Putting together a Collected Stories

26 May 2011 in Short Stories | Comments (0)

My Canadian publisher and I are working on putting together a book of Collected Stories for publication in the autumn.  We’ll pull together stories from my two previous collections, Tiny Lies and My Life as a Girl in a Men’s Prison, along with the dozen or so stories I’ve written over the last decade.  We’re looking at trying to innovate around publishing this book, by releasing single stories electronicallly, releasing audio versions of some stories, and enhanced versions of others, as well as producing the book in both print and e-book editions.

It’s an odd experience, returning to my two previous collections, which were published in 1988 and 1997. Re-reading Tiny Lies is especially disconcerting.  I have not read most of these stories for more than twenty years, and reading them now is like travelling in a time machine back to the 1980s.  The stories are both more and less autobiographical than I recall, and they’re full of politics, sex, and swearing (three Great Themes, of course, if you can call the splendid use of the f-word a theme).  The story ‘Tiny Lies’ itself is about abortion, something I’d completely forgotten I’d written about. 

Of course, it might be a massive indulgence to be republishing these old stories now; and the very idea of a book of ‘collected stories’ is probably seriously dodgy - only ‘venerable’ writers do collected stories.  But the thing I like best about these stories, both the old and the new, is that they’re often funny - I seem able to strike out for comedy in the short story, something I find far harder to do within the confines of a novel.  Short stories allow for a kind of freedom and playfulness, and I hope that’s what readers will find with this book.

PhD by Published Works essay

23 May 2011 in Future of Publishing | Comments (1)

Today I submitted my Phd by Published Works essay to the printers.  I’ve been working on it over the past eight months - I’ve done it quickly.  And now I feel sick - truly,  like puking my guts out.  I wasn’t expecting that kind of reaction to handing the thing over to be printed.

PhDs by Published Works are odd beasts - you take a selection of your own work and attempt to write about your practice in relation to those works.  The fact that I work in the parallel fields of fiction for print and born-digital fiction was useful for me, in that I was able to write an essay that looked at the similarities and differences between these two distinct modes of writing and publishing. 

My plan is to publish the PhD essay online once - if - I get through the Viva examination, which will be toward the end of July.  I’m looking at a few options for how to do that.  I’m interested in PressBooks and hope to talk to them about using their software as a platform for publishing a version of the PhD that will be open to comments and questions.

I think the way I feel now is down to a combination of factors - relief at getting it to the printers combined with anxiety over whether it is good enough; the ongoing stress over the uncertainty over whether or not DMU is going to renew my contract (I’ve been waiting to hear about this for the same amount of time that I’ve been working on the PhD, and time, and my contract, is about to run out); and just plain old nerves.  It’s been a very long time since I submitted work to examiners.  Of course, handing in a book to agents and publishers is a similar process, but somehow the whole thing about academic judgement feels very different.  I am, after all, a drop-out, so of course academic pressure isn’t something I’ve responded well to in the past.  Ha ha! I can hear all my students shouting, Now you know how It Feels!  Well, all sympathy, that’s all I can say. 


Dreaming Methods Open Source Digital Fiction

10 May 2011 in Flight Paths Future of Publishing | Comments (0)

Chris Joseph and I have been working with Andy Campbell of Dreaming Methods to create an app, and a web app, using the five existing digital stories from ‘Flight Paths’ along with additional material and a brand-new sixth story.  The app won’t be ready for a while yet, though in the meantime Andy has been working hard.

To kick off our project, Andy has been experimenting with the first story from ‘Flight Paths’, ‘Yacub in Dubai’; he’s created an open source version of it that is compatible with many devices and platforms, including iPhone, iPad, and Android, as well as all desktop computers.  This version gets round the problem that we’ve had with Flash not working on certain devices.  Here’s the link:

This link to the latest Dreaming Methods newsletter also showcases several of Andy’s other projects, including his own Digital Fiction Boilerplate, which allows creators with some knowledge of HTML and Javascript to create works that are viewable across platforms and devices, including smartphones. 

As well as that, the newsletter provides a link to the Dreaming Methods mobile site. 

All very exciting and, indeed, ground-breaking, developments for our work on ‘Flight Paths’.

Montreal and McGill

6 May 2011 in | Comments (3)

Last week I was in Montreal where I delivered the annual Hugh MacLennan Memorial Lecture, for the Friends of the McGill Library.

The lecture was a big deal for me.  I left home at 17 to go to McGill on a scholarship, but I did not thrive - or rather, I did thrive, but in all the wrong ways.  By the time I was 19, I had lost my scholarship and dropped out of university.  So to be invited back to give this lecture was a huge honour for me.  And, despite my nerves, it turned out to be a great evening, at least as far as I’m concerned.  There was a big audience, which included my sister Joanne and her husband Doug (when I dropped out of McGill I went to live with them in the Yukon, so it was great to have them there to help mark my return), and my friend Lubin Bisson (Lubin and I shared the same corridor in the McGill residence, Molson Hall), and my Canadian publisher, Kim McArthur.  It was wonderful to have them all there with me.  And afterwards, the Friends of the Library took us to dinner at the McGill University Club, and we had a great time there, with hilarious tales from Lubin, and general mirth about the fact that Montreal still had men-only taverns back then, where you could get 33 glasses of beer for $10, in ‘Verres Sterilises’ no less. 

I’m hoping to publish the lecture eventually, more on that when I have it.