Why rejection letters are the new Xanax

14-rules-of-storytellingI was hay making through the chaff in my inbox recently when I stumbled across a curt email from [enter not-so-prominent journal name here] informing me that my piece entitled [enter short story title] had unfortunately been rejected.

I can’t remember my precise reaction – it may have involved scratching my behind, or sucking out the remaining juice from the Tetley bag stranded at the bottom of the teapot – but it went along the lines of, ‘whatever’. Continue reading Why rejection letters are the new Xanax

The corridor

When we arrived we were given cakes wrapped in soft paper, toothbrushes, fresh milk and lemon-scented towels.
Father spoke quietly and mother fussed with the sheets while my sister and I quarrelled over beds. There was a football; Father said I could kick it against the wall if I promised to be good, which I did for a while before my sister took a pair of scissors to it. Then a man wearing a raincoat came to drop off a box of wet books and oil paintings. “The milk’s out,” he said, like he was reading the weather. Continue reading The corridor

Pixar’s 22 tips for telling a ripping story

There’s a cart-load of advice out there for would-be storysmiths; everything from websites explaining how to go about self-publishing, right down to books that cover the finer points of stringing together an intelligible sentence.

But the most important and fundamental skill of fiction writing, the marrow if you will, is effective story writing. IT’S THE STORY STOOPID! And, at least in my case, it’s the most challenging.

Fortunately, once in a while you come across advice that is so so incisive that you feel inspired (and somewhat relieved) just reading through them.  You think, “Hey, you’ve just summed up in one paragraph what that other book couldn’t do in twelve chapters.” Although they’ve now been out there a good while, the collected tweets of Emma Coats, former storyboard artist at Pixar, is such advice. It’s all the wisdom she has accumulated working on major animated films and it’s essential reading for fiction writers of all persuasions… yes, even short story writers. Continue reading Pixar’s 22 tips for telling a ripping story

A Year of Compliance

“Gentlemen-”

“And ladies!”

Herr Nussbaum looked over his rimless glasses at the stout woman sitting across from him and licked his lips. The taste of his morning Bloody Mary scuttled to the back of his throat.  “Gentlemen and Frau Bauer,” he continued, spitting out the name. “You all knew this day was coming, but no one knew it would be as bad as this.” He threw the report into the centre of the table and it landed with a clap. “Months of scouring the footpaths, dragging up and down the streets of outer suburbs, camping out at traffic lights, lobbying for tighter, more exact laws—”

“And the overtime!” Continue reading A Year of Compliance

What happened in Paris? (Part 1)

And so the stage was set. Despite all his dreams, the waking hours of longing, and the conflict in his brain, he had committed himself to life elsewhere.

But it was not he who had made the commitment: it was if some mighty hand had flexed its fist and thrashed him into submission, and his consciousness had witnessed the entire event from outside his body. Getting married had happened so fast – he had no memory of having organised anything. Prue and her family, from a foundation of whispers and unheard phone calls, had conjured the entire event: the conceptual design of the invitation, the colour of the duck gravy, post event logistics and the rice confetti’s country of origin. Vietnamese rice was cheaper, but the working conditions of those poor people! The only thing he had to do was wear something nice and turn up sober. Continue reading What happened in Paris? (Part 1)