The best place to start this blog lark is with a quick explanation of its title - why 'Scallops'?  
It came to me in a dream:  short stories are like scallops!  Similes and metaphors don't usually come to me in my sleep, I wish they did,  but on this occasion  I had watched rather too much of Hell's Kitchen before bedtime.  At some point, the wannabe chefs had competed to free perfect scallops from the gelatinous mass inside the shells. Craggy-faced Gordon was not pleased if any scallops had been spoiled in the process which, of course, most were.

A short story should also be small and perfectly formed:  it is the result of the skillful cutting down of a large, slippery concept in to a small, firm morsel of art.  As a writer still learning her craft, I know how easy it is to mutilate a good short story.  But I am hoping I'll get better with practice and - fingers crossed - that'll happen before my face turns too craggy...

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Balloons On The Wind

At last.  I have a story submission plan for February to April.  My mind was hopelessly boggled by the sheer number of journals and magazines for short stories out there.  And then it hit me:  I don't subscribe to any of them.  Here I am, knocking 'em out and itching to be published, but what am I really doing to support the short?

To assuage my guilt I immediately subscribed to Zoetrope's AllStory: a quarterly mag of shorts published by Coppola's company based here in San Francisco.  I am also on the elist for Narrative.  But I just can't afford to buy all the publications I might want to submit stories to.    
But the best way to contribute is by entering the competitions and paying the fees, which - I assume - is a major income stream for periodicals.

Trying to choose the 'right' competition is, however, pointless.  As far as I can tell, it would be as effective - and certainly quicker - to close your eyes and point randomly at the long list of options.  
But, I am nothing if not methodical so I've drawn up my own crass selection criteria:
  • How much does it cost to enter?  If it's more than $20 there's no chance...unless the fee is value for money.  For example, if you submit to The Pinch Journal you get a year's subscription thrown in.  Or, in the case of BritWriters, you can submit as many pieces as you like for one fee.
  • Is the competition okay with your story being submitted elsewhere at the same time?  I have 5 stories I want to get out in the short term and I want to give them maximum exposure. 
  • Does the magazine/journal/competition look professional?  They say don't judge a book by its cover but there are lots of websites promoting competitions that look like they were created by an elderly student at a community college and, sorry to say, they just don't look credible. 
  • Is there a cash prize?  I know.  It's mercenary of me but - honestly - I just want to break even. On competitions alone, I'll be spending over $100 in the next 3 months and that's a projected total of at least $400 for the year.  The BritWriter competition's top prize is £10,000.............excuse me, I've dribbled on my keyboard.
  • Is there a theme to the competition that one of my stories fits?  This year, the RipTide International Short Story Comp is looking for 'cross-over' fiction that appeals to 12+ as well as adults.  This could be a great opportunity for my allegorical folktale The Empty Tree, which might struggle in a contest for purely adult material.
So.  There are 8 competitions between February 26th and April 30th, starting with BritWriters.  Now all I need to do is take a deep breath, stop my obsessive tweaking and send the stories off.  I do have a psychological problem with this.  It feels a bit like writing a note, tying it to the string of a balloon, then letting it go.   Once it's out of my hands, it starts to look so small and insignificant and I wonder if it will make it as far as the thousands of others like it.  And if it reaches anyone, will they be sufficiently moved by my words to return my note with some kind words or their own?  Or will my note just be discarded and my balloon burst?  Well, who knows, so here goes...

1 comment:

  1. When I was a teenager I gave my dad a hard time about buying Lotto tickets every week. He was always broke, and yet he always managed to set aside money for a ticket. I tried to explain that the chances of choosing the right numbers were so small that there was no hope of winning. He simply said, "No darlin, there's no hope if I don't play." Winning the Lotto does not require any talent, it's all based on luck. Your chances of winning a writing competition are significantly greater and always worth playing!