(I'll break off here for a moment. Did you know that 'purple patch' is also a literary term? I didn't. I just looked it up. It means 'An overly elaborate or effusive piece of writing'. How appropriate.)
Fresh from my story ‘Me, Robot’ appearing in the latest volume of short fiction from The Fiction Desk (it's called 'Crying Just Like Anybody' and all the stories are excellent - go buy it!), I then had another acceptance. I was in the middle of my work's Christmas lunch at a nearby pub, when I got the email from Litro Magazine to say they enjoyed my short story ‘The Real Miracle’ and wanted to publish it in their next issue. I nearly spluttered Guinness all over my lamb shank. That’ll teach me to fiddle with my iPhone at a social occasion. Still – what news! What a Christmas present!
Litro are both a print and online magazine, primarily publishing short stories but also poems, articles, interviews and artworks. The print issue is free - a neat, pocket-sized thing which you can pick up from their stockists - and with a print run of, apparently, 100,000, to have a story accepted by them was a genuine chin-dropping moment.
Litro are also notable in that each issue of their magazine is centred on a theme. Some magazines and journals avoid themed issues, preferring to keep an open submissions policy, but it does work very, very well for Litro. Over the past couple of years they've brought out magazines on Ghosts, Work, Food, Street, Comics, War and places such as China, Africa, France and Rio. They're absorbing, fascinating and imaginative reads, with their website offering back issues in electronic format, and much more besides.
"The Real Miracle" appeared in an issue with a "Magic" theme. I absolutely couldn't resist having a go. I used to be a very keen magician when I was younger - I performed stage shows, competed with the best young magicians in the country in national competitions, and even made it on telly two or three times - therefore with my story, I was able to draw on some personal experience. Due to this I was hopefully able to convey some authenticity - and of course I didn't have to do too much in the way of research.
Usually when I start writing a story, I finish it. For the first time ever, I gave up. It simply wasn't working. Whether it was clunky prose, ill-considered characterisation, the lack of time I had as Christmas approached, or just my lack of affinity with the railway, I don't know. Probably a bit of all of them, but more, I suspect, the fact that I couldn't think of a good story. I had all year to work on it, all year to research the railway if that is what I needed to actually do. Yet I had to admit this one wasn't going to happen. Just wanting to be published isn't enough. I needed to have a story worth telling.
Was it writer's block? Maybe. But I don't lack other ideas, so maybe working to a specific theme was the wrong thing to try in this instance.
Perhaps I'll come back to it, if inspiration strikes. Maybe it'll prompt me to read a bit about the railway, or about the life George Stephenson. Something good will come of it. I don't like leaving things unfinished!
In the meantime, there's 2013 to look forward to. I hope to have a few bits and pieces coming out over the next few months, themed or otherwise. Stay tuned!