May 2, 2017

Linda Field puts her back into it

If I could choose between a curt “no” and a lengthy rejection, it wouldn’t be an easy choice. With no information, I can make up my own explanation for why something was rejected. When it’s laid out in great detail, there’s no way to avoid the occasionally baffling or infuriating reasons for rejection. Linda’s analysis of my not-ready-for-prime-time novel was not a fun read, but it accurately hit a number of points that I’ll have to address if I’m ever going to get it together as a novelist. I consider my short stories to be concise and focused, but as Linda said, when it comes to this novel, “there is a lot going on, but nothing much happens.” Six years after I had abandoned the novel, I read through it again and found it had not aged well. For a guy who prides himself on quality control, I was disappointed to realize it was released before it was ready. As an admittedly weak defense, the novel was completed under some time pressure. I was excited about the possibility of publishing my novel with a major house, and that excitement overrode my usual process of a ridiculous number of revisions in […]
April 11, 2017

Reneé Bibby and the land of open carry

Reneé Bibby is the director of The Writers Studio Tucson, where she teaches advanced and beginner creative writing workshops. Her work has appeared in PRISM International, Thin Air, Third Point Press, The Worcester Review, and Wildness. She is contributing editor at the Wilds. OM:  While other creative writing schools rely on individual instructors to set up course structure, The Writers Studio method directs students to attempt a range of narrative voices and styles, clarifying their own unique voices in the process. Having a set method leads to consistency, but is something lost if instructors don’t have total freedom regarding course work? RB:  At the Writers Studio Tucson, we are asking students to practice narrative voice and styles. It’s the equivalent of the music student mastering scales, the art student spending hours on figure drawing. We want students to have such a firm grounding in the fundamentals that they feel equipped to create their best work. There’s a strange mythos in American culture that a novel or story springs fully formed from the writer, but there’s a lot of “grunt work,” so to speak. Hours honing craft. Even Picasso studied figure drawing. There is space in the world for classes […]
March 21, 2017

High kicks in the bathroom with Richard Kelly Kemick

Richard Kelly Kemick’s poetry and prose have been published in magazines and journals across Canada and the United States. His debut collection of poetry, Caribou Run, was published March 2016 and selected by CBC as one of the season’s Must Read Collections. He won a National Magazine award in 2016 for One-of-a-Kind feature. OM: Judging from your website, it looks like you’ve put together a massive list of publishing credits in a short period of time. When did you first publish? What was your first publication credit? How did you react to the news? RK: My first publishing credit came in 2013(ish) in QWETRY. I remember jumping up and down on the faux-hardwood flooring. My partner at the time and I decided we’d go out for a drink; before we left, I went to the bathroom and high-kicked the air. OM: To what do you attribute your impressive production? Does other employment interfere with your writing, or are you one of the lucky few doing this full-time? RK: I have been incredibly lucky in having universities not only afford me funding but consider my writing as part of my studies. Furthermore, a couple grants (Alberta Foundation and Canada Council) have […]
March 7, 2017

The inappropriately modest Traci Skuce

Traci Skuce lives in Cumberland, BC. Her work has appeared in The New Quarterly, Prairie Fire, Grain, Little Fiction, Event and The Dalhousie Review. Also, she won the 2016 Sheldon Currie prize for fiction, and was a finalist in the 2015 CBC Nonfiction Prize. OM: You fooled me with your aggressively modest bio in Prairie Fire. You wrote, “Traci Skuce lives in Cumberland, BC, where she roams the forest, raises boys and writes. She is working on her first short-story collection.” You might have also included being a short list finalist for both the 2015 CBC Creative Nonfiction Prize and the 2015 PRISM international Short Fiction Contest, as well as publishing in Grain, Event, and Prairie Fire. Are short lists and honourary mentions not good enough to make it to your bio? I was about to ask if Prairie Fire was your first publishing credit but soon found others through my Internet creeping. I know bios need not be a comprehensive list of credits, but it does seem like a suitable place to do a little bragging. What’s with the tiny bio in Prairie Fire? TS: Yeah, my friend gave me a talking to about that one. She said, “No, […]
February 21, 2017

Disturbing numbers from the small press world

On June 11, 2015, I submitted twelve queries for my collection of short stories titled No Call Too Small. Seven publishers responded within six months, one took over a year, three included extensive comments after serious consideration, and four have not responded at all. The last number is the most annoying. I don’t pretend to understand the inner workings of a small press, but the general story seems to be that the workers are either underpaid and overworked or unpaid and overworked. Both groups are overwhelmed by the height of the slush pile. Given the extreme power imbalance between writer and publisher, this situation never has to change. Publishers don’t need to respond in a timely manner. They don’t need to respond at all because those manuscripts will keep coming no matter what they do. There are no consequences for ignoring submissions, but that isn’t my point. When some houses respond in a reasonable time frame, even though they don’t have to, we know there are other forces at work. Those editors realize that it isn’t ethical or professional to leave writers hanging for over a year. A higher level of service is internalized in their culture. Small presses, if […]