I am a fan of George Saunders, a writer I discovered through Jeffery Eugenides anthology, My Mistress’s Sparrow is Dead. In that collection he had a story called Jon, a stunning example of voice for my teenage writing students. Quirky is too banal a term for what he does with words. His stories are never tidy. I find myself re-reading sentences, paragraphs or even going back to the beginning and starting again. His stories break all those rules about smoothness and not interrupting the reader’s flow. But when I’m reading him I don’t care about being confused. His characters are so intriguing, the situations they are in so bizarre, I want to read every word again and again.
Enjoy Tenth of December from the New Yorker, a short short story, with a memorable final line. This is from a collection of the same name coming out in January. I’ll be adding it to Pastoralia, his earlier collection I was supposed to get for Christmas (but couldn’t wait.) For a review of Pastoralia in the Guradian, go here.
Raymond Carver (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
Lately I’ve been browsing on Issyvoo. A beautifully clean looking site, it distills out succinct insights by writers on their own writing, and that of others. Many of the quotes link to articles, interviews, etc, from journals like Paris Review, or The New Yorker. I’m finding it a great place to discover more about how writers work, and to bridge from authors I like to authors they like, which is often a happy journey. I found a great interview with Raymond Carver there, and started reading some of his short stories online. I’m sure I did some of his stories in high school, but can’t remember any of them off the top of my head. Today I read Kindling, a posthumously published story he wrote years earlier, not long after he gave up drinking. You can find it here, at Story of the Week. For an excellent interview with Carver, have a look here. In it he talks a lot about his methods of writing, and interestingly claims his first drafting to be rubbish, a scaffolding he would build up over months.
I find it inspiring to read the words of other writers, on their lives, on their processes. These are people who take their work seriously, who are aware of their limitations. They struggle with it, they make headway. Over time they build up bodies of work, representations of their growth, of the evolution of their thoughts and beliefs. Fascinating.
The other thing I love about Issyvoo is the black and white photographs. Great.
If you use Facebook please visit my page, Burinsmith! You can do so by clicking in the right column…and click Like if you do! Then you’ll get updates as they occur. I’ll be putting things on there to round out content here on the site, things like starting points, comps, commentary. Today I put a post on there about Verandah Literary Journal’s outrageous submission fee. I’d love to hear how you feel about that.
Are you ready to offer something you’ve written to the greater public? It’s a bit painful at times to send our literary children out into the world to seek their fortunes. I admit it’s something I’m not particularly good at. However, I occasionally do get the urge to share, and when I do, competitions are usually my first port of call. My feeling is that competitions pay well, they make it easier to get published in magazines, and make an impressive contribution to one’s writing credentials. Here are some competitions, two Australian and one international, upcoming in the next months.
The ABR Elizabeth Jolley Short Story Prize is here.
The Alan Marshall Short Story Award can be found here.
Aesthetica is a British magazine, its short story and poetry competition is here.
These prizes have varied requirements in terms of word count, and range from 300 pounds to 3000 dollars prize money. Entering competitions gets quite expensive, and it is a bit of a crap shoot, so don’t bother sending anything unless it’s your absolute best work. That’s my motto, at least. Good luck!