Archive for January, 2013

Beth Lee BrowningThis is part of an intermittent series about Julia Cameron’s Walking in This World.

by Beth Lee-Browning

A while ago I expressed my love for the classic Disney films and the recurring theme of wishes and dreams being fulfilled. Characters overcome obstacles, find courage and beauty from within, and learn that wishes really can come true.

Week eight of Walking in This World (Julia Cameron) is entitled Discovering a Sense of Discernment and the author begins the chapter with a challenge, “Are we actually able to go the distance?”

As I thought about the challenge and the phrase, “go the distance,” it occurred to me that there is another underlying theme woven into my all-time favorites; from Hercules to Mulan, the characters slay dragons and conquer evil forces along their journey to fulfill their dream and find the place in life where they belong.

It took me two weeks to complete this lesson; I needed additional time to process the message and to complete the final task.  The author begins with an analogy, “For many artists, fame is a trigger food, or can be.” She explains the pitfalls of chasing fame rather than staying focused on making art.  When we strive to please the public eye we forget that “[s]elf-respect lies in the writing and the playing, not in the reviews.” If we focus our efforts on ‘making it’ rather than making art we are vulnerable to depression and frustration because we’re not ‘making it’ fast enough.”

I have to admit I am guilty of this. Although I understand Julia’s advice about the value of my day job as a source of creative fuel in addition to providing an income; I still spend more time than I should wondering what I can write that will be my lucky break, my springboard to fame and freedom.  Julia reminded me that being a writer is not synonymous with recognition. She also pointed out, “When we are focused on making a career in the arts, we often forget that our artful nature is a gift we can bring to the personal as well as the professional realm.”  I hadn’t thought about using my gift as a way to express my love and appreciation to the important people in my life.  I wonder if my family and friends would mind if I wrote them birthday gifts next year.

We are all faced with changes in direction and unexpected events in our life. When they come we are faced with both opportunities and diversions, the author defines them as “useful things and opportunities to be used.”

“As we become brighter and stronger as artists, others are attracted by that clarity and glow.  Some of them will help us on our way, while others will try to help themselves, diverting our creative light to their own path.”

Unfortunately, the world is full of people who position themselves as mentors, fans, and supporters; who in reality use any means at their disposal to execute their own agenda and advance themselves at your expense.  One of the critical elements of ‘going the distance’ is the ability to discern between the opportunities and the diversions and to discover and extract ourselves from the influence of the opportunists and creative saboteurs.

This may mean slaying dragons, exorcising demons, or making difficult decisions. It means we must be alert to the consequences of our decisions and be able to distinguish between what seemed to be a lucky break and is in reality an unlucky choice and take appropriate action.  It’s also important to evaluate which risks are worth taking and which are not.  Discernment combines following your instincts with gathering information and facts to come to the right conclusion.

I thought her description of opportunity and opportunists was brilliant: “Opportunity knocks with a Christmas-morning feeling…a hushed sense of awe as an opportunity slides into place…Opportunists, by contrast, have more of a pressured feeling of last-minute shopping, the kind of impulse buy where you know you shouldn’t but you do.”  I think this will become one of my guideposts.

Often our insecurities cause us to accept help from people who are looking out for themselves or to believe input from “creative saboteurs.” A creative saboteur is someone who attempts to crush our dreams with confusion, dissuasion, and presumed superiority; they will have a million reasons why an idea can’t or won’t work. Creative saboteurs are like snakes or rodents, unpleasant and impossible to avoid completely. The challenge is to identify them and protect ourselves as best we can.

Julia provided me with a smile and a sense of perspective when she presented the cast of characters and their bios in a playful but meaningful way; they included the Wet Blanket Matador, the Amateur Expert, and the Bad News Fairy.  She compared surviving a creative saboteur to surviving a snakebite and stressed the importance of doing our best to recognize and avoid them. If bitten by one, step away as quickly and judiciously as you can, and find ways to use the injury as creative fuel and put it to good use.

We all have baggage, or what I call demons, things from our past that we haven’t reconciled and that keep us from going the distance.  They’re the voices in our head, the whispers that say you can’t, you shouldn’t, and your ideas are no good.  Some are real, and others may be imagined but they’re there and they hold us back.

The final task was designed to help with the healing process from the snakebites of the past, she asked me to find a way to address and face those voices. I had finished my collage from week seven, but hadn’t framed it yet. Although I had completed the task, it didn’t feel ‘done.’  It started with a photo of me surrounded by words and images that represent the vision of my future self.

It now also contains music notes, a sketch I drew, and a few pictures I’ve taken: things that represent the artist emerging within me.  I framed it and when I look at it I see the future not the past, I see myself going the distance.

 

This is a reprint from Beth Lee-Browning’s personal blog, it’s a whole new world,  originally posted November 21, 2011. Other reprints from this series are available here at FFC: Without “Rests,” Music Would just be NoiseStar Light, Star Bright…I Wish I May, I Wish I Might…A Spoonful of SugarFaith, Trust, and Pixie Dust, Mirror, Mirror on the WallIn Living Color: Summoning the MuseThrough the Looking Glass, and I Could Have Had A V-8!

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Beth Lee-Browning lives outside of Philadelphia, is a transplanted Midwesterner, and a mid-life woman who is discovering the joy of living life to its fullest and under her own rules. She chronicles her adventures from the ordinary to the unusual with keen and thought provoking observations, a unique wit, sensitivity and an underlying theme that “everything is going to be all right.”  Read Beth’s blog at it’s a whole new world.

 

by Jim Harrington 

Recently, a few editors in their responses to my Six Questions For. . . have suggested writers not submit a story before it’s ready. Huh? What do they mean by that?

Sometimes it’s a matter of the piece being full of grammatical and spelling errors. Most editors are willing to overlook a few typos, but when a story is rife with them the editor is more likely to move on to the next submission. Their thinking? If you (the author) aren’t willing to put in the work to submit a clean story, why should they (the editor) be interested in your piece–especially if there are already enough worthy stories to include in the issue written by authors who have put in the effort?

There’s a lot of competition for the few openings most journals have in each issue. Submitting sloppy work puts a story on the fast track to being passed over, no matter who the author is or where they’ve been published before. If grammar isn’t your strong point (it’s still not mine), find a friend or writing buddy to help you.

The bigger issue is the story that is grammatically correct, but appears to lack focus. There may be characters the author is attracted to who serve no purpose in the story, or plot lines that either aren’t needed or that lead the story in a new direction that isn’t resolved. Or it could be a story where the author hasn’t provided the reader with all the information needed to fully understand what is going on. This often happens when the story is personal in nature. The author forgets that the reader isn’t privy to certain pieces of information the author knows intimately. So how does the writer find these problems?

Perhaps the best way is to take advantage of one of the best editors out there–time.

Unless you’re under a deadline, writing — or publishing– isn’t a race to put out a fire. That publication you really want to see one of your stories in isn’t going anywhere. And if it does fold, it wasn’t going to be worth your time to place a story there anyway. Stories (and poems and essays, etc) need time to develop. Yes, once in a while I’ve had a story come out as close to perfect as I can make it in the first draft (maybe it only needs three or four rewrites), but it doesn’t happen often. It’s more common that after letting the story sit for a few days, I realize it needs more development. It’s usually at this point that I ask myself two questions about the piece. Why is this story important to tell? and What has happened to the character that makes it necessary for her to act now? If I can’t honestly answer those questions, then the story isn’t ready to send out.

So give your story time to breathe before you submit it. Put it aside for at least three to four days, or more. The longer you wait the better. This creates a distance between you and the work, a distance that allows you to look at the piece with fresh eyes, the eyes of a reader. Another opportunity for a fresh read might be after the story has been rejected a few times. The advice I’ve seen many times is to resubmit a rejected piece the same day you receive a rejection. This is a good way to keep a piece active and to ease the author’s disappointment. But maybe the story is being rejected because there’s a flaw in it, especially if it’s been out there for six months or longer. Why not give it another read to see if anything pops out as being a potential problem that’s keeping the work from being accepted.

Writing isn’t a sprint. Emulate the tortoise, not the hare, when you write. As that old story implies, slow and steady wins the race.

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Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. He serves as the Flash Markets Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blog provides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

by Jim Harrington 

Twice a year I go through the FFC markets list fixing broken links and deleting sites that are no longer publishing. Below is the list of zines deleted from the list this week.

  • Digital Proof
  • Blinking Cursor Magazine
  • Flashquake
  • Lurid Lit
  • Midnight Screaming
  • 322Review
  • Fiction at Work

**If you find any broken links while using the list, please let me know. My email address is at the top of the markets page.

 

NOTE: There will be no market update next week as Sunday marks the beginning of our annual String-of-10 Contest. Check this site next Sunday for the details and prompt.

 

READING TIP: Looking for something to read? Try this.

  1.  Scroll through the market listings 
  2. Select a zine at random (don’t be concerned if the site publishes a genre you don’t write)
  3. Click on the “visit site” link, and read the first story/poem you come to. Like that one? Read another. 
  4. Repeat these steps at least twice a week. 

 

View complete markets listing.

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Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. He serves as Co-editor/Flash Markets Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blogprovides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.

 

 

Rumjhum Biswasby Rumjhum Biswas

Claire King is a writer of fiction – very short, short and long. Her work has been published online and in print including The New Scientist, The Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, Metazen, Writers Forum and 52/250. Her short story “The Gift” won first prize in the Writers’ Forum magazine competition, August/September 2010. She was shortlisted and highly commended by the judge in the 2010 Sean O’Faolain Short Story Competition and shortlisted in the New Scientist flash fiction competition 2010 with “Biotechnology Paper 1.“ 

Claire now lives and works in France where “she inhabits a ramshackle old house in the mountains with her husband and their two daughters, happily ever after.” She blogs about France, writing, and assorted other things at www.claire-king.com
. You can follow her on twitter @ckingwriter. Also read some of her flash fiction at Fictionaut.

In Claire’s own words, “she grew up in Mexborough, South Yorkshire and studied economics at Newnham College, Cambridge. She has worked variously as a barmaid, a book-seller, a riding instructor, a fiction editor and in a leper colony. She spent the last twenty years working anywhere in business that allowed her to tell stories. She has finally realized what she wants to be when she grows up.”

Claire’s debut novel, The Night Rainbow, is published 14th February 2013 from Bloomsbury. For more information on The Night Rainbow, including a sample chapter, the book trailer and where to buy, click HERE.

Rumjhum Biswas:  In an interview you’ve mentioned your “Goldilocks of fiction, where the characterization is neither too much nor too little. Where the plotting, the conflict and the resolution leave space for the reader to join in the storytelling. Not too hot, not too cold…but just right.” And you gave an example, “Okay So Far” from Ali Smith’s collection Other Stories and Other Stories. Can you give us an example from your own stories that gave you this specific sense of satisfaction, afterwards when you read it/them over?

Claire King: The flash below is 55 words. But it’s one of my favorites because it’s almost like a child’s coloring in. I give you the picture, you color it the way you want.

 UPSTREAM

I was born nowhere and couldn’t wait to leave. Going with the flow on to bigger and better things.

But home won. Tugged at my core until I found myself moving against the current. Back to nowhere, just like all the rest.

Nothing there had changed. I found a mate, made babies, prepared to die.

 Your question is interesting, because different story forms have different “Goldilocks” points. At the extremes, flash fiction leaves the reader with a huge amount of story ownership, as above. Novels still ask the reader to work alongside the author, but there is necessarily more information provided. My first reaction to your question was to say that in my novel, The Night Rainbow, I feel I really hit that point, and that was tremendously important because of the nature of the story and the fact that I used a naïve narrator. I’m pleased with how I achieved the balance I sought.

On reflection, I learned a lot from writing short stories. Flash fiction is a good training ground for hitting that sweet spot, because you simply don’t have any slack in the prose. One of my favourite contemporary novelists, Maggie O’Farrell, recently sent me a wonderful endorsement for The Night Rainbow in which she describes it as “elegant and spare”. I am so proud to have that quote! I hadn’t considered my novel writing style to be ‘spare’ before, but when I think about it I do edit right back to the essence as much as possible. Here is a flash piece I wrote, which I think gives just enough information about the character and her story, “Anything Again,” for the reader to infer their story from it.

RB: Does place affect you as a writer? How much do the immediate physical surroundings impact your writing?

CK: Place affects me in two ways: In what I am inspired to write, and in the way I work.

I notice things more when I am in new surroundings or an unfamiliar situation. This awareness, the way my brain is on sensory alert is a rich source of ideas. As children we live this feeling of novelty every day. As young adults too.  Remember feeling like no-one could possibly understand the intensity of your first crush or first love?

I try to regularly put myself in a new place or situation, read something new or just to go out into the world and notice how nature is changing the scenery. It makes my brain work, it wakes me up, it helps me write.

On a more mundane level, when I actually sit down to write I need space. It can be a tiny space, but it needs to be mine. Physically it has to be uncluttered, and I do need solitude. In a family environment, or on a train, you can’t always have that luxury, but a set of headphones and the right music can create a lovely bubble effect.

RB: You are a prolific writer and write stories of all lengths from flash to regular short stories to novels. Can you tell us a bit about your working methods? Do you work on all forms simultaneously as and when inspiration hits you?

CK: It really depends on what else is going on in my life. I find I work best when I am writing multiple forms because things nourish each other. A flash can nourish detail in a novel, a deleted darling from a novel can transform into a short story. But when I’m editing a novel I can’t do anything else. Not writing, and not reading. These things are so complex and all consuming.  I have to be immersed in the story to the expense of everything else, so I can fight my way out of it, make it like the vision I have in my head.

RB: What is it about flash fiction that excites you? What can flash fiction do, according to you that the longer forms cannot?

CK: I first started reading flash when I was a mum to a new baby, and I didn’t have the time to wash never mind the mental space to engage with a novel. I was delighted.

Flash became the literary equivalent of taking vitamin tablets when you can’t eat a proper diet. In the space of minutes, I could be transported, and a seed of something wonderful would be planted and grow throughout the day.

When I began to write again I tried my hand at flash. It seemed a feasible ambition – not to set straight back off on the mountainous terrain of a novel, but to perfect stories which were bite size but powerful. In addition, as a writer of flash, you can try out different styles to completion – humorous, emotional, dark… it’s liberating. As a reader you can read extensively and broadly, be inspired, and learn from other writers.

RB: Is there any flash fiction writer whose work you particularly admire?

CK: Too many to mention. As I said above, one of the fabulous things about flash fiction is that you can explore so many different authors. I’ve been inspired by Tania Hershman, Alison Wells and Marcus Speh whose stories usually contain a sharp, surprising intelligence. I also love to read people like Ann Bogle, Beate Siggridaughter, Susan Gibb and Martha Williams, who have a wonderful knack of capturing the essence of humanity.

RB: Does dark flash fiction work better than other genres?

CK: It’s strange, I seem to lean towards darker subjects in flash, perhaps because I don’t want to write novels with dark themes. It’s an outlet for things I want to say, but not dwell upon. I prefer to treat darker subjects that way because we all have dark things to say, but I feel we should express them and then move on. At least I should.

I can write funny in flash too. I tried recently to write something more cheerful, a sort of “love flash” (Salt) but it turned into a poem. Perhaps for me there is something about the rhythm and metre of love that turns it to verse, whereas anger, contempt and disgust can be spun into a flash more effectively.

RB: Can you tell us how The View From Here was created? What motivated you? After all there are so many magazines online.

CK: The View From Here was created by Mike French so you need to talk to him about that! I took the Fiction Editor job because I felt it’s a great place for writers to showcase their work and I personally benefited from having somewhere like Metazen who published some of my flash – Peach and Peach (2) when I was seeking representation. It matters that people are reading and appreciating your work.

It’s not a paid job, just as we don’t pay any of our contributors, because it’s a free online zine. But I think that’s fine. I don’t believe all writing should be paid for. Nor do I believe all writing should be free.

RB: Can you give us a glimpse of a day in your writing life? How do you manage with two small children?

CK: When I’m home with the girls because it’s a weekend or a school holiday, then they come first. I’m their mother and that’s that. If my husband is also home then I will claim an hour’s writing time and use it wisely. Otherwise I focus my writing on days when they are at school. The one thing that is certain is that no day is certain. As many writers, I hold down day-jobs as well as parenting and having household obligations. Even now my children are school age, I haven’t found a way to keep a strict rhythm. Kids get sick, roofs leak, a client calls and needs me inToulouse ASAP… Life is messy. In which case I write early morning, or late at night, or on a train or if it’s really bad I don’t write at all. Sometimes you have to cut yourself some slack.

If the planets do align to let me get into a routine I snatch the opportunity. In that case a day looks like this: Once I’ve dropped the girls off at school, I take my dogs on a long run, an hour or so up in the low mountains. Exercise is really important for so many reasons. The fresh air, the environment, the liberty of running, it’s a great way to start the day. Once I’m home and showered I sit down and I write. Every hour or so I take ten minutes, have a drink (just tea!) answer emails, tweet a bit, then carry on. I keep going until it’s time to pick the girls up. On these days I can fit in three hours of writing. That’s a really good day. Now I know there are days like these, it helps with the days when life just gets in the way.

RB: When did you start writing? How did your friends and family react when they realised that you were a writer/wanted to write?

CK: People always answer this question with ‘as long as I can remember’ or ‘since I was a child’ don’t they?

It’s true I’ve always been passionate about reading and writing. Since about 4 years old. Do I win a prize? Perhaps for the longest journey to publication?

OK, Is there a time when I started writing “seriously?”  Probably when I had children. At that point I realized that time was only going to shrink from hereon in and that it was up to me – either I buckle down and write every day, or I just give up on the idea of being a writer. So I wrote.

I’d been telling people for a decade or more that I was writing, so it didn’t really come as any surprise to my family and friends.

What surprised people was that I was working on a completely different novel to the last one I’d told them about, or even the one before that. And most people didn’t really understand how short fiction fit in. So people were encouraging without necessarily understanding the what and the why. That’s why having writer friends is so important. Writing sites and Twitter are lifesavers.

As well as the what and the why there is the when. After I got a book deal it seemed tangible to people. They could understand how I would be over the moon at finally having a book coming into book shops. Hurray! But then when I told them it was still two years away.  OK, yes, I understand that’s hard to grasp.

RB: What are you working on now?

CK: Right now I’m editing my second novel. Well, it’s the second I hope to get published, the first one is still languishing in a drawer, but it belongs there. At least for now. So that’s the only thing I’m working on, until it’s in the bag and sent to my agent.

I do also have a short story for radio in the works and a handful of unfinished shorts and flashes. Come the end of the year when this novel is done, I will treat myself to some time to finish those and also do a lot of reading. My to-read pile, both physical and virtual, is out of control.

RB: Can you tell us a bit about the early days of your writing career? What advice would you give to a writer just starting out from your own experience?

CK: It’s very boring. I wrote a lot. I stopped. I half wrote novels and gave up on them. I seriously wrote a novel which got some good feedback from agents, but not good enough, and then I lost heart and had babies. And then I found my wind. And I wrote seriously. I felt I could call myself a writer.

Really, the best advice to a writer starting out is to write. Then keep writing. Read widely. Don’t expect it to be easy because it isn’t easy. Find other writers to talk to (you need cheerleaders, a community).

Get peer feedback. Don’t publish broadly online, wherever people will have you, just for the sake of being published. Publish your best work. Publish work you are proud of. And work on the all other stuff until you are proud of it.

Respect the fact that you leave an online trail that is there forever. Don’t be mean to people, be kind. One day you will hope for some kindness yourself.

Don’t believe everything you read about the evils of different publishing models either. Get well informed, and don’t take sides. We’re all writers, remember?

RB: What kind of stories thrill you when you are going through the submissions for The View from Here?

CK:

  • Something surprising. A theme that is new, or at least a new take on it. Just as I said above that novelty can inspire ideas, so a novel idea, well executed will make me sit up and listen.Thrilling use of language. Writers that form perfect beautiful sentences, and spin them into a perfect beautiful paragraph, they are few and far between.
  • An ownership for the story, rather than an outpouring of personal experience.
  • Respect for the reader, and respect for our readers – people should at least have read some of the work we publish and believe that what they are sending is a good fit and of the same high standard. A scattergun approach to submission can be spotted a mile off.
  • Note that a long list of previous publications will not get your story read any more assiduously than none at all. A blazingly good opening paragraph, on the other hand, will.

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Rumjhum Biswas has had poetry and fiction published all over the world in both online and print journals and anthologies. She has won prizes for her work, including winning first prize in the June 2012 Anam Cara Short Story Writing Contest. Her novel Culling Mynahs and Crows and a collection of her short fiction are being published by Lifi Publications, India and will be available in 2013.

by Jim Harrington 

New Markets

New Interview

View complete markets listing.

______________________

Jim Harrington began writing fiction in 2007 and has agonized over the form ever since. He serves as Co-editor/Flash Markets Editor for Flash Fiction Chronicles. Jim’s Six Questions For . . . blogprovides editors and publishers a place to “tell it like it is.” You can read his stories at http://jpharrington.blogspot.com.