All posts by Susan Pieters

Recipe for Writing (aka How to Bake a Perfect Muse Retreat)

Take one part beautiful island in BC (I recommend Bowen Island, the birthplace of Pulp Literature) and one part historic lodgings and add a gourmet chef with a laid-back personality. Mix well.

In a separate bowl, combine eight writers with different styles, preferably from a variety of locations. (This year’s combination of writers from the East and West coasts lent a tangy flavour and I’d advise repeating this balance of flavours).

Set the timer for one hour, five times during the course of the weekend. (Yes, we wrote five sessions and not only had time to read out our works to each other, but fit in a critique session as well).

Garnish with praise and encouragement and honest admiration for each other’s talents. Serve with a warm heart, and enjoy for the rest of the year.  And share this recipe with others, because next year will come again faster than you think!

Next year’s Muse retreat is pencilled in for the 12th – 14th of January.

old dorm

Dear Muse

musefinalbwDear Muse, thank you for showing up at our retreat on Bowen Island. Just when I thought I had no more words to write, you rescued me and my manuscript.  I don’t think Superman has better timing.  I hope I don’t come that close to crashing before our next retreat.

Dear Muse, I also want to say it was a nice touch to expand my horizons in the way you did. The selection of people at our table was like a vase of flowers with eight very different varieties in bloom. To see the contrast in our voices, yet to affirm each other in our different styles, brought health and a sturdy platform of confidence to my writing. Together we were stronger. Support is such an important part of long term success as a writer.  Thanks.IMG_0128

breakfast 2Dear Muse, I’d also like to thank you for the food.  I don’t usually get such careful cuisine for so many meals in a row.  Or even one meal in a row.  I felt the respect and craft that was put into the cooking seep into my body like some physical artistic elixer.  And that didn’t even include the wine.  I guess you are the Muse of chefs, too, aren’t you?  And the Muse of bubble baths.  And that was also a lovely walk through the snowy forest.

Dear Muse, please help me to remember how great this retreat was when I get discouraged later this year.  Remind me that such places and spaces exist still inside myself.  And when more opportunities come, let me grab hold of them and say yes.  Saying yes was important.

Sincerely yours,

Sue

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8 Reasons to enter the SiWC Writing Contest!

Siwc

  1. At $15 (Canadian dollars) it’s about the cheapest contest around, yet has a $1000 prize.
  2. The winner and runner-up are offered publication in Pulp Literature alongside our 2017 feature authors!
  3. Did I mention the $1000 prize? (about $775 USD)
  4. You’ll ensure you write a finished story by the Friday, September 23rd deadline!
  5. The dozen or so shortlisted authors will be read by Diana Gabaldon and Jack Whyte, and that in itself is a reward.
  6. You’ve got good odds.  Despite the high award amount, this isn’t a well-known contest.   As far as I know, they place no paid advertisements and don’t put listings on free sites.  So lucky you for reading this blog post!
  7. Did I mention the $1000 prize?  (No wait, that’s now $800 USD…)
  8. You’ll be joining forces with a spectacular community of writers.  The “Surrey Conference” is known as the friendliest writing conference in North America, for good reason.  We highly recommend it!   (If you’re considering attending, hurry to sign up! They’ve almost sold out!)
    SiWC 2016 Contest Guidelines here!

 

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Meet the Judge: Bob Thurber

Pulp Literature invites short story writers from around the globe to enter our Hummingbird Flash Fiction Prize.  It’s a humdinger of a contest,  judged by one of the sharpest pens on the planet, Bob Thurber.

Nothing But TroubleBob’s a short story writer’s short story writer, yet his works could be printed on the backs of beer cans to make you laugh. (Hey, now there’s a good marketing idea…) His flash fiction frequently wins online kudos at 50-Word Stories and his story collections are available on Amazon. His gritty novel Paperboy is being re-released this month by popular demand.  Bob’s stories have been printed in issue 3 and issue 6 of Pulp Literature, and he’s agreed to be our feature author for Issue 12.  (Yeah, we’re fans.)

Bob has blogged advice about the “Anatomy of a MicroFiction” on his website, but we thought it better advertising to just give you a taste of his own medicine:

Guillotine Guys
The guillotine guys handed out silk neckties and scarfs to the men and jeweled necklaces to the women. These items had belonged to previous prisoners. To the families they sold Band-Aids and iodine, steel needles and surgical thread, all in a boxed set with a pamphlet full of bad advice.hummingbird5

Think you can do better? Don’t let Bob have the last word! Get those contest entries in to us ASAP.  $300 goes to the best short fiction we can find, up to 1000 words. The deadline is June 15th, but entries are limited to 300, so get yours in now.  Enter the Contest Here!

What’s the Buzz?

bumblebee1Microfiction is the grey zone between poetry and prose, in my books. It all depends on how you read your words.  Do you memorize the lines and slam them from a stage?  Then it’s poetry.  If you write with your own blood and slip the page under the door of your ex-wife?  Then it’s flash fiction, or micro if you’ve restrained yourself (or run out of blood).

Microfiction is ambivalent, is cross-genre, is both/and.  It’s like the fuzzy cuddly bumblebee that could, of course, sting you and kill you if you are allergic.  Bumblebees usually don’t, but they could; they are built better than honey bees, and don’t die after they sting.  So humans have the option of killing the poor insect first, squishing it to mushed proteins on a sidewalk.  Or you can do what my local librarian has done, and tattoo the little critter on your arm. Bob Thurber

All this is to say, we’re open for entries for our Bumblebee Microfiction Contest until February 1, 2016. If you want to brush up on the jewels of the genre, look no further; our final judge Bob Thurber is an acknowledged master of the craft, and you can see his delicate gems in Pulp Literature Issue 6, online at 50 Word Stories, and through his Amazon books.

Th51UBPQnoHgL._AC_UL115_is contest is free. In addition to a full year print subscription of Pulp Literature, the winner will receive a personally signed copy of Nickel Fictions by Bob Thurber.  It that doesn’t sound like honey for the soul, not sure what will.

Pushcart Picks

At the end of our second year of publishing, we look back at 2015 and admire the works we have printed.  It’s a bit like when I tucked my kids into bed, and thought, what amazing creatures.   That lasted about two minutes, then I went back in and told them to go to sleep.  Fortunately, our four volumes of stories are much better behaved than my children, alice_munro_stampalthough some of the works are trying to creep off the shelves and earn international recognition …

It is my pleasure to announce five writers nominated by Pulp Literature for a Pushcart Prize, in an envelope mailed with three Alice Munro stamps for good luck.  Our nominations:

Rob Taylor, Hummingbird Award Winner,  ‘Here I Lay Down my Heart’ – Issue 5

Kate Austin,  ‘Wax-Winged Icarus’ –  Issue 6

Bob Thurber, ‘Beauty Takes Care of Itself’, and ‘The Manufacturing of Sorrow’ Issue 6

Wally Swist, ‘What is Essential’ – Issue 7

Diane Tucker, Magpie Poetry Winner, ‘Cafe Petirossa’ – Issue 8

Congratulations to all our nominees.  We hope those visiting our website will have their curiousity piqued and venture to read some of these favourites.  In every issue, there are more treasures to be had and more nominations we wished to make, were we allowed a greater limit.

Black Book Friday

This year, I’m putting my money where my mouth is.  Or where my pen is.  This year, I’m only giving gifts that are locally sourced and produced, artisan gifts from people whose hands I can see and possibly have shaken, products which support the literary community to which I belong.  Yes, I’m giving about everyone I know a copy of Pulp Literature, or Mel’s wonderful collection of illustrations, Colouring Paradise.Colouring book

Black Friday is the day most North Americans head to the mall (my husband spells that “maul”) to go into debt, forking over money which often leaves the country, for products which will be obsolete in a few years.  We humbly suggest buying small and buying local, buying intelligently and artistically, buying to sustain the professions that require patronage in our own front yards.

When you purchase a copy of Pulp Literature, you support a registered Canadian Non-Profit that returns 100% of proceeds towards the content creators.  You also purchase hours of entertainment that will linger in your mind satisfactorily, appreciate gracefully on your bookshelf, and add no calories whatsoever.

The best part?  Our books can be mailed as gifts on your behalf to friends anywhere in the world by Christmas … no maul required.

Order Colouring Paradise, Pulp Literature and other gifts here!

Pulp Literature Year 1 & 2

What Happens on Friday

Jen has stayed up late, turning Thursday night into Friday morning, counting the last contest entries, putting them in spreadsheets so all three editors can read them blind.  It’s been a good day for stories. Then Mel shows up, her emails say three am our time but it’s nearly noon in England.  She uploads a new drawing as well as illustrations for a colouring book idea we’re discussing.  Continue reading

Do No Harm

smallpenandinkWhen physicians swear to uphold the tenets of the Hippocratic Oath, they understand the principle of “Do no harm.”  When a patient sees a doctor, the last thing they need is treatment which worsens their illness or adds a complication.  But in the literary world of editing, there is no Hippocratic Oath.  Many editors and story doctors will hire out their services, happily taking a writer’s money in exchange for a critique that cuts deep into a story’s gut, digs around, and comes back up with a small lump while the patient bleeds out on the table.

Why this word of caution today?  I’ve been researching for my upcoming workshop on editing for the Vancouver School of Writing, and while some of the editing services I’ve seen look legit, many of them are run by people without credentials who are looking for money.  As in the days of old, there is always a charlatan to prey upon the naïve.  Editors without scruples will give you lots of advice, quote a library of how-to books, and place a burden on the writer’s shoulders that Atlas himself couldn’t lift.  Many writers leave in despair, not sure where to begin to revise, not sure if they should try.  It is literary euthanasia, yet no writer intentionally hires a story doctor for the purpose of putting his novel out of its misery.

If you hire an editor, make sure that they can actually help you.  Make sure that they believe your story is worthy of being told, of being born.  Make sure they have references from writers who have survived the operation table.  Look for credentials in the areas that you need help with, whether it be precise proofreading or big-picture structural editing.  Make sure the editor sees something positive in your writing before you proceed.  Bad critiquing is easy;  helpful critiquing is harder. In order for an editor or a doctor to accurately assess where the illness resides, they must also understand what health looks like and help move you towards higher possibilities.  A good editor doesn’t just hate on a story, they also have hope for it and see its strengths.

sue 3Watch out there, fellow writers.  Hire your editor carefully, and don’t give your money to someone so they can just stick a knife in your back.

Sue is Pulp Literature’s Acquisition editor.  To register for her course on hiring editors and self-editing go to the Vancouver School of Writing website.

Do, Don’t Think

I have “Do, don’t think,” written on a post-it perched by my computer screen.  My note has two applications.  When I’m trying to get through a first draft, it reminds me that I shouldn’t try and overthink while I compose.  It’s meant to encourage my fingers to keep typing my draft rather than pausing to consider what comes next … a long pause that requires me to fill up my tea cup … where was I?

My post-it applies to my second draft and editing process as well. The crux of most MFA programs is, “Show, don’t tell.” This mantra used to confuse me, because all storytelling is, by definition, telling.  It makes more sense to me to say, “Describe, don’t explain.”   When you describe details, you enter the realm of the physical, and we all know that action speaks louder than interior monologue.  My post-it says, “Do, don’t think,” because that’s how I need my characters to behave.  When my novel’s protagonist offers a drink to an alcoholic king, tension ensues.  To have her explain or think during this exchange would be to ruin the moment, and would insult the reader’s intelligence.  It would also mean I didn’t set up the situation properly in the preceding chapters, through physical descriptions and earlier conflicts.

Is there an exception to this writing rule?  As Bob Mayer says, one should always understand the rules before breaking them.  There are writers who command such a forceful voice that they can carry off a reversal, carrying us through a long passage of thoughtful narrative, reflecting on important backstory or analysis of other characters.  These narrators successfully “Think, don’t do,” because their situation calls out — screams out — for them to act.  In The Remains of the Day, when a butler called Stevens describes Darlington Hall in great detail, he is missing the crucial details which prevent his correct action.  When a justice-seeking Hamlet pauses his sword,  and reckons that a delay in his uncle’s execution will ensure his uncle goes to hell, the audience should be drawing in breath waiting for the inevitable result.  When Nick Carraway observes the parties at Gatsby’s, when the second Mrs de Winter thinks through her decision to wear Rebecca’s gown, when Elizabeth Bennett wrestles with her scruples and then holds her tongue about Mr Wickham … You get the idea.  Only think, only hold back on the action, if it creates tension and builds conflict.

And now, fellow scribblers, it’s time for me to stop thinking so I can go do the writing.