Monday, 24 March 2008

Short Stories

I have had 3 short stories published nationally and all thanks to some-one whose name I can't remember! When I do, I'll add it in. YEAH! CHRISSIE GITTINS. Anyway, she is a poet who was doing some poetry work with my daughter's primary class in London and my daughter, Lou, told her that I had written a lot of short stories (at least 25) but just couldn't get published. As well as trying Radio 4, I had sent all of my scripts to every popular women's magazine that accepts unsolicited fiction, particularly Women's Weekly, but to no avail.

So, this very kind poet wrote down the names of a number of non- mainstream subscription publications and I took it from there.

My first success was with QUALITY WOMEN'S FICTION, which was founded by a writer called Jo Good, although there were plenty of rejects before I finally got the go-ahead. I WAS GOING TO BE PUBLISHED! AT LONG LAST!

The story was called September in Italy, about a couple's rift set against the background of an enormous storm, which are most spectacular on the Mediterranean coast. At first the story was rejected because there wasn't enough imagery in it, so I re-wrote it thick with imagery and it was accepted. Sadly, the magazine has now been sold on to an American writer and I don't subscribe to it any more.

The other piece of information that was on that single, hastily written sheet of paper, which proved so successful for me, was the name of the wonderful MSLEXIA magazine, which contains a selection of short stories and poetry plus articles about writing. It comes out 4 times a year and I love reading it; it's a fantastic magazine for writers and long may it continue!

Well, what I read in one of the editions was the name and contact details of 4 new small publishers who were looking for new authors, so I took pot luck and sent my story Renaissance to ACCENT PRESS, founded by Hazel Cushion.

I had never heard of Accent Press before - I don't normally look at who has published the book I've just bought - so was unaware that I actually had, on my shelves, a collection of short stories published by Accent Press, from their 'sexy shorts' series.

Blissfully unaware that one pound from each sale was donated to a cancer charity, I sent off my short story Renaissance which is about a young woman recovering from breast surgery and set in Florence.

I was so delighted, surprised and temporarily gob-smacked when I got a phone call from the editor, Rachel, to say that they would like to put the story in their next short story collection, entitled SAUCY SHORTS FOR CHEFS, and could I send a recipe because each story was to be accompanied by a recipe.

I had briefly mentioned in the story that my character had a romantic meal with a very gorgeous Croatian man whom she had met, so I racked my brain for a suitable Italian recipe.

Now, my husband, who is a fantastic cook, had already bought an ice-cream machine and concocted two recipes for ice-cream: one which contains products with a very high fat content (for him) and one for me, using soya milk (Alpro), reduced fat cream etc. So I decided to send the latter because it is much healthier than regular ice-cream (but it still tastes great) on the grounds that some-one recovering from breast cancer would want to eat more healthily.

This book was to be sold nationally, in bookshops like Waterstone's, and whole process was like a dream come true for me. All of the writers who contributed, donated their stories but, to be honest, I really didn't care that I was not going to receive a penny: seeing my story and name and my husband's recipe in actual print was payment enough.

As I was reading SAUCY SHORTS FOR CHEFS, I could see that most of the stories had a direct link with the accompanying recipes and mine didn't so I consider myself very lucky and more than a little amused.

Accent Press sent all the contributers advertising material and I promoted that book as hard as I could, handing out leaflets and arranging with the two Waterstone's in Winchester to advertise the book and for me to sign copies.

I almost lived in Waterstone's at the time, checking on progress, signing copies, and advising them that it should be in the fiction section and not the cookery section!
And to cap it all, we had a launch party at Antony Worrall Thompsons's Notting Hill restaurant (he wrote a forward for the book).

This is a picture of most of the contributors to SAUCY SHORTS FOR CHEFS in A W T's restauarant.

This was the fourth book in the sexy shorts series and most of the writers had contributed before and so knew each other. However, I was made very welcome and I had a super time. Two of my friends are crazy about A W T and I had promised to get them signed autographs but he wasn't there; he was on holiday with his family. So, I wrote to him afterwards and explained the situation and he very graciously sent three personalized signed photographs: one each for my friends and one for me, which is framed and hanging in our dining-room.

This is the cake that Jane Asher made for the party for SAUCY SHORTS FOR CHEFS, in the design of the book's cover. (The cake was yummy!)

Hazel had also organized a special chat room on the web for all the authors involved and for months we sent messages of encouragement, information etc. It was such fun.

Then Hazel announced that she was going to publish a fifth sexy short: SEXY SHORTS FOR THE BEACH. So, I wrote a chick-lit story entitled THE LOVE BUG and hoped that it would be accepted, which it was. This was about a family on a Greek holiday, each one affected by 'the love bug.' Again, I promoted the novel like mad and this time we also got glossy book marks as well to advertise the book.

You can read THE LOVE BUG from the bottom of this blog if you so wish.

With both these books, I wrote an article for my local newspaper, The Hampshire Chronicle, about each publication, and both were printed. I sent my own pictures, too, and the one for SAUCY SHORTS FOR THE BEACH was also published. Some-one on the chat-line had explained how she had donated a copy to her local library so I did that with SEXY SHORTS FOR THE BEACH and to date, it has proved very popular.

This is the picture that went with the article in the Hampshire Chronicle for SAUCY SHORTS FOR CHEFS. My husband and I have tried valiantly to turn it the right way round but it refuses to budge. If YOU know how to do this, pleases leave a message!

This is a photograph of me handing over a copy of SEXY SHORTS FOR THE BEACH to the chief librarian at what was the Winchester Library (now called The Winchester Discovery Centre.)

Interestingly, each of my stories was based abroad: Italy (2 times) and Greece. My husband and I are lucky enough to take foreign holidays and that's where I get so much of my inspiration from. I tend to do quite a lot of writing on holiday until the sun and wine totally incapacitate me.

Since then, Hazel has not published any more sexy shorts, concentrating now on novels and education books, but because of her, I was published twice in national paper-backs and I am eternally grateful to her for that.

I now concentrate on novel writing but occasionally, when I see a writing competition advertised in Mslexia, I choose a short story I have already written, re-edit it and send it off. Short stories are not as popular as novels but I have faith in those that I have already written and I am very, very patient. One day some of them might just see the light of day in a bookshop. Who knows...

No comments: