re not journalists the end result can be far greater than four. What we are talking about here is synergy, where the outcome is greater than the sum of the parts. In other words, as writers we see something and then something else happens that takes the ordinary off into the extra-ordinary world of storytelling.

Another place where inspiration can be found is in the ‘challenge’. Writing groups are good at throwing these little wobblers out once in a while. From experience, when asked to do something I usually struggle, especially when I’m asked to write a song on a given subject, but then on occasions, inspiration wields its wand and off we go. It may take time but we’ll get there.

Recently I was inspired by a challenge thrown by a fellow ShortbreadStories author who, having read a couple of my stories, noted that one or two stories involved a mirror and that others had fairies in them. The challenge was made – write a story about fairies and mirrors. The experience was a good one, and before I knew it a story for which I had neither inclination nor inspiration had been written. It’s a funny old thing inspiration.

The trouble with inspiration can be the total lack of it. I know of people who are perfectly capable of writing and of writing well, their problem however is that they simply do not know what to write about, and that is an absolute killer. Sometimes inspiration can so easily display that illusive quality of the butterfly where ideas float in the breeze of thought but refuse to settle. They will waltz and twist but will not allow themselves to bask in the sunshine of creativity and that can be downright annoying. It happens, and when it does, then maybe its time to do something else. If a story refuses to be told, then for me it is time for the factual to be written.

I often write about nature, its observational stuff, factual – no flights of fancy here. What I see is what you get. Inspiration in that instance is not given free reign; for there are times when we need to show it who’s boss. It is, however, a two-way street where the observations made in writing factual pieces make the short trip into the world of fiction, where the knowledge gleaned in one can be put to good use as background and description in the other. As I said, it’s a funny old thing, inspiration.

Without doubt this short piece will not change the world. I doubt it will even inspire that many, but inspiration is not a commodity that can be bottled. It is not something one can teach another, it is not even something we can say we’ve got. It is, however, something that visits us, something that can settle within us, giving us the writer a sense that there is no other option than to write what we must write. Sometimes inspiration will challenge us to write things we don’t usually write: a different genre, horror instead of comedy. That is when inspiration becomes inspirational, when the act of writing is greater than merely the transfer of thought into words. Inspiration has a birthright and, as writers, we are the ones who have the privilege and duty of delivering that message. That for me is both exciting and inspirational.  

Summer Motivation

/by Rachel Marsh/

A couple of weeks back I asked in the Shortbread Writer, ‘As writing is traditionally an indoor sport, and with summer and all its sunshiny glory ahead of us, how do you get motivated to write?’

After that newsletter, I began to really think about that question. How do authors get motivated to write? Especially when much more interesting activities are on offer.

Sometimes this motivation can cross over into inspiration, and other times it’s as simple as sheer will power.

I received a number of verbal responses from friends with whom I have had this discussion. My friend Kathleen said that she writes in the summer because, as a teacher, it’s the only time she has free, and she feels she must make the most of her time off. While my friend Paul said that he writes during the summer because he ‘has to’. Just because the sun is out doesn’t mean the ideas disappear.

For me, the motivation to stay inside and write despite the call of the summer sun is rooted in my background as a postgraduate student. Years upon years of working independently, with the pressure of academic judgement, has taught me to ignore the beauty of the outdoors and immerse myself in writing. However, sometimes (okay, actually quite often), I find myself being called by blue skies, green trees and warm breezes. No matter how hard I try, I cannot focus, and before I know it, I’m on a beach-blanket lying in the sun.

However, there are days — despite the warm weather, despite the BBQs, despite the sound of lawnmowers — that I forgo summer activities, hunker down and get the novel written. As I mentioned, much of my writing ‘work ethic’ stems from years working on a research thesis, but I am also motivated to write because of the constant internal nagging which tells me that ‘the work simply needs to be done’. If I want that novel finished, that short story written, or that play edited, I need to put in the work. And, between a full time job, my working with ShortbreadStories, and a boyfriend who prefers that I don’t ignore him too much, something has to give. Unfortunately, that something is summer leisure time.

The only other option is to only write during the dark days of winter. This does work for many people, but not for me as procrastination is as easy to do in the winter as it is during the summer. There are holiday parties, and big Sunday roasts, and ski trips and hot toddies, and all kinds of winter fun. So, as you can see, for me procrastination abounds in all seasons; therefore, the only way I can manage to motivate myself at any point in the year is to remember, ‘If I want the outcome (ie. the completed novel, the short story collection, the produced play), I have to exchange some social activities for writing time.’

But, before this begins to sound too much like a lecture, let me pose a question to the ShortbreadStories community. ‘When your days are past, and you are looking back at your life, which would you prefer? A series of completed manuscripts or memories spent with family and friends?’

There’s no right or wrong answer to that question, and only you know the answer.

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