Thursday, January 17, 2019

Confingo magazine, and online versus print publication.

I'm delighted to say that another of my stories has been accepted by the excellent Confingo Magazine. It's yet another of the stories I've been writing recently that touch on particularly contemporary issues - though, as I say, the real heart of these stories for me is the particular personal dilemmas for their protagonists. Publication won't be until October, as the forthcoming Spring issue is now more or less decided. In the days before online magazines this was the norm with story submissions - a good wait between acceptance and publication, but recently I've been experiencing the more quick-fire publishing schedules of online magazines. My story 'Kiss' was published in MIR Online in December within two or three weeks of acceptance and, 'Bitter, Horned', accepted only last week, will appear on Litro on 10th February. It would be easy, in view of this, to get impatient with the slow process of print publication, but there are pros and cons. For one thing, there's really nothing like having a print copy of something you've written, and online magazines can disappear and along with them their stories. Salt's Online Magazine, Horizon Review, on which I had had three stories published, 'The Choice Chamber', 'What Do You Do If' and 'Possibility', was deleted from their site. Luckily they had been captured by the WayBack Machine web archive, so I was able to provide links to that, but when I discovered recently that the defunct online magazine The View From Here had disappeared altogether I was quite unable to retrieve the story of mine they'd published, 'Tides: How Stories Do or Don't Get Told': not a single one of the snapshots the WayBack Machine had taken of the magazine included its page. It's just fortunate that that story (along with the three others) is included in my Salt collection, Used to Be (and, before that, in Best British Short Stories 2014). Print publications, after all, last forever, and Confingo is indeed a classy publication (with beautiful artwork) that you'd want to keep.

Tuesday, January 08, 2019

The waywardness of stories

The New Year is going well: yesterday I was delighted to hear that a new story, 'Bitter, Horned', will be published on Litro Online next month. It's one of several stories I've written recently that deal with some pressing current issues I've been getting exercised about.  While 'Kiss' (MIR Online) concerns terrorism, this story concerns the triple issues of housing and the threat of homelessness, environmental pollution and domestic violence. However, the real trigger for writing about anything for me is always deeply personal: some human situation I've experienced or observed and which has deeply moved me, and it just so happens that the human dilemmas in these particular stories are embedded in these social and political issues. I was beginning to feel that this was my new schtick in storywriting, but then of course a story pops up that doesn't fit the pattern - I have now been moved to write a story divorced from any current political issue but based in one of my abiding themes, the difficulty of communication in personal relationships - as indeed was my recently V S Pritchett longlisted story. Stories - in some ways you just can't control them, and I guess that's the exciting thing.

Wednesday, January 02, 2019

Dramatic and quiet stories. 'Kiss' chosen for Best British Short Stories 2019

Happy New Year!

I have started the new year on a bit of a high, as my story 'Kiss' which early last year was longlisted in the Short Fiction Journal prize and was recently published on MIR online, has been chosen by editor Nicholas Royle for inclusion in Best British Short Stories 2019, to be published by Salt later this year. This is the second time I've had a story in this great series - in 2014 my story 'Tides, Or How Stories Do or Don't Get Told', made it (interestingly, that had also been previously published online) - and it's a huge thrill to have a published story receive this further - and prestigious - acknowledgement. ('Kiss' is the story I wrote about in my post on research for fiction.)

I've had three strikes with this story, basically, and pretty quickly (it did get two blanks, with two other competitions), but as far as I can remember 'Tides' suffered a few rejections before being accepted for publication and finally receiving critical praise in reviews of Best British Short Stories. It's made me ponder the mystery of why some stories make it easily and quickly, and others take some time to get acceptance even though they may do well in the end. Perhaps to some extent it's subject matter: as a story concerning terrorism, 'Kiss' involves an urgent current topic and a dramatic situation. There's also the question of the form of a story: the urgency of the situation in 'Kiss' is reflected in a deliberately rushed, breathless prose. 'Tides', on the other hand, is consciously contemplative both in subject matter and style - I guess you could say it was a 'quiet' story. And 'Kiss' involves sexuality, including a new and youthful relationship, whereas 'Tides' concentrates on the quieter poignancy of a long-term relationship. Yet to me these two stories are equally dynamic in terms of their themes and the issues they raise. (I'm afraid 'Tides' is no longer online, but it can be read in my latest story collection, Used to Be [Salt].)

It makes me wonder: are 'quieter' stories less likely to catch the eye of competition judges and magazine editors overwhelmed with material and inevitably to some extent scanning on first sight? Is there such a thing as a 'competition story', as I have long suspected? It would be a great pity if quieter, more contemplative, but no less accomplished and thematically important stories were to be squeezed from our culture...