The Big Issue fiction edition 2016

Very excited that my piece ‘The Smell of Her Perfume’ is first cab off the rank in this year’s The Big Issue Fiction Edition. I attended the launch yesterday where fellow contributor Miles Allinson was part of a panel alongside TBI editor Amy Hetherington and books editor Thuy On, chaired by State Library of Victoria CEO Kate Torney. At one point Miles talked about how much harder it is writing short stories than it is writing novels. At this I was nodding so voraciously and unequivocally that my head detached from my neck and rolled across the floor, resting by the stage where it continued to blink in vigorous agreement.*

Short stories are so difficult to master. I say this as someone who has in no one way mastered them. To me, novels are so much more forgiving in that they allow far more time and space to build your characters, create opportunities for them to connect with readers, and to map out their journeys and struggles and realisations. You can forgive a boring paragraph in a novel but they absolutely destroy a short story. Short stories, by their…short…nature, demand connectivity with the reader immediately and are far less merciful. Every sentence – every word – is precious and important, and can make or break the story. It is so so easy to write terrible short stories. I would know. I do know. This is one of the things I know so so well. My man friend has very clear and specific instructions on how immediately following my demise he is to destroy my large cache of failed short stories in an extremely thorough bonfire so that no one can ever set eyes on them. This is my bonfire of the vanities, if you will, though less to do with sin and more to do with my pride and literary vanity.

I feel like I need to write around ten truly terrible short stories in order to salvage one half decent one from the weary rubble of my creativity. And I can never tell at the beginning which this story will be. The one in TBI came about in a single afternoon after I gave up working on a different story that was refusing to be wrenched into existence and had been battling me for weeks. ‘The Smell of Her Perfume’ is the tiniest fraction of a real memory – my mother’s perfume as she carried me home one moonless night – spun into an entirely new beginning and middle. It is simple, raw and brief, and I’m terribly proud of it, though I’ve really no idea where it came from. And I’m terribly chuffed to see it in such a tremendous magazine.

*This actually happened. **
** No it didn’t.

words and saying them

Sometimes when reading aloud I kind of drift off into the forest of my brain and become distracted by thoughts such as ‘why does my voice sound weird?’ and ‘why am I slightly out of breath?’ and ‘if I base my dinner around potatoes tonight is it wrong to eat hot chips at lunch?’ I’m sure at these times my face falls into blank, expressionless repose and my voice loses all cadence, but I wouldn’t know as I’m miles away at this point.

With this in mind, why not come hear me read at tomorrow’s Willy Lit Fest? If anything, you can watch carefully for the glint in my eyes when my mind finally settles on thoughts of hot chips. Susan Pyke and Alexis Drevikovsky, on the other hand, are gorgeous readers to observe, so you really can’t go wrong.

more book 2 (though not as much as I’d like)

This post is all about twos:

  • This is my second attempt at blogging more.
  • At this rate, I will have managed two blog posts this month.
  • This is twice the number I managed in the previous month.
  • This afternoon I have had two attempts at getting my Persian cardamom-pistachio butter fudge to set but have probably boiled it for too long or too little, at too high or too low a heat, and it is taking too much time to set. I will probably nevertheless eat it too quickly with a spoon from the pan because though soft, it is too delicious to waste.
  • This endeavour has been my main effort to procrastinate from working on book 2, of which I am currently convinced I am plagued by the infamous second album curse because it is Just. Not. Happening.
  • In response to aforementioned frustration at being cursed, I read this article on Brain Pickings because I thought it would make me feel better. It didn’t. I don’t know why I thought reading something Hemingway-related would leave me feeling better. Because I thought I might have missed something, I read it a second time, and finished even more certain that book 2 will turn me into a version of Salieri in this scene.
  • Here is what is happening with book 2:
    • My Brain: Ok, so this character is going to make this grand entrance and immediately steal the show.
    • What Gets Typed: Barry walked into the room and sat in the chair.
    • MB: Hmm, not exactly what I hoped for. Let’s try for improvements.
    • WGT: Barry walked slowly into the room and sat in the empty chair.
    • MB: Is it not implied that the chair is empty? Is Barry the kind of character that would sit down in an occupied chair? Is Barry a lap sitter?
    • WGT: Barry walked slowly and purposefully into the empty room and sat in the chair. Alone. Barry was all alone. Like Hemingway.
    • MB: … we’re cutting Barry.
  • Now I am going to continue my procrastination by tending to the Abgoosht I am cooking – the second Iranian dish I have made in my procrastination pursuits today.

Is this a possible sneak preview of what’s to come? Could my second book feature one or more Iranian characters? Find out more in the next or subsequent blog posts… duh duh duuuuuuuh!