What Questions would You ask the Editor of a Literary Magazine? #writing #fiction


Call for submissions First Line Magazine

The First Line Magazine

As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, Elaine Chiew recently answered questions on writing.  Today I’m pleased to welcome David LaBounty from The First Line Magazine.

The First Line Magazine’s motto is as simple as it is commendable:

 The purpose of The First Line is to jump start the imagination–to help writers break through the block that is the blank page. Each issue contains short stories that stem from a common first line; it also provides a forum for discussing favorite first lines in literature. The First Line is an exercise in creativity for writers and a chance for readers to see how many different directions we can take when we start from the same place.

Feel free to leave your questions for David LaBounty in the comments section, and he might stop by to answer them.

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1. What drives The First Line Magazine? What are your plans for its future?

I used to say we started TFL to stave off middle-class malaise, but now I’ve come to look at it as a source of cheap entertainment. I want to create an enjoyable collection of stories, so that when I go back and look at an issue in the future (be it five months or five years), I’ll still be proud to have paid for those stories.

Our plans for the future are simply to keep on keepin’ on.

  2. What do you look for in a story you accept for publication?

Something that makes me forget I am an editor reading a submission. Stories that can do that almost always find their way into TFL. However, I am also on the lookout for diamonds in the rough – stories that sparkle, but need a little polish to make perfect.

  3. What would you like to see more of in the submissions to your magazine, and what would you like to see less?

I completely understand when editors spell out types of submissions they don’t like to see, but it seems so limiting. (How do you really know what you want until you read it?) I’ll give an example: I can usually tell when someone has tacked our first line onto one of their existing stories, which, in the early days, annoyed me. But then I read a wonderful story that was in no way inspired by our first line. I called the writer on it, and he sheepishly admitted to the crime. Then I took his story and started a new literary journal with it.

We only have two rules: start your story with our first line and don’t change it in any way. Beyond that I am open to anything. Even stories I would never publish can be entertaining for me to read for other reasons.

A Character's Writer's Block?

Publishing Stories in a Literary Magazine

4. What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story published in a magazine?

Edit twice, submit once. Repeat (if rejected).

5.    Name 5 short stories that are your absolute favorite.

Stories I liked years ago, may or may not hold the same place in my heart today, and some I hated in my youth, speak to me now. Someone once asked me what my favorite song was of a band I love, and I answered: “The next one I hear.” My favorite short story is the one I read next that moves me.

6.    What was the last book/s you read? Would you recommend it to Daily (w)rite’s readers? Why or why not?

My book reading is just as eccentric as my short story tastes: plays, old Star Trek novels, baseball biographies, working-class mysteries – I also review books, so I am always receiving potential bestsellers to pass judgement on. I’ve recently, returned to my zining roots. There’s an unpolished passion in zining that still speaks to me, and I spend too much time swimming in hand-copied, saddle-stitched ephemera. I hesitate to make reading recommendations, unless I really know the person.

7.    What is your comment on the future of literary short stories and novels?

As long as people have the itch to write, and I don’t think that will ever go away, we’ll have plenty of short stories and novels to read. Who will read them? I have no idea.

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David published my story in the last issue, and we spent a few emails back and forth discussing changes. It was one of the best editorial collaborations I’ve ever had– David’s suggestions were insightful, and he was very open to new changes I made, always able to see the vision of the story. I’ve read the other stories in the issue, all beginning with the same line. It was fascinating to see the directions in which various authors have taken the prompt: get yourself a copy to enjoy the different journeys.

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The First Line Magazine submissions

David LaBounty

David LaBounty‘s name is attached to bad poetry, micro fiction, children’s stories and plays, and general interest articles for newspapers and magazines. He’s written stories for literary journals and essays for scholarly journals, and his book reviews have appeared in daily and weekly newspapers. When he isn’t filling zines with self-centered tripe, he edits and publishes Workers Write! and The First Line.

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Dear readers, do you read literary magazines? Like short stories? Have you heard of The First Line Magazine? If you write, do you submit to literary magazines? Been published? Do you have questions for David LaBounty?
If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion on short stories, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page!

Why do #Food and #Fiction Mesh So Well Together? #writing #foodfiction


As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, we had David Bumpus from the Lunch Ticket Magazine answering questions last week. Today I’m pleased to welcome Elaine Chiew,  award-winning author, and editor of the Cooked Up  anthology.

This anthology includes stories from names like Ben Okri and Chitra Bannerjee Divakaruni, and is an absolutely delightful read, because it is all about Food, Food, and more Food. Food is one of my favorite topics– one of my pleasures in reading a book is finding the description of (an often unfamiliar, and sometimes only too familiar) food or a meal, and to languish in the deliciousness of it.

Feel free to leave your questions for Elaine in the comments section, and she might stop by to answer them.

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Do you love Food Fiction?

Cooked Up: Food Fiction from around the World

1. Tell us about your writing journey. When and how did you start writing fiction?

In 2005, I began writing after I had my first child, probably due to an avalanche of maternal hormones (After years in the investment banking industry which sapped me of fellow feeling or the ability to feel anything, this rush was unexpectedly welcome).

2. What aspect of writing a short story do you find tough, and which one do you find easy? Why?   

Each aspect is an element in an organic whole, and thus, I find it depends on each story. In some stories, the voice comes immediately (Leng Lui for Pretty Lady) so it felt deceptively easy. In others, the ending takes awhile to come around (one that feels true to the story and its characters, what’s called “earned” — e.g. Run of the Molars.

3. What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story published?

Try online litmags but read them first (widely and frequently). Support the community.

4. Name any 5 short stories that are your absolute favorite.

This switches around, because when you reread at different points in your life, different things speak to you. If I were to teach a short story course though, I’d always include:

a. Lorrie Moore’s. People Like That Are The Only People Here.
b. Alice Munro’s Floating Bridge
c. Haruki Murakami’s The Ice Man
d. Raymond Carver’s A Small, Good Thing.
e. The Things They Carried, Tim O’Brien

5. Have you ever suffered from writer’s block? What’s your recommended cure?

Two tried and true methods:
1. Work on something new. But make sure you come back to yr block.
2. Walk. Make tea. Cook. The mind does not stop working just because the fingers stop typing.

6. Tell us more about the anthology you edited: Cooked Up. Is there a target audience? Why do food and fiction mesh so well together?

Cooked Up is for anyone who loves food and anyone who loves short stories. People open up whenever there is talk about food. Food especially enhances story-telling. Food is so ever and omni-present in our lives, as is story-telling. We eat to live, but likewise, we tell stories in order not just to make sense of our world, but also to live.  We aren’t properly human unless we tell stories, from early cave-dwellers onwards.   No surprise either that a lot of people’s earliest memories are of food and of someone (possibly a parent/grandparent/relative/carer) telling them a story even as they are being fed.  I’m constantly amazed that even the most unapproachable or taciturn of humans smile and have something to say about their favourite foods, and the act of explaining why that is their favourite food is already a telling of a story.

7. How did you go about compiling the anthology? What did you have in mind when you chose the stories to go into the collection?

I solicited emerging literary talents whose work I admired (some of whom I’d interacted with on social media) and others whom I wrote to out of the blue (one, I chased up by attending an event he was speaking at and then pitching the anthology to him on the spot!) I was looking for stories where food as a theme is front and central (or highlighted its significance and cultural meaning), stories where food acted as trigger, signifier, enabler of story. But in the end, it had to be about the story. The story was paramount.

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Editor: Cooked up: Food Fiction from around the world

Elaine Chiew: Editor, Author

 

Elaine Chiew is a London-based writer and her stories have won the Bridport Prize, been shortlisted in the BBC Opening Lines (2015), MsLexia (2014) and Fish Short Stories Competitions (2012), among others, and published in anthologies and literary magazines (most recently, in Unthology 7 (Unthank Books, 2015).

She is the editor and organiser of Cooked Up: Food Fiction From Around the World (New Internationalist, 2015).

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Are you a foodie? Do you love food fiction? Any food-related short story or novel that resonated with you? Why do You think Food and Fiction might go well together? Why does food succeed in bridging barriers and forging connections? Want to share the recipe for a comfort food? (I admit to taking comfort in food when I’m stressed– would love a few recipes from around the world!)
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Do you hate E. L. James ? #fiftyshades


Fifty shades of Grey Merchandise!

Fifty shades of Grey Merchandise!

James is worth nearly 60 million pounds. She’s sold more than 125 million copies of her book worldwide, one of them to me.

I didn’t have the stomach to finish it, because the language quickly got in the way of the images in my head, which, I have to admit, were none too pleasant in the first place. I’m nobody’s prude, but I like my erotica well-written.

Erika Leonard James got taken out on Twitter recently, according to this article on Guardian:

But alongside the serious queries came a deluge of questions that made fun of James’s much-criticised prose style, including jibes such as “Do you get paid per adjective?”, “Have you ever held a dictionary?” and “Did you ever consider using a thesaurus, or did that sound too much like hard work?”

As well as her writing style hashtag users also referenced the similarities between her work and that of Twilight author Stephenie Meyer with questions such as: “What’s the minimum distance you have to stay away from Stephenie Meyer at all times?” and “Did you see the abusive relationship of Bella and Edward and think ‘hmm needs more abuse’.”

While others were more creative in their criticism, with queries such as: “How many roads must a man walk down before he devotes an entire room in his apartment to the abuse of young women?”, “50 Shades takes place in 2011 but Anastasia, a journalism student, is mystified by the concept of BASIC EMAIL?”

A whole lot of readers, and let’s face it, a ton of writers, are not pleased with her. I read some of the tweets, and was sorely tempted to retweet them. I held back though.

Yes, her books are badly written. A simple edit could make them so much better. And while I can’t accuse her of inspiring abuse, as some have done, I do cringe at the dumbing down of English writing.

But people (presumably, mostly women) all the way from US and UK to Brazil and China are reading her– so there’s a gap she fills. I don’t think I, or anyone, has the right to look down on folks for their reading tastes– people will read what they want to read.

And if you give James credit for nothing else, she’s a good businesswoman. The empire of merchandise she’s building, based on her novels, is proof positive.

She is a real person, according to Daily Mail:

Her husband no longer writes out of the garden shed and she has graduated from a table in the sitting room: instead, both have their own studies. She moved her sons from their state school to a private sixth form and was the first person in the UK to buy a £60,000 red Tesla Model S electric sports car when it was launched last year. Pictures this week also showed her driving a blue ‘Chelsea tractor’ complete with a number plate ending ‘SXY’.

But, despite the Hermes and Tiffany bracelets she has bought herself, Leonard in many ways remains resolutely down to earth, slipping seamlessly between her new life in LA, where she can sometimes be seen sipping wine in the garden of the £1,500-a-night Chateau Marmont hotel, and her old life in West London. She continues to frequent her favourite pub in Ealing, where she goes to play Scrabble or take part in the weekly quiz night or simply for Sunday lunch with her family.

And while she has become a fan of regular manicures and pedicures, she still has her hair blow-dried in Acton, does her own supermarket shopping and walks her two Westies, Max and Mini. She even taught her youngest son to drive recently. Quietly, she has also made vast donations to charity — according to her company records, in the region of £1.2 million to date.

And it is this part, the part of E.L. James being a human like any of us, (despite her freakish success, her deplorable writing skills and Everything Else : I’m not posting excerpts because this is a PG 13 blog, and the internet is so awash that a simple google search would tell you more than I ever can)— this is the part that holds me back.

What has she done, after all, other than produce some bad fiction? Does being on the internet give people the right to bring anyone down? Yes, she’s a public figure, and as such, ‘fair game,’ but must we put her on trial for making money out of incompetently-written smut? She’s a wife, a mother, and isn’t robbing anyone, or misappropriating funds (unlike most corporates and politicians). I might change my mind, but this is what I think right now.

What about you? Do you think E. L. James deserves the flaying she gets? Have you read any of the books? Do you have opinions on her writing, and its effect on the publishing world? Have at it in the comments (keep it PG13).

If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page!

What Makes An #Editor publish a Short #Story in a #Literary #Magazine? #writing


Stories in the Lunch Ticket Magazine

Lunch Ticket Magazine

As part of my ongoing guest post series in this blog, Melissa De Villiers recently answered questions on her writing.  Today I’m pleased to welcome David Bumpus from the Lunch Ticket Magazine. Feel free to leave your questions for him in the comments section, and he might stop by to answer them.

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1. What drives Lunch Ticket? What are the plans for its future?

Lunch Ticket is Antioch University Los Angeles’ literary magazine, and as such is bound to uphold AULA’s mission to promote social justice by publishing without hesitation meritorious work written by underrepresented and underprivileged voices with the hope that getting their words out into the world will help enact change. As for its future, we’ve been tasked by the university to be the best magazine we possibly can while maintaining that mission. As a relatively new publication though—we’re only just entering our third year of being online—we feel like we’ve only recently finally established ourselves in the literary journal landscape, and we hope that future editors will carry the magazine forward towards realizing its full potential.

2. What do you look for in a story you accept for publication?

In pieces of any genre, we look for mastery of craft and an awareness of social justice. But by mastery of craft—since that’s a pretty general and nondescriptive term—I mean not only that the sentences are meticulously shaped, but that the writer demonstrates a clear understanding of and mastery over the form of their piece: that the structure is well-designed and compliments the function and intention of the piece; that the author doesn’t give in to any overused and diluted tropes; that every detail and nuance is charged with purpose. We want pieces that are fresh and original and have a sense of urgency about what they need to say.

3. What would you like to see more of in the submissions to your magazine, and what would you like to see less?

We like pieces that challenge the status quo, both on the page and off. We want pieces that make us question the way we think and feel, and also challenge our expectations of certain genres. We want less pieces that assume and uphold norms and normative modes of thinking. We want less pieces that follow well-worn grooves. We want pieces that challenge our assumptions, that promote progressive modes of thinking.

4. What tips would you give unpublished writers who are trying to get their first story published in a magazine?

Focus on your craft first: make sure your writing is clear and crisp, and that everything you do is purposeful and contributes to the piece as a whole. Secondly, read the magazines you want to be published in, and then submit what you think would be a good fit. Every magazine has their aesthetic preferences, and you have to send them what they’re looking for if you want to be published by them: it’s unlikely that if you write realist literary fiction you’ll be published in a genre magazine, or if you write experimental poetry you’ll be accepted by a more traditional publication. Submit to the markets that publish what you write, and only after you’ve taken the time to familiarize yourself with them.

5. Please link us to three of your favourite pieces on Lunch Ticket.

I can’t play favourites unfortunately, but I can provide links to a few pieces I found particularly powerful and that I think fully capitalized on our mission:
1. Days 2. Poetics of Resistance 3. Self Portrait: Chicken Dinner 4. Three Thai Poems 5. Weird Gelatinous Things.

6. What is your comment on the future of literary magazines?

It’s hard to say what the future of literary magazines will be because there are so many changes happening so rapidly. I do think that digital publications will continue to outnumber and outgrow print publications though, and that this could potentially create a market that will change not according to the desires of those who can fund the biggest magazines but whose changes will be dictated by the wants of the readers: having the ability to create and share publications has never before been so easily or widely practiced, and never have independent publications been able to have as wide a readership or reach. Because of this, publications can orbit whatever flag they plant in whatever territory or niche they want, and I think the readers will now determine who flourishes and who won’t in a way we haven’t seen before. We no longer have to only read what’s being published by the big names who tell us what we should read because they’re the only ones who are publishing anything: we can seek out what we want to read, because someone out there is publishing it. And if not, then you can create and share your own publication.

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Lunch Ticket Magazine: David Bumpus

David Bumpus: Lunch Ticket

David Bumpus holds an MFA in Fiction from Antioch University Los Angeles. As an undergraduate, he studied Mathematics and Philosophy at St. John’s College in Santa Fe, New Mexico. For a year and a half, he served as the Editor-in-Chief of Lunch Ticket, Antioch’s literary journal committed to promoting social justice. He is also a sponsored motorcycle racer.

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Dear readers, do you read literary magazines? Like short stories? Have you heard of the Lunch Ticket? If you write, do you submit to literary magazines? Been published? Do you have questions for David Bumpus?
If you’re reading this, do not have a blog, and want to join the discussion on short stories, head over to Daily (w)rite’s Facebook page!

12 Guidelines You Need to Compile a #Fiction #Charity #Anthology


You're not Alone : Macmillan Cancer Support

You’re Not Alone: Charity Anthology

Continuing the guest post series on Daily (w)rite, today it is my pleasure  to introduce to you Ian D Moore, author of Salby Damned, who is here to give us a few tips on how to set up an anthology to support a charitable cause. He speaks from experience, having recently produced the anthology You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology, due out soon.

Take it away, Ian!

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In the last few months I’ve helped compile a charity anthology inspired by my mother-in-law who battled cancer for 8 years and finally began to succumb to it. A distressing time for everyone around her, that made me feel pretty useless, not being able to make her better or to help in any way. I began to think about what I could do in order to help. I chose my writing as the means to make a difference, perhaps not to the inevitable passing of a woman I had become so fond of, but certainly to anyone in the future unfortunate enough to have to go through what our family had at that time.

Should you be trying to compile a fiction anthology for a charity of your choice, here are a few pointers to keep in mind:

  1. Pick the charity you want to support before you go looking for people to help you. My mother-in-law’s cancer prompted me to consider what I could do to make a positive difference. Motivation is a key factor in compiling any anthology.
  2. There has to be a leader in any group, the creator. They have final say. Form a team to assist you. You’ll need editors, proof-readers, cover designer, formatting wizard and an overall editor-in-chief. Put the essentials in place before you begin.
  3. Discuss the maximum word count of your stories, based upon maximum word count for the completed work. Remember the cost rises to produce larger works, affecting sale price and profits to the charity.
  4. Formatting rules: Set basic rules for contributors. Font style, size, no page numbering/borders. Keep the text justified. Initially, format for kindle.
  5. Stay legal with regard to copyright: It’s important for you, the Project Leader, to do your homework with regards to copyright law and the wishes of the charity. Each submitting author retains copyright for his or her own story. It cannot have been published anywhere else – no exceptions. The Project Leader holds full copyright for the completed, assembled work.
  6. Liaise with the charity for any rules that they have, such as logo use or content. It took weeks for me to get permission to use both charity logo and the name of the charity to promote You’re Not Alone. Permission MUST be protected.
  7. Story content: No excessive profanities, scenes of a serious sexual nature, religioun or faction related material or enhanced political agendas within any given entry. Be aware of possible misinterpretation by the reading public.
  8. Story order: Try to arrange them in an order of readability that will make subtle changes to the mood of the reader – the ultimate critic.
  9. Once you have your stories, format the whole document. Insert styles menu headings, titles, fonts etc. E-mail your file to your kindle device, using the kindle address – to see how it will look to the reader.
  10. Cover design: If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to design your own cover. For You’re Not Alone, we had the amazing artist Christine Southworth to draw our cover, and the inestimable expertise of Nico Laeser to digitise the images. Make your cover relevant and striking. Your book cover is the first impression that any reader will see.
  11. Set up a pre-order on Kindle: You can make changes to the cover and files as you go along. Meanwhile, drum up interest via social media and advertising in order to get sales generated before the launch.
  12. Approach the bloggers of this world – they can drive sales traffic. If you ask, in most cases they will be happy to help promote any good cause. Worthwhile having a few copies of the finished product to use as giveaways – bought and paid for, of course.

What can you do to help?

Macmillan Cancer support: Charity Anthology

You’re Not Alone: Book Cover

Spare a thought for Macmillan Cancer Support: They provide nursing staff to the 1 in 4 of us likely to suffer from some form of cancer in our lives. Help us to raise money and awareness.

You’re Not Alone is available to pre-order on Amazon Kindle here. Available in print via Createspace from 11th July 2015. Every penny of profit made on either purchase will be donated to the charity.  Follow us on Facebook, and please help us spread the word on social media by taking a second to join our Thunderclap Campaign.

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Ian D Moore, editor You're not Alone

Ian D Moore

Ian lives and works in Selby, North Yorkshire. A father/stepfather to four children and full-time truck driver for a national televised haulage firm, his life tends to be pretty busy. To date, he has published Salby Damned. He has taken took time out from writing the sequel to get involved in the creation of You’re Not Alone: An Indie Author Anthology in the hope of raising a lot of money for Macmillan Cancer Support.

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Macmillan Cancer Support

Macmillan Cancer Support

Having lost family members to cancer, I know the suffering that not only the patients, but also their family members go through.

Is anyone you know affected by this disease? Would you like to lend a hand to Macmillan Cancer Support? Would you take part in the Thunderclap Campaign?

Ian would like to give away a paperback copy of this book to one of the commenters on this post, so please make sure your profile link leads to your contact details.

Not a blogger, but have a comment on cancer, supporting those affected by it, or about editing a Charity Anthology? Head over to the post on Damyanti at Daily Write’s Facebook Page, and join the discussion there.

Would You Consider South Africa a Gift to Writers?


The guest post series in this blog has been on a hiatus, but today I introduce with great pleasure Melissa de Villiers, the South African author of The Chameleon House, a collection of short stories recently long listed for the Frank O’connor award. She answers questions on various topics of writerly interest.

The Chameleon House: Melissa de Villiers

The Chameleon House: Melissa de Villiers

1. Tell us about your writing journey. When and how did you start writing fiction?

I grew up in a house full of secrets. My maternal grandfather, for instance, lived an hour’s drive away down the road but we never knew or met him – my mother had cut him out of her life as a young woman and there was so much she never seemed to want to tell us about her background. As a child, I’d make up stories to explain the questions that went unanswered.

Also, I grew up under the last years of the apartheid system, which imposed its own code of silences. Making up stories – the wilder and more absurd, the better – became a kind of private test to see whether I was starting to become a typical ‘product’ or not – whether I was getting sucked in.

2. What aspect of writing a short story do you find tough, and which one do you find easy? Why?

Starting out is the worst. That’s when the sense that you might fail can press down, or even threaten to become so overwhelming that you never start at all. You have to hold your nerve, laughing hysterically at your own insane self-absorption and just get on with it.
Easiest? Cutting back – that final cull once you’ve finished a draft.

3. If you had to give just three pointers on ‘writing technique’ to aspiring authors, something general creative writing books don’t tell them, what would they be?

  • Live a full and varied life and write about life. You need to keep your well of ideas brimming.
  • Don’t wait for inspiration to strike – treat writing like a job. Turn up ‘for work’ every day and just do it, even if it’s only for an hour and has to be fitted around career, children, and other commitments.
  • Writing fiction isn’t primarily about ‘self-expression,’ though that might be a useful by-product. Rather, you’re making a construction for people to read – an artifice based on effects. You need to be crafty, patient and careful as you manipulate the possibilities. It’s hard work. I like what Zadie Smith had to say on the matter: “You want self-expression? Go ring a bell in the yard.”

4. If you had to choose three of your favorite authors and their best works, which would they be? Why did you choose these in particular?

  1. The strength of Penelope Fitzgerald’s fiction is that it leaves out just as much as it leaves in. Her last novel, The Blue Flower – probably her masterpiece – is spare, droll and utterly distinctive. And written when she was 79! A lesson to all us procrastinators.
  2. The British-Sri Lankan writer Romesh Gunesekera’s first collection Monkfish Moon is a book I’m very fond of. The style is lyrical yet the stories are war-haunted, tinged with the sadness of lost things. It’s wonderfully done.
  3. Suchen Christine Lim’s The River’s Song is my favourite Singaporean novel. The song of the river is also the song of Singapore’s underdogs – ‘unsung and uncelebrated.’ It’s a brave and skillful book.

5. Tell us more about The Chameleon House, your recently launched short story collection. Is there a target audience? What did you have in mind when you chose the stories to go into the collection?
My stories mostly deal with a South Africa in transition, in the years immediately following the end of the brutal and bloody apartheid system. Many of the white characters are still in a state of some confusion and denial about the whole process – they’re monsters, really. South Africa’s a gift to writers in some ways. The political landscape requires strong reactions to things – you’re never far from a drama.

6. Which is your favorite story in the collection and why?
I’m fond of ‘A Letter to Bianca’ because somehow the first draft came very quickly – that’s most unusual for me. Ironically, the heroine is someone with a paralyzing case of writer’s block.

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Melissa De Villiers

Melissa De Villiers

   

Melissa de Villiers is a writer and journalist. She grew up in South Africa but now lives between Singapore and London. Her debut short story collection ‘The Chameleon House’ has  been longlisted for the Frank O’connor award.
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         Have you read any of the books Melissa mentions? Have you read her book The Chameleon House? Do you have questions for her?

Ever take Cues from Your Subconscious?


Hakone Open Air Museum

The Subconscious and You

My best writing comes to me when I’m not planning it.

The other times, I’m working at the craft, practicing my scales so that when the music happens I’m there to witness and record it as best as I can. Sometimes I don’t do well at the first attempt and my subconscious keeps throwing it at me till I get it right. A lot of my writing is built around similar themes– don’t quite know what they are yet, only that when the raw inner voice comes out and plays, my stories seem preoccupied with similar things.

It is as if I’m the chimpanzee being taught a puzzle in a lab. The humans at the other end are trying to stretch my capabilities, and measuring them, while at it.

This is easy to make peace with when I’m writing flash fiction. I’m reasonably confident these days of churning out five to six a week. Two or three of those might even be good.

Trouble appears when I write a longer piece– it is as if I’m a novice singer, running out of breath when belting out an aria. Some of them begin well, then falter, and take a dozen drafts to catch the high notes I want to hit, or rumble into those base notes I don’t want to lose.

Between passes at that story, days or weeks or months might pass, and there I am again, and the story might just hold together without crashing — like a house of multicolored cards held up in air just so. You see the masters doing it all the time, juggling so many cards in air and making such brilliant villas, mansions, palaces. It’s magic. I’m happy when I can hold together the bare bones of a hut, just so long as it stays in air, without bleeding color or losing balance.

The novel. The novel is a different beast– with it I feel like a dog in front of a mirror. I don’t know what I see, only that I see it. And I’m yet to see a dog juggle.

So many mixed metaphors in this post– but it reflects exactly how I feel these days trying to enter into my novel to begin on the third draft. This palace might crumble before it stands up– but at least I’m learning the art of juggling the bricks to keep the damn building floating in air. And it looks like I’m not alone– other writers compare writing to juggling as well:

“I always imagine it like a whole load of plates spinning, and you’ve got the plan, the research and the plot, and you’ve got to kind of keep them spinning and constantly moving between one and the other.”

The complete article about writing and the subconscious, here.

Who knows, maybe I’m meant only to write at shorter lengths. Not that that is easier to do (well).

I have to discover whether I’m meant for longer stories. The real bitch of it? The only road to discovery lies in writing at greater length.

What about you? What role does the subconscious play in your life, as a writer, reader, artist, gardener, mason, engineer, or whatever it is that you do? Do you ever take cues from your subconscious?