Saturday, June 27, 2020

The Joy of Editing

Editing. I have always avoided this bogey. Up until recently, editing has filled me with a feeling of doom. Tedious old doom. I suppose I’ve always seen myself as a pioneer. Someone who likes to break new ground and then move on. But since my collection of micro fictions was accepted by my lovely publisher, my view has changed.
My editorial schedule with Unsolicited Press in Oregon spans 18 months. Structured. Dates. Deadlines. And really good communication.  I am currently at the deadline for the copyedit stage.
I look at the manuscript with the professional markups and suggestions and my mouth waters as I imagine a school teacher with a big fat red pen might. It’s a brand new feeling for me. Exciting even. 
Cutting must be done. And I do it with an eagerness that surprises me.
The process makes me think of a sculptor armed with chisels and hatchets before a block of marble straight from the mountain. With beautiful veins running through. A sculptor knows that whatever is carved away makes no difference to the beauty of the stone. That whatever was there to begin with, will still be there. The mountains, the life-giving veins.
And I feel that is the case with my book, ‘While the Kettle Boils, micro fiction’. There are 150 stories in the book written, more or less, weekly from 2016 to 2019. They are being published in the order they were written and, as I read through, I follow my editor’s advice and chop out too may occurrences of certain words — ’so’, for example, I see how I have improved over those three years as the further through the book we go, the fewer edits are required.
Members of my wonderful writing group, Writers Abroad, had already worked their magic on the manuscript before it was ever sent to the publisher, and they know how many oopsies etc. there were then. Writers Abroad is the village that helped raise this book to its feet. Now, with Unsolicited Press, it is getting it to walk forward.
And that is the joy of this editing process. Working with good and talented people who are generous with their time and gracious with their help. For me it is like a treasure hunt now, my loot bag is the markup app, and the further we go, the fewer things drop in the bag.

While the Kettle Boils will be launched in the spring of 2021. I’ve now signed a second contract with Unsolicited Press to publish my collected poems, Of Daisies and Dead Violins, in late 2021. The editorial schedule for the poetry book is already underway and what a joy that is too.

Friday, February 7, 2020

Front and Back Matter, does it matter?

 image: S.B. Borgersen

I don’t know about you, but when I have a new book in my hand I take time to consider the front matter, from the cover all the way through to the table of contents before I settle down to Chapter one.

It does aggravate me, however, when certain e-books swing right into that first chapter, skipping over all the well considered front matter:

Traditionally, front matter is the last thing to be written by the author, but hopefully the first thing the reader reads, well this reader anyway. Some of the formal front matter is provided by the publisher e.g. title, copyright, and table of contents pages. The rest is optional and says much about the author to the reader. Every page of the front matter is numbered in lower case roman numerals beginning with i for the title page.

All front matter pages should begin on a recto (right hand) page, except the copyright page with is placed on the verso (left hand).

There is a long list of optional front matter - and for me they all really do matter. This is where the author has applied much thought and it all deserves to be read and considered: 

Author’s introduction
Author’s notes including sources of reference material
Prologue - these seem to be making a come-back
And finally, before chapter one, the all important acknowledgements - in my experience it takes more than the author to create the finished book - so time for all involved to take a bow.

Now the back matter. You’ve finished the book, you take a deep breath of regret that it’s over, and another deep breath with appreciation for the creation that has just been shared with you.

The back matter can consist of:

An epilogue or after-word or postscript
Endnotes, good alternatives to footnotes
Bibliography, references to sources - could be alternative to author’s notes in the front matter if appropriate.
Glossary, if any special vocabulary has been used.
Copyright permissions, where a fee has been paid to use copyrighted lyrics or images for instance.
Image credits, linked to the above - but could apply separately to the cover images.
Further reading, often the opening chapter of a sequel or other book by the same author
Index, if necessary

Then, on the back cover, or inside the flyleaf, is the all important author biography, usually called ‘About the Author’ with a super mugshot, often with their pet cat or dog, or in their garden surrounded by daisies, or on a balcony overlooking Venice - well you get the picture.

So, my question to you is, with all the work that goes into the front and back matter, do you read it? Does it really matter to you. 

It really and absolutely matters to me.

image: S.B. Borgersen

Monday, October 21, 2019

La Crême de la Crême

Muriel Spark’s Approach to Writing.

I recently watched a TV documentary about the author Muriel Spark (Dame Muriel Sarah Spark).  She was the genius author behind, probably her best known novel, The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie. 

In the interview she talked about her approach to writing fiction. She opens the interview as follows, “I think of a title. And I go around telling everyone I’m going to write a book by that name. Then one day I write the title. I put ‘by Muriel Spark’ under it, then I turn the page and I write ‘Chapter One’. And then I write the first sentence and then I go on from there. Really, that’s how it is.”

If you’d like to experience the rest of the 60 minute documentary go here. it is mesmerising. At least I found it so.

But back to the opening of the interview. I felt so reassured by listening to her speak about her approach to writing. Because it is also close to my own. Maybe not always a title, it can be just one word. A prompt. And a story will begin buzzing. Characters will just show up. Human nature (and all its elements) will take over and carry the story to a place I had not planned. As you know, I write mostly without conscious thought.

I stop and wonder if I should think. If I should plot. Do some character studies. Give thought to settings. Stick to some of the guidelines in the rules of writing. But no, for me that is a turn off - for me it stilts my fiction - because, for me life (well mine anyway) is not like that. Life just bowls along, or around, or backs up, or falls over, or in fact just stands still. And I don’t see why fiction should be any different.

So I thank Muriel Spark for humbly speaking about her writing. For the genius of her writing. It has given me confidence to continue to do my own thing in my own way and not be one jot concerned with rules.

How about you?

Friday, July 26, 2019

Updated Writing bio

It's time to update the bio, I'm told. So here it is, warts and all. This should probably start with the most recent achievement - but that's not the way I roll. 

Sporting 87 of my Ad Hoc stories on my Litographs scarf. December 2017

S.B. Borgersen - short biography

Once described in the writing world as a ‘third space inhabitant’, S.B. Borgersen, originally from England, writes and makes art on the glorious shores of Nova Scotia, Canada.

Sue’s favoured genres are poetry, short and micro fiction. She is published internationally in anthologies, and arts and literary magazines, in print and online. She’s currently re-working one of her fourteen NaNoWriMo novels into a novella-in-flash.

S.B. Borgersen was a long-standing member of The Nova Scotia Writers’ Federation, a keen member of the expat writers’ group Writers Abroad, and a founding member of The Liverpool Literary Society. Sue was a judge for the Atlantic Writing Competition (Poetry Category) 2016 and Hysteria (Poetry) 2017.

Her collection of 150 micro fictions (While the Kettle Boils) will be published by Unsolicited Press, Oregon, in early 2021.


Achievements and publications - S.B. Borgersen:
1958 My Life Story: told by Laika, the sputnik dog in The Crusader, the first school magazine from King Richard School Dhekelia.
The missing years, mountains of non-fiction, only slightly creative, technical and training documentation.
2000 The Wings of the Doves in A Drop in the Ocean, a collection of six short stories, published by Brave Waves. A writer initiated project, a result of the NSCC creative writing programme.
2000 2nd place with The White Wisteria in South Shore Literary Society annual competition. ($50 prize!)
2001 2nd place (poetry) with Life in the Atlantic Writing Competition. (another $50 prize!)
2009 The big breakthrough: Sister of No Mercy, one of 75 poems from poets around the world in Leonard Cohen You're Our Man, from the Foundation for Public Poetry, to celebrate Mr Cohen’s 75th birthday. Leonard Cohen You're Our Man
2011 20 Winners at the Game of Life, essays by successful women, published by Parker and Watson. 20 Winners at the Game of Life
2012 Mail Order Bride in Foreign Encounters, a Writers Abroad anthology.Foreign Encounters 
2012 Layers, poems and photographs. Self published using Lulu Layers
2013 Shortlisted by the CBC for The Song that Changed Your Life.
2013 Edited, designed and produced Distant Voices, talking drums A Six Week, Long Distance Poetry Project for More Writers Abroad. Published using LuluDistant Voices
2013 Peeling, 39 poems and photographs written in 2012 and 2013. Published using Lulu
2013 Knickers a creative non-fiction essay, was published in the anthology Foreign and Far Away. This work subsequently received acknowledgment from the provincial government of Nova Scotia for the manner in which it addressed the tragedy of the Bangladesh factory disaster and compared it with excellent working conditions in the Maritime underwear factory, Stanfields, 100 years earlier. Foreign and Faraway
2013 to present: contributed to ArtAscent, the international arts and lit journal with flash fictions: Emergence, The Sequence Dance, The Green Dress, Loved to Death, and Three Anthems for Althea, along with the poems, The Feel of Dark, Eating an Orange Before Breakfast, and Point of View, in addition to visual art. ArtAscent
2015 Solas, a collection of short poems on the subject of light was published in Kaleidoscope.Kaleidoscope
2016 Stiff as Boards, short story set in the Canadian Maritimes, published by Centum Press in 100 Voices Volume 1.100 Voices volume 1
A consistent contributor to Ad Hoc since January 2016, with her micro story, Walter’s Quest, being pronounced a winner in September 2017.
2016 Then I Kissed Her in Adverbially Challenged published by Chris Fielden.
2017 Wrong Stones in Nonsensically Challenged also published by Chris Fielden
2017 Shapes and Trip of a Lifetime, two short storiesshortlisted by Writing magazine.
2017 Tonight’s the Night longlisted in the Bath Flash Competition and published in To Carry Her Home Bath Flash Fiction Volume 1. To Carry Her Home

2017 Interview with Hysteria

2017 24 Hours of a Canadian Winter, first prize in Writing magazine’s Numbers Poetry competition.
2018 an interview with Jude Higgins of Bath Flash Fiction Award

2018 My poem 'How You Think You Might Find Happiness' published by ArtAscent in their April 2018 issue.

2018 Hit the 100 mark with Ad Hoc. That is 100 micro (150 words) story without a break. Looking for a publisher. 100 stories. 100 pages. What's not to like?

2018 Tuesdays (a short-short story) accepted by Flash: The International Short-Short Story Magazine for their 11.1 edition.

2018 My short The Blackout takes the 'featured story - Gold' place in June's issue of ArtAscent. The review by Oleksandra Osadcha is overwhelming.

2019 Daniel was accepted in February and published in April by Wells Street Journal on page 56.

2019 Coming of Age accepted by Setu. Published May 3rd Coming of Age

2019 Daylight robbery Shortlisted by Strands

2019 Mike and Sophie accepted by 50-words on April 11 2019

2019 - May 3rd Partners published on The Drabble

2019 - May 26th The Mackenzies published by Fewerthan500 The Mackenzies

2019 - June 1 - Tunnel Vision was longlisted by Micro Madness New Zealand 

2019 - June 21 - Pink Capri finally found a lovely home wiht Strands Publishing Pink Capri 

2019 - July 9th - Trip of a Lifetime published by Cafelit. Trip of a Lifetime

2019 - July 15th - The Escape long listed by Retreat West 

2019 - August 18th - Seeing the Light -  Published by Fewer than 500 Seeing the Light

2019 - September - da Vinci's Burlington House Cartoon - poem shortlisted by Writing Magazine

2019 - September - Micro Fictions Collection of 150  - manuscript While the Kettle Boils accepted for publication by Unsolicited Press.

2019 - October  - Contract signed and Editorial Schedule for While the Kettle Boils agreed

2019 - November - A to Z accepted by Wells Street Journal

2019 - November - letter printed in Writing Magazine

2019 - November - Stiff as Boards to get a 2nd publication by Fresh Ink

2019 - December - Essay 'What is Home' accepted for publication in 2020

2019 - December - A story with a beginning a middle and end published by Storgy  Link to story on Storgy

2020 - January - 4 poems inspired by Nova Scotia season in THE POET THE POET - seasons issue

2020 - February - Blue white gold, a short story, is accepted for publication by Strukturris.

2020 - February - Indigo Sweetwater and Joe's Trip to the Library (flash fictions) to be published by Setu in March/April. Link will be added then.

2020 - April - poem The cookbook given to you by your mother - published by Flora Fiction Flora Fiction page 57

2020 - April - The long distance helpful phone call from your mother - accepted in 42 word stories 

2020 - April - my poem - Were you once and art teacher - really published by Blue NibWere you once an art teacher, really

2020 - June 2 - stories published by Setumag  Indigo Sweetwater at Setumag

2020 - June - Made the top 22 in New Zealands’ Flash Frontier Lockdown issue - publishing in video form on Youtube between 1st and 22nd (shortest day in New Zealand. Reading Two-faced Moira - micro fiction

2020 - June - From Coalman’s Corner to Eternity in Strands From Coalman's Corner to Eternity

2020 - June Unsolicited Press accepted Of Daisies and Dead Violins - collected poems - for publication in late 2021.


Sunday, July 14, 2019

Fiction and Truth

“Fiction is a lie that tells us true things” is a quote from Neil Gaiman’s foreword to Ray Bradbury’s Fahrenheit 451.

I always read the front matter before I embark on any book. Much careful thought goes into forewords and acknowledgements in my humble opinion. And when a statement like Gaiman’s jumps out of the e-page at you at 3 am, you, if you are anything like me, sit up and take notice.

And yes, write it down on that little notebook by the bed.

But, why oh why was I reading Fahrenheit 451 at 3 am? Because I’d taken up the Literary Taxidermy challenge earlier this year: to take the opening and closing lines of said novel - and stuff my own words in between.  

Oh what joy this challenge was, to find new characters to blossom, to explore settings, to discover emotions. And find a course for these components from opening to closing lines. Not wondering how you would get there, or how you would move everything from A to Z with the limited word count. And to feel just a tad uncomfortable.

I re-read my submission this week (after that Gaiman light bulb moment) and, in spite of those constraints of the challenge, I found I had, subconsciously, immersed so many truths in my fiction.

It was a moment of realisation. Of understanding why I write fiction. Why I feel I must tell these stories. And why I must trust my instincts to tell things in my own way. I suspect I do this a lot. 

I am appreciative of the gauntlet thrown down by the Literary Taxidermy challenge and admit I wouldn’t have a. written the story at all, or b. read Bradbury (and thereby missed the foreword) without that challenging lure.

But most of all I’m thankful for this shift in my deeper understanding of fiction.

Wednesday, July 10, 2019

July 2019 update

Work continues to be submitted. And - woo-hoo - work is getting accepted for publication.  Here is an update:

Tunnel vision was long-listed by Micro Madness in New Zealand on June 1st. The story found itself in excellent company - so long-listing was plenty good enough for me.

Pink Capri won a second placing with Strands Publishing. So nice to get paid. you can read it here

Trip of a Lifetime - once shortlisted by Writing Magazine found itself a home on July 9th with Cafelit. you can read it here - you may need to scroll down to 9th July

Friday, April 26, 2019

Recently Published and other news

May 2019 update

My short fiction Coming of Age finally published - after a slight formatting hiccough - on May 4th by the literary journal Setu

My 50-worder Impossible Choice was published by 50 Word Stories - you can read it there too.

The link for The Mackenzies will be posted on May 26th.

April 2019 saw my short story Daniel published in the Wells Street Journal. If you'd like to read it it's on page 56 Wells Street Journal Liminal Edition - I wasn't able to make the great looking launch in London - but was with all of the other contributors in spirit.  My thanks to all at Wells Street for believing in my work.

A few days later Mike and Sophie was published by 50-words. If you like, you can read it here Mike and Sophie by S.B. Borgersen - you may need to scroll down that page.

In other writerly news my flash fiction Daylight Robbery was shortlisted by Strands who have announced good news shortly!

And two flashes, The Mackenzies and Seeing the Light have been accepted  by Fewerthan500 for publication later this summer. The Mackenzies will be published on 26 May and Seeing the Light in August. published my micro fiction Partners on May 3rd 2019. They've added a lovely image to the story too.

Ad Hoc, of course is a continuing saga - to which I've contributed since January 2016.