November 30, 2010

Getting your foot in the door of short story publishing - upping the odds?

I'm by no means a widely published author, I currently have about ten works in progress, one story ready to find a home, one almost ready for submission, and one published short story, and a novel which I really should get on editing with. However there is something I've noticed amongst the various rejection letters which become part and the parcel of getting your work out there - "this isn't suitable for us."

Now, this may be a euphemism for "this is crap but nice try," or it could actually be a comment to take at face value. I got a rejection for a journal for one of my stories which said: "this is a nice story, would have been great with the issue of our previous theme but not for the next one," which is actually a nice rejection, you'll notice that a lot of writers are happy with nice rejections, a fact most non-writers may fail to understand.

When beginning the long and painful process of trying to publish your short stories, you decide to play a lottery of submitting things to as many journals as possible and hope that the law of probabilities means that someone will eventually pick your work. How many of us read the submissions and conveniently ignore the bit that says "please buy our journal and see what we're about and if you're right for us" when we're just desperate to get published? I've purchased a few journals, but I have been too lazy busy to read them yet, and just sit on my overcrowded bookshelf making me look literary. Maybe that should be my new year's resolution? Read more lit journals as well as focus on my writing.

I got lucky with my story which was published in the Writers Abroad anthology - it was a perfect fit to the theme they were looking for. Since then I've had the brainwave to start searching for anthologies and submission calls which fit the stories I already have to offer. While you need to still have a strong piece to submit and while not any old crap will do, actually submitting to something which fits the criteria for the anthology/journal opens up the probabilities a lot! This really should be common sense, but it's also a lot harder work for the budding writer - there are so many journals and anthologies out there, how to find them?

Duotrope's Digest is a fantastic resource for looking for the right journal or anthology for you. It has EVERYTHING listed on here. Just look up anthologies only and already you're faced with a bunch of themed anthologies to pick from currently calling for submissions - maybe there is something there perfect for you? Or even something which looks interesting to write for, just for fun and to try your luck

You can also sign up to various journal's mailing list and get updates and submission calls for their themes their interested in. With a little work the opportunities will start to come, and once you start submitting your work which a magazine, anthology, or journal is looking for you might find you're more likely to find an acceptance letter than a rejection.

November 20, 2010

Read my short story "Counterfeit Goods" for free!

The "Writers Abroad Short Story Anthology 2010" has come out in time for Short Story Week  , and features a short story of mine called "Counterfeit Goods".  It features a collection of short stories by expat writers on the theme of expat life, from writers all over the world. Download the e-book for free from their website:

November 8, 2010

Literary Cabaret Night

I've recently combined forces with another friend from my writer's group to do a literary night. I've hosted private literary parties in the past (when you invite a small group of people round and read poetry and short prose and consume vast quantities of wine), and there is a bi-anual open mike night in Madrid too, which focuses on showcasing one's own work, but talking with my friend, we wanted something a little different and informal. She proposed that we should ask the bar owner the café where we hold our writers meeting to let us do something once a month - poetry and prose reading not limited to your own work. However, I have a lot of singer and musician friends and thought maybe we could open it up a bit - make it something with a literary focus, but open to the other arts, and the International Literary Cabaret Night was born. It's a bilingual night, since we had to sweet talk the owner who wasn't keen on an English only night in his bar, but we realised it's actually better to do a night in English and Spanish.

Poster Design by the lovely Lance Tooks

We did our first one back in October and it was a success!  About 20 people came and most of whom participated. Granted, this one was more poetry and prose focussed, but everyone really enjoyed it and the owner is excited for us to do the next one - which is next week.

If you're interested in coming, and you live in Madrid, it's on the 16th of November @9.30pm in Café Isadora in C/ Divino Pastor 14.  Free Entry. The International Literary Cabaret is an night of interactive Cabaret - you are the star! Read your own poetry or recite from your favourite poets; act out a scene from a play you love; sing your favourite aria; read your short stories, or just improvise. Emphasis on English or Spanish, but poetry in other languages is more than welcome! 

November 2, 2010

I'm getting published in the "Writers Abroad" anthology

I've been busy over the summer and autumn months, writing new short stories and working on the novel. In addition to that, I began the long and lengthy process of submitting a story of mine to various journals. Some say it can take up to 6 years to get your first piece published and to brace yourself for a mountain of rejection letters. I submitted into a competition (but it was a prestigious one, so I didn't have very high hopes there), and other journals - some "highbrow" ones - well you don't get if you don't try - and some lower level ones. I got a couple of rejections, some just form ones saying "not for us, thanks" and others saying "good piece, would have fitted with our last issue but not this one, please try us again though." Most of them were still in the system being reviewed.

We had a literary open mic night in Madrid where I read a couple of my poems, even though poetry is the area I feel most self-conscious of. I think out of everything I do, my poems are the most intimate and raw things I write. My friends love them, but a lot of people criticise them for being too personal. But I'm going off tangent here so back to my point, after this night the organiser emailed all the participants with a call for submissions for expat writers and with the theme of dealing with expat life, or just living abroad. The story I was already submitting to journals fit this criteria perfectly. I fit the criteria perfectly!  Anglo-Hungarian writer living in Spain, you can't get more expat than that, right? So I submitted.

 I didn't expect too much and when I got the email yesterday, I expected that it would be another rejection letter. But when I opened my email I started to tremble like a piece of cooling jelly.

"Dear Deborah
Thank you for your submission. I am pleased to inform you that your story Counterfeit Goods has been accepted for the Writers Abroad Anthology 2010 in support of National Short Story Week. "

I ran into the kitchen and showed my flatmates, to check if my eyes didn't trick me. I shook for an hour as I called and texted all my friends. It's not a big journal, no, but they are printing my story. That to me is the most important thing, and it means so much. It's a tiny step into this world, but I won't stop here. I have a few pieces I'm working on now with intention to submit, and it's all a matter of perseverance and finding the right magazine for you.

I think this last point is the key. I was lucky I found out about a call for submissions which was IDEAL for the story I had been sending out. Writing something which is good helps, but sending it to a magazine looking for something else won't really help. They key is finding the right one for your story. Rejection isn't just about quality, a good piece of work could get rejected for not being right for that magazine or issue.

Well, that is an important lesson I've learned.

If you wanna check out my story "Counterfeit Goods" - it should be up on the Writers Abroad website in about 2 weeks in electronic form: