So, I had all sorts of things I wanted to blog about - why so many of my favourite short story writers are Scottish, for example - and then the nicest email last night and all my priorities shifted. The Scots will have to wait. The Binnacle, the delightful people who awarded me the Grand Prize in their Sixth Annual Ultra Short Comp last year, wrote to let me know that the publication of the Ultra-Short issue has been a little delayed... but then took my mind off this entirely by telling me that they have become my Favourite Lit Mag Ever by nominating my winning story, My Mother Was an Upright Piano, for a Pushcart Prize!
For those who aren't familiar, here's the Pushcart Prize info:
Little magazine and small book press editors (print or online) may make up to six nominations from their year’s publications by our December 1, (postmark) deadline. The nominations may be any combination of poetry, short fiction, essays or literary whatnot.
Over at his excellent blog, Perpetual Folly, Cliff Garstang does his annual Pushcart rankings, a listing of lit magazines according to how many Pushcart prizes and special mentions for fiction they have received since 2000. Cliff does this with the Pushcart because of the way they call for nominations from the editors themselves rather than getting a guest judge to pick. It makes for interesting reading - the Top Three are Ploughshares, Conjunctions and Zoetrope-All-Story. Says Cliff:
I'm a fan of the Pushcart Prize Anthology and I happen to think that it is a good indicator of magazine quality. It isn't perfect, and it doesn't mean a whole lot, frankly, but when I'm making my decisions of where I want to submit, I look at this list and aim as high as is realistically possible.
Read the list here for some submission ideas.
Anyhow, the Pushcart gets 8000 nominations (it's only open to American publications and presses), and publishes 30 pieces of prose and 30 poems in its annual anthology, so the chances of getting any further are very, very slim. But it is an enormous honour to be nominated, I have been looking longingly at other writers' bios where they say "nominated for a Pushcart prize", and it's really thrilling for me to be able to put that too.
So, a good way to end the year that was rather up and down, with the lows being far lower than anything I've ever experienced, and which saw us make the radical decision to move countries - and then actually do it. The cats are more than 2/3 of the way through quarantine, 8 more weeks, which is wonderful, that has been very hard, for us and them. I am really loving being here, every few weeks meeting up with people who just want to talk about short stories and writing!
The main thing, though, that I haven't been doing is writing. So last night I decided to implement my New Year's Resolutions a few days early, in order to avoid that inevitable desire to sabotage the whole thing on Jan 1st. This morning, fighting that self-sabotaging demon, I got dressed before having breakfast and headed out for a walk, with just a notepad and paper (and mobile phone, switched off, and a little money for emergency croissants should I need them).
I walked for about 45 minutes around the neighborhood, avoiding slipping on the frost, and determined to come back with "something". But also determined to give myself a break and not to expect too much. I jotted down some words, a few phrases and things, as I walked, and just tried to follow my thoughts. It didn't help that I couldn't stop humming the damn song I heard on the radio before I left. Note to self: Don't turn the radio on before walk!
I came back, and continued with my new regime by not switching on my phone or the Internet. Not at all. Nope. I went into my study, and didn't check email at all until 4pm. And guess what? Felt much calmer, and was rather more productive. There's a surprise! I did a radical overhaul of my assortment of short stories and flash fiction and set up a new Folder on my computer called "2010" so that I can start the year with a clean-ish slate, sort of. All those old half-stories that I just haven't got around to doing anything with got swept under the digital carpet just so I don't have to look at them and despair! And I decided not to split up Short Stories and Flash Fiction, just have one Work in Progress Folder. Might make life a little easier.
I actually didn't even want to check my email all day - and of course when I did I found that there was nothing urgent, nothing that coudn't wait, or could even have waited longer.
It's 7pm now, am allowing myself to blog, catch up on FB, Tweet a little... listen to some music. And then... after dinner I am going to try something else that I have wanted to do for ages and can do this week because there's nowhere I have to be in the morning. And that is: come back into my study at 10pm and spend a few hours writing. I have this desire to write at night, I love nighttime. But there's always somewhere to be in the morning etc. Well, this week the diary is clear. Will report back.
If it goes well, the plan is that I can set up my schedule around this: For the 2 days a week that I am at the Nanoscience and Quantum Information centre for my short-story-writer-in-residence, I could go in after 12, and just not plan to do anything before that. I am not aiming to work all night, that would be quite odd, and when would J and I see each other? But I am open to seeing how I feel - apart from tired - and what comes. I know several writers work at night. It's an experiment!
Is there anything else I'm going to do? Hmm. In the last few weeks I have been slowly starting to work on the next issue of The Short Review instead of leaving it all til the 5 days before I want to get the issue up and making myself - and Diane - crazy. That's been more relaxing and enjoyable, so will probably try to keep doing that.
I've also almost almost finished my Arts Council grant application for the residency - just a little unsure about the budget part, it's confusing me. But I really hope to get that printed off and sent tomorrow. Fingers crossed!
This turned into quite a long post, sorry about that. Wishing you all a Happy and Creative New Year. Any Resolutions anyone wants to share?!