Category Archives: Editorial

Everything Changes in Publishing. Thank Goodness.

Everything changes in this world of writing and publishing.  The truth remains: there’s never been a better time to write and publish.  We’re told the opposite, of course. However, if you drive your time machine back thirty years or eighty years, you’ll hear the same old discouraging comments.  I’m convinced that could one accompany Louisa May Alcott to her first interviews with publishers, we’d hear them say that it’s all much harder now than it used to be.

Changes Past

Penguin Books have always been my publishing heroes.  Nearly anything they publish is worth reading, and if I ever in my life threw one of their paperbacks across the room, it was only to utter a heartfelt, Damn, I’ll never write that well.  And then pick it up again. (And vow to try until my dying day to write that well).

Changes Bring Opportunity

When Penguin started out, with the idea of getting excellent books out for sale for the same price as ten cigarettes, the naysayers had a lot to say.  “Nobody will stock paperback reprints, for they are useless, grubby, dog-eared calumnies of paper and card,” they sang.  (I paraphrase).  Naysayers predicted rapid failure.  Penguin smiled and sent a young staffer to the Regents Park Zoo, where he drew the first penguin logo.  A decade later this same staffer captained a WW2 submarine and wrote about it (grippingly), and Penguin published that book as their thousandth paperback.

Changes Within Our Control

All times are great times to be a writer, because it’s not about the era.  It’s about the attitude.

I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel

Mel Anastasiou writes The Fairmount Manor Mysteries series, starring Mrs Stella Ryman, The Hertfordshire Pub Mysteries series, starring Spencer Stevens, and is Acquisitions Editor with Pulp Literature Press.

If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires you through 30 days of hints and help with narrative structure. Coming soon, The Writer’s Friend and Confidante: Thirty Days of Narrative Achievement. Designed with Nanowrimo in mind, but works any thirty days you’ve got.

From Pulp Literature Press

 

On Storytelling Excellence.

I’m reading some great novel submissions to Pulp Literature Press these days, and reflecting upon excellence in storytelling.

Indicators of Excellence

Great storytellers

  • build upon structural understandings and storytelling gifts, the way GRR Martin sets up his huge cast of characters in triangles.
  • develop central and supporting characters that are true to themselves. Robert Ludlum brings his acting experience to the creation of villains who believe in their own struggles.
  • create settings that ground us in imagined worlds, whether fantastic or mundane. For example, in Emma Donoghue’s novel Room, four walls are a child’s universe.

Further Marks of Excellence

These gifted storytellers also

  • develop worlds through philosophical and insider knowledge, the way Robert Heinlein employs both his background in engineering and work in philosophy and values, good and evil.
  • transform character through hard decisions and sacrifice. LOTR. Say no more.
  • gift us with moments of intense beauty and personal resonance, that remind us what our character is struggling to maintain and create. For, what would Narnia be without its many moments of intense beauty, to remind us why these children raise swords against their enemies?

It seems a lot of excellence to bear in mind. Still, we do exactly that every day in our work. All these skills come to us hot from the furnace of intense interest in our craft, alongside our love of books we’ve read, affection for our own characters, even the baddies, and a desire to be the best storyteller we can be. We do all this for our readers, so that they too will look up from our books, the way we look up from others’, to say I’ll be there in a minute, I just have to finish this chapter.

 I hope you’ll have another brilliant week in your writing career. Cheers Mel


If you enjoy reading Mel Anastasiou’s writing tips, get her pocket-sized writing guide, The Writer’s Boon Companion: Thirty Days Towards an Extraordinary Volume, here. Motivates, organizes, encourages, inspires you through 30 days of hints and help with narrative structure.

From Pulp Literature Press

Here’s Why We Hope You’ll Subscribe: Superb Stories and a Noble Enterprise

With the whole great world of publishing at your fingertips, we hope you’ll choose to subscribe to Pulp Literature. We work hard to get you the best storytelling around, and to keep our philosophy rooted in integrity, keeping true to our goals and our promises to you, our readers, authors, and artists.

Our editorial goal is to put together a gorgeous magazine bursting with intriguing tales for you, our faithful readers.

Our business goal is to become the first literary magazine to sustain itself on subscriptions from satisfied customers.

Our employment goal is to pay higher and higher per-word and per-page rates to our authors and artists as our subscription list grows.

With three days left in our Something Novel campaign, we wish you warm spots to read and put your feet up, the most comfortable of seating, and a happy reading experience this winter, and through the year. Thanks for your readership and support.

Mel & Jen

The Brilliant Hummingbirds

We are delighted to announce the winners of the 2016 Hummingbird Prize for Flash Fiction, as chosen by the master of flash himself, Bob Thurber.  Here is what Bob has to say about the finalists:

hummingbirdissue7Nice job, all of you. A superior batch of finalists. I enjoyed so many of them.  Here are my final selections

Winner:
‘Xuefei and his Heart’ by Rebecca Wurtz
for its solid writing and wonderfully intriguing surreality

First Runner-up:
‘Painted Nails’ by Jenna Park
for its painful voice and understatement

Second Runner-up:
‘Scathed’ by Holly Woodward
for its wild energy and insistence

As always with these contests the senior editors indulge themselves by honouring an additional story that caught their eyes.  This year the Editor’s Pick is ‘Better Watch Out’ by Anna Belkine.

The winner and first runner-up will be published in Pulp Literature Issue 13, Winter 2017, and we hope to find space for the second runner-up and Editor’s Pick in that or future issues.

Thanks once more to Bob Thurber for taking on the judging, and congratulations to these brilliant writers!

Jen, Mel & Sue
Pulp Literature Press

 

 

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Transitions in Storytelling: Milestones and Memories

hand and pencilI’m reading a social history of the UK in the 1950s, Family Britain, which in the hands of a lesser writer might read like a list.  First rationing loosened, then Churchill was re-elected, and then television began its overtake of radio in the UK.  Author David Kynaston works with a rich and detailed treasure chest of journal entries, memoirs, and interviews.  But even these would not be enough to deserve the Spectator’s review: “Kynaston is the most entertaining historian alive.”  And that’s a great reason for us storytellers to look with care at this non-fiction writer’s craft.

One of Kynaston’s many strengths is the expert and inspired use of transitions between milestones, memories, and public and private reactions. He connects these with his readership through emotional resonance, so that although we read his book to learn facts, we find instead we’ve learned to care about the many small transformations that add up to that particular era’s journey. His craft is well worth studying for fiction writers.

I note with admiration the way he sets us deeply into the moment through transition and a feel for the weather following a journal entry on a Coronation day memory, when the diarist and her sister happened by Buckingham Palace late Coronation night and witnessed the new Queen’s unscheduled balcony appearance. “And then by Jove they came out, the Queen and the Duke, and they didn’t hurry back in either. We were transported… marvelling at our luck.”

Kynaston writes, “Whether on that Tuesday itself, or the dryer days after, Coronation celebrations took many forms … but the most emblematic celebration, the one closest to most people’s sense of what was fit and proper, was the street party, primarily but not exclusively for the children.”

With that transition from grownup joy, through the weather troubles that resonate with us all, and into the celebrations afterwards – wow, lovely, for the children, of course I’d get involved – Kynaston makes connections that at 60 years distance still involve us deeply.  When I read that East London dads gave up their Friday pints for a few extra shillings for this party, I want to clap them on the back.  Now, when Kynaston says that trestle tables were set up, we see the cost for some.  Was it worth it, for those children?  Did the young ones appreciate it?

His transition from the tables to a young girl looking down at them, up past her bedtime, makes it personal.  Her dad, her memoir tells us, “who was more than a little drunk, spied me at the window. ‘Gi’us a song, Marie, hen,” he called out. I started singing In a Golden Coach…There’s a heart of gold, That belongs to you and me…

“That,” added Lulu, “was my first public appearance.”

For those of us who remember Lulu, Kynaston has again connected our past to this past, and since we really care, he can go on, certain of our attention, to explain exactly how the street parties were organized.

Family Britain is thick as a brick, not a word out of place, a superb work from which to study transitions, and anyway I can’t put it down.

Family Britain 1951-57 David Kynaston. Bloomsbury, London. 2009.

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 What Happens on Friday

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.

The Value of Feedback

Writers love feedback.  No, let me clarify: Good writers love feedback.  I have just finished sending out critiques for Hummingbird contest entrants who paid an extra $15 to get comments back.  In addition to the magazine earning some spare change in the process, we’ve also earned deep thanks from most of the writers.  To quote one author, “I can’t thank you enough for your kind words and thoughtful, measured critique … your feedback really does help me see how it can be the best version of itself.”

I get rather chuffed about this kind of thanks.  (Translation of ‘chuffed’ for North Americans: very pleased indeed.)  In fact, it’s rather addicting.  When we began sending out rejections two years ago, I took pains to write a personal note to each author, giving a bit of a reason for the rejection, or a tip on how to improve the story.  I often received notes of  thanks.

Those days are over.  Until now, I’ve been able to review every comment from every slushpile reader and moderate every response that gets sent out to our loyal submitters.  I’ve enjoyed making friends along the way.  But the price to the magazine has been high.  It has taken long hours to sift so carefully through every submission — time that could be better spent on workshops, marketing, and editing our accepted content.

For this reason I regret to say we will no longer be giving personal feedback with every submission. This means the editors will have more time to do higher level editing, writing, and promotion for the magazine.  It also means that authors who would like feedback from an editor have a choice of paying the extra fee during our contests, or outright hiring us, with proceeds going to the coffers of our non-profit press.  We also have the fabulous Brewer award level on our Patreon page that lets writers get 20 pages of critique every three months.

sue 3Thanks for making me chuffed!

Susan Pieters is our acquisitions and developmental editor.  She looks forward to the next round of submissions, which is opening soon!

Pulp Literature Granted Non-Profit Status

bedside readingWe’re happy to announce that Pulp Literature Press has been awarded Canadian Not-For-Profit status. This accurately reflects our mandate of putting payments to authors and artists first.   As publishers, we are proud of the high ethical standards this requires of us.  Our mandate and priority is to put creators first and we’ve discovered this is the best way to build a community of trust where the highest quality of art can be produced.  Have a read for yourself, sample an e-book and discover one of the most beautifully designed anthologies on the market — and all for the price of a beer!