Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Stories For Homes, Homes for Stories

Every so often – though certainly not as often as I should - I go on a serious trawl of the internet for literary journals, magazines, websites and competitions, searching for places to send my short stories. A few months ago, on one such mission, I came across the website Stories for Homes, which was requesting submissions of short fiction for an anthology of the same name on the theme of ‘home’.

Immediately, one of my stories, Unsettled, popped to the forefront of my mind: it concerns a house, a community, and an outsider - themes I thought might sit well in the anthology. However, it is also a retelling of a famous fairy tale, and given that the book was being produced to raise funds for the homeless charity Shelter, I wondered whether the editors might want to stick to more realist(ic) stories to reflect the serious nature of the cause.  

Still it was worth a shot, I thought, so I sent off Unsettled with a rather sheepish this-might-not-be-quite-what-you’re-looking-for disclaimer, and was therefore doubly delighted when, shortly afterwards, I learned it had been accepted for the anthology.

(The story behind Stories for Homes – from its pitch to publication - is rather fascinating in itself, as described by Debi Alper on her website here.)

Given that the book was being put together for charity under significant time pressure, we writers were then paired up over cyberspace by the editors/organisers/superwomen, Sally Swingewood and Debi Alper, and asked to look over one another's work. Although editing is a large part of my day job, at the time of this request I was holed up in a French chateau with sporadic internet access (ghostwriting larks...) and so a little worried about how I was going to find the time/means to pull off a decent editing job.

Fortunately, I was paired with Isabel Costello, who I later discovered runs the excellent book blog On the Literary Sofa. Isabel’s wonderful story, Half of Everything, about a woman coming to terms with the breakdown of her marriage during hurricane Sandy (totally different to my fairy tale piece!) hardly needed any tweaking, so it was a very pleasant editing task indeed. And a useful learning experience for me too, because it's not often my work is edited by someone I don't know. I usually entrust it to a few writerly friends, but Isabel provided some really constructive and thoughtful feedback, which led me to look at my piece afresh and give it a good polish before its publication. 

I am very proud to have been involved in the Stories for Homes book, and in awe of the people who worked so hard to pull it all together. It's strange to think that I stumbled across its website when looking for a home for one of my stories. I couldn't have predicted that search would lead me to such an exciting project, one that will hopefully make a big difference to people in desperate need of a place to call their own.  
Stories for Homes promo by Imran Siddiq

Stories for Homes is available now in ebook form on Amazon for just £5 and I’m told there will be a paperback version coming soon. One hundred percent of the royalties goes straight to Shelter.

Saturday, October 26, 2013

Microfiction: Thorns

A hundred years unkissed. Awake (back bent, skin gnarled, heart twisted), she dresses in thorns, becomes the witch instead.