I’m Trying To Prove Short Stories Are Popular

I am crowd-funding a collection of short stories.  As I’m sure many of you have found out, short story collections are not looked upon favourably by agents or publishers in the UK. This is not the case in the US, Asia or even as close as Ireland. A handful of UK companies do consider collections but to be honest you have to either be a best-selling author already or have won a major short story prize to get past the slush pile, even then you’ll probably have to have a novel ready to go. My first book, Starlings, was a daisy chain collection of inter-linked stories.  It was published by a tiny but gutsy indie called Revenge Ink. I didn’t have an agent then because no-one I applied to represented short stories, “if you wanted to get back in touch when you have written a novel, we would be delighted to represent you.” Does this sound familiar to anyone? I still haven’t got an agent and with this second book, In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes, I didn’t even try to get one. This collection is themed around fame and celebrity culture but there’s no way I can pretend it is a novel; each story is individual. I half-heartedly sent it off to a few US companies until somebody suggested I try the innovative crowd-funding publisher Unbound.

Since the company was established in 2010, Unbound has gone from strength to strength. Their catalogue includes books by Jonathan Meades, Terry Jones, Kate Mosse and a Booker Prize listee (Paul Kingsnorth with The Wake).  The company promo declares that, “authors get to write the books they want to write and readers get to read real books, that in a crowded, celebrity obsessed market place might never see the light of day.”  This sounded very appealing to me. I sent my submission off and heard that it was successful after about 3 weeks. Crowd-funding is a fast-paced business. Unbound wanted me to upload a promo, a cover, biography, extract and synopsis within 24 hours in order to go live with the project immediately. You typically get 90 days to raise around £3,000 in pledges. It’s a hard slog of marketing, press releases, events, blog posts, radio interviews and local TV. If you do reach your target Unbound allocate you an editor and then your book gets the same treatment as it would from any major publisher. There are lots of levels of pledge from digital copies to launch tickets to manuscript assessments.

I am partially doing this to prove that, contrary to what most UK publishers and agents think, short stories are popular and deserve more consideration. If you would like to see more short story collections published you could start by pledging to this one.

Brighton’s Latest TV made a short film about the project  which you can view by clicking here Fifteen Minutes of Fame? No Thanks!

Fifteen minutes flyer

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The Fractured Nuance #3: Handwritten issue available now!

The Fractured Nuance issue #3 was aptly released on National Handwriting Day and is entirely handwritten/ illustrated by contributors from around the world.

Each piece is unique in form and content; handwriting ranges from immaculate to bordering on illegible!

Read, enjoy, and decode it by purchasing here:

The Fractured Nuance #3: Handwritten

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The Fractured Nuance Facebook page

Bristol Publisher Launches New Magazine

BoundlessFrontCoverFinalOCT

Arkbound is a new Bristol-based social enterprise that provides a range of innovative services to aspiring authors, writers and journalists. Some of you may be aware of the term ‘social enterprise’, but for those who don’t it is a business that reinvests its profits back into the community. Our aims are to promote social inclusion, community development and artistic talent. We can sponsor disadvantaged authors (getting them published), as well as provide a platform for marginalised groups and community organisations.

On October 1st we are proud to be launching the very first edition of Boundless, a magazine that includes contributions from local artists and writers, as well as investigative journalism and literary reviews. To coincide with national ‘Social Saturday’, we are also having a launch event from 9th-11th October at 123 Arts Space in Stokes Croft (just next to ‘The Little Shop’). Everyone is cordially invited to this event, and there will be opportunities to meet other writers whilst chatting over free refreshments.

There are many opportunities for writers with Arkbound. We welcome new contributions to Boundless, and each year run a competition for ‘Best Short Story’, ‘Best Visual Art’ and ‘Best  Article’. Everyone featured in Boundless is entered freely into one of the relevant categories (the entry deadline this year is 1st November). Writers from disadvantaged backgrounds (who have faced long-term employment, disability, imprisonment or other impediments) will also be considered for full sponsorship, and we are currently considering submissions for new manuscripts. As a publisher, Arkbound is particularly keen on literary works that address – or at least touch upon – environmental or social issues. At the same time, we always consider contemporary fiction, whether it be a debut thriller novel or a fantasy trilogy.

If you would like to find out more about what we do, please visit http://arkbound.com/ .

On The Same Page campaign launches

In a follow-up from my post in December about the On The Same Page app template (a simple, elegant design for publishing text/image collaborations digitally), I’m excited to announce that the two.5  crowdfunding campaign is now live.

We’re trying to raise £2,975 to cover the final production costs for the app template. As I type this we’re 10 days into the campaign and have already raised 68% of our goal. Any contribution – however large or small – will help us towards making that 100%.

In return for contributions we’ve put together some perks which might be of interest to ShortStops enthusiasts. They range from professionally recorded audio stories to editorial feedback on a short story/novel extract of up to 5,000 words. Also up for grabs are invitations to be a beta-tester for the app, postcard sets, portrait photoshoots in New York, and exclusive creative commissions. Perhaps the perk I’m most proud of is our Software Files.

    On The Same Page mock-up    On The Same Page mock-upOn The Same Page mock-up

On The Same Page mock-up

For a donation of £300 (or above…) you’ll receive a licensed copy of our software files for On The Same Page, allowing you to publish your creative work as an app. Your license allows you unlimited use of the files, so you can use it for as many of your personal projects as you wish, and contributors will receive free upgrades for life as we continue to develop the template in the future.

If you’re reading this and thinking ‘actually, what I’d find really useful in exchange for a contribution would be [XYZ]’ then email us – viccyandsamantha@gmail.com – and Samantha and I will see if it’s feasible for us to tailor-make you a perk of your choice. We’re also available for interviews, and generally keen to get in touch with other digital collaboration enthusiasts to swap trade-secrets and find out what other people are up to.

Happy National Short Story Day 2013!

The christening of a particular date as being ‘National [insert name here] Day’ is always a bit of a cheesy, cringe-worthy affair. After all, you don’t need a licence to declare a day National anything, and just recently, what might have been fun in the beginning is now getting quite tiresome – I mean, come on, National Hug Your Boss Day? Or even more ridiculous, National Vanilla Ice Cream Day? Not that ice cream isn’t awesome but there’s really no need for the entire British population to give a platform to a frozen dessert. Or hug their boss.

Comma logo high res 2

That said, sometimes there is a precedence for these events, and in December 2010 Comma Press decided to start up a little project of our own which we called ‘National Short Story Day’. It was held on the 21st of the month to coincide with the winter solstice, the shortest day of the year. Clever, eh?

So if the ‘National this’ and ‘National that’ business is all a bit redundant, why did we decide to do it? Well to start with, Comma is the most prolific hard copy publisher of short fiction in the UK, and aside from the odd poetry collection here and there we do nothing else but short stories. And secondly, there is actually a deep-rooted tradition in Britain of story-telling at winter time. Dickens himself edited a weekly magazine called Household Words during the 1850s, which as well as the serialisations of novels, also consisted of Christmas-themed stories which were published in the seasonal issues. This idea continued with MR James and his Christmas Eve ghost story ‘entertainments’ in the early twentieth century, where he would read his work aloud to friends in one of the rooms at King’s College, Cambridge, probably in front of a fireplace. This performative element – the delivery to a room full of listeners – carried forth Poe’s vision of the short story and what was so good about it – that it could be read in a ‘single sitting’. These performances eventually transcended to the BBC with TV adaptations and dramatised readings throughout the 70s, 80s, and a revival in the noughties which featured usual suspect Christopher Lee in a candle-lit room reading selected James stories.

But – the main reason behind the National Short Story Day project was simply to offer a non-commercial alternative to the pre-Christmas chaos; to persuade people to drop the stress of shopping and wrapping and decorating, (and the anxiety over what to buy that aunt you see once a year but who’s coming for dinner on the 25th so you best have a present ready) – just for a moment, and do something different. Something that doesn’t require your money; just your appreciation.

NSSD logo adapted

Initially, it started small. 2010 saw three events held in Manchester, Leeds and Newcastle. In 2011, we didn’t hold any events but we ran an all-day social media campaign on our SSD Facebook page and through the @ShortStoryDay Twitter account using the hashtag #nssd, promoting the new website at www.nationalshortstoryday.co.uk. The site, which has grown in terms of content since its launch, contained video footage of short story readings, recommendations (we now have over 200) from editors, publishers, authors, translators and others who work with literature, and a vast range of links to short story resources including organisations and groups, public domain audiobooks and podcasts, apps, publications etc… We also ran a ‘tweet a story in 10 words or less’ competition which proves to be increasingly popular every year (Timothy Spall and his wife Shane even tweeted at us from their barge!), and gave free Comma books as prizes to the top five entries.

In June 2012, we went global. Riding on the high of London 2012, and the BBC Short Story Award becoming the International Short Story Award that year for the first time ever to coincide with the Olympics, we decided to have two short story days – one in winter (shortest day) and the other in summer on the shortest night of the year, usually the 20th or 21st June. It was our most successful project to date. Reaching out to our already established contacts in the UK and in Europe (colleagues and friends of Jim Hinks, Translation Editor here at Comma and co-founder of the European Short Story Network) and sourcing out new ones, we managed to get so many people involved that 20 events took place all over the world on the 20th June, plus three more organised by us personally in Manchester, London and Glasgow.  There are too many collaborative partners to name here, but the response was truly touching, with friends and strangers alike running their own short story themed events in Leeds, Nottingham, Sheffield, Cardiff, Minneapolis, New York, Zadar, Belgrade, Cape Town, Botswana, and Johannesburg. We also received an influx of short story reading recommendations for the website from international writers, so the list expanded into something far more culturally diverse, championing our long-held belief that the short form is an international one. Our hashtag #issd even climbed to the top of the twitter trends, beating #justinbieber (we did it again in December 2012 with #nssd surpassing #mayans).

gimbal

This year, on 21st December, we’re returning to the national focus (the international celebrations now take place in the summer). As well as our usual 978-1905583485Twitter competition and book giveaways, Comma is marking the release of our first ever non-fiction title, Morphologies, a book of essays by contemporary short story authors on past masters of the form, plus the release of the brand new version of Gimbal, our free iPhone app which lets you escape the boredom of your daily commute by exploring foreign cities through short fiction. There are also events from Nottingham Writers’ Studio and Parthian Books, details of which are available here.  

We welcome everyone and anyone to get involved with National Short Story Day in any way you wish. Discover a new author, re-read an old favourite, recommend a story to a friend, or even create your own!

Just keep the short story love alive.

Tentative First Steps

Well here we all are. Hello. How do you do? This is Number Eleven, we are an online literary journal and we want you (not your souls or anything like that, just your attention). I will keep this as brief as I can, I just want to welcome you to our little corner of this absolutely fabulous site. It’s going to take time to get to know your names off by heart but if you all sit in the same position every day then it should be fine and we’ll all get on like a house on fire (okay, I’ll be serious now).

Issue Three of Number Eleven is only a few weeks old and we’d love it if you could have a quick look and tell us what you think – http://numberelevenmagazine.com/. The reading window for Issue Four is open right now and I encourage you to send us some of your work, we look forward to reading it.

There are some amazing journals involved in this project and I can’t wait to see how this grows and where this wonderful pathway that Tania has so carefully hewn will lead us. I have itchy feet so I think an adventure could be on the cards, either that or a trip to a chiropodist. I think I’d rather have an adventure…