Though Bridge House published my first story in print, A Helping Hand in their Alternative Renditions anthology, this year I was going because my short story, The Magic Flute, is in The Best of Cafelit 4.
This was one of the books being launched, the other being Bridge House’s anthology for 2015 called Snowflakes.
I reviewed last year’s The Best of Cafelit 3 and had no idea I’d be in the next one. One nice thing about the writing life is you can’t always tell where it will take you and the surprises can be nice!
The Best of Cafelit 4 is the second anthology I’ve appeared in this year. The other was Limerick Nation by the Arts Council supported Iron Press. The book’s title lives up to its name!
I enjoyed going to the Bridge House celebration last year so I knew I had much to look forward to at this event. I was not disappointed! And it was great to meet Gill James again, who I interviewed earlier this year.
It was also good to meet up again with Debz Hobbs-Wyatt, Cafelit’s editor.
Cafelit is an online magazine and an annual print anthology is published of the best pieces. I’ve had other pieces on Cafelit, especially flash fiction items.
One of the story forms they encourage is the 100 words tale, which is an interesting format. It gives you just enough room for a good character sketch and moment in time change for that character but that’s it. I’ve been using this format as a warm up exercise for my longer stories and highly recommend it. It gets you into writing tightly immediately.
Writers’ huddle in London
When told the event would be in a pub, Waxy O’Connor’s in Piccadilly (it’s amazing the names they give pubs these days), it confirmed I was right to go. To spend an afternoon in a pub listening to and talking about books and writing was not to be missed. And I had the great thrill of being asked to sign The Best of Cafelit 4! Usually when I’m asked for my autograph, it’s at the bottom of a cheque as I settle a bill!
As with last year’s event, there was the Speed “Dating” Game where we had 5 minutes to talk about writing and share marketing tips before moving on to talk with somebody else. The big problem with this is you get into a wonderful conversation and don’t want to stop it! Having said that it was great to meet the other writers for both books and I loved the conversations that opened up. The pub was a strange place though – full of nooks and crannies and it felt as if you were descending into the bowels of the earth whenever you visited the loo!
I used to dread having to talk about my writing. It can come across as egocentric, yet how else can you let people know what you’re doing, where it’s available and so on? Word of mouth is by far the best advertising. I’ve learned to overcome the nerves by kick-starting the conversation and asking questions about other writers’ work. I find they then open up, ask me questions and the conversation is up and running. Talking about writing then feels natural and not forced.
Gill and Debz brought us up to date with future Bridge House and Cafelit plans and urged us to keep submitting stories. And the event was a celebration of the two books being launched. It was great to be part of it.
Debz said part of the idea of the event was to bring writers together and get us away from our keyboards for a while. Some writers read extracts from their works and, despite the pub noise, this went down well. Some of the great joys of writing are that (a) it encourages your love of reading and (b) being read to as in an event like this is a treat. Hearing how a story sounds can help improve your own work. For example you can literally hear how dialogue works.
All authors were to bring along another book they had been published in or just wanted to share with others so I took along a copy of Limerick Nation. All authors took home a book from someone else. I love this way of sharing work. Besides try keeping my nose out of a book! I brought home Cloudscapes over the Lune, an anthology of short stories and poems. This book was making money for the Make a Wish Foundation and the Rainbow Trust.
I was far too busy chatting or listening to other writers and generally having a good time to think about taking photos! Also it was rather dark in the bowels of Waxy O’Connor’s so not sure how well photos would have come out anyway.
The joys of the Small Press
Publishers like Bridge House and Cafelit give authors a voice, especially for short story writers, and everyone in this field appreciates that. I’ve been grateful I’ve been able to list items such as my print and on-line publications on my writing CV. Without people like Bridge House and Cafelit, useful avenues for getting work out into the public domain wouldn’t exist.
The best way of supporting a small press is, of course, to write for it but that needs to be backed up with support via sales. Incidentally it is always better to buy small press books directly from them as they keep more of the money per book sold. Amazon, while being useful for sales, takes a rake off (as you’d expect) so the more that can buy from the publisher the better. The more money they get to keep the more likely it is they will be able to bring out further anthologies and give more authors a voice. I am not unbiased on this!
My 13 steps to writing success
I don’t think there is any one great moment for most writers. I think there is a series of smaller steps, all necessary, to help achieve the breakthrough, which is usually publication of some sort. One thing about the step at a time approach is you do appreciate each step. My experience of writing success has been:
1. The first time I had positive feedback from an editor for something I’d written.
2. The first print publication.
3. The first on-line publication.
4. The first time when going to a writers’ conference such as the one at Winchester and knowing you’ve got work out there. It’s not just on your computer anymore.
5. Being able to talk about what you write naturally and loving listening to what other writers are up to.
One great thing about writers is we all bring something unique to whatever we write. You can give a dozen writers the same theme and word count and the result will be a dozen different stories. What someone else produces is what they produce. What I produce is what I produce. On those grounds I’ve never really understood “professional” rivalry.
The world of books and stories thrives on unique output. The more unique output, the better. (It also widens the writing market).
6. The first commendation for a piece of work – Winchester Writers’ Festival.
7. Setting up a website and having plenty to write about for it. My two sites cover writing topics and the world of my novels and short stories but I keep the two separate and have found this helps me keep a balance of what to write about.
As part of this, also being able to draw on the experience of writing I now have and being able to share tips I’ve tested out.
8. Being invited to blog! (I never thought I would write non-fiction and am delighted to be wrong about that, thank you Janet and to Richard Hardie for letting me know about Chandler’s Ford Today).
9. Being followed on Twitter and/or having my author page on Facebook “liked”. It’s nice people want to see what I come up with.
10. Going to a writer’s do such as the Bridge House/Cafelit one and feeling at home (rather than as a fish out of water, which is what I felt the first time I went to a function like this).
11. Having an author page on Facebook and having news to put on it – such as going to a book launch!
12. Being asked for my autograph on a book I’m in.
13. Being recognised for my writing (thanks to the staff at Thornden Hall who did this shortly after my review appeared when I saw Hamlet there).
What do I like about author get togethers like this?
There’s no shortage of conversation for one thing. We all have work we want to share news about and, generally, your listeners are appreciative. (They’re even more so when you’re listening to them sharing news of their work!).
I often learn something new – a new market or website to investigate for example.
Other authors understand the effort behind creating something out of nothing and getting it ready for publication.
Also the boost to your morale is invaluable.
My hopes for the coming year? More stories out on Cafelit, Alfie Dog and Scriggler (an American based website, see below). I’m planning on getting a short story collection out next year too. And I hope to keep trying to place the novel. And, of course, to keep on blogging for Chandler’s Ford Today.
I’ve also spread my wings a bit this year in that I have now had a short story, Out of Time, and a humorous poem, Not the Way to Go, published on scriggler.com, the American based writing magazine.
The poem is my take on the Wizard of Oz story and attracted favourable comments. I’ve also noticed I now have more American followers on my Twitter feed and my Linkedin connection! Who knows where this will lead? Hopefully I will enjoy finding out!
I’ve given below Amazon links for The Best of Cafelit 4 and Alternative Renditions, but I can put in orders for people so if anyone is interested, please let me know. I’d be only too pleased to help!
Click the Amazon link for The Best of Cafe Lit 4.
Better still, Cafelit can be contacted via: 15 Chapeltown Road, Radcliffe, M26 1YF. Please make cheques payable to Bridge House.
(Bridge House and Cafelit are linked via their editors).
Click the Amazon link for Alternative Renditions.
Limerick Nation can be bought via Iron Press inpress books page.
Visit Allison Symes’ website: Fairytales with Bite
Read blog posts by Allison Symes published on Chandler’s Ford Today.
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