Friday Aerogramme

Friday 17 October 2014

  1. The big news in books this week was of course that Australia’s Richard Flanagan won the Man Booker Prize 2014 for his novel The Narrow Road to the Deep North. In his acceptance speech he said:
    I do not share the pessimism of the age about the novel. They are one of our greatest spiritual, aesthetic and intellectual inventions. As a species it is story that distinguishes us, and one of the supreme expressions of story is the novel. Novels are not content. Nor are they are a mirror to life or an explanation of life or a guide to life.Novels are life, or they are nothing.
    Read the full speech here.
  2. In other awards news, the finalists for the National Book Awards 2014 have been announced. The fiction list features Rabih Alameddine, Anthony Doerr, Phil Klay, Emily St. John Mandel and Marilynne Robinson. According to Matthew Specktor ‘Doerr should win, but Robinson will’.
  3. On Wednesday we posted our Opportunities for Writers post for November and December. It has over 100 competitions, fellowships and publication opportunities for writers at all stages of their careers.
  4. McSweeney’s Publishing has announced that it will begin operating as nonprofit. The move aims to ensure the long-term future of McSweeney’s, with the help of an expanded community of donors, writers, and readers.
  5. NaNoWriMo starts in just over two weeks. Literary agent Nephele Tempest has some helpful advice for anyone planning to undertake the herculean task of writing a novel in a single month.
  6. Australian Book Review’s $5000 Calibre Prize for an Outstanding Essay is now open for entries; writers from around the world are eligible to submit their work.
  7. Seven Stories, the national centre for children’s books in the United Kingdom, has created a list of the 50 best books for cultural diversity. The list aims to promote books that explore diversity, either in terms of its story or the ethnic and cultural origins of the author or illustrator.
  8. Harvard Professor Elisa New is teaching a free, open online course on American Poetry (1700 – 1850). The course starts next Wednesday and runs for seven weeks.
  9. Each week the So You Want to be a Writer podcast shares news and advice from the writing and blogging worlds. The latest episode discusses the reason why some blogs succeed, taking criticism and the best places to do an interview.
  10. Ninth Letter is accepting submissions until 1 November for a special online edition featuring the work of creative writing students. Undergraduate and graduate students may submit up to three poems, or one piece of short prose (fiction and non-fiction) of up to 3500 words.

For book news, writing competition updates, publication opportunities and more follow Aerogramme Writers’ Studio on Facebook and Twitter.

richard flanagan

Opportunities for Writers November and December 2014

Over 100 competitions, publication opportunities, fellowships and more.

Please check the relevant websites for all terms and conditions and be aware that entry fees are payable in many cases. 

NaNoWriMo
November is National Novel Writing Month, or NaNoWriMo, described as ‘the world’s largest writing event and nonprofit literary crusade’. Participants pledge to write 50,000 words in a month, starting from scratch and reaching ‘The End’ by November 30. The NaNoWriMo website offers lots of tips and support, as well as links to local events around the globe.

John Steinbeck Short Story Award
is one of three prizes offered by Reed Magazine. This award is for a work of fiction up to 5000 words and requires a reading fee of $15. The winner of the John Steinbeck Award receives a cash prize of US$1000. Entries close 1 November.

Gabriele Rico Creative Nonfiction Challenge
also offered by Reed Magazine, is for a work of nonfiction up to 5000 words. The winner receives a cash prize of US$1333. Entries close 1 November.

Edwin Markham Prize
is the third prize from Reed Magazine. It is for is for works of poetry and is awarded for up to five poems. The winner receives US$1000.  Entries close 1 November.

Amazon.ca First Novel Award
is a competition that recognises the outstanding achievement of a first-time Canadian novelist.The Award is for books published in English in between 1 January 2014 and 31 March 2015. Finalists receive $1000 each and the winner receives $7500. Entries for books published in 2014 close on 1 November.

Malahat Review’s Open Season Awards
are open to short fiction up to 2500 words, as well as to poetry and creative non-fiction. The winning entries receive CA$1000 and will be published in The Malahat Review’s Spring 2015 issue. Entries close 1 November.

Bat City Review
is an annual literary magazine run by graduate students from the University of Texas at Austin. It interested in poetry, fiction, and creative non-fiction (personal essays, memoir, commentary) that experiments with language, form, and unconventional subject matter, as well as more traditional work. Submissions close 1 November. Continue Reading…

The Gary Provost Dramatic Sentence
A guest post by Peter Rubie.

My friend Gary Provost and I created what we teasingly called the Gary Provost Sentence (with some help from Aristotle). Here it is:

Once upon a time… something happened to someone, and he decided that he would pursue a goal. So he devised a plan of action, and even though there were forces trying to stop him, he moved forward because there was a lot at stake. And just as things seemed as bad as they could get, he learned an important lesson, and when offered the prize he had sought so strenuously he had to decide whether or not to take it, and in making that decision he satisfied a need that had been created by something in his past.

This is classic dramatic structure. It works because it’s story telling that is most satisfying to the reader. Aristotle defined good drama as storytelling that defined character, created atmosphere, and advanced the action of the plot. No one has ever really substantively improved on this beautifully simple yet profound definition, though I think Norman Mailer came close when he said in a TV interview “The best fiction is where art, philosophy, and adventure all meet.”

Let’s go through Gary’s paragraph again. This time we’ll stop along the way and I’ll talk about the elements of plotting. Once you understand these elements whether you’re a literary novelist or a writer of non-fiction, or a genre writer you’ll be able to plot any story you like.

Once upon a time… something happened to someone…
This is what we call the inciting incident. In other words, it’s what caused the story to kick in. Say your story begins on Thursday. Don’t begin it on Wednesday, just to set the scene and introduce the characters, a classic amateur flaw. Plunge us right into the action the moment it starts. Why? Because nothing significant happened on Wednesday. You’re not writing someone’s life, you’re writing the story of a watershed moment in that life. The thing that happened to upset the equilibrium or the balance in his life is the thing that begins the story. That’s the inciting incident. That’s where your story should start.

…and he decided that he would pursue a goal.
There’s something this person wants. What is it? It’s the prize, the thing he’s trying to get through, all through the story. What is it that your main character wants? In the long run what does he hope to achieve?

So he devised a plan of action,…
Let’s call this The Strategy. How is our hero going to go about pursuing his goal, or prize? What’s he going to do? What’s his plan?

…and even though there were forces trying to stop him,…
This is the opposition, the conflict. Conflict is the basis of all drama. Our hero wants something, and he’s figured out a way of getting it. Something has to get in his way, something or somebody has to have a conflicting goal, and a conflicting plan C something has got to try and stop him. Nobody’s interested in reading a story about an guy who wanted a million dollars and got it. They want to read about a guy who wanted a million dollars and had a lot of trouble getting it. There are forces coming against our hero, there is conflict.

…he moved forward because there was a lot at stake.
Ah, The Stakes! What our hero wants, what plan he’s devised to get it, and what this effort will cost our hero? In chess, every move forward gains something, but it also loses something as well. Nothing of any importance in this life is free. In one form or another we always pay a price for what we most desire. In a story the stakes have to be very high. What are they in your? Life or death, lovers lost forever, friends becoming implacable enemies, something very important we can all relate to. You don’t want to write a story about a guy who is going to lose his typewriter or his comb. It’s got to be something very important, something big enough to disrupt his life, to change him from what he was into someone else by the end of the story.

And just as things seemed as bad as they could get,…
This is known as the Bleakest Moment. Things are dark and dreary for this person. Everything has gone wrong and it seems as if the forces of opposition arrayed against him have won. But somehow, from the darkness of his despair and depression, from his failures, he finds the strength to persevere and overcome against overwhelming odds.

…he learned an important lesson,
Aha, a revelation. Our protagonist comes through his Bleakest Moment with a gift C understanding. At last he sees, he understands something about life that he didn’t understand before. Stories, whether fiction or non-fiction, are about people growing and changing, about their insights into the human condition. By the end of the story, this new knowledge has changed our protagonist for the better. He is a little wiser, and a little stronger, he has a little more faith in himself, or in others, or in the bountiful nature of life. He has grown and learned a lesson.

…and when offered the prize he had sought so strenuously he had to decide whether or not to take it,…
He makes The Decision. The important thing to remember about this decision is that when he makes it, he gains something, and he gives something up. It isn’t much of a decision if someone says, “Hey, here you are. Here’s a million dollars, you can take it or leave it.” But if someone comes along and says, “Congratulations, now you can get your million dollars. But there’s one catch: if you take it you’ll never see your daughter again. And if you want to keep on seeing your daughter, you’ll never get another chance to get your million dollars you’ve just earned.” This now, is an important decision our hero must make.

…and in making that decision he satisfied a need…
Let’s call this The Hole. It is the Aengine that has been driving him to do stuff the whole of his life, and certainly for the duration of the story, though he may not even be aware of what that hole is.

…that had been created by something in his past.
This is the importance of the Backstory. The backstory simply means his past, whatever happened in his past relevant to the story you’re telling about our hero. The need or hole is something that happened to our hero before the story began. Something perhaps that haunts him. The enigmatic reference to the boyhood sled Rosebud, in Citizen Kane, for example. In someway the hero is still incomplete. He’s been injured, or he’s had a part of him taken away. Perhaps he’s lost his faith, or rejected love. Perhaps he’s a loner, someone who’s not good at sharing himself with others, and he comes into this story carrying this thing with him, needing this hole filled. And in the process of the story, the hole is filled as he comes to his realization.

Gary Provost and Peter Rubie were the co-authors of How to Tell a Story: The Secrets of Writing Captivating Tales. Thank you to Peter and to Gary’s wife Gail for granting permission to share this article, originally published at peterrubie.com, with us.

Gary Provost was born in 1944 and died in 1995. He was the author of many books across a range of genres including four award-winning young adult novels. Provost was also a highly sought after writing instructor and co-founder of the Writers Retreat Workshop. He published a number of writing advice books including Make Every Word Count (Writers Digest Books, 1980). Read more about Gary Provost at garyprovost.com, a site established and maintained by his wife Gail.
Peter Rubie is the CEO of Fine Print Literary Management. He is a former BBC Radio and Fleet Street journalist and for several years was the director of the publishing section of the New York University Summer Publishing Institute. Prior to becoming a literary agent he was a publishing house editor for nearly six years. He has also been the editor-in-chief of a Manhattan local newspaper, and a freelance editor and book doctor for major publishers. He was a regular reviewer for the international trade magazine Publishers Weekly, and is a published author of both fiction and non-fiction. He is a member of AAR, and regularly lectures and writes on publishing and the craft of writing. He is also a professional jazz musician who can be regularly found playing jazz guitar around New York City.
 


On Treating Writing as a Form of PlayA guest post by Eli Glasman, author of The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew

For years before my novel was published, I felt insecure about whether or not I was a ‘real’ writer. I don’t think this is a unique anxiety amongst unpublished authors and I responded to this anxiety in the way I think many people do: I romanticised the act of writing.

I told myself that the burden of writing fiction was thrust upon me and I had no choice but to sit each night and delve into the unknown to produce works of genius. Writing like this didn’t flow easily for me. And as a result, it was hard to read. The prose were pretentious and calculated. It was clear that everything I wrote was me begging the reader to think of me as a genius.

I told myself that if it was easy to write it meant that it wasn’t any good. Good fiction needed to be sweat over. If it was hard, it meant I’d worked at it and it was worthy.

This attitude to writing was one I’d been carrying around in my head since I was a kid. On my weekends and days off, I wrote all day. It was all I thought about. I’d obsess over the stories, especially the syntax, running through sentences over and again in my head until I’d memorised them.

I have a habit of over analysing myself, but I think I obsessed over writing as a childish way to simplify things, as I was not in an emotional position to take on the complexities of life.

It felt safer to focus on this alone, as it meant I didn’t need to focus on many of the pressures we all face, such as finding a job and becoming financially independent, or worrying about the things that may have been more specific to me, such as the Crohn’s Disease and my recent decision to no longer remain an orthodox Jew.

As I’ve spoken about previously on my blog, when I started socialising and earning my own money, I found that writing didn’t need to take on the task of carrying my entire sense of self and keeping at bay my anxieties. I felt more comfortable with my life and could relax and have fun with my writing.

As a result, my writing immediately improved, because I was treating it as what it really was, which is a form of play. In not romanticising it, I could allow myself to be crap for a little while and acknowledge that it was something I needed to learn to do, rather than some pure expression that flowed flawlessly through me.

The first short story that I had published was one that I’d ‘let go’ for and allowed myself just to enjoy the writing process. Yet still, even knowing that the healthier approach was to try and enjoy it, I still fell back into old habits.

Shortly after my first short story was accepted for publication, I needed to have a small procedure due to the Crohn’s Disease, which required that I spend a few nights in hospital. Before I began the bowel prep, I received an email from the editor of Voiceworks with the final track changes on my story.

Before I started drinking the solutions, even though I’d been fasting all day, I did the edits on my story. In my head, I marked this as my commitment to writing fiction. It showed how important this was to me, how I would overcome any obstacle to pursue this craft.

In retrospect I see this as deluded and pretentious. I should have just said I was in hospital and asked for a few more weeks on the edits. I’m sure they would have been more than happy to oblige.

I now see that occasion as a lesson in what not to do. I will never force myself to write.

Now I write every few days, while thinking of my stories every day because I want to, not because I feel I have to. If I write until two in the morning it’s because I’m having fun, not because I need to validate that I’m a real writer.

I figure if I want the reader to stay up until two in the morning reading my book, I should be able to enjoy writing it until that time. I realise now that a reader will enjoy reading the novel half as much as I enjoy writing it. I need to glow as I’m writing to know a reader will feel this as they’re reading it.

I find that writing obsessively, telling myself it’s work, a burden that was thrust upon me, snuffs out that sense of fun. And I will produce a novel I wouldn’t even want to read.

More from Eli GlasmanOn How Getting a Novel Published Isn’t Just About Persistence

Eli Glasman is a Melbourne based, Jewish author. His writing has appeared in Voiceworks magazine, the Sleepers Almanac and in 2013 he placed second in the Josephine Ulrick short story competition. His debut novel, The Boy’s Own Manual to Being a Proper Jew (Sleepers Publishing), about a homosexual boy in the Melbourne orthodox Jewish community, is available now from all good Australian bookstores or online 

 


Man Booker Prize 2014 - Richard Flanagan and Neel Mukherjee

The winner of the 2014 Man Booker Prize will be announced in London next Tuesday. This was the first year that books by writers from all nations have been permitted to enter the prestigious award, leading to speculation that the field would be dominated by American authors. Instead, it looks unlikely that the prize will be awarded outside the Commonwealth. If the latest odds from bookmaker William Hill are accurate, either Australia’s Richard Flanagan or Calcutta-born Neel Mukherjee will be taking home the £50,000 prize.

When the thirteen book longlist was announced in July, Mukherjee’s The Lives of Others immediately become a hot favourite among commentators and bookmakers alike. David Mitchell’s The Bone Clocks was also popular among many pundits but the English authors’ sixth novel failed to make the shortlist. Flanagan’s The Narrow Road To The Deep North has been top seller is his home country but the book missed out on the Miles Franklin Award, the country’s most prestigious literary prize.

The Man Booker Prize 2014 Bookmakers’ Odds

A total of 154 books were considered by the Man Booker Prize judges this year, 145 of which were submitted by publishers with a further 9 called in by the judges. William Hill’s odds for the six novels still in contention are:

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Horation Nelson Fiction Prize 2014

The Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize is awarded each year by Black Balloon Publishing. The winner of the 2014 prize will receive US$5000 and a publishing deal with Black Balloon.

The prize is for a completed, unpublished, original fiction manuscript over 50,000 words. Writers can be from any country and there are no citizenship restrictions. Both novels and short story collections may be entered.

The 2013 Horatio Nelson Fiction Prize was won by Iowan author Mike Meginnis. His novel Fat Man Little Boy was published in this month.

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The Times Childrens Fiction Competition

The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition is now open for entries. The winning writer will receive a worldwide publishing contract with Chicken House with a royalty advance of £10,000 (US$16,000), plus representation from a top children’s literary agent.

The Times / Chicken House Children’s Fiction Competition began in 2007 and has launched the careers of a number of new authors. To enter, you must have written a completed full-length novel suitable for children aged somewhere between 7 and 18 years. By full-length the organisers suggest a minimum of 30,000 words and ask that manuscripts entered do not exceed 80,000 words in length.

The competition is open to writers around the world, regardless of nationality or residency status. To enter, writers are asked to submit the full manuscript in hard copy, accompanied by:

  • a one page synopsis of the story
  • a chapter-by-chapter plot plan
  • a cover letter including a brief biography and an explanation of why you believe the work would appeal to children.

All entries must be accompanied by a £15 fee. If you have entered this competition before, please note that this year the rules have changed so that previously submitted manuscripts can be re-entered.

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