14 Dec 2011

How Social Networking Can Help Establish Authors

Good afternoon, Storyslingers readers! Today we have a blog for you about social networking and how it can benefit new or up-coming authors. As always, discussions are welcome, and if you have any questions or comments about this post, feel free to drop them below.

The Importance of Networking

Reaching out to your readers and potential readers both offline and online is majorly important if you want to draw in the crowds. With an ever-widening market for e-books as well as print books, it's easy to sink beneath the ocean of other writers struggling to be seen and heard, and most importantly—read. A good place to start building your author presence is online, particularly if you're a busy writer or can't afford to attend book and writing conventions.

To someone unused to social networking, the sheer amount of websites, blogs, and forums can seem daunting. The key thing to remember is you really only need to pick one or two (or a handful, depending on your free time) to visit regularly, at least at first. It's about cultivating a presence in your niche, not spreading yourself too thin. When you're relatively unknown, it might be tempting to create accounts on multiple websites, but realistically, it'll be difficult keeping on top of everything.

Choosing the right social networking sites for you is a little bit down to personal preference, although there are a few biggies that you should be aware of. These are generally the best places to create accounts due to their immeasurable popularity and how current they are. Facebook is one. Twitter another. I'm sure you've heard of them, even if you haven't visited them.

There are also a number of busy forums dedicated to writing and reading. An excellent example is Litopia Writers' Colony, a sprawling website that hosts discussion boards, podcasts and radio shows, interviews, reviews—just about everything a reader or writer could hope for. For similar sites, please refer to the links below.

Getting Started

Again, social networking doesn't have to be a stressful endeavour. You can put in as much effort as you want, but bear in mind, you'll probably get out about as much as you put in, sometimes less, which is why it's advisable to log in at least once a week and drop a note to update friends and connections on what you're up to. Take a moment to check other people's statuses, too, and comment on anything that catches your eye. As nice as it is to have a ready audience waiting to hear from you, there needs to be some give as well. If you rarely post and never comment on anyone else's blog or page, you may find people will stop commenting on yours. The secret is in the name: social networking. Give and take. Communication. These are the things you'll need to build up a solid network—and hopefully a solid fanbase.

Handy links:

Social Neworkingfor Writers - These are all writer-specific, rather than the more general (and often busier) venues like Facebook and Twitter.

Social Networking and Message Boards for Writers - Similar to the above, though this one covers the lesser-known boards and forums.

Goodreads - One of the more popular books and writing websites. Goodreads is a cunning amalgamation of different things: a virtual library, book club, discussion board, blogging platform, and a place where authors can connect personally with their readers and hold competitions/giveaways.

Shelfari - Similar to Goodreads, this site is dedicated to books and reading. It also gives authors the opportunity to reach out to readers and vice-versa.


That just about covers the basics, but if there's anything else you want to know, ask away. If we can't help, we might be able to point you to a website that can. There will be a follow-up post sometime in the New Year covering social networking tips, tricks, and etiquette, so keep an eye out for it.

And finally, thanks for reading!

7 Dec 2011

Bridport Open Book Festival Part 2

Continued from the last post: http://storyslingers.blogspot.com/2011/11/bridport-open-book-festival-part-1.html where Simon and I went to Bridport Open Book festival, heard Joe Dunthorne read from Submarine, Wild Abandon and some poems, sat behind PJ Harvey in the audience and appreciated Gretta Stoddart's excellent poetry. 

We returned to Bridport on Friday afternoon, had a little wander around the town, ate some amazing cake at the wonderful Beach and Barnicott, and bought some cheap shoelaces at This ‘n’ That.

This time we were in for a more informal reading from past Bridport Prize winners. The name that drew us to this event was Adam Marek, writer of Instruction Manual for Swallowing (Comma Press). After our knife and fork themed prompt at Storyslinger HQ, I handed around Marek’s story, The Thorn, in which a splinter in a boy’s foot turns out to be a silver dining fork. And now we’re raving Marek fans. Marek’s writing style is hugely original, marked by the clashing together of the impossibly bizarre and the mundane routine of reality. He takes magical realism one step further than the typical canon.

The evening went very smoothly, with multi-award winning Vanessa Gebbie acting as compere for the evening. Also present was Judith Allnatt, who has two books published by Black Swan. The three writers chatted about their work, routines, inspiration-points and career-to-date, as well as how important being placed in the Bridport Prize was to their careers (very important). Allnatt and Gebbie read out extracts from their novels, and Marek read a complete short story, as yet unpublished.

Afterwards I chatted to Adam Marek about the process of writing. It’s nice to know that one of my all time favourite short story writers was once in the same position that I am in; in possession of a stack of rejection letters, wondering why I spend so much time and energy on writing, and feeling that wherever the end of the tunnel is, it’s sure not shedding any light yet. Marek’s advice: keep on going, you’ll get there someday, maybe pretty soon.

Here’s a really interesting interview with Marek at this year’s Kikinda Short story festival in Serbia wherein Marek talks about how he fuses fantasy and reality. 

And here he reads from Fewer Things, shortlisted for Sunday Times short story award:

29 Nov 2011

Bridport Open Book Festival Part 1

Last week was Bridport’s Open Book Festival, culminating in the 2011 Bridport Prize award ceremony. Myself and fellow storyslinger member, Simon, went to two events and met two of our favourite authors: Adam Marek and Joe Dunthorne*.

In travelling the roads of Dorset from North to South through picturesque countryside and chocolate-box villages, one might wonder at how an internationally prestigious short story competition can have its roots in such a provincial location.

Though rural, Bridport certainly isn’t insular. Settling into our seats on Tuesday waiting for Joe Dunthorne’s reading, I looked up and saw a familiar face in the seat in front of Simon. It was none other than twice Mercury Prize winning singer-songwriter, PJ Harvey; one of my all time favourite musicians. More striking than her mere presence, was the scent of expensive and powerful rose-cinnamon perfume. I’m tempted to email her to ask where she buys it from.

Greta Stoddart read four or so of her poems, elegant and original with a strong voice and honeyed fluidity. She read some beautiful poems from her book Salvation Jane, shortlisted for the Costa Poetry Award in 2008.

Joe Dunthorne read a passage from Submarine, his debut novel that was adapted into film by Richard Ayoade (I.T Crowd, The Mighty Boosh). He then read a few poems, scrawled into what looked like a dog-eared school exercise book. His poems were sharp, lyrical and, sadly, a little pretentious in places. He raised enough laughs from the audience, and I very much enjoyed his readings. He ended with an excerpt from his new book, Wild Abandon, set in a Welsh commune. I bought a copy of this book and got Dunthorne to deface it with his signature. I am half way through reading it. Submarine is much better. I’ll save my full review for later.

He read this poem, the banter beforehand pretty much word for word identical:

And here is a trailer for the film adaptation of Submarine 

Overall, an inspiring evening that has confirmed my faith in Dorset’s capacity as a hub for the arts and literature, despite not having a single city or motorway within its borders.

Part 2 of this report wherein we return to Bridport, buy cheap shoelaces, and chat to Adam Marek, will follow soon.

*actually, hard-to-please Simon doesn’t particularly like Joe Dunthorne, but Adam Marek is a definite favourite. Read Part 2 of this report to find out about Adam Marek.

25 Nov 2011

Dada Poetry

Last session we looked at Dadaism, an avant-garde movement that was formed in 1916 by Hugo Ball, Richard Huelsenbeck, Tristan Tzara, Hans Arp and Marcel Janco at the Cabaret Voltaire, Zurich. Its formation was largely concerned with the political circumstances of the time, as a reaction against the war, against the “nationalistic frenzy in Paris” (Huelsenbeck 1920), and as a way to keep a grip of individuality.

“The word Dada was accidentally discovered by Hugo Ball and myself in a German-French dictionary... Dada is French for a wooden horse.” (Huelsenbeck 1920).

It was a movement that concerned itself with anti-art and anti-aesthetic, it sought to remove conscious control from the artist, to strip art of meaning and take it to its base purity.
“Let us try, though it is difficult, to remain absolutely pure. We shall then perceive everything that binds us. And as for the unpleasant language which suffices the garrulous... let us reduce it, let us transform it into a charming, true language. In this state of purity... language renounces its imperative function and aspires toward an autonomous existence, producing a confused, illogical pleasure, an indefinable sensation of release from gravitation. ‘I dream of new harmonies’, Gide wrote at the time, ‘of an art of words, more subtle and more frank, without rhetoric, which does not seek to prove anything’. ” (Raymond, 1933)

Tristan Tzara’s method of making a poem was to “take a newspaper, take scissors, choose an article, cut it out, then cut out each word, put them in a bag, shake.” Then take out the scraps one at a time and copy the words out as they come.     

We did it a little differently at Storyslingers; rather than use a newspaper as our source, we selected two extracts from classic texts, one from Frankenstein and the other The Master and Margarita, (so both with supernatural elements). Many members struggled to let go of their authorial control and couldn’t resist ordering the selection of scraps in a way that had some logical semblance. I think this in itself is very interesting, especially when considering contemporary discussions about creativity and education. I’m thinking in particular of Ken Robinson’s lectures on creativity in education. Take a look at this video: 

And then consider Henri Focillon’s ideas In Praise of Hands, which appeared in The Life in Forms of Art (NY. 1948).

Focillon spoke about Apelles experiencing ataraxia while he was trying to paint a horse. (Ataraxia relates to Dadaism, I think). Apelles wished to represent a bit of frothy saliva and was so unsuccessful that, in a rage, he gave up and threw the sponge with which he was using to clean his brushes at the horse, thus producing the effect of the horse's foam. (Sextus Empiricus). This story “makes us reflect upon the resources of pure chance. Here we are at the antipodes of automatism and mechanism, and no less distant from the cunning ways of reason. In the action of a machine, in which everything is repeated and predetermined, accident is an abrupt negation. [The artist] ...takes advantage of his own errors and of his faulty strokes to perform tricks with them.”

“In the hand of Hokusai, accident is an unknown form of life, the meeting of obscure forces and clairvoyant design. Sometimes one might say that he has provoked accident with an impatient finger in order to see what it would do... Hokusai belongs to a country where, far from concealing the cracks in a broken pot by deceptive restoration, artisans underline this elegant tracery with a network of gold. Thus does the artist gratefully receive what chance has given him and places it respectfully in evidence.”

So according to Ken Robinson, in modern education we are taught to fear mistakes, to fear being wrong, which is indeed reflected in the Storyslingers’ reluctance to give up their control and leave their creations to chance.

We also talked about Dadaism in relation to Barthes’ comments on ‘death of the author’, which I would like to go into greater depth about. This post is getting on for an essay now, so I will save these thoughts for a future post. Until then, enjoy these dada poems that we wrote:

Appeared at the possessed, appeared at the...

The deep, I swear; carried his Moscow and weary existence.

Dear revenge, the "on you", at the hour of the grief, Editor Had was wearing a "and on you!" 

To execute solemnity, adjuration, excited, while Mikhail - short.  His neatly night, and... and... black, wandering Berlioz.

For short, Alexandrovich = devotion.  To pursue friends as I shot, I as forever.

I call assured spirits and 'green' gave way, who, and on which, me.  


Poem 1.
literary journal
literary associations,
white trousers
I will
By the sacred earth
And kissed
Of earth,
He or
In his hand.

Poem 2.

Cursed and hellish monster
Back on his head,
Tread the green
Wander near
Lived; their
And by thee
Quivering lips
Of the
Almost assured
At the house of the
This misery
Summer suit

Patriarch's Ponds. Associations, dressed in a Berlioz, an awe horn-rimmed glasses my utterance / And and with who called Massolit / broad-shouldered drag drink deep and by thee, O torments me. Hair, eternal my.

Approximately of a fat dear revenge the demon who which devotion, Alexandrovich I swear; shaven the destroy awe will herbage back me had me, that to spirits of my now.

The following are semi-dada poems, in that the writers of these poems arranged the words they randomly selected in a conscious, logical (ish) way.

Drink deep
From my eyes
And with that

By Jennifer K Oliver
Poem 1.
The lips should utterance
One of you pseudonym of Homeless.
And his conduct and vengeance

Poem 2.

I must excited quickly
dark-haired, plump, bald
Destroy him by perish
The spirits their murderer
The poet feel, poet agony;
This shall feel the dead over

The Dada Painters and Poets, An Anthology. Second ed. Edited by Motherwell, Robert. 1951, USA.

14 Oct 2011

Writing for Performance Workshop

Last week playwright Tony Benge came to Storyslingers HQ to lead a workshop in Writing for Performance.

First of all Tony asked us to think of an important character from childhood that we could identify with or sparked something within us. He asked us to write a short statement about the character from the point of view of the character. This was a great exercise to help us get into the head of a different person, and it was interesting to see which character everyone picked.

To those members and guests who weren’t able to come to the workshop: why not try it now?

We went on to discuss culturally shared characters from classic myths, with Icarus being the central character of our discussion.  Because everyone has an idea of Icarus and his story, it makes characterising him a little easier, which is great for a beginner. We didn’t have to worry about the theme or fictional world because that’s already culturally established.

We then worked for a 10 minute period in which we wrote out a short monologue from the pov of a famous character from history, fiction or legend, but set in the modern day. Most of us picked up the Icarus character, but there were others as well; such as Medusa, Charon and the BFG.

When writing monologues it’s important that the situation is easy for the audience to visualise and to remember that it will be acted. There will be minimal props, but a few key props could be incorporated.

Your audience will more readily engage with the performance if the characters have empathic qualities. If your audience feels like they can understand the character, having been through a similar experience themselves, you will have a more attentive and receptive audience. But careful not to bore them by giving them too much, don’t spoon feed them; always keep ahead of your audience.


We had a great time, and there’s even a chance we might work with some actors to bring our first monologue experiments to the stage.

Keep your specs peeled for further info about this. 

13 Oct 2011

Short Story Published: Intersection

Last month a new short story of mine was published by the most excellent Pygmy Giant. You can read it by going here: http://thepygmygiant.com/2011/09/12/intersection/
It's less of a story and more of an intersection between two narratives that haven't been written, with some philosophy thrown in. I hope you like it!

You can read another story I wrote a few years ago that I also got published at the Pygmy Giant: http://thepygmygiant.com/2008/12/05/elder/

3 Oct 2011

Author Tony Benge Visits Storyslingers

Just a little note to let you know author Tony Benge will be dropping by Storyslingers tomorrow night to give a workshop on Writing for Performance. Tony recently performed his short play "The Miracle Worker" at the SAC Theatre, as part of a production called 15 Minutes of Fame. We're honoured to have him visit us, and we look forward to hearing what he has to say!

His workshop will include:
  • Warm up
  • Developing a character
  • Structuring
  • Writing
As always, the meeting will be held from 6:30pm - 8:30pm. £4 for Storyslingers and Dorset Writers Network members, £5 to everyone else. Please let us know asap if you're interested, as places will be limited! (Contact details on our 'About' page.)

24 Sep 2011

SAC Arts Festival - Quick Round-Up

Things have been busy for both of us these past couple of weeks, but we wanted to post about the Arts Festival before we move on to newer news.

The festival was booming on the Saturday and a big success for SAC, and the writing group learned a valuable bundle about promotion and presence—things we plan to take with us to the next event. We had a fantastic turnout of loot in the end, as you can see here:

We also got to finally meet our sister group, the poetry writers, and even take part in a poetry workshop. I'm not sure if we're ready to start sharing our poems just yet, but it was fascinating trying out some of the processes of transforming prompts and stream-of-consciousness writing into poems. We didn't realise we had it in us!

Next up, we will be showcasing more of our work at the Mere Literary Festival (October 10th - 16th 2011). We hope you'll come along and visit us! There will be even more creative writing available in the form of booklets, flyers, bookmarks, and creative writing games. We'll post more about this closer to the time.

30 Aug 2011

Our loot so far...

Just a quick update to show you our loot (so far!) from last night's meeting:

We were all amazed and thrilled with how much stuff we already have to put on show at the arts festival, and we're still in the process of making more booklets, leaflets, and bookmarks, so there'll be even more by the time the weekend lands.

Part of me is enjoying this way too much, and the other part is looking forward to kicking back and catching up on sleep when the festival is over. :)

28 Aug 2011

SAC Arts Festival 2011 – more creative stuff

After Jenny's awesome post about her flyers and story printouts, I thought I'd post about some of my own creative endeavours for the Arts Centre Festival. There's just under a week left and I'll bet the remaining days zoom by. So far I've been sorting out story flyers and booklets, but there's still a lot to do. It's a good thing we'll have some time to set up beforehand!

I'll be showcasing three separate pieces, two of them printed on large postcards (a bit slimmer than the exquisite 300gsm card Jenny's stories are printed on, but still sturdy enough to be satisfying), and a single page, folded booklet for a slightly longer piece that was actually written for one of our very own writing prompts. Here is a little taster:

I'm also planning to make some bookmarks promoting Storyslingers and possibly samples of micro-fiction (a post highlighting what micro-fiction is can be found at my website here). These will be the standard slim card style bookmarks that slot easily between pages. I've got some nice black card, stickers and gold and silver pens to play with. We'll see how they go!

I've also been making cute origami bookmarks that fit neatly over the top corner of the page. These are much easier to manoeuvre as they're small. They'll make great holiday gifts, too.

There's even the possibility of a collaborative activity, if we can tempt visitors to our table to participate, in the form of a giant round-robin story. This is where the first person writes an opening sentence of a story, then the second person picks it up and writes a sentence, then the third person adds a sentence, and so on until you have a full story. Similarly, a game of Consequences could be fun. Maybe we'll do both!

We'll try to take photos at the Arts Festival and post them here, but if you can make it, please do drop by.