Who Says You Can’t Go Back?

These past few months I’ve gone back to submitting some of my short stories for publication. Maybe to some it seems like a step back, but I’m content with the  short stories I write. I really am. Becoming distracted by novel writing these past five years or so, I allowed several finished and unfinished stories to fall to the wayside. I wish now I hadn’t. Last winter I submitted a short piece to Understory Magazine and it was published in their Winter Issue. The story was titled “The Old Queen Rains.” For those of you who might not have already read it I’ve added the link. HERE. I can’t deny it’s a wonderful feeling to have someone say they want to publish something I’ve written. These acceptances are so few and far between when writing novels. I’m a SLOOOW writer. But slow and steady as they say…..

I just received word on the weekend that another short story I’d submitted to TRANSITION , a magazine published by the Saskatchewan Mental Health Society , has been accepted. I’ve had work published there in the past. If you click into the “Publications” tab,  at the top of the page, and scroll down you’ll find some of these issues online. The link won’t take you directly to my story but, rather, the issue of the magazine. You’ll need to scroll through the magazine to find mine. I know, it’s a lot of work!

It seemed a shame to know that I had competed stories just sitting there in files on my computer. A story that sits idle will never find a home. I’m happy to know this particular story will be published. It deals with the issue of euthanasia, a very controversial topic. I like controversy in writing, it’s so, I don’t know, controversial. I enjoy writing stories that make people stop and think or perhaps show them a different viewpoint. Having an open mind, considering something you’ve never stopped to consider, is never a bad thing in my opinion.

So, yeah, I’m going back to submitting short stories. It doesn’t mean I won’t continue to work on novels, because I will. I’m keeping an open mind. The writing will find me one way or another. I don’t pick the story I want to write, but rather, the story picks me.

So here’s to going back, to keeping an open mind, not setting a straight path, but following a path that sometimes meanders a little bit. Sometimes the best things happen when we least expect them, and often when we don’t have anything particular in mind.

 

 

Dear Life—It’s Family Literacy day

Today is Family Literacy Day in Canada.   This year, ABC Life Literacy Canada   is encouraging families to take time each day to have “15 Minutes of Fun”.   “Time spent following a new recipe, playing a game, or reading a story together can focus on learning in a fun way. These teachable moments at home help children learn listening skills and language skills, and develop their imaginations and creativity — and are also opportunities for adults to practice their skills to keep them sharp.”  Now that doesn’t sound too hard.  It actually sounds like a lot of fun!  If you’d like to find out more click on the Family Literacy Day link above.

13530981Today, I started reading Dear Life by Alice Munro. It was a Christmas gift from my mum. I received two books for Christmas this year and have already  read the first one. I sometimes forget that once upon a time I wrote fiction for adults, so receiving these books  was a good reminder for me.

In the beginning, I started out by writing short stories, something that I absolutely loved. Along the way, my writing seemed to fit a younger audience (although there are some adults who would disagree with that statement as they seem to enjoy my stories.) But I’m not ready to turn my back on my adult fiction writing. The truth is, I hate categorizing my writing. I know, that’s a bit impractical. I much prefer thinking of myself as a writer of stories. Sometimes those stories will have kids as  a main character, and sometimes they won’t. *sigh*

But writers aren’t just writers, we’re also readers. ( That’s why things like Family Literacy day make us almost giddy. ) Most of us tend to read in the genre we write and, if we don’t, we should. I can’t stress how important that is. I’ve had people ask me how I have time to read so much, but the truth is writers have to make the time.  You can’t have one without the other. I promise. My time reading is not wasted. 🙂

I’ve made a commitment, to myself, to read more adult fiction in 2014 as I seem to have been focusing on books for young people. Truthfully, I like both. But at the moment it’s important for me to balance my reading a bit better than I have in the past.

In celebration of Family Literacy Day  I hope you’ll find that “15 Minutes of Fun” with your family. Remember, it’s not just for one day.

I’m open to suggestions for great reads in 2014. Let me know what you’re reading. You are reading something, right? I mean, it is Family Literacy Day.

Writing Challenge

I’ve been given a writing challenge, and it’s been taking up a good deal of my spare time. Did I say spare time? Wow! That’s a joke.

Yeah, I know, I don’t often mention the projects I’m working at because I really don’t want to bore you all, but I’m making an exception with this post, maybe get a few opinions along the way.

Many years back I wrote a short story that had me a bit curious. The story itself had ended but I wanted to know more. I wanted to know the reasons behind a certain character’s actions. Why would she do what she did? As a mother myself, I knew this woman had to have a good reason for abandoning her children. The question niggled at me. Finally, I wrote another story that satisfied me for a short time until I became greedy and wanted to know even more. It’s like eating potato chips. You can’t just nibble on a few, you keep picking at them until they’re gone.

The result? A collection of linked stories.

Needless to say, a collection of linked stories is about a hard to pitch as a regular old collection, and while many of the stories have been published individually in literary magazines, the collection, as it stands, is just gathering dust balls, big ones! In fact, to be truthful, I really didn’t send it out very many times and as any writer knows that’s the way NOT to get published.  I know, I know, pretty darn lame of me.

But recently, it was suggested I turn this collection of linked stories into a novel, using different perspectives, since many of the stories have been written in the first person. Oh happy day, could there still hope for this dust-gathering collection? Can it be ressurrected after all?

Easy peasy, right?

Maybe, maybe not. I’m still trying to figure this out. The challenge at the moment is deciding where the story begins, exactly whose story it is, and if the story belongs to several people or one person, not to mention finding a common thread, as I work through the plot. Can I use any of the previously written material, or do I need to start from scratch? A whole lot of questions swirling in my very confused, for the moment, brain. Short stories are an entire story, beginning, middle and ending, contained into a few thousand words. A novel is a little more involved, as you all know, but each chapter needs to move the story along.

So here’s my challenge at the moment. I haven’t yet decided if converting a bunch of linked stories into a novel will flow along as smoothly as I’d like it to, but I’m sure going to give it a go.

So what are your thoughts, do you think is it fairly easy to write a novel around linked stories since the character already exist? Should I try and use some of the existing stories or start all over again? Where are you in your writing journey? Have any new challenges come your way recently?

The Art of Dragging One’s Heels

This week I decided it’s time to dust off some manuscripts and get them ready to send off. I’ll admit I’ve been rather slack in that area this past while. I guess there’s an obvious lesson here—- Is it’s not enough to write the darn thing, I also have to get it in the mail.

At the beginning of each New Year I start a list of submissions so that I can keep track of where things are and how long they’ve been gone. For anyone sending out submissions it’s also a good way to keep track of where you’ve sent things in the past. You wouldn’t want to waste your time sending a story to the same magazine more than once. Since I rarely send out multiple submissions, it can often be a long slow process before a story is actually accepted for publication.

With the publication of the book it’s been easy for me to forget the fact that —hey, you know what? I write short stories, too. I can guarantee that a story sitting in a file on my computer isn’t going to miraculously appear in a literary journal one day all by itself. Mind you, it would be a welcomed thing but life just doesn’t work that way for some reason. I also like to remind myself that simply because there’s a book out there with my name on it doesn’t mean I can sit back with my feet up.

I have some projects that have been idling for awhile that I want to get back to, but in order to do that I have to resist the temptation to start something new. I’ll admit that I’m hearing some whisperings in the background that I’m trying very much to ignore —at least for the time being. I’m not sure how long I can hold off.

So there I am this week, printing and mailing and starting all over. Guess I needed to remind myself that there’s still work to be done. I believe I’ve perfected the art of dragging my heels long enough.

So speak up and admit it—- what have you been dragging your heels about lately?

All Those Rejections

Rejection is something that we all must learn to live with, and it’s not always a bad thing. It’s all in how we choose to think about it. I’m sure about now you’re wondering— who the heck is she trying to kid?

We’ve all felt the sting of rejection, at one time or another, regardless of who we are. It’s just the way life is.  But, the way I see it, if it wasn’t for the rejections in life the acceptances would be meaningless.

Think about it for a moment.

Try and imagine a world were we succeeded at everything we did. Where would the challenge be? I’d venture to say we might even find ourselves bored to tears. Would you even bother to try anything new if you knew there was absolutely no challenge, that you’d succeed on your very first try?

For most writers rejections are a dime a dozen and I’m no different. Though all my years of writing I have received a very impressive supply of rejection slips. And being the pack rat that I am I’ve saved each and every one. At the time it seemed to make good sense. It was proof of all my hard work on those days when I used to wonder if it was all worth it.

I’m called to remember a certain day, years ago, when I was tickled pink to have received three acceptances in one day for various short stories I had submitted. Just imagine…Three acceptances all in one day!!! I was on top of the world. I soon came back down when, shortly thereafter, I received four rejections in one day. Sounds quite impossible but it’s the truth. My, but the Universe does have a way of keeping us humble.

Most of my rejection slips are simple form letters. One is addressed to “Laurie.” (Have I mentioned I despise being called Laurie? Not that Laurie is a bad name…In fact, it’s a perfectly fine name…It’s just not my name) One editor thanked me for sending my poems…Um ….Poems?.. Hello….I sent a short story. One rejection letter even sent me back material that was meant for another writer. And no, in case you’re wondering, her name wasn’t Laurie.

On the flip side of that, I’ve also received some very lovely rejection letters with valuable bits of advice and words of encouragement that spurred me onward. Had it not been for some of those rejection letters I might have given up writing long before I ever received my first acceptance. That’s why I say that rejection is not always a bad thing.

But now I’m ready to say so long to all those saved rejection slips. It’s a brand new year not to mention a brand new decade. I no longer have room for those letters in my life. They’ve outlived their usefulness. I’m tired of them taking up space in my life. I’ve worked hard over the years. My acceptances are proof of that. No need to cling to that negative stuff anymore.

From Novels back to Short Stories

With “Bitter, Sweet” soon coming out, and with all the work I’ve been doing these past months with the ms, I have sort of forgotten about some of my other writing. This novel has been all consuming. I’m even starting to wonder what will happen to my characters in the future. The more I work on the book the more I become wrapped up in my character’s lives.

When I first began writing I started out with short stories. I love writing short stories because there is not a whole lot of room to move around. The story gets told in a few thousand words and those words really need to count. They are a challenge to write. I have had over forty short stories published in literary magazines as well as some non-fiction articles over the years and it is something that I feel is a great accomplishment for me.

Another good thing about short stories is that you are not investing a substantial amount of time writing them and with any luck you’ll see results quicker than if you are working on a novel. A novel would have been too ambitious an undertaking for me to start out with. Besides, I freely admit that I had much to learn, never having taken a writing course and anything of that nature. Short stories are a really good starting point for anyone wanting to get into something more challenging like novel writing.

So here I have been so wrapped up in the novel that when I received an email from the editor of TRANSITION, a publication put out by the mental health society of Saskatchewan, I was really quite surprised. Not surprised that he had chosen my story for publication as this will be my fifth appearance in their magazine but because I wasn’t even thinking about the story being out there and awaiting a decision.

I suppose the point I’m trying to make is that every publishing credit counts and they are all something to be celebrated along the way. One is no more or less important than another. They all help shape us as writers and we all work at our own pace to obtain what we consider to be that ultimate goal.

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