2015 Partipant Badges Are Here

Taking part in StoryADay May 2015? Let everyone know (and hold you accountable) by pasting one of these badges in your blog’s side bar, or using one of the square images as your social media profile photo.

Right click to download the files. Save on your computer, then upload to where ever you want to use them.

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Easily add a StoryADay logo to your FB or Twitter profile pic.

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Inline Illustrations

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If you want to add a headshot of yourself to any of these, here’s a background with a ‘hole’ for your headshot. Download and modify in your favourite graphics program.

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Here’s an example:

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Dial-A-Story for Short Story Month

This is an awesome (and quirky) opportunity for you to have you story published during May. I spoke to organizer, Meriwether O’Connor by phone earlier this month and she told me she’s bringing back an old idea that worked really well when she was publicizing earlier novels. In the age of podcasts and on-demand radio, the idea of calling a telephone number to have someone read you a story has something of a charming, olde-time aire, doesn’t it? Submit now!! 

Appalachia North invites you to celebrate National Short Story Month with us by submitting a short, short story to appear on DialAStory. Stories can be any length or genre but those with a reading time of not more than three minutes will have a definite advantage. Even if yours isn’t selected to be featured, you can still participate. How?!

One of the highlights of the project is breaking down the wall between performer and listener. With that in mind, callers are invited to respond with a spontaneous or written storyor tale of their own after listening to the featured piece. This way, the author or performer steps down to become the listener while the audience themselves steps forward to become creative and active as the performer or yarnspinner. You are also welcome to read your favorite short story out of a book in response if you prefer.

Our featured book of short stories for May will be Joe Potato’s Real Life Recipes: Tall Tales and Short Stories by Meriwether O’Connor. Nominated for a Weatherford and chosen Editors’ Pick by Story Circle Review, Joe Potato is a darkly humorous grit lit work with both an Appalachian and Texas flair. Bestselling author Carolyn Chute (The Beans of Egypt, Maine and Treat Us Like Dogs And We Will Become Wolves) said, “A strong writing voice like (O’Connor’s) is rare”. Submitted stories are not required to be in a similar genre as the featured book.

Please send your story or tall tale to appalachianorth@hotmail.com by midnight E.S.T.Friday April 24, 2015. If you snail mail, it needs to arrive by the same day at PO Box 57 East Dixfield, Maine 04227. Check back here later for the phone number to call during May, National Short Story Month, to hear or respond to the stories and tales presented on DialAStory. Hope to hear from you.

 

As I understand it, there’s no payment for this venture, but it does sound kind of a fun way to celebration Short Story Month!  – JD

StoryADay May Flyer 2015

If you’re a member of a Real World writers’ group and would like to spread the word about StoryADay May, here’s a spiffy flyer that you can print out and take with you.

 

storyaday flyer link
Right-click to download the file to your hard drive or click to open in a new tab, then print.

 

Likewise, if you frequent a literary salon, coffee shop or grungy cafe full of secret writers, as long as it has a noticeboard, why not take one along with you and spread the word?

Remember, Peer Pressure Is Good, kids!

It’s A Story, Not Just A List of Stuff That Happens

[South Park’s Trey Parker and Matt Stone] revealed that although they brainstorm and develop individual funny scenes, the key to turning those scenes into an actual story is in making sure that each scene causes the next scene to occur.

…[they] developed a very simple litmus test for determining whether they had achieved the desired causation between scenes, by seeing whether one of two words could be inserted between each scene:

“Therefore” or “but”

via Writer Unboxed » Story Lessons from South Park.

This seems like a wonderful lesson for short story writers.

We don’t tend to think in scenes (especially in a first draft), but applying this test to your story revisions, will make the difference between it being ‘a bunch of stuff that happens’ and ‘an actual story that pulls readers from the first word to the last and leaves them daydreaming about your characters later’.

Key point: as you revise (or draft) your short story, think about everything that happens and whether each is linked by a ‘therefore’ or a ‘but’.

Read the source article for four more lessons on storytelling from South Park.

Write What You Love

All this to say, You Be You. You Write You. It is said in Ye Olde Hallowed Annals of Writerly Bull that Thou Shalt Write The Book of Thy Heart. Truly. Do. Because life as a professional artist is HARD. You have to delight in what you’re writing and slaving away over because there are moments when that’s all you have. Take your craft deadly seriously, but not yourself, and not necessarily your genre. Wink at it, have a total blast, revel and wallow, and be only as indulgent as your editor allows. Try to be objective, and don’t be hurt if people think your cup of tea tastes like poo. With any luck, passion, love and creativity will shine through. For my part, I can only hope the wild expanse of whatever foggy moor I’m frolicking in will bring loyal readers, who don’t mind the eerie abandon, back time and again to my dark and stormy night.

via Leanna Renee Hieber: I Write What I Want! (aka: Ignoring the Haters since 1764) « terribleminds: chuck wendig.

 

Leanna has a very good point.

Are you writing what you love?

First, some questions:

  • What do you love?
  • What keeps you coming back to the desk every day?
  • Have you found your voice yet?

Obligatory StoryADay promo: writing a story every day for a month drives you to try new things, desperate measures, genres and voices you’ve never allowed to fly free before. Try it.

You might find your true voice and your true love lurking underneath all those stylized and ‘commercial’ things you think you ought to be writing.

That way lies fulfillment and riches (well, I can’t guarantee the riches, but I’m fairly certain they won’t come if you hate what you’re writing!)

Join us!

On Reading for Writing – Junot Diaz

I’m old enough and experienced enough to know when I’m reading to avoid. And then you gotta get back to work. And I also know — you get old enough, you know when you’re forcing the writing, so you need to go hit the books.

via Junot Díaz Hates Writing Short Stories – NYTimes.com.

A couple of years ago I discovered Ray Bradbury’s prescription for creativity and vowed to read more short stories. Soon I was drowning in ideas. This is the second half of what Junot Diaz is talking out here.

But Diaz makes an really interesting point in the first half of the quote.

Sometimes we ‘read to avoid’.

  • We read to avoid doing the work.
  • We read to avoid starting.
  • We read to feel like we’re being productive when really we should be writing.

How do you balance the reading and writing parts of your life? What is the most productive reading you do? The least productive? Share your thoughts in the comments, below. Let’s talk about this!

The Time You Spend Waiting To Begin

Try to make your time matter: minutes and hours and days and weeks can blow away like dead leaves, with nothing to show but time you spent not quite ever doing things, or time you spent waiting to begin.

via Neil Gaimans Journal.

This except comes from a compendium of New Year’s Wishes from the master of modern storytelling, and champion of creatives, Neil Gaiman.

All of the New Year’s wishes are inspirational but this one struck me particularly.

  • We struggle to find time to write.
  • We make excuses for not doing the thing we love, in case we’re not good enough.
  • We say we’ll be creative another day, just as soon as we’ve cleared out plates of these urgent (but not necessarily important) tasks.

So try.

Try to do something creative today.

Then do the same tomorrow.

It’s worth it. I promise.

Need help getting started? Breaking Writers’ Block: A StoryADay.org Guideis chock-full of 60+ suggestions for ways to get started, even on the hardest day.

Plot Twists To Avoid

  • The heroine/narrator is revealed to be a cat, dog, car, possum, tree or ghost!
  • A partner’s mysterious arrangements turn out to be for a surprise party
  • The perpetrators murder plan backfires and s/he eats the poison
  • A woman meets up with a handsome “stranger” for a steamy rendezvous and it turns out to be her husband
  • Someone nervous about a first day at school turns out to be the teacher; or about a wedding, the vicar; or an interview, the interviewer.
  • A woman spots her boyfriend/man of her dreams with a beautiful blonde lady – who turns out to be his sister
  • Anything involving twinsA murder/death actually turns out to be part of a play rehearsal

via Fast Fiction Guidelines – thats life!.

 

This is a great list of plot twists to avoid, found in the Writers’ Guidelines for an Australian magazine.

(The rest of the guidelines are good, too. I like the bit where they point out that too many characters and a story gets confusing. They recommend topping out at four.)

 

Although, it has to be said, the thrawn and perverse side of me is very tempted to write a series of stories in which one or all of these things happen, just to see if I could have fun with them. (Hey, the poison one worked for The Princess Bride…)

Revisiting Morning Pages – Charlotte Rains Dixon

If you haven’t tried Morning Pages, you are likely grousing that you don’t have time for such thing. I hear you.  But I say you’ll create time by doing them.  Because you’ll have more clarity, less anxiety and more of an ability to focus on what you really want to do throughout the day.  So try it:

via Revisiting Morning Pages – Charlotte Rains Dixon.

I first heard about Morning Pages and The Artist’s Way [af] from a co-workers in 1999 — not a writer, by the way, just a guy trying to get his stuff together.

I started turning my sporadic-journalling into Morning Pages and, like Charlotte, have revisited them over the years. It sounds too simple to be any use, but seriously: write three pages of stream of consciousness stuff as close to the start of your day as you can (even if you have to write “I can’t think of anything to write” over and over until you get so sick of yourself that you DO think of something to write) and you will fine yourself more creative, more calm and ready for anything.

I highly recommend the Artist’s Dates that Cameron talks about too. More on that later.

The Top Three Benefits of Writing Flash Fiction – DIY MFA : DIY MFA

The benefits of writing flash fiction can’t be denied. In addition to testing and sharing new story ideas and formats, flash fiction can teach you, as a writer, lessons you may not otherwise learn without hours and hours of classes and hundreds or thousands of dollars.

via The Top Three Benefits of Writing Flash Fiction – DIY MFA : DIY MFA.

 

You know how you sometimes have an idea that is interesting but you’re not sure if it’s a story? Take a leaf out of Alicia’s book and write it up as a Flash Fiction story, test it on some writer/reader friends. If they are hungry for more (backstory, front story or just MORE story) think about expanding it to a short story, novella or even a novel!

Essential Guide To the Best Short Stories of 2014

If one of your resolutions for next year is to read more short stories (and it should be!), it can be hard to know where to start.
You want to cultivate a modern style, the kind of thing that reflects your voice AND the kind of stories people want to read.
The problem with a do-it-yourself reading masterclass, is that anthologies tend to contain a vast range of stories, chronologically arranged from the late 1800s to the mid 1960s. These stories have stood the test of time and are therefore considered classics, but their style can seem pretty dated.
On the other hand, you could grow old reading a random selection of the multitudinous modern short stories available online. So what’s a serious writer to do?

Let other people recommend stories to you.

I’ve trawled the end-of-year roundups and found a number of recommendations for your further reading. Most of these are stories from this century, with a few must-read classics sprinkled in here and there. Names that kept cropping up on list after list: B. J. Novak, Lorrie Moore, Lydia Davis, Elizabeth McCracken, Phil Klay, Margaret Atwood, Alice Munro.
Treat yourself to a volume or two, or trot off down to your local library to look for some of these titles.

Powell’s Short List 2014

Powell’s audaciously posted a “best of” list in time for Short Story Month in May this year (N.B. Did we make May the month for short stories? I don’t remember anyone calling it that before we started this crazy thing in 2010. Pat yourselves on the backs, StoryADay-nauts! I think we created a Thing!)
NOT a list of the best short story collections this year, it is however a list of excellent short story collections from the century so far:

The Guardian’s Ill-Defined “Best” List

Not sure what the category here is —  I suspect it’s the editors’ favorites list, rather than a true ‘best of’ — but I’m betting there are some collections (and authors) you might have missed in this British-based list.

Paris Review’s Prize Winning Stories of The Year

Two stories are in the Best American Short Story Anthology this year and nine were nominated for the Pushcart Prize. Read some at the Paris Review site.

The Independent’s Best Stories of the Year

Another list from a British newspaper. Includes Hilary Mantel’s controversial “The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher”, some Margaret Atwood and a collection by Tom Barbash, a fave of mine.

The Huffington Post’s 10 Best Short Stories You’ve Never Read

Take the HuffPo challenge. Have you read them? I felt quite smug when I discovered I had read the first one on their list…then I looked at the rest of them. Ahem…

Electric Literature’s Best Short Story Collections of 2014

25 recommended story collections from Donald Antrim to Lorrie Moore with some names that didn’t hit any other lists I saw.

Readers’ Digest 8 of the Best

RD recommended these eight collections in the spring (another shout out for May as Short Story Month!). Some familiar names on this one…

BookTrust Recommendations From Short Story Authors

BookTrust asked prize-winning writers to pick THEIR favorite collections. Seems sensible…
Also, check out BookTrust’s online library of short stories here:

Longreads Best of the Year

A subjective list of the best short stories of the year. As good a place as any to start 😉

The Quivering Pen Great Big Roundup

A fine list of short story collections from David Abrams. Compiled in June, it contains some interesting titles.

Hugo Award Nominees 2014

If all that up there is wa-ay too much literary fiction for you, how about taking a look at the Hugo Award nominees of the year for some speculative fiction-y goodness?

Stacked’s Young Adult Short Story Recommendations

Doesn’t it seem like YA would be a great category for short fiction? Well, Stacked has a list of some YA short story collections from the past few years.

Fantastic Stories of the Imagination’s Short Genre Fiction Recommendations for 2014

Finally! A collection that includes Speculative and horror short stories. Only four stories in this list, but they are different enough to be worth checking out.

More Genre Fiction from Jonathan Strahan

This list is way out of date, but worth looking at just because genre gets so little respect in the other lists. All titles are from the first decade of the 21st century. Good additional recommendations in the comments section.

Jason Sanford’s Sci-Fi Picks for 2014

An author and reader picks his best bets for next year’s awards lists.
Then of course, there is always the Best American Short Stories annual anthology, The Best British Short Stories 2014, and I highly recommend the Selected Shorts podcast as a way to have new and notable short stories read to you by great actors, wherever you are.
Side note: apparently Brits take the short story much more seriously than folks anywhere else in the English-speaking parts of the planet. Prizes, end-of-year round ups, they dominate them!
Lets all don fake-British accents (except for me, of course who still has a semi-authentic one) and cheer the patron saints of the short story: the good folk of the UK!
So, what short stories have you read this year that you’d recommend? Share in the comments!

Nov 2014 – Best Of The Web For Short Story Writers

Best Of The Web

Need a little inspiration? Here are the Top Ten articles and blogs posts I’ve found over the past month, to help you power through writing problems, get more creative and hone your craft.

  1. Jungle Red Writers: Literary Agent Paula Munier on PLOT PERFECT – How NOT to get sunk by plot problems.
  2. The 12 Best Hashtags for Writers – Marcy Kennedy – Don’t let social media overwhelm you. Bookmark this useful article today.
  3. My First Author/Illustrator Skype Visit: What I Learned, What I’d Do Differently Next Time – Inkygirl: Guide For Kidlit/YA Writers & Artists – via @inkyelbows – Great insight for whenever you are doing outreach/marketing (esp if you write for kids).
  4. Rewriting: The Middle Way – Charlotte Rains Dixon – A quick and liberating second look at rewriting.
  5. Character Driven-Flash Fiction « Flash Fiction Chronicles – Especially for short story writers: Yes, you CAN have great characters in short fiction, and here’s how!
  6. 4 Ways to Improve Plot/Climax in Your Writing | WritersDigest.com – Superb, though-provoking article. Aimed at novelists but useful for short story writers, too. Just miniaturize everything he says 😉
  7. Writer as Coder: The Iterative Way to Write a Book : zenhabits – An interesting take on writing as a collaborative process: you and the readers, in it together.
  8. Writer Unboxed » Losing One’s Marbles – No More Excuses!
  9. Where my freelance writing clients come from – Want to make a little money writing? It’s not easy but with determination and focus you can do it. The Urban Muse shares a look behind the curtain.
  10. When Your Plate is Too Full : zenhabits – No simple answers here, but effective ones.

Have you read any good posts recently? Share them in the comments.

Short Story Reading Challenge

You know I love a challenge.

It’s going to be harder to write during the summer months, with boys underfoot and trips to here there and everywhere (bonjour, Bretagne!), so I’m going to spend my summer months feeding the creative monster.

I’ve been finding it hard to write recently, partly because my brain is begin pulled in fifteen different directions. I’m feeding it with information — about education, about fitness, about nutrition, about cognitive behavioural therapies, about music, about all kinds of practical stuff — but I’m not feeding it with the kinds of stories it needs to lift itself out of the everyday world and into the world of stories.

JulieReadingSo I’m going back to the Bradbury Method of creativity-boosting. I did this last summer and it worked like a charm: I read a new story every day (and an essay and a poem as often as I could manage that) and found myself drowning in ideas. I had a burning urge to write; I sketched out ideas for stories; I wrote some of them over the next six months and released them as Kindle ebooks that have sold actual copies and generated actual profits. I have others that are still in various stages of drafting. But more than all that I was happy.

Follow Along?

So that’s what I’m going to do: Read a short story a day during June, July, August. I’m logging my activity at my personal writing blog and you can follow along by pointing your RSS reader here: http://www.julieduffy.com/category/read/ (I use Feedly on my iPad, phone and computer to keep up with the feeds of blogs I love. I highly recommend it. remember the old Livejournal friends view? It’s like that. Or the Facebook status update view without, you know, Facebook). Or you can Subscribe to Julie Duffy Reading (& stuff) by Emailand get a daily update of all my reading-related posts (some days it’ll just be the title of the story. Some days it’ll be a potted review, and frankly it might get kind of annoying, so use this method with caution). You might just want to bookmark my reading log and check it out for yourself (currently it’s mostly full of stuff I read last summer)

And feel free to join me. Leave comments, link to what you’re reading, start your own Reading challenge and blog…

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[OK, I realize this badge is hopelessly Northern-Hemisphere elitist, and I apologize. I’ll make a change when I have a chance. Or you can use your Photoshop-Fu to put a white box over the ‘summer’ part…]

Your Own Reading Log

I’m using Google Docs to log my reading.

Here’s a copy of the form that you can use youself if you want to join in and you like Google Docs. Copy this form to your own Google Drive and rename it.

If you click on “Form / Go To Live Form” you’ll see a nice clean interface for entering your info. It’ll update the spreadsheet automatically (no silly little cells to click on).

If you’re an iPhone user, you can follow these steps to get a nice app-like link on your phone, to make logging your reading easier (I’m a big fan of ‘easy’)
Step 1:

Go to your form on in your browser (drive.google.com/)

Then:

 

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Then

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Then

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Voilà!

 

Just make sure you save a copy of this document to your own Google Drive and don’t work on my copy, OK?

Help! I Missed A Day. What Do I Do?

OK, so this is Day 5 of the challenge and if you haven’t missed a day yet, the chances are strong that you will. Soon.

So here’s my advice, based on five years of May challenges, a couple of StoryADay September challenges and the writing courses I run.

Let It Go
[1. Cue the sound of my two elementary school aged boys screaming “No! Enough with the Frozen!”]

Let the unwritten stories go and write again tomorrow.

Seriously. This is not so much about turning out 31 complete stories as leaning to turn up every day, even when you feel like a failure. I encourage people never to try to catch up with days they’ve missed. That creates far too much baggage. (You can always keep writing into June if you want your 31 stories!)

Watch And Learn

The other point of a challenge like this is to try to do more than you think you can do, and to watch where it is hardest and where/when it was most fluid. Then, when you go back to your normal writing schedule you will have all these experiences in your tool kit. You’ll know that Saturday is maybe not a day to expect to get much writing done. And you’ll know that 11-midnight is prime time. Or you’ll know that it’s easier to write when you have a plan (or not).

Don’t worry too much. Just keep turning up, keep breathing and keep watching all the ways your inner demon tries to sabotage your writing life. Say ‘Huh, that’s interesting, demon. Nice try, but I’m still turning up again tomorrow”.

If we are going to write for the rest of our lives (and lets face it, we are), all we can do is keep learning!

Adjust Your Rules

Back in 2012 (my third year) I decided I was no longer going to commit to writing on Sundays. I COULD, I just didn’t HAVE to.
Between running the site and having two small children and a husband that I quite like to spend time with, something had to give. Sundays were it, for me.

This is fine. If you decide not to write EVERY day in May that’s cool.

BUT do try to assess your progress on a week to week basis rather than waking up each day and thinking “I wonder if I should write today”. (You should).

Stop now and see how your first five days (which include a weekend) have gone. Decide what you’ll commit to for the next seven days.

Of course, I thoroughly encourage you to write an actual StoryADay unless the thought of it is making you truly miserable. If you’re miserable, change the rules. But keep writing.

So, how’s it going? What are you learning? What tips do you have?