Friday 2 April 2010

Weekly News 2 April

Short Circuit Review
A lovely new unsolicited review for Short Circuit, from a Richard Hallows who runs a website and a publishing venture for short stories, and a competition for them too – called Spike the Cat, HERE.
Not only has he left a marvellous review of Short Circuit on his site, he also copied it to Amazon UK. Thank you, Spike the Cat. He says:
“I really can't recommend this book highly enough. I started carrying it round with me and taking it in the car so I could keep reading it. (When parked I hasten to add.) It is that good...”
Check out the link for the rest of the review.

The Fiction Workhouse
This time, the Fiction Workhouse site, complete with all the craft libraries and discussion places, is home to 28 undergraduate students from the English Dept of Stockholm University. It was good to fill the place again. Some neat flash writing has filled the forum with fresh ideas and connections, ready for more formal activities to come, in preparation for my two week stint over there in a few weeks time.

ACE grant.
I had a second meeting with my mentor Maggie Gee, on 22nd March, in London. I know where I am going with the rewrite now, and value her input and thoughts immensely. Those who know me well know I was trying to finish this piece of work for my father- who was brought up in the town in which it is set - to see it published. He has been a great supporter through thick and thin. A gentle, but tough individual now aged 94. Sadly, his toughness is escaping him. He has been diagnosed with short term memory loss, which is unlikely to get better and is causing him and us, great distress. He also has what might be an unforgiving medical condition.
I have had to make some difficult decisions – which in the end, are not difficult at all.
I have called a halt to the rewrite, have stopped most writing activities for the first time in eight years – bar encouragement for the Stockholm students and some accepted invitations - and have written to the ACE to keep them informed. Cancelling the visit to Anam Cara was the only very hard thing I had to do.
It is odd not being a writer any more, for the moment. I am wandering around a bit aimlessly, feeling blank. A writer has to be someone who writes…not someone who thinks about it.

The sweetest rejection...
In case readers of this little blogette think friends in this writing world publish each other willy nilly, which lots do, sadly, it is not always like that, me dears. I had the sweetest rejection today, from the lovely Tania Hershman, fiction editor of Southword.

Lecture, Sussex University.
I have already written the lecture I will be giving to the students at Sussex University later on in May – in case things get more awkward round here. I decided to talk about the real need for contradiction, inspired by Ali Smith and Jackie Kay’s quote:
“A writer needs self confidence and self doubt in the same measure.”

Cultural Tourism/Writing Other
The topic rolls on, in the comments on the post under this one. It seems a balanced debate – until you realise that it isn’t. And probably, it will never be allowed to be such.

Thanks to the younger son who looked after his Gramps here in Sussex by the Sea, we went to the D Day Beaches last week accompanied by Col (Ret’d) Michael Bradley, of the Green Howards. Three days of visits to all the beaches, to iconic places like Pegasus Bridge and CafĂ© Gondree (where we had lunch with Mme Arlette Gondree, who was 4 in June 1944), to the cemeteries – Commonwealth, German and American (and noted such vast differences in our approaches to war dead…). But the highlights have to be those moments when Mike took us to farms, fields, copses and ditches, and described exactly what happened there. In that exact spot. By this tree. Including the exploits of Stan Hollis, the only VC of D Day. Marvellous.


Minnie said...

Thank you for taking the time and trouble to post this update, Vanessa. Roses in among the thorns ... When you do get back to your writing - as you will - I have no doubt it will flow more freely than ever before. But in the meantime, best wishes, virtual hugs & bon courage, Miffuf! xx

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Seems important, Mynne, my friend. At the mo. it seems this is the end of something, but that's probably just a real low mood response speaking...

Sheenagh Pugh said...

That rejection didn't by any chance say she loved it but it didn't quite fit with the others she'd chosen, did it? Cos another friend of mine just posted about what a nice rejection she'd just had from her along those lines...

Vanessa Gebbie said...

We need to be grateful, your friend and I, that T cares enough to word the rejections decently. It all boils down to the same in the end, ie 'I'm not going to publish this piece', but I appreciate the thought!

Tania Hershman said...

V, a mixed bag of news but at least there is good amongst the more difficult. I feel very odd that I am being mentioned here as the one "rejecting" - it's my first time in that position, and I have sent out every rejection of the over 180 I had to send with a heavy heart, knowing exactly how it feels to receive it. I do hope that I managed to word it better than some I have received and truly did mean what I said about feeling privileged to have been given these precious stories to read. Sheenagh, that was an honest comment about the stories "fitting" in some way, that is how I have chosen to see my task in this one-off guest-editing role at Southword. I wanted to find six pieces that I felt in my gut said something together as well as separately. Therefore I had to turn down stories that I really enjoyed but that just didn't feel right together with the others. I have received rejections like this too, and they always made me feel rather better about it. But I didn't just say it to make anyone feel better. It's true.

Vanessa Gebbie said...

Hi T

it was a lovely rejection! And I meant it. Thank you for taking such care over the words, and hats off. You're doing a fine job, the pieces you choose will have earned their place, and I can't wait to read the issue when it comes out.
Look forward to seeing you, hopefully, now I'm not going to ireland, on Sat next at Willesden party.

Sheenagh Pugh said...

I'm sure it was, Tania, it just struck me as funny that two of my friends had commented on the same thing! It just shows, I think, how grateful writers are for any feedback, which they often don't get.

Julia Bohanna said...

Vanessa, you may not consider that you are a writer physically at the moment but that is only pen and ink stuff. You will always be writing in your head, finding things in moments of reverie, stumbling across characters that will be mentally filed. Then, when it's time, it will gush forth.

Tania, I can't imagine how difficult that type of role is - especially when you know the writers. But rejections are in shades - the darkest being the most impersonal. Yours will be sunny yellow - despite their context - crafted with concern and care.

Vanessa, you are doing a valuable job with your father. I can understand entirely all the complications and frustrations of caring - as I lived with my parents while my mother looked after my paraplegic father. Most difficult job of all.

Thinking of you.

Tim Love said...

My father's had a heart attack looking after my demented mother. My wife's a neuropsychologist and wants to try out some new quiz tests she's developing - on me, "just to get some baseline measurements". I've recently finished reading "The Story of Forgetting" by Stefan Merrill Block (who isn't a cultural tourist - see his websites, bookgroup guides, etc). The most recent Alaska Quarterly Review I read had 13 stories, 4 of which featured old people mostly with memory problems. New Scientist seems to have articles each week (most recently about a gene that boosts IQ when you're young but causes dementia later). It's everywhere. So much so that at least one editor is fed up with the subject. I'm not writing about it, but that's nothing compared to what Vanessa's doing. I've done the odd day of care. After a while maybe it gets easier. I've alway been bad with names. Good luck.