Tag Archives: short fiction

Writing Life: The Short Shot

I had written short stories for classes or if someone invited me to write one, but I had never thought about writing for the short story market until about a year-and-a-half ago when I was asked to teach a dystopian fiction class to teenagers focused around producing a short story.

I always write with my students and use the development of my own story to demonstrate the creative process. I ended up creating something in my first dystopian fiction class that I really liked and thought there might be a market for the story.

I started reading more short stories on line, attending short fiction readings, and picked up several speculative fiction anthologies, and you know what? There’s some really interesting work out there.

Many people, including myself, romanticize novel writing and make that their number one goal. But it can take years to finish a novel to satisfaction and years more to see it in print. Short story writing can be extremely satisfying because one can finish a short story in a matter of weeks or even days with genuine focus.

You need to write as much as possible to hone your skills, and short stories allow you to explore numerous ideas and worlds and characters without too much of a commitment. It’s much less tragic to toss a short story that isn’t working then to trash an entire novel.

Getting short stories published is also a great way to keep your work in the public consciousness before your novel is published (or between novels being published). Sometimes it can take a while, but generally short story publication happens much quicker. For instance, I submitted to the Futuredaze anthology in June, was accepted the following month, and the anthology will be published in February 2013. From first draft to publication was less than a year. How many can say that about a novel that wasn’t self-published?

The best part? You don’t need an agent to submit to most publishers of short stories. And, unless it’s an “invitation only” anthology, publishers will put out calls for submissions, often inspiring the writer with themes for their magazines and anthologies (Canadian Zombies! Doppleganger Dragons!)

There are also paying markets. You won’t see advances and royalties, but you’ll get paid for your words and rights revert back to the author upon publication, so if you love your characters and your story and want to expand it into a novel later on, that’s your prerogative.

Or you could choose to self-publish “ebooks” of each of your short stories at .99 a pop if you want.

Pretty sweet.

If this inspires you and you want to check this world out, here are some recent calls for short stories in the paid market:




If interested in finding these markets, subscribe to yahoo groups CRWROPPS (Creative Writers Opportunities List and Duotrope (soon to be a paid listings @ $5 / month) to keep abreast of new calls for work.

And please feel free to post links to any calls you’ve found lately!


Filed under Calls for Submission, do something different, short fiction, writing life

Pick a Challenge, any Challenge

August is a fine time to work your creative mojo. Everyone’s doing it! And they’re doing it in the form of challenges and experiments. Below are a few that I recommend.

Please let me know if there are any more out there in the coming month/s and I’ll add them to the list.

The 3:15 Experiment

Anyone who follows my blog with any regularity knows that I participate in the annual 3:15 Experiment every year. Basically, a shifting menagerie of poets (and prose writers, actually) wakes up at 3:15 AM EACH morning during the month of August and writes. Our goal is to write while riding a 1/2 dream state. Magic happens. We have a Facebook Group now. Join us.

August Postcard Poetry Fest

Started by Paul Nelson and Lana Ayers, the Postcard Poetry Fest challenges you to send 31 postcard poems, one for each day of August. They START it NOW if you’d like to participate… and I’m not sure you still can, but you can go to their website or FACEBOOK group and ask.

The rules say that on July 27th (tomorrow!), you write an original poem right on a postcard and mail it to the person on the list below your name. Starting on August 1st, ideally in response to a card YOU receive, keep writing a poem a day on a postcard and mailing it to successive folks on the list until you’ve sent out 31 postcards. I’ve never participated but some year I think I’ll write my 3:15 poems on postcards. That would be fun.

10 shorts in 10 days

This is a little invention of my friend Tod McCoy and myself. It happens irregularly (whenever we feel like lighting a fire under our butts). We write either 10 short films or 10 pieces of micro fiction in 10 days. This August we’re writing short scripts. Anyone out there is welcome to join us. There is no official website and no official place to post them, although if you’d like to post them on your blog and send us a link, that’d be swell.

We’re starting on AUGUST 10 and running until August 19. The rules are simple: Write a short script (or story) per day. Badda bing, badda boom. In the past our short scripts have run about 3-6 pages (in standard format). If you wonder what I mean by micro fiction, check out any one of my 56 Flavours stories, most of which were written during a 10 day challenge.

The 3-Day Novel Contest

This contest has been running for 30 years. It wins. I’ve only participated once, but had a blast doing it. Some day I’ll dig out the novel and rewrite it. It happens over Labour Day weekend (Sept 5-7 this year). They also have a Facebook page. If you want to officially participate, and for a chance at fame and fortune, you have to register, which involves $50. If you just want the challenge of trying something new and don’t care about official registration, I suggest forming a group and holing up somewhere in a 24 hour coffee shop together. Oh, yeah, the object is to write a novel in 3 days.


Filed under Calls for Submission, Collaborations, contests, flash fiction, inspirational poop, poetry, serious play, The 3:15 Experiment, writing exercises

56 Flavours:Chapter 7

Untrained I

The last time she had shopped there she had run into a woman she thought she knew. Only she didn’t. When she politely moved away after realizing her mistake, the woman followed her, asking her so what do you do? She drew a blank. There was a job she had, a husband she lived with, a cat she fed, a mother she should call. I’m in transition, she finally said, picking out a $9 package of teriyaki salmon. She was a terrible shopper. She never came for what she got or got what she came for. Ingredients slipped her mind. Instant gratification took over like swarms of bees. What do YOU do, she asked in return. It was the obvious thing to do. I train trainers. Train trainers. I train people how to train people. Well she supposed someone had to. Train people. At the counter, paying for her groceries, she pictured untrained passengers swaying dangerously from the top of the caboose, admiring the crows as they headed east at sunset.


Filed under 56 Flavours, flash fiction

56 Flavours:Chapter 6


Fire is contagious. She knew that from the way her hands shook when people approached. Fire is what happens when we collect oxygen, fuel, and heat. Anyone can oxidize over time. Anyone can burn slowly. She bears the heat because it is slow. She can, on a daily basis, write down one word of him and it is enough. She can write down arm or leg or thigh or shoulder. Feeding the flame. But sooner or later, she will combust. She is combustible. She reaches the lid on a Thursday just after lunch. She presses in behind him, smelling rain on his hair. The pure moment is what gets to her. He turns around in the elevator. Blinks into her face. Eyelashes, she thinks. Consumed.

Leave a comment

Filed under 56 Flavours, flash fiction

56 Flavours:Chapter 5

Historical Perspective

When I was your age we didn’t have none of them zoop-trams, we drove ourselves around in automobiles. None of this zipping across town faster than you can think. And no e-mitters coming outta our ears with everything under the sun just as you ask for it, we hadda use e-mail and we listened to iPods that hung around our necks and through headphones attached to our computers. Now you got all this surround-o-experience, it’s just spooky all them images like ghosts dancing around the room. Gives me nightmares. Course I never had bad dreams when I was a kid cuz our dog slept with me every night. Dogs was animals that lived in our homes with us, dogs and cats and fish and birds, pets we called them. Now we gotta sleep in them controlled baric chambers… when I was a kid we could sleep outside if we felt like it, in the real air. And water flowed outta our faucets, like rainstorms, like rivers, like tears.


Filed under 56 Flavours, flash fiction

56 Flavours:Chapter 4

56 Flavours

56 flavours of ice-cream and Michael was on 52. He was making his way through the fruits, which he had saved for last. At number 11, White Chocolate Macadamia, he had asked her name. Amy. She worked on all the days with “S” in them. Pumpkin Cheesecake was her favourite she told him when he ordered it. Number 17 on a Sunday. It was a seasonal flavour. The day he lost his job he came in for Butter Almond. She gave him an extra scoop. By the time he reached Raisin Crunch he was getting tired of ice-cream. He’d never had much of a sweet tooth. He switched to bowls instead of cones. For 52 he ordered Honey Apple Lemon Ginger. Amy wasn’t there. It was Tuesday. Had she switched shifts? No, she wasn’t feeling well. He dropped the ice-cream in a trash bin outside. Amy wasn’t there on Wednesday or Thursday either. He had only taken one bite of Banana Nut and didn’t even bother tasting Mango Tango. When he came in on Saturday, he stared down at 55, Amaretto Peach, for five minutes. Would he get tipsy if he ate enough of it? You’d barf on all the cream before you caught a buzz, the pock-faced kid behind the counter said. Where’s Amy, is she still sick? No, she’s working downtown at Bambi’s Bubble Tea now. Michael put his wallet away. How many flavours do they have?


Filed under 56 Flavours, flash fiction

56 Flavours – Ch. 2


The bus driver pulled to a sudden stop, everyone lurched forward and I fell into the lap of an elderly gentleman. I excused myself and his grin said all was right in his world. The doors opened and I exited, two stops early, but welcoming the walk on a mild October morning.

The bus didn’t move. An elderly Asian woman lie flat on her back in the street, her blue-gloved hands folded neatly over her chest, handbag by her side. The bus driver got out and asked if she was all right. “I’m fine,” she said, “just fine.” He then asked her what the hell she was doing in the middle of the street. “Waiting for an apology,” she said.

I cruised between the painted parallel lines marking the bridge to the other side. Half-way across, a car cut me off, just like that, speeding into a left turn, ignoring the bridge-crossers. When I hit the curb, I turned and lay down on the sidewalk, neatly tucking my backpack by my side. I clicked my toes together and watched two pigeons arguing on the ledge of a building. One of them took off in a huff. The other dropped to the ground and began pecking for crumbs around my head. “Nobody takes any responsibility any more,” I said. The pigeon thought for a moment, then lay down beside me, purring into the gathering sunlight.

Leave a comment

Filed under 56 Flavours

56 Flavours – Ch. 1

Horned Owl

She doesn’t understand how he can spend so much time on the back porch with his 101 Birds of North America book. “Ah, my little Yellow Warbler,” he says, “sunshine of my life.” And how can she argue with that? She doesn’t understand how she always gets stuck with the sensitive types, the dreamers, the gentle professors. She must have a birthmark on her forehead that reads fragile, handle with care. She ordered a sex-swing on line. He hung it outside and sits in it like a hammock, flipping through pages of Sherlock Holmes. He loves mystery novels. Says they’re exotic. “My little Bohemian Waxwing,” he flutters about her while she’s clipping fabric for her ongoing collages. If it weren’t for his gourmet cooking, his smooth chest, and his inheritance, she’d ditch him. His grandfather’s cabin is the perfect place for her to work. To piece her glass mobiles together in the sun while he scans the trees with his outdoorsman binoculars. “Aren’t the males flashier than the females,” she asks, “in the world of birds?” He struts around the porch with his pipe, which he never lights. She watches his arms swing as he talks and wishes he would light it, would light up, would take off.

Leave a comment

Filed under 56 Flavours