I hope the weather is better where you are, dear reader, but here there’s a yellow weather warning and it is absolutely chucking it down. Just as well then that I have some absorbing reading material (in the form of a book proof I won of The Countenance Divine, a spooky and intriguing tale by newcomer Michael Hughes) plus some entertaining articles from my regular travels around the web.
Man Booker Prize and the little guy
The big literary news story of the last week has been the announcement of the Man Booker Prize 2016 longlist. As always, there was as much debate about which books had been cruelly overlooked as the ones that had made the cut.
An interesting fact that emerged on these shores was the little-known rule that in order to be eligible for consideration, internationally released English-language books have to be published in the UK through a UK imprint. This means that small independent publishers without such connections are unable to enter their writers, no matter how good they are. In an article for The Irish Times, Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen of indie publishers Tramp Press – whose recent successes include Mike McCormack’s critically acclaimed Solar Bones, not to mention last year’s phenomenal Spill Simmer Falter Wither by Sara Baume – explain their objection to this system. They point out that small publishers are often the ones to discover and take a chance on an untested talent that is later scooped up by the large publishing houses:
‘Every big publisher (Hachette, Harper Collins, MacMillan, publishers that have headquarters in France, Germany and the US) has acquired Britain-based imprints. For them, submitting work for one of the most important literary prizes in the world isn’t a problem.
In the meantime, it has been well documented that independent publishers are doing the heavy lifting when it comes to discovering exceptional literary talent. Some of the big successes of the past few years were discovered first by independents. Deborah Levy (who features on this year’s longlist) was first published by the great UK indie And Other Stories. Eimear McBride’s A Girl Is a Half-Formed Thing (which went on to win the Goldsmiths and the Bailey’s) was discovered by Galley Beggar Press. Closer to home, Donal Ryan’s exceptional The Spinning Heart would never have been longlisted for the 2013 Booker if Doubleday hadn’t picked it up alongside independent Dublin publisher The Lilliput Press.
Independent publishers based in Ireland therefore face a challenge when they find and champion a book they believe in. The only way to make sure it is in with a chance for major awards such as the Man Booker is to co-publish or even sell it on to a publisher with a UK base’ – Sarah Davis-Goff and Lisa Coen, Tramp Press
I wonder what the chances are of a rule change?
…but at least there’s one indie success story
It’s easy to appreciate Tramp Press’s frustration when you compare Mike McCormack’s situation with that of Welsh writer Wyl Menmuir, whose debut The Many was put forward for the award by his UK indie publishers Salt Publishing. Being a Man Booker Prize longlistee places first-time novelist Menmuir alongside literary heavyweights like JM Coetzee (The Schooldays of Jesus), AL Kennedy (Serious Sweet) and Elizabeth Strout (My Name is Lucy Barton) for his chilling novel about an isolated fishing community. It’s a book, he says, that he wasn’t sure anyone would ever even publish or bother to review. Menmuir cites an Arvon Foundation course, a long-distance creative writing Master’s degree and the support of online writers’ community Write Track with helping him see his manuscript through to the finish. You can read his bemused interview with The Guardian on hearing the good news here.
Stop procrastinating! After you’ve read this
I wish I was joking, but it took me a while to get around to reading this article about procrastination on the Firewords website. It rightly points out what an attention-seeking beast the internet is; while you’re desperately trying to conjure up your best writerly words, there is it in the background, a whole host of fresh emails, tweets and Facebook updates about cats just an irresistible click away. Maybe you could just check them out for one teeny-tiny momentito – in case you’ve won some amazing award unbeknownst to yourself – and then get straight back to work…
But that way distraction lies and with it an end to productivity. According to writer Dan Burgess:
‘On average, it takes 23 minutes to get into the zone and be completely focused on a task after an interruption. Every notification you receive and every browser tab sets you back to the beginning. In reality, most people never write in their most productive and focused mode. Think what you could achieve if every writing session was spent in this mode’ – Dan Burgess, Firewords
So have a quick read through the article and then GET ON WITH THE WRITING. But maybe make a cup of tea first. And find the nice biscuits because they always help you concentrate. And get your emails/twitterfeed/FB notifications out of the way. Oh look, a vine of a bulldog in a tutu, how adorable! Etc…
Flash fiction and poetry competition
Entries are now open for the Dromineer Literary Festival Flash Fiction and Poetry competitions.
For the flash fiction category, you can submit an unlimited number of entries (though it’s €10 per entry). Story length should be a maximum of 500 words. Poems should be a maximum of 40 lines, and again you can send an unlimited number of entries (€5 per poem). In each case, there is a first prize of €500, second prize €350 and third prize €150.
The closing date is August 22. The festival itself takes place October 6-9 on the shores of Lough Derg in Co Tipperary.