Author Thea Bowering’s ambitious debut, Love at Last Sight, is an intimate and voyeuristic collection of short stories, several of which take place in Edmonton, where the former Vancouverite now lives. On Sunday, Sept. 29, she joins fellow debut author Michael Hingston and me at the Stanley Milner Library to talk about the process of writing and publishing her first book. (The event is free and begins at 1:30pm.)
Here, she debunks a few publishing myths and offers 3 tips to publishing your own short stories collection.
People say short stories are a hard sell. Is it true?
Short stories are often talked about as a hard sell in the publishing world. This has never made sense to me since much of Canada’s best known writing is short fiction. Everyone I know loves to read and listen to short stories. They seem to be easier to get published in collections and magazines than novel excerpts.
Are there other misconceptions?
The other thing you are told is that you need to find themes or threads that tie your stories together, so they seem like a novel. You are probably working with recurrent themes anyway, ones that interest you, so you don’t really need to worry about this until you write the book abstract to send along with your manuscript.
What’s the process of writing an abstract like?
This involves an uncomfortable week or so, sometime after the writing is done. If you’re thinking about—and reading—the others’ stories throughout your own writing process, you will understand your literary landscape and want to do what isn’t being done—or is being done only by a few, in a slightly different way than you. You might come up with an interesting thing that someone at a press will think of as new or unusual, as well.
The short story is an attractive form that can always involve something new: this may make some big presses nervous, but will attract smaller presses that are interested in innovative writing.
Tip #1. Read literary journals. Find ones that publish stories you like, are edited by editors you like. Submit to them. Pay attention to special issues, and submit when the topic is in line with your work.
Tip #2. Do the same thing with publishers. Find the ones who publish work (that is, short stories) you enjoy, presses that and who have a history of publishing work you admire and respect. Submit to them
Tip #3. Make a limited run chapbook if you have a story that is strong on its own. Chapbooks are most often designed for poetry, but why not a story? Now you have a nice little object to sell at readings and offer to an interested press.