Monday, 30 July 2012

Y'know? You Get to Meet the Nicest People...

Much of this past weekend has been spent corresponding with the editor-in-chief and founder of Canadian Stories, Ed Janzen. This guy's a real find. Ever since I decided to take writing seriously, I've met people from all tracts of life: other writers, novelists, poets, doctors, journalists, teachers galore, but I couldn't say that I'd ever met a world famous chemist before. Now I can. But we didn't talk about chemistry (Google Ed Janzen - Spin Trapping and you'll see why. I couldn't understand a word). At first we more or less introduced ourselves to one another, and then we began to talk about writing.

(an aside:) Before I go any further, I should mention that the usual course of dialogue with the contest co-ordinator following a story's success goes something like, "Wow! Thanks a lot!" Reply: "You're welcome."

Ed's not like that...not at all.
He seemed to have an interest in knowing everything about me, and encouraged me to know everything about him. Maybe it's because we both grew up in Manitoba, I don't know, but he has this straightforward attitude - "This is who I am. Make up your mind what you think about that."
Well, let me tell you. He's an octogenarian, formerly a full professor at the University of Georgia and then Chair of the Chemistry Department at the University of Guelph (for a while, both at the same time) now retired from academia, and whiles away his time (for the past 24 years) writing articles about his passion - old cars - and races dragsters, if you please! Otherwise his day-to-day is regulated by running a literary magazine. A vast cornucopia of talent, I'm sure you'll agree...yet we spoke as equals.
 I love that about him.

It Just Occurred to Me...

Really, so much has happened in the past few days that maybe I shouldn't be so surprised that I never realized until now, that every story that I ever submitted to the Galbraith Award has been - or will soon be - published. Highway Driving (Galbraith web-page), a longer version of Heading Home (this fall in Voices), and a shorter version of Roll of Honour (due out on Wednesday, this week, in Canadian Stories).
I'm no expert, but I think that's impressive, even if I do say so myself.
I don't ask other writers what their batting average is, just as I wouldn't want them to ask that of me. So I don't know what percentage that go recognized is considered as respectable. But let's take a look at the total number of stories in my file, including the ones that I know are duds, but put them in anyway, probably for no better reason than they'd taken up so much of my time (I won't disclose the total number, but if you're really, REALLY interested, you can do the math by reading through the entire blog), and divide that into the number that have gained recognition, I arrive at just over 28%. Is that good? How should I know? But then, if I include the number of stories that have gained recognition more than once, the number increases to 37%, which is decidedly better.
But let's get really crazy, and include only the stories that were written during and after the making of Josiah Stubb, and that increases to 56% ( far - some really good ones are just now being submitted for the very first time). Now, that HAS to be right up there, wouldn't you think? Great! Fantastic! I couldn't be happier!
But 100% that was written for the Galbraith? Man, that's just scary!

Sunday, 29 July 2012

About "Roll of Honour"

I think that now might be a good time to say a few words about Roll of Honour, as spare moments throughout the week are often difficult to come by.

On the surface it's the same as many other stories about war: to try to understand the reason why they fought, and the struggle to maintain what we value. I wanted to also insinuate a sub-theme, too - to suggest that those values, that so many gave their lives for, constantly change. The Canada of today is not the same country that my great-uncle died for in WW1, nor is it the same as when my father went overseas in WW2, or during the Korean conflict, either. Canadians have gradually metamorphosed from being staunch defenders of the Empire, to being equally staunch defenders of humanity as a whole.  This story is intended to honour all those who have ever volunteered to put themselves in harm's way, so that their fellow citizens could live in safety, often during our country's darkest hours.
 You'll find a recurring theme throughout: "If not us, then who?"

Wednesday, 25 July 2012

Award-Winning Author...That's Me!

I just received a letter (and a cheque) in the mail stating that Roll of Honour had won in the Lest We Forget category of the Canadian Stories Competition (due to be published in that magazine on August 1st). It hasn't sunk in yet. There's been a lot to absorb over the last couple of days.

I had mentioned earlier that Roll of Honour had made it to the semi-finals in last year's Galbraith Award. This is a much shorter version, as the contest restrictions forced me to trim off over a thousand words.*

Oh, I forgot to add that it will appear on this blog August 2nd.

*I've since checked, and it was only 500 words that I had to take off. I guess it just felt like a thousand.

Tuesday, 24 July 2012

Cautiously Optimistic

I just received an email from Wild Wolf Publications out of the UK - a publisher that I had sent the first three chapters of one of my novels, The Adventures of Charlie Smithers, in May of 2011.

"Hi, Chuck,

Thank you for your submission.  I apologise for the length of time it has taken to get to it, but as you can imagine, we do get somewhat inundated.  I have now read the extract and, if the title is still without a home, I would like to read the full manuscript.

I look forward to hearing from you.

Kind regards,

Sam Dennison"

This could be a real breakthrough, and room, I think, for cautious optimism, even though disappointments in the past tell me to brace myself for more of the same.


In my reply, I had asked Sam what sort of time frame before I could expect a decision, and was told a month or so. For sure, this will be the longest month of my life.

Stay tuned.

Sunday, 22 July 2012

"Heading Home" Confirmed

Well it's official. After a few small revisions Heading Home has been confirmed for the fall issue of Voices.

"Dear Chuck:

This one's a real gem.  Really enjoyed it.  I'll be proud to include it in the next issue.

Keep it up!


Tuesday, 3 July 2012

Coming in the Fall

I was out in Edmonton for my niece's wedding, just got back a few minutes ago. An email had arrived from an editor with comments on "Heading Home": "This story is excellent.  I read it once as an editor and once for fun." and then appended at the end of the attached story, "This story is amazing.  A real page-turner.  The tone is very earthy and natural.  Other than a couple of tweaks, this one's a no-brainer for the next issue." Which was all very nice, but seeing as how I didn't have my notebook, with its record of which story was submitted to what contest, or magazine, I didn't have any idea who it was from. Turns out it was from the folks a Lake Winnipeg Writers' Group again. So it looks like there's a really good chance that Heading Home will be coming out in "Voices" in the fall, and posted on this blog the day after.

You may recall that "Heading Home" made it to the semi-finals in the 2010 Galbraith Award. Actually it was an abbreviated version of the original, which is what will be getting published. I'm quite happy about that. The one major change between the two versions is the curtailed ending that I sent to the Galbraith. I always preferred the original ending, but the word restrictions for the competition didn't allow it. Now it'll finally have its day in the sun.

As accolades go, I find it difficult to imagine them getting any better than what this editor sent, especially the part about reading it a second time for fun. When you consider that he spends most of his free time reading other people's work, with, I'm sure, varying amounts of enthusiasm, that comment really struck home. That he would go to the trouble of mentioning it is quite humbling.