Claire King

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Claire King Edited Choices (10 of 10)

Posts Tagged ‘Short Story’

A Belly Full of Fiction

Posted on: March 4th, 2012 by Claire - 26 Comments

At the end of last year I stopped accepting submissions of short fiction to The View From Here. I’d become quite overwhelmed, every day several more stories to read, and something strange was happening…

Of course some of the submissions only took a quick look to see that they weren’t for us – wrong style, not the right level of writing, wrong genre (novels, children’s stories). And the odd one would still stand out immediately. But many of them, many more than usual it seemed, blurred together, indistinct from one another. The writing was good but I have to admit I’d lost interest.

I think I had run into fiction fatigue.

After a two-month break I’ve re-opened to submissions and the new stories are flooding back in. The quality is good, and I’m enjoying reading them again.

I’ve decide that I get a diminishing return when reading short fiction. Like drinking a cold beer – the first one is wonderfully refreshing, the second is good too. The third is simply because you like the taste and the fourth is pure gluttony. It’s the same with tapas. Even if the whole menu looks delicious, you can’t taste everything. Even if you had the budget, after the first few different tastes you’ve already had a belly-full.

I’m talking about food as an analogy, but it works in other areas too:

Have you ever been into a perfume counter, shopping for a gift? After the first three or four scents, everything seems to smell the same. And when I go to an art gallery I only ever want to see one or two rooms. There’s just too much to take in otherwise and I find myself glancing over paintings which deserve more consideration. Sensorial saturation.

But if this is all true, how does one get through an ever expanding inbox of short-fiction submissions – or for that matter, if you are an agent, a slush pile of novel queries –  giving each one the time and consideration it deserves?

Answers on a postcard please.

And Finally…

Posted on: November 1st, 2010 by Claire - 4 Comments

Hello November!

All over the world, writers are waking up and speeding to their sheds, desks, eyries and assorted garrets to get started on NaNoWriMo. Not me, this year - I have said no to NaNoWriMo. I would love to launch my next novel with such a focused, targeted month of writing but it’s just not the time. I’m very goal-oriented and if I decided to do it, things would get trampled in my rush for words. Things like my sense of humour, my family and my sanity.

But instead I have decided to refresh the topics I write about in my short stories and flash fiction. New ideas are like buses for me, I can wait around for ages and then suddenly five come at once. Last month I was trying to write a new short story for a competition and the inspiration was just not coming. So I went in search of prompts. I found mine in the archives of the brilliant and inspirational Sarah Salway (really, check out her website), who proposes prompts on a regular basis. This got me thinking.

One of the things I like about French news programs is that quite a large part them is given over to non-dramatic, local stories that give a flavour life of the different regions. They are usually cheerful, quirky and interesting. The gallic equivalent of the 5 minute ‘And Finally’ slot at the end of local British news programs. They are also great food for writers. And the thing is, the internet is awash with all these very human prompts.

You could look at websites dedicated to quirky news stories, such as ITN’s “and finally” or  Andfinally.tv but for best results I suggest you look in your local papers, or choose the online local news site of a town you’ve always wondered about. Like Mishawaka, Indiana or Godalming, Surrey. You get the idea. Just Google the town name and “local news”. See what you get. Here are a few examples:

Public Toilets Saved from Closure (Skipton)

Mystery of River Death (Rotherham)

Woman Drives Car into Plymouth Liquor Store (Boston, Mass)

Pigs Dash to Save their Bacon (Malton)

Locals Rally to Save Post Office Mural (Englewood, Colorado)

So if you’re short on inspiration, why not have some “And Finally” fun? If you have a crack at it, or you have other ideas for getting writing prompts, please let me know!

Short stories – seducing writers and readers alike

Posted on: July 21st, 2010 by Claire - 11 Comments

I recently wrote a bio for a publication, where I described myself like this: “Claire King has an open relationship with her novel and a variety of short lovers.”

I mean this sincerely. As a writer I love my novel, I do, I do, and I want to make it work. But sometimes I just want something different. I want to let off steam, let the wind of a stubborn image blow through me until I have it down on paper. I want to use a completely different vocabulary, tackle a different theme, I want to do something dirty, or fast, or clandestine.

At the Bristol Short Story Prize ceremony last week, the writer Sarah Salway gave a great speech about short stories. About their power to pin down a writer until she has wrestled them into submission. Bertel Martin, chair of the judging panel, said that for readers, a quality of a great short story was to be able to re-read it, and read it again, and each time discover something new. A hidden depth or richness.

And that’s another wonderful thing about short stories. You can go back for seconds and it doesn’t take up a whole week of your reading.

So you choose – as a reader, your next weekend could be a wonderful, novelicious monogomy-fest or it could be a promiscuous fiesta of short fiction.

Now, what if you fancy a few dalliances, but aren’t sure where to meet short stories? Never fear. Sarah made the brilliant suggestion that we all share our recommended short story reads, and kicked off with three: Alice Elliot-Dark, Lydia Davis and of course the Bristol Prize Short Story Anthology 3!

Bertel Martin recommended La Gioconda Smile by Aldous Huxley and  Rain Darling by Merle Collins

Valerie O Riordan says this on her blog “And so, my recommendations are Nik Perring’s Not So Perfect and Denis Johnson’s Jesus Son. You’d have to be a hard-hearted crazy bastard of a person not to love Nik’s work, and I just adore Johnson.  Go and read.”

@BristolPrize has also added Amanda Davis’s collection ‘Circling the Drain’. Return to it often. Unusual, edgy, playful stuff.

Jonathan Pinnock recommends “21 Stories” by Graham Greene, “Labyrinths” by Jorge Luis Borges. “A Perfect Vacuum” by Stanislaw Lem, “Exotic Pleasures” by Peter Carey, David Gaffney’s “Sawn-Off Tales” and more! To read more on that, go and visit Jonathan’s blog!

Bristol Prize winner Valerie O’Riordan has this to say in her interview which you can read here:
f you were to read just one story, check out ‘The Ledge’, by Lawrence Sargent Hall. But bring tissues, and maybe don’t read it on your lunch-break, unless you want to go back to the office all tear-stained and emotional – it’s the saddest thing I’ve ever read.
Flannery O’Connor’s ‘Collected Stories’ never get old or dull, and ditto anything by Annie Proulx – these two ladies make tiny isolated rural American villages seem like the most fascinating places on earth. Gruesome and bleak and hilarious.
Junot Diaz’s ‘Drown’ is a stunning first book about the Dominican diaspora in New Jersey. Everybody adores his novel, ‘The Brief Wondrous Life of Oscar Wao’, but for me it’s all about the short stories.
Denis Johnson’s ‘Jesus’ Son.’ I’ve clearly got a thing for American writing, but Johnson’s work captures the elegiac in the mundane filthiness of his protagonists’ miserable lives. And he does brilliant dialogue.
‘Brief Interviews with Hideous Men’ by David Foster Wallace. Wallace shows you there’s nothing you can’t do with the short story form. This blew my mind.

And I personally would like to add Sarah Salway’s own collection, Leading the Dance. Much darker and edgier than I had expected from a lady who blogs about benches!

Finally, check out the Short Review website for plenty more recommendations.

So, dear readers, go forth and multiply, and by all means please set me up on a few blind dates by commenting below…

July is peachy

Posted on: July 5th, 2010 by Claire - 8 Comments

I love July, especially this July. The peaches are ripe on the trees and I’m having a flurry of writerly happiness.
In the roller-coaster of writing, months like this don’t happen very often. Here’s how July looks:

Thursday July 8th my flash fiction ‘Peach’ was published at Metazen here.
Wednesday July 14th my flash fiction ‘Peach 2′ is up at Metazen here, and an interview with me is featured on the Metazen blog here.
Saturday July 17th was the launch of the Bristol Prize Short Story Anthology Volume 3, featuring my short story ‘Wine at Breakfast’. I got to meet some fabulous short story writers, including the fabulous Sarah Salway and Tania Hershman. The lovely Valerie O’Riordan took a well deserved first place. Cheers all round! You can buy the book here.
Thursday 29th July my short story ‘The Gift’ was published in Writers’ Forum magazine, winning first prize in their short story competition. It got a wonderful review from Sue Moorcroft the head judge, which made my week.

My thanks to Metazen, Bristol Prize, and Writers’ Forum for making July an amazing month. Like the peaches, something this sweet can’t last, but I’m savouring it while the season is here. And maybe I’ll freeze some for the winter.

This is one of my favourite summer recipes, fragrant, succulent and boozy:
Peaches (however many per person, I use one and a half per person)
Lavender – a few sprigs
Lemon rind – two or three chunky strips
Dessert wine – about half a bottle for a 4 person serving

Peel the peaches and halve them. Arrange prettily in a bowl with everything else, chill for 8 hours or overnight. Eat.

I hope you like the stories and/or the pudding. Do let me know!

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