December 22, 2011

"Permanent" in The Nashwaak Review


The Nashwaak Review (St. Thomas University, Fredericton, New Brunswick, Canada) has published my short story "Permanent". Also in this issue is "Aria di Gelato" by Dan Perry, a fellow creative writing student of Richard Scarsbrook.

December 9, 2011

Publication Anxiety: 3 Stages

Pre-Publication
Your story has been accepted. Cool. If it was published next week that would be great, but it's slower than beans out there which leaves plenty of time to ruminate. Someone is actually going to read what I write, weird. Who is going to read it, anybody? The worst part about this stage is rereading your story. I did this once, made revisions, sent it to the editor, and asked if he could print this much improved version. But of course I couldn't stop. I sent two more rewrites, promising the last was the last. My roommate told me to leave the poor guy alone, and I finally did. Once your story is out in the universe, let it go.

Publication
You've received your contributor copies. As you skim through your story you see typos. Gasp! Or the table of contents reads your story is on page 21, but it's really on page 22. Oh no! Or the editorial states your story was submitted as creative non-fiction, but it wasn't. Ugh! Or, my favourite: your last sent version (The National Corvette Museum is in Bowling Green, Kentucky NOT Bowling Green, Ohio) didn't make it to the printers. I did cry about that one. Do not dwell. Take heart that someone wants to publish your work and get back to the task at hand - writing.

Post-Publication
You're writing a new story. You wonder if you will ever be published again? I don't know if this ever stops. Occasionally, you pick one of your publications off the shelf to remind yourself that someone gets your writing. But this has trappings of the first stage because your writing has improved, right? You will see lines and think, god that was crap; or realize, wow all of my characters are named after dead pets. Stay focused on the craft and the writing you are doing now. This 3-stage cycle will repeat, I promise.

November 8, 2011

Near Deathmatch Experience

Time again for Broken Pencil's annual literary brawl. I thought about submitting last year but instead followed the action from outside the ring. What a ride!

Eight stories go head-to-head online. Authors discuss, defend, and duel with other competitors and commenters from the outisde world.

I have the constitution a writer needs to handle rejection and criticism, but when the Deathmatch began it was a whole other kind of writerly abuse. Sure, some of it was tame and encouraging but by the third round the gloves came off. Beat downs between writers and commenters ramped up the competition. It got ugly, and I loved it.

The Deathmatch became a healthy addiction to stave off my winter blues. After work, I couldn't wait to read what backinthesaddle or succincubus (regulars on the board) dished that day. Most writers handled the pressure of a seven day round, but a couple did go into hiding. Comments ranged from jabs at the craft to cheap shots at cheating.

Two weeks in,  and I was ready to join the arena with an alias of course. It took restraint at times not to throw a few punches of my own, but I focused on the stories, the writer's life, etc. Even the most dreaded commenter gave me a virtual pat on the back.

When the dust settled and the ring closed, I suffered withdrawl as with any addiction. David Griffin Brown was the last writer standing with "Brink". And when Broken Pencil #51 came out with the top four stories,  I saw they had also printed one of my comments. My alias was published in BP before I was.

If you want exposure, enjoy craft-swapping, love trash-talking, and have a thick skin, I dare you to submit. And if you can't afford a SAD lamp get on the comment board.

Indie Writers Deathmatch V Submissions deadline is December 31st, 2011. Contest rules and regulations.

September 16, 2011

Writing Paralysis

This slump has affected my fiction, blogging, editing, and even tweeting. I knew I was in trouble when I stopped reading a few months back. My top ten excuses:

1.  Grammar Boy - kissing on fire escapes and park benches is more fun than writing, right?
2.  Work hours increase - who has time to write?
3.  The Cats - they need mummy and will not be ignored.
4.  NFL - need to study to achieve success in my pool.
5.  Tired - nothing new, always been an insomniac.
6.  L-I-V-I-N - I'll write about it later.
7.  School - focusing on my editing career.
8.  Writing in my head - pen to paper is the challenge.
9.  Wrong mood - not that I know what the right one is.
10. Low-Grade Anticipatory Stress Disorder - made this up but sounds about right.

Now that I've shared this crap with the blogosphere I'm hoping it will get me back on track. What excuses do you dispense when you're not writing or doing what you're passionate about?

August 16, 2011

"Orchestrated Disaster" in Front & Centre #25


Black Bile Press has published my story "Orchestrated Disaster" in its special edition Front & Centre #25

Editorial Feature: Two writers talking - Salvatore Difalco and Alexandra Leggat

Also fiction by:
Zsolt Alapi, David Burdett, Christine Catalano, David Rose, Daniel MacIsaac, Chelsea Novak, Jeremy Hanson-Finger, Stacey Madden and Zachery Alapi.

Reviews of books by:
Anne Perdue, Danila Botha, Chris Walter, Daniel Allen Cox, Mark Anthony Jarman, Dave Newman, Jerrod Edson and Salvatore Difalco.

Order a copy HERE.





June 28, 2011

Getting Out of Dodge


 A recent trip to Picton reminded me that getting away from one's routine is necessary. My three day trip to Prince Edward County brought perspective and writing renewal.
Lake on the Mountain Provincial Park
My sister and I relived childhood memories by touring Main Street, beaching at Sandbanks, driving around Waupoos while eating Black River cheese curds, and buying moccasins in Deseronto.
Giant Tigers and me at the GT Boutique
New Picton haunts: the Queen's Inn, a homey hands-off hotel on Main Street; City Revival, a vintage store with finds galore; Lake on the Mountain, a natural wonder full of history; and The Acoustic Grill, a local perfect for drinks and cribbage after a day at the beach.

June 20, 2011

Best Board Games of the 1970s

A discussion about childhood toys got me thinking of 70's board games I was fond of, or obsessed with.

Cribbage - My favourite game of all time. Granny taught me, and my whole family plays and bets. I even wrote a story called "The Invisible Cribbage Players" about a travelling troupe of two who plans to amuse the masses. It's a dying game, so get out there and learn it kids.

Monopoly - The Oakburn Road gang would meet for days on end in basements and play until dinner. The boys were brutal wheelers and dealers. My favourite set was the red ones, and I always played with the top hat. Forget the new version with an electronic banker; the coloured money is what it's all about.

Operation! - Mum made me play this in my room with the door closed. The buzzing red nose and my screams when tweezers hit metal annoyed her. I bought this again as an adult, and she wouldn't play with me. The hardest to excise was a toss up between the spare ribs and the bread basket.

Trouble - Another annoying game for parents with its pop-o-matic dice bubble. Found an imitation version called Frustration - pretty much the same except you get out and pop twice with a 1, not a 6. Simple and still fun. Good revenge factor.

Stop Thief! - An electronic cops and robbers game. You follow a thief around the board through various clues given out from a batteried-operated device. Haven't seen or played this since, but I think of buying it on ebay.

Full House - 2-4 players are innkeepers who rent their 1 & 2 bdrms and suites to guests. Goal is to go from an economy to luxury joint. Not sure if it would be as fun as an adult.

Scavenger Hunt - Good memories playing this at cottage Willow 5 in Waupoos. A basic board game with players collecting strange items from the garage, attic, etc. Not a lot of strategy, so gambling may have increased its likability factor.

Life - It gave us kids back then a make believe view of adulthood and all those pleasant things such as marriage, work, and kids. I have no desire to play this game now.

Yahtzee - A good game for a foursome of family or friends. Not super competitive, more a laid back cottage game. Annoyance factor high when played with plastic cups for rolling dice.

Masterpiece - A friend owned this, and I've never seen it since. Cards with famous paintings were clipped to various amounts of money that players bid on. Each game, a different painting would be worth the coveted million.

Clue - Professor Plum in the study with the revolver. Not so great as one grows older, but a timeless classic for kids. Very Sherlock Holmes.

Mousetrap - A game I always wanted but I think my parents knew the pieces would go missing by Christmas afternoon. My cousins owned it but it never looked as cool as it did in commercials.

Battleship - You sank my battleship! I prefer the old school version although the electronic upgrade did offer some cool sound effects and insured cheating was not possible.

What were your favourite games as a kid? Are you still playing them?

June 11, 2011

F&G Writers

F&G Writers is a Toronto-based writing group that was forged in May 2010. We workshop short fiction every six weeks. Members also get together for talk-shop dinners and literary field trips.

Susan Alexander  lives in Toronto. In addition to her satirical newspaper, The Mammalian Daily , she is working on a book of short stories entitled Substitute Decisions. Check out her innovative short story site She Came to Play. Read "Cecilia" at Joyland.

Julie McArthur grew up Ottawa. She works an a nanny and freelance editor. Read "The Promise of Puppies" at Dragnet Magazine and , "Hybrid Love" at Lies With Occasional Truth.

Tavish McGregor lives and writes in Toronto.

Nadia Ragbar lives and writes in Toronto. Her non-fiction has been published in the Globe and Mail. Read her flash fiction, "RR 21" at The Glass Coin and "Wolves Using the Patio Furniture" and "The Fair" at Dragnet Magazine.

Rob Shaw is enrolled in the Creative Writing Optional Residency MFA program at the University of British Columbia. His work appears in The Dalhousie Review.

Brad Weber lives and writes in Toronto. His work has been published in The Dalhousie Review and The Toronto Quarterly.

May 26, 2011

Writers Keeping Records: Part 2

10 Optional Records
More records to keep you organized or simply distract.
f (format) * (importance) ? (thoughts)

1. Literary Bio
f fifty words about you and your literary accomplishments
* at the ready for all those acceptances
? do you use humour in your bio

2. Letter to...
f template used for submissions
* provides continuity
? how do you close your letters

3. Magazine Locations
f Province/State...Magazine/Journal...City
*keeps geography in mind with story settings
? will you conquer your country

4.Yearly Contests/Grants
f Month...Contest/Grant...Deadline
* reminder of what's approaching(update often)
? do you submit outside your country

5. No Simultaneous Submissions
f list of magazines that adamantly refuse ss
* also add publications you've been caught at
? how many places have you sent a story to at one time

6. No Response/1 Year+ Rejections
f Magazine...Story...Sent(date)...Response(date)
* tells you who the repeat offenders/slowpokes are
? what's the longest you've waited for a rejection

7. Stories Retired
f Story...Magazine...Sent(date)...Response(date)
* history of stories retired(includes crap and acceptances)
? how many rejections can a story get before you retire it

8. List of Stories Written by Date
f Year/Season...Story
* how much you write in relation to other events in your life
? do you write more at certain times of the year

9. Story Synopses
f Story...Ten Word Description
* fun and challenging excercise
? can you pitch an entire collection in ten words

10. Table of Contents
f Story...# of Pages
* helps you visualize the length and ordering of collection
? what determines the order of your stories

10 Essential Records

May 23, 2011

Writers Keeping Records: Part 1

10 Essential Records
Writers use different systems to keep track. Mine is somewhat obsessive, but it works. I use word files that I update regularly. f (format) * (importance) ? (thoughts)

1. Upcoming Submissions
f Date...Location...Story
* keeps submissions flowing
? how many times a month do you submit

2. Submissions by Date
f Date...Magazine/Contest/Grant...Story...Response(date)
* what's still out there
? do you take long breaks in submitting stories

3. Stories Available
f Story...Destination...Sent(date)...Response(date)
* where is a story, how many times has it been submitted
? how many rejections does your favourite story have

4. Magazine Submissions
f Magazine...Sent(date)...Story...Response(date)
* history with a magazine(# of submissions/response times)
? what do you do if one magazine rejects you ten times

5. Feedback from Magazines
f Response(date)...Magazine...Editor...Story...Comments
* useful in revisions & when feeling crap about writing
? do you mention feedback in following submission

6. Magazines
f Magazine(alphabetical) - include address, fiction editor, email, guideline specifics
* visit website prior to every submission for updates
? how many different journals do you submit to

7. Stories by Word Count
f Story...Word Count(low to high)
* useful when wc is specified in guidelines
? what do you consider a short story, length-wise

8. Literary Resume   
f Publications...Education...Workshop...Interviews...Reviews
* useful for grant applications
? what else do you include

9. Grant Applications
f Grant...Deadline(date)...$...Writing Sample...Response
* keep separate file for application forms
? any tips on project descriptions for a short story collection

10. Contest Submissions
f Deadline(date)...Contest...Story
* quick view history, haven't entered a contest in 2+ years
? do you think contests are worthwhile

Upcoming post: 10 Optional Records

May 8, 2011

Rejections: Good, Bad, and Ugly

Big brown envelopes in the mailbox or email rejections are mere reminders that you are in process. A steady stream of submissions makes the wait, and weight of each rejection seem less. Because I don't know editors personally, I don't take rejections that way.

Good Rejections
These come back under four months - quick in submission land. You recieve handwritten feedback - constructive comments and encouragement to send more work. Some magazines have enough readers to give feedback every time, very cool. Good rejections say your story "was a near miss". So take another look, tweak, and submit elsewhere. Send the almost-made-it-publication a fresh story, and give thanks for the feedback. I keep a file of good rejections to boost spirts when low which happens a lot.

Bad Rejections
These comprise the majority of rejections and come back six to eight months after submitting. A bad rejection is the ever popular form letter/card that reads, "there was too much competition this time," or "your work is not in tune with our style". They offer you a subscription when you already have one. You pull your story from its SASE and it looks suprisingly fresh for having travelled across the country and back. I'm sure all stories get read, but one can't help to wonder.

Ugly Rejections
These come in the mail a year or more after you've submitted, or you never hear back. Ugly rejections contain disparaging remarks, tell you not to quit your day job. Ha. A writer never quits his day job. My stories have been called "weak, thin, and insignificant" by editors. A friend recieved a rejection from a magazine he has no recollection of submitting to. Huh? Ernest Hemingway was rejected with, "It would be extremely rotten taste, to say nothing of being horribly cruel, should we want to publish it". (The Torrents of Spring).

Do you have a good, bad, or ugly tale of rejection?           What do you do with your rejections?

More ugly rejections to famous writers

April 24, 2011

Short Story Submission Tips

You've been studying the craft and now you have stories you want to share with the world. You know they're good. A trusted peer (not your mum) has encouraged you to submit.

Workshop to receive feedback and to catch spelling and grammatical errors that you often miss in your own work.

Find an appropriate journal/magazine. The Canadian Writer's Market (book), Places for Writers (website), surfing the net, peers, and bios in the back of journals will help.

Read issues (buy, borrow from library, read/order online). Can you see your story here? Is it the right genre? Hopefully you have more than a few stories to choose from. I don't subscribe to tweaking a story for location.

Follow guidelines related to formatting, word count, submission dates, SASE, etc. Start a file of magazines you submit to that includes addresses and guidelines - a great reference. Update with each subsequent submission as things change quickly in the writing world.

Cover letters should be short and sweet. Address them to the fiction editor. List publications and writing related education. You can mention a story you read and enjoyed from a recent issue to let them know you are familiar with their magazine. If you had previous feedback from the publication, give thanks.

Simultaneously submit There are a few places that say never ever, but who wants to submit a great story and wait 8 months to send it out again. If one story is accepted for publication, you simply email to say that unfortunately "your story" has been accepted elsewhere and you will e/mail them a new story.

Keep records of dates (sent & response) and locations. The business side of writing is important. You must stay organized. Ask for help if this isn't your strong suit.

Be patient A 4-8 month response time is the norm, but you may wait a year or never hear back. After a year I don't expect a response and often send something else. Once, I heard back after a year and a half. They said my story almost made the cut. Said story was accepted four months previous elsewhere so I took it as reinforcement and sent the slowpokes new fiction.

In the meantime... write, write, write, and continue to send out those amazing stories. I have a story, rejected ten times yet I continue to submit it because I believe in it and it has received positive feedback. Think of the submission process as background to the creative. I submit 2-3 stories a month which means there are usually 10-12 stories floating around in submission land at any give time.

April 17, 2011

Writers and Cats

"Having a bunch of cats around is good. If you're feeling bad, you just look at the cats, you'll feel better, because they know that everything is, just as it is. There's nothing to get excited about. They just know. They're saviors. The more cats you have, the longer you live. If you have hundreds, you'll live ten times longer than if you have ten. Someday this will be discovered, and people will have a thousand cats and live forever. It's truly ridiculous." -Charles Bukowski
Mum with kids that just happen to have fur.
Hemingway, Burroughs, Capote, Twain, Shaw, and other writers were also fond of felines. Photos HERE. 

April 13, 2011

Projected Reading Anxiety

I don't attend many readings, launches, book fairs, etc. I mark them on my calendar, but I don't go. And when I do I feel anxious on the way, uncomfortable during, and if a wave of nausea  rolls in I generally run for the hills. Drinks help but are not always available. I went to four events last year and made a goal to go to six this year. I know, not much for a so-called writer, but hey, it's progress.

At a recent reading I was flushed the entire hour. That was a new one. Diggie called it second-hand embarrasment. She mentioned a shy friend that could not stand being witness to public speaking (plays included) as it made her extremely uncomfortable. I love that turn, although it presumes that readers are embarrassed. Anxious maybe, but you have to be proud to read your work. I will call my condition second-hand projected reading anxiety.

Book launch tomorrow. Friends and beer on hand. Better. I think about reading my own work. Maybe, one day.

April 11, 2011

Stephen King

My first writing teacher Richard Scarsbrook suggested On Writing - half autobiography, half tools of the trade. It was great. His humble view of success and matter of fact suggestions are inspiring and encouraging. "The scariest moment is always just before you start."


Previous to this I had only read Thinner, written under his pseudonym Richard Bachman. That was almost twenty years ago. Shortly after I tried Misery - scared the crap out of me and I stopped after a few chapters. I also remember my brother having nightmares while reading It. I guess that's the point, but everyday life provides me with enough anxiety!
 
I recently read Just After Sunset. Some great stories, some so-so. "Stationary Bike" was best. On-line reviews give higher praise to his previous collection Everything's Eventual. I will check it out. Do you have a favourite Stephen King book?

March 28, 2011

March Literary Links Roundup

Literary links to articles, blogs, stories, and interviews I recently surfed upon. Enjoy.

The Guardian. On writing: authors reveal the secrets of their craft.

Rebecca Rosenblum blogs, What is a short story?

Open Book Ontario. True Grit: Matthew Firth’s Search for the Bold, the Brash and the Ugly by Stacey Madden.

The Awl. On Expectations (And a Writer's Lack of Same) by S. J. Culver.

The Guardian. Is the short story really the novel's poor relation? by Chris Power.
 
Broken Pencil. David Griffin Brown wins Indie Writers' Deathmatch IV with his short story, "Brink". 
 
The National Post. Stacey May Fowles about publication anxiety, "The First Time".

The Globe and Mail. Our authors speak up: Is this country good to its writers.

The Huffington Post. Literary late bloomers: great authors who took a little longer to get started. post by Zoe Triska

Open Book Toronto. State of Short Fiction in Canada (Part One) by Nathaniel G. Moore. 

Open Book Toronto. Conflict of Interest: The State of the Short Story (Part Two) by Nathaniel G. Moore.

Open Book Toronto. Conflict of Interest: The State of the Short Story (Part Three) by Nataniel G. Moore. 
 
The Wall Street Journal. Hollywood's Favourite Cowboy. Cormac McCarthy interview by John Jurgensen

Derek Haines blogs, I Know Why Real Writers Have Cats.

March 18, 2011

Troublesome Words & Phrases

You read along and suddenly stop at a particular word or phrase. It irritates you. It may remind you of something it isn't or it sounds awkward. I'm starting a list. What words bug you?

supine/prostrate - medically awkward
thatch (to describe down there) - makes me think of a beaver dam, hmm
words clenched in, falling out of, rolling inside of one's mouth - overused
mustachioed - horrible looking and sounding
poignant - better words to use
vitriol - not the acid
monies - wrong, wrong, wrong
hydrangeas - these grow in everyone's books
libidinous - doesn't sound sexy
assuage - can't use an anagram of sausage, sorry
meme
trope

February 26, 2011

My Great Grandfather Peter McArthur


My great grandfather was writer Peter McArthur. He was born in Ekfrid Township, near Glencoe, Ontario. After studying at The University of Toronto, he moved to New York in 1890 to work as a freelance writer. In 1902 he moved to London, England where he worked as an editor. Returning to his birthplace in 1908, he wrote a twice weekly column for the Toronto Globe from 1909-1924. He also contributed to the Farmer's Advocate from 1910-1922. His first book, To Be Taken with Salt: Being an Essay on Teaching One's Grandmother to Suck Eggs was published in 1903. He went on to publish several novels, short story collections, poetry, a study of Stephen Leacock, and a biography of Sir Wilfred Laurier.

"A satirist is a man who discovers unpleasant things about himself and then says them about other people." -Peter McArthur


The McArthur home (built 1835) where Peter was born in Ekfrid Township near Glencoe, Ontario in 1866. The house was donated in 1962 to Doon Heritage Crossroads in Waterloo County.

February 18, 2011

"Hybrid Love" in Lies With Occasional Truth

On-line magazine Lies With Occasional Truth has published my short story "Hybrid Love". I was about to retire this piece last year when I gave it a  tweak and sent it out. Tada!

I was taking a creative writing class at the time I wrote this. When I met with the teacher to discuss my story he very seriously said to me, "After reading your story, I wondered if you might be crazy." Thankfully, he wasn't my first writing teacher and I had an ounce of confidence to tell him I wasn't and that I gave my readers a little more credit than he was willing. I dropped the course as he was unprofessional with other students as well.

February 12, 2011

Name that Character

How do you name your characters? I sometimes use names of childhood friends, or names of cats that I grew up with (most had human names). I've also chosen names of characters from books I love (Paul and Marion from Sons and Lovers). Nicknames work well too. When I started writing I often had unnamed narrators and wonder if it is easier for a reader to identify with a nameless character. As a fan of Carver and Cheever, I like their oft used first and last names or collective last name for a family or couple.

I've used websites to look for names that were culturally specific and the white pages in the phone book are fun. A writer friend pulled out a book of baby names from his bag that he had been using for his upcoming novel. These can always be found at Goodwill or the Sally Ann.

Sometimes an entire story can be built around a strong character name. Other times, it can take many rewrites before realizing the name I'd chosen doesn't work. I think my favourite character name that I've come up with thus far is Pinkerton Lewis.

February 1, 2011

Reading List 2011

John Cheever Stories
Black Bile Press Chapbook Series #4
The Indifference League - Richard Scarsbrook
Can't Lit - Edited by Richard Rosenbaum
All the Pretty Horses - Cormac McCarthy
All My Friends Are Superheroes - Andrew Kaufman
Toronto Noir - edited by Janine Armin and Nathaniel G. Moore
The Crossing - Cormac McCarthy
Just After Sunset - Stephen King
the horn of a lamb - robert sedlack
Galveston - Paul Quarrington
Look Down, This Is Where It Must Have Happened - Hal Niedzviecki
This Cake is for the Party - Sarah Selecky
Late Nights on Air - Elizabeth Hay
Light Lifting - Alexander MacLeod
Stones - Timothy Findley
Cities of the Plain - Cormac McCarthy
Barnacle Love - Anthony De Sa
Dinner Along the Amazon - Timothy Findley
Chump Change - Dan Fante

January 30, 2011

Tooting Horns

Joyland: a hub for short fiction recently published stories from members of my writing group, F&G Writers. Editor Emily Schultz has nominated both for The Journey Prize Stories anthology. Click and read:

"Eaten"   by Anu Jindal
"Cecilia" by Susan Alexander

January 19, 2011

To Contest Or Not To Contest

I recieved a nice little form letter from a literary journal. They encouraged me to enter their annual fiction contest. Four years ago I sent my story "Summer Sublet" to the Eden Mills Writers Festival. This was my first submission ever, to anything. I call it my "masturbation story" and don't know why I thought it stood a chance. Greener than green created bravado, I guess. The funny thing is it went on to be my first published story a year later.

After reading Matthew Firth's: No More Prizes, No More Contests! a couple years back I stopped entering. I wouldn't mind a bit of money, sure, but most of my stories are not the canlit pablum for the masses that often wins. The aforementioned journal also wants $40 to enter, albeit with a free subscription. I could go from a struggling to starving writer in no time.

I thought about entering the Writers' Union Postcard Contest, 5$ fee, not bad. I took a 600 worder and whittled it to 250. In the end, I didn't like the shorter version so much. Also, the WUoC are hosting a symposium about the changing literary landscape. I thought cool, but they only accept payment through VISA. What if you've never owned a credit card? So no, I don't think I will enter their contest or attend their lecture.

January 17, 2011

Reading is Writing

‘Everywhere I go I am asked if I think the universities stifle writers. My opinion is that they don't stifle enough of them. There's many a bestseller that could have been prevented by a good teacher.’
-Flannery O'Connor

When I began researching literary publications I would turn to read the author bios. It was MFA this and MFA that. I prefer the funny bios, and think mentioning higher education to be showy. I often wonder how I know how to write at all, given that high school classes are a blur and the college courses eighteen years after have been brief in discussing craft components. Reading is writing, or this is how I primarily learned to write - things that are interesting to me, and sometimes others. Of course, everything helps - classes, workshops, discussions with writers, books on writing. But, I do think too much academic study on the craft can quash one's voice or vision.

My first publication bio reads: Julie McArthur lives and writes in Parkdale with her three kids/cats, Annabelle (Superbubs), Harold and Mona. I couldn't resist the chance to immortalize my cats. Still working on a clever biography.

January 5, 2011

Story Retirement

I now retire stories that I once thought were good. I'll blame it on naive delusions of grandeur which still help to push me along in my writing career. I feel embarrassed that I once submitted stinkers to magazines/journals. The more I write the better judgement I have of knowing when a story is about developing craft (practice, practice, practice) or if it's worth sending out to the world. Writing, good or bad, is never a waste of time because even a retired story usually has lines, dialogue, or scenes worth harvesting and planting into future stories. I transplanted passages from my very first short story (long retired) to my most recent piece, the two seemingly unrelated.

What if a story is a favourite? I have work I am determined to get published, but wonder if my personal attachment outweighs its merit. How many rejections are too many? One has ten rejections thus far, but I haven't lost faith so I continue to send it out. And, if no one wants it? I'll put it in a book if I still love it down the road, fuck it if the editor doesn't like it (positive delusion). Or, maybe I'll think it's crap by the time this happens.

Before you retire a beloved story have one last look. Have you responded to feedback from editors, teachers, and peers in rewrites? This worked for one of my published stories. Perhaps, re-workshop or have a trusted writer/friend have another look. Ultimately, intuition is your best guide. When you lose interest in reworking or submitting a story it is time to put it to rest.