Fruit Bruise Press @ Alt.Fiction

For those of you following the news about Fruit Bruise Press since I first mentioned this new literary imprint for Dog Horn Publishing, this is a quick post to fill you in with some more information and remind you about Alt.Fiction which is coming up in two weeks time.

There is more information about Fruit Bruise Press on the Dog Horn Publishing website now, so please feel free to read more about what we’re looking for the in the way of submissions and what we hope to provide with the writing development and anthology project.

The first outing for Fruit Bruise Press will be at Alt.Fiction on Saturday 14th April. The workshop “Jumping boundaries and breaking rules” will be running from 4-5pm, serving as a taster for what is in store for the future. Based in Leceister over two days for this year, Alt.Fiction is now in it’s sixth year of brilliant events for readers and writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Although Fruit Bruise does not focus on genre specific fiction, we welcome one and all to our workshop to help you find new ways into your writing whatever your background! The team at Dog Horn Publishing will be on our stand over the weekend, so please feel free to drop by and have a chat with us about your work or the DHP books available!

If you’d like to find out more about Fruit Bruise Press, Alt.Fiction and what I’m planning for the workshop, take a look at the interview by Katie Shanks on Left Lion: the home of Nottingham Culture.

A Literary Inquisition

As a writer and editor, I’m sure I’m not alone in wanting to reach out to fellow writers to further educate myself in the craft of writing and publishing; the want and need for learning and further understanding is infectious. We attend seminars, workshops, read books/blogs/general websites.

As a reader, this education continues whether we wish to learn more by exploring unknown genres or subjects, or the simple act of escapism and exploration into new worlds. We often choose what we read dependent on our peer opinion – be that your best friend raving about a book over coffee or a rating on an Amazon suggestion.

With the internet at our fingertips, there is more and more of a chance to reach out to the authors that inspire or interest us. Which is where I come in with this opportunity for someone to awarded with the prize of a beautiful new paperback in return for your literary inquisition.

Vanessa Gebbie‘s debut novel, The Coward’s Tale is being launched in paperback on the 29th March, and she will be taking this tale on a blog tour which will stop here on the 30th March.

The Coward’s Tale is a powerfully imagined, poetic and haunting novel, spiked with humour. It is a story of kinship and kindness, guilt and atonement, and the ways in which we carve the present out of an unforgiving past

Bloomsbury

I’m inviting you, whether you’re a reader, writer or both, to send me your questions which will be answered by Vanessa on the Q&A blog on the 30th March. The most searching question will be picked out by Vanessa and awarded a paperback copy of The Coward’s Tale*, so please get thinking and ask your most burning questions!

  • Send your questions via email to lexi@servicestoliterature.co.uk
  • Leave your question here using the comments section below
  • Feel free to comment/reply to me where the link is shared on FB or Twitter

Vanessa Gebbie is the author of two collections of stories and contributing editor of a creating writing text book. She has won numerous awards – including prizes at Bridport, Fish and the Willesden Herald (the latter judged by Zadie Smith) – for her short fiction. An extract from The Coward’s Tale won the Daily Telegraph ‘Novel in a Year’ Competition.

*Winner will be announced on 30th March 2012

It is always the quiet ones

When someone (or rather a blog) goes quiet on you, it could mean that the author has

  1. fallen off the face of the earth (highly unlikely)
  2. forgotten that they have a website (again, unlikely, but then again, possible)
  3. been concocting mad plans elsewhere (when it comes to literary folk, it’s almost always this)

So, I’m finally back with exciting news about new projects that are forming for 2012!

I’ve been working with Adam and the team at Dog Horn for a little while now, focusing on the more literary works that come our way. Together, we’ve been spending the winter putting together proposals and applications and, well, generally being under the weight of paperwork. However, the best made plans are starting to bear fruit, of the bruised variety!

Fruit Bruise Press will be launched this year (in a more official manner shortly) as an imprint housed by Dog Horn Publishing. Fruit Bruise is a writer development and literature promotion programme dedicated to championing the transgressive, the excluded and the emergent. The focus for 2012 is to run workshops across the country to begin working with new, exciting and hidden voices that are out there hoping to be discovered, with the project culminating in the publication and launch of an anthology.

We’re kicking off the project, with a fantastic slot booked at Alt.Fiction on Saturday 14th April. The workshop “Jumping boundaries and breaking rules: Literary beginnings” will be running from 4-5pm as a taster for what is to come! Based in Leceister over two days for this year, Alt.Fiction is now in it’s sixth year of brilliant events for readers and writers of science fiction, fantasy and horror. Although Fruit Bruise does not focus on genre specific fiction, we welcome one and all to our workshop to help you find new ways into your writing whatever your background! The workshop is included in the cost of the weekend ticket, which if you purchase before the 1st February, it is available for a brilliant early bird offer of £30! There are so many inspiring guests, workshops, panels, and readings on at Alt.Fiction this year, so please check out what else you could be involved with!

There is so much still going on behind the scenes currently, so this is a sneak peek. If you’d like to know more about the Alt.Fiction workshop, or about the projects coming up for Fruit Bruise, please feel free to comment below or contact me at lexi@doghornpublishing.com. There are testimonials available here too if you wish to find out more about the courses and workshops I have previously run.

Dedicated presents

I love receiving books with dedications within them. I recently came across a notebook which had been given to me. I may not have remembered where it had come from as I seem to have a never ending supply of notebooks; some people would think that this is a “problem” but I know I’m not alone. However, this one had a dedication within it with a reminder to keep writing because the gift giver loved my stories. It gave me a renewed sense of belief in my writing; I can’t explain why, the same friend has always expressed interest in my work, however this dated back to a time where I was just in the first throws of my writing development. Perhaps this is why it brings a smile to my face every time I write in it now.

Which brings me to the other kind of book with dedications which I love; secondhand books with dedications to other people within them. Wayne Gooderham has just begun a series of articles for the Guardian, along the lines of his blog, which explore “the secret histories of secondhand books.” This has prompted me to take a look at the secondhand books I have brought over the years, sometimes often chosen by the inscriptions or dedications written inside them. I loved the chance of stumbling across a moment in someone else’s lives and allowing my imagination to run wild over what could have been before the inscription and the journey the book had taken to arrive in my hands. I haven’t owned many that are as descriptive as the ones that Gooderham features, however the subtlety of a name is sometimes enough for a character: The Penguin Book of Women Poets owned by Janet Fraser in 1984; the first collection of Minerva Short Stories, owned by Caroline Goddard at some point in it’s life; the collection of letter from Violet Trefusis to Vita Sackville-West that has poignantly placed post-it notes from another owner and now it has a Lindt rabbit wrapper and a day calendar page in other poignant places from it’s current owner; the Diary of Virginia Woolf with a Ollon to Aigle train ticket from Switzerland from 20th February 1992; the copy of The Hunting of the Snark owned by M. Joan Whitfield in September 1976.

I found a short but intriguing dedication within The Oxford Library of English Poetry – Volume 2 & 3 were simply marked by July 1986, however Volume 1 states:

Welcome home! BK of the Power Club. July ’86

And inside there is a bookmarked poem, Edmund Spenser – The Ruines of Time

Think on that as you will!

As writers, we are always on the look out for inspiration and take it from everyday life and imagined lives, and the book dedication provides both for hungry imaginations. Visit Gooderham’s blog to find even more inspiration, and feel free to share your favourite dedications in the comments: received, given or found!

Facing Constructive Criticism: How do you approach this open door?

Lesson one in any workshop/feedback environment, specifically for me it was first introduced at University, is don’t say the following:
“I like it.” (note full stop)
“It’s nice.” (again with the full stop)
“I wasn’t sure, but I don’t know why.”
We were also advised to avoid aggression. For example, “I hated it” is not a way to start. Criticism and feedback must be constructive although that doesn’t have to be nasty.

As an editor for Dog Horn, there is many a time where I have the realisation of “it’s not working for me” or possibly even a simple “no, not for us” is underlying whilst reviewing a manuscript, however I feel that you should take as much time as you can spare to say why, or suggest other possible routes. This gives the opportunity to not only provide the writer with a new thought process, but also gives yourself the knowledge that the gut felt and often visceral “no” is an action formed on well-rounded thought.

As a writer, I have had the recent experience of opening myself and “my baby” (i.e. the novel) to a situation where a person, who was meant to be enabling my process exploration, was frustrated by my works ideas, characters etc that I was attempting to explain. Instead of providing feedback that was measured or balanced, it was simply started that my ideas would not work, and the group moved onwards. During the conversation I had the mind to understand that they were coming from a different background, and perhaps didn’t understand the complexities I was trying to open, not being a formula-led writer. I also knew that I had to get to know my novel a little better as it was still in a very raw draft stage. This on the spot criticism is also something which many authors endure from peers, critics, publishers etc. I had not realised how thick-skinned I am, which was a comfort, but also that I was able to rationalise the position of both the critique and the work. This isn’t something I’ve generally done before, and I know plenty of writers who don’t either.

Later, I was sought out by fellow writers in the group, who wanted to ensure I was okay. It was endearing and supportive and I found myself almost blasé about the situation, however it was worth knowing that I wasn’t the only one that felt the critique misplaced or abrupt. Following the earlier interaction, I had the opportunity to receive feedback from another writer who in theory was just as honest as the first but gave thought out, structured criticism that enabled me to move forward into a new direction. As far as I can see, honesty of this type is invaluable and it’s something I feel should always be given.

In a recent survey in Mslexia*, although “a sizeable majority (66 per cent) were hungry for feedback, 50 per cent also felt ‘exposed’ when showing their work, because their writing ‘feels like part of myself.'”

However, because of this perhaps,”most women take great pains to be tactful: 61 per cent said they’d try to balance negative with positive comments when giving feedback on a poor piece of writing; one in eight confessed to stretching the truth in an attempt to say something nice – and one in four overlook the problems altogether and focus only on the positive aspects of the work.”

Mslexia asks if this is a good or bad thing, I’d be inclined to say that honesty is the best policy with practise. I’ve always positioned myself as a “blunt” editor, but that straightforward attitude should be seen as a skill rather than brick to hit the piece of work or indeed the writer with! I’d love to know what you think to how criticism should be provided; brick through the window, ring the bell and run away, or perhaps knock on the door for a chat?

*With thanks to Mslexia; survey info taken from Issue 52, page 21.