Monthly Archives: November 2015

Interview with Ada Hoffmann

Three weeks left in the 2015 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest! Have you sent in your stories yet? Not only would we love your support, but this is a great opportunity for writers at any stage of their careers. Over the next few posts, we will be presenting interviews with past winners of the contests, from hobbyists to now-established pro writers of short stories!

Today we are pleased to re-introduce you to 2013’s winner, Ada Hoffmann!

 

Your story, “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library,” won the 2013 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. It went on to appear in Strange Horizons. Can you tell us a little about the publication and the journey from contest winner to sale?

“The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library” was written as a birthday present for Bogi Takács, who had requested stories for eir birthday and listed cephalopods, hive minds that aren’t presented as a bad thing, and other things among eir favourite themes. I’m not sure where the library came from, but once I had the title with all of those elements, the rest of the story coalesced immediately. It was meant to be short, simple, and delightfully weird. There was editing, of course, but mostly just to tighten up sentences and paragraphs; much less than I need to do with many other stories. Once I sent it to Bogi on the appropriate day and confirmed that e liked it, I was then free to try to sell it somewhere.

I don’t really differentiate strongly between contests and publication venues when I submit my work. (Though I should note as a corollary that I rarely submit to contests at all.) The Friends of the Merrill Collection Contest was, I believe, the second place I sent this story. Strange Horizons was the third.

I suppose it’s a story that’s led a charmed life. The route from idea to publication rarely runs as smoothly for my other work.

 

Tell us a little about your writing history. What you are working on now?

I’ve written stories ever since I learned to use a computer keyboard, but I have been writing for publication only since 2008, when I examined myself and realized that writing was vital enough to my wellbeing to be worth it. I found online critique groups very helpful at first in helping me hone my craft, though I have since moved on and use a more selective, informal group of beta readers. My first sale was “The Chartreuse Monster”, to Expanded Horizons, in July 2010. It was a token-paying sale, but a very positive one for me, as it resulted in several years of friendship with an editor who was passionate about some of the themes in my story and introduced me to important new ideas.

2013 was a breakout year for me, and the year in which I had my first pro sales. Two of these, including “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library”, appeared in Strange Horizons; another five (!) appeared in various other places. I also began to be successful with speculative poetry. Writing and getting published began to feel easy; I got cocky. Then 2014 happened and almost all of that vanished; due to immense health and personal upheavals, my writing ability dwindled to nearly nothing. 2015 has been spent trying to inch my way back towards making up that lost ground. I’ve done work throughout the year, and produced things – largely things that are not yet published or publishable, and thus not visible – but it’s only in the past few months that I’ve begun to feel like a real writer again, in the sense that I can spend time working on my writing on a fairly reliable basis and feel that I have something to show for it. It will still be a while, if ever, before I can reach 2013’s levels of visible productivity again.

The project I am most exicted about currently is a novel draft which was recently sent out to my beta readers. This is a story I’ve been working on, on and off, with a great number of setbacks – some unavoidable, some due to my own poor planning – since 2012. I am also working on a series of dinosaur poems, and many other small drifting projects, many of which I hope I can share in the new year.

 

What would you like to accomplish in your creative life? What are your goals as a writer and an artist?

I believe that writing, even rather non-realistic writing like “The Mother of All Squid Builds a Library”, is an important tool for learning about and exploring ourselves. I believe that the building blocks of stories, like the building blocks of dreams, are fundamental parts of us and that they say things about us even when we intend to say nothing in particular. I want to express a full range of human emotion and experience in my works – not necessarily in each individual work, but in my artistic practice as a whole. I want to express great joy, great despair, great hilarity, great seriousness, everything. In particular, I am interested in finding ways to express those things which are not expressible in realistic fiction, because our conscious account of how the world works does not make room for them.

As an autistic writer, I also have a keen interest in the representation of autism in speculative fiction. At the moment I engage with this more in my criticism and blogging than in my creative writing, but I have written (and sometimes published) several stories which I hope portray autistic protagonists as something other than tragedies, “inspirations”, or burdens. I hope to write many more.

 

If you could have one thing – realistic or completely insane – to help you achieve these goals, what would it be?

Unlimited time and energy. But then, don’t we all?

*

Thanks to Ada for her time and wisdom this week!

Ada Hoffmann lives in southern Ontario, where she routinely sings too many high notes for the neighbors’ comfort, talks to invisible people, and makes blood sacrifices to the Elder Gods in her fuzzy pajamas. She is a graduate student at a major Canadian university and spends her working hours trying to teach computers to write poetry. When not absorbed or this or in writing, she likes to LARP, to take care of her cat, and to rant about autism on her blog. You can find her online at http://ada-hoffmann.com/ or as @xasymptote on Twitter.

Interview With Andrew Wilmot

We’re into the last month of the 2015 Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest! Have you sent in your stories yet? Not only would we love your support, but this is a great opportunity for writers at any stage of their careers. Over the next few posts, we will be presenting interviews with past winners of the contests, from hobbyists to now-established pro writers of short stories!

Today we are pleased to re-introduce you to last year’s winner, Andrew Wilmot!

 

Your story, “When I’m Old, When I’m Grey,” was the winner of the latest Friends of the Merril Short Story Contest. You have since sold it for publication. Can you tell us a little about the publication and the journey from contest winner to sale?

It was a short but humbling journey, actually. For some time I’d been feeling as if I had arrived at a new stage in my fledgling writing career—namely, I had been receiving more and more personalized rejections. However, with “When I’m Old, When I’m Grey,” I received my first blunt form rejection in quite some time, and within just 72 hours of winning the award. In my excitement I remember submitting it right after winning and feeling invincible—after all, it was a contest winner. Surely others would see its beauty? Ha! Not so much. I don’t think I’ve ever been rejected so quickly. It didn’t detract in any way from the elation I felt winning the award, but it was a nice reminder of the subjectivity of our medium—of any artistic medium. It’s something I’ve encountered many times throughout my life and myriad careers, but everyone needs a reminder now and then.

Soon after this rejection, and subsequently submitting to Analog (from which I never received a response), I was able to sell the story to the kind people at Found Press, who published my novelette Glass Houses in September 2014. The publisher at Found Press, Bryan Ibeas, is a good friend, and we’ve spent a fair bit of time discussing our mutual love of writing that blurs the lines between spec and lit, which is something I tend to do with my work, so I’m always thrilled when I find we’re on the same page with a new piece. They picked up my winning story alongside two others I’d sent previously. Together with Glass Houses, we’re putting together a mini-collection of sorts titled Absolutely Nothing Out of the Ordinary, to be released in Spring 2016. It will include the two aforementioned stories as well as the short “What You’re In For,” a surrealist piece dealing with anxiety disorders, and a sci-fi noir novelette A Little Dreaming is Dangerous. Oh, and it’s worth noting that the stories will be available individually as well.

 

Tell us a little about your writing history. What you are working on now?

My writing history is a bit odd. It’s something I’ve loved doing since I was a child—I wrote my first two books in grades seven and eight—but I didn’t really start to pursue it with any sincerity until 2005. It was 2011, however, while working at a small press out in Edmonton, that I started to work at writing as if it were a full-time job (which it is now, though it fights for time and headspace with my other full-time job as an editor).

I actually started in music—played Conservatory piano for many years as a child and teenager—before transitioning into visual art for my undergraduate degree. I worked as an exhibiting visual artist, specializing in oil painting, for a year or so after graduation before realizing that I just didn’t care for the art world all that much—I was terrible at creating art and presenting myself for the purposes of exhibition and sale. Writing was always something that was there in the background that I loved doing, but for some reason I’d not made the connection that “oh, this is something I could do for a living.” It wasn’t until I was nearing the end of my undergrad degree that I started to really discover the knack I had for editing, which is what gradually pulled me from the art world and into publishing. And as I gained more experience as an editor and went to grad school for publishing, that love of writing waltzed back into my life in a big way. After nearly two years in Edmonton as the marketing and production coordinator for NeWest Press, I started to feel frustrated at working only on other people’s books (amazing though they were) while mine remained unrealized. So I started waking up early and writing in the hours before I went to work (which if you know my hatred for mornings you’ll understand why this was a big deal). After a couple of months I finished the first very rough draft of a novel, right around the time I realized I’d had enough of the 9-5 existence. I then decided to move to Toronto to become a freelance editor and reviewer, thus giving myself the flexibility to also pursue writing full time.

As for what I’m working on now, well I have a number of things cooking at once. I’ve not had as much time to write recently as work has been busy: I’m a substantive editor for Chizine Publications and Broken River books; I edit PhD dissertations for OISE students, with special focus on feminist studies in the area of women’s health related to body image, size acceptance, and eating disorders; and I review for a number of publications includingBroken Pencil and subTerrain. In terms of writing, my first novel The Death Scene Artist is currently with publishers, seeking a home. My second novel, Matryoshka, is just now going out into the world. The latter is actually the first of a generational sci-fi quartet I’m working on (and will be working on for years to come). Apart from those, I’m still writing and seeking homes for many of my shorts, and have also written a script titled High Maintenance Machines that I hope at some point to turn into a graphic novel.

 

What would you like to accomplish in your creative life? What are your goals as a writer and an artist?

Well, I suppose I want what so many of us desire—the ability to write full time and survive off my writing without needing to worry about picking up extra work on the side. I love what I do outside of writing, but if I had the luxury to write and just write, I likely would. I’ve also been re-introducing painting into my life, and would jump at the chance to be able to divide myself between just those two things going forward. Do I ever think that will happen? Well, anything’s possible, but for now I’m simply happy to get my work out into the world by whatever means possible—and more importantly, to get the ideas out of my head, because real estate in my brain is limited.

To get more to the point, I’d love to finish this series I’m working on, as it encapsulates many of the ideas and concepts nearest and dearest to me. And I’m also interested by what ideas I might come up with when this larger series is put to bed—right now it dominates much of my waking thoughts. I’d also love to make progress with the graphic novel I’m working on as that’s been a life-long dream (I remember wanting to be an illustrator for Marvel comics when I was in sixth grade—unfortunately, my figure-drawing skills are and always have been lacking. Abstraction is more my visual style). I’ve also in the past worked in film and would jump at the chance to do more screenwriting. Actually the first award I ever won, for anything, was for best foreign screenplay at a South American film festival. So I definitely want to try working in that arena again. Basically, if I can create, whatever the medium, and survive to some extent off my creations, then that’s it—that’s really all I need to be happy.

 

If you could have one thing – realistic or completely insane – to help you achieve these goals, what would it be? 

Is it too predictable to say all the money and time in the world? Because that would be great.

Seriously, to not need to worry about money. As I said previously, I love what I do apart from writing, but I won’t lie—I have a difficult time switching my brain over from editorial work to writing. If I didn’t need to worry so much about things like bills and rent and not starving to death, I’d still edit, but I’d be far more selective with respect to the projects I take on, and would likely do only one or two a year, to keep my skills up, so that I could simply spend more time writing—and when not writing, painting. That, absolutely, would be my impossible, candy-falling-from-the-sky desire.

Thank you, Andrew! Best of luck to you!

ANDREW WILMOT is a writer, editor, and artist living in Toronto, Ontario. He is a graduate of the SFU Master in Publishing program and spends his days writing as much as possible and painting stupidly large pieces. His fiction has been published by Found Press, Drive In Tales, The Singularity, and 69 Flavors of Paranoia, and the story “When I’m Old, When I’m Grey” was the winner of the 2015 Friends of Merril Short Fiction Competition. He works as a freelance reviewer, academic editor, and substantive editor. For more on his work and creative pursuits: http://andrewwilmot.ca/about/cv/

One Month to Go (2015 Version)

Toronto Skyline by chasewolfman

We have been open to submissions for two months now, with one month left!

Submissions have been strong so far, but we have a ways to go. Overwhelmingly, our entries this year are from… Toronto! The local scene seems to get stronger and stronger every year, but don’t worry, our submissions are blinded to the readers – and we love to read stories from all over the world!

In addition to more international submissions, we would love to see more submissions from women, POC, and members of the QUILTBAG community. We strongly encourage those unique pieces you worry won’t fit anywhere else. We are a open and welcoming Contest with a great love of work that challenges us!

For the locals – not sure about your story? Consider bringing it down to SFContario/Canvention this weekend (November 20th-22nd 2015.) In addition to a great schedule of readings, panels, and shows, there are some great workshop opportunities for emerging and established writers both.

On Saturday, November 21st, 7-9 pm, Douglas Smith will be running a workshop version of his popular Amazing Stories series (also available as a book and a course at the University of Toronto,) “Playing the Short Game.”

On Sunday, November 22nd, 10-11am, AE SciFi publisher Duff McCourt will provide an authentic “First Page Slush Experience,” critiquing and commenting on the first page of your story.

So submit soon, and submit often! The contest closes on Sunday,December 20th, 2015. We look forward to reading you!