In the last couple of years I haven’t had much time for writing short fiction. I’ve been focussing on other writing projects and short stories have mostly been sidelined. As Lorrie Moore says, ‘a story can be like a mad, lovely visitor, with whom you spend a rather exciting weekend’, and I’ve missed that. But recently, in small pockets of space, I’ve been able to reengage with the form. This has led to my stories appearing in three very different publications, all of which I admire for different reasons. So as a way of celebrating my renewed love affair with the short story I thought I’d tell you about them.
First up is a story called ‘The Little Things’ which will be published in Australian Love Stories, an anthology edited by Cate Kennedy. I was most chuffed to have my work selected by Cate, one of Australia’s finest short story writers. I have long admired her work, have devoured everything she has written, and the comments she wrote about my story (coming as they did on the back of two rejection letters for other pieces) meant more to me than she could have known. If that wasn’t enough the publisher, Donna Ward, emailed me to say: ‘It [‘The Little Things’] was the first on the list Cate sent me and has coloured, favourably, my whole experience of the book, and of life, really.’ Is there any more a writer could possibly hope for?
Australian Love Stories is out in October and features writers like Jon Bauer, Tony Birch, Carmel Bird, Lisa Jacobson, and fellow Long Story Shorts author Leah Swann. Its companion volume, Australian Love Poetry, edited by Mark Tredinnick, did extremely well when it was released earlier this year, so I’m thrilled to be keeping such talented company in the short story volume.
The second story, ‘Travelling Left’, will appear in a new anthology, the Grapple Annual, which is aiming to carve out a niche and reputation much like the Sleepers Almanac. (Lovers of the short form will know how successful Sleepers Publishing’s annual Almanacs have become.) The Grapple Annual is the first publication for Grapple Publishing, a new independent publisher founded by Duncan Felton, who also happens to be one of the Scissors Paper Pen founders, a team that puts on a program of some of the most interesting and dynamic literary events around Canberra.
The Grapple Annual will feature a mix of poetry and fiction, both short and long. It’s often difficult to find a place for longer stories; literary competitions typically require 2-3000 words, and literary journals are similarly inclined. So I was pleased to discover that the Annual was accepting longer pieces because I’d just finished ‘Travelling Left’ (at 5000 words) and was wondering what to do with it. The Annual has a quirky premise—each story represents a date on the calendar and the Annual is aiming to eventually cover every day of the year. I’m glad to be a part of their inaugural line-up because with Felton at the helm I’d lay money the Annual will go gangbusters.
Finally to a story that has already hit the shelves in Meanjin (vol. 72, no. 1, 2014) called ‘The Company of Birds’. Meanjin is one of my favourite literary journals. I love what it does—the mix of essays, fiction, poetry, creative non-fiction, etc—as well as the design and feel of the publication. But it’s more than that. Meanjin was the first major literary journal to publish me. As one of Australia’s oldest and most revered literary journals, I felt I’d hit the jackpot. (I recall there was much celebratory champagne.) Back then Meanjin was publishing themed editions, and my story appeared in ‘Meanjin Does Drugs’. (One to make the parents proud.) Brett Whiteley, who was referenced in my story, ‘Great Pisses of Paris’, featured on the cover. (That story was subsequently included in my collection Two Steps Forward.) This time round Meanjin chose a Katsushika print to accompany ‘The Company of Birds’ without knowing how much I adore his work. Meanjin just gets me!
As for what these three stories are about you’ll have to read them for yourself and make up your own mind. The Meanjin issue is out now in print and also online, so if you fancy a squiz at ‘The Company of Birds’ click here. You’ll have to wait for the other two.
And here’s hoping I get more time this year with some other mad, lovely visitors.