Tag Archives: short-story

Write a short story every week …

Write a short story every week …

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A tall tale told short …

A tall tale told short …

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I am sure most of you will be familiar with Roald Dahl’s collections of short stories. Many of these stories were adapted for television and featured in the TV series Tales of the Unexpected which aired between 1979 and 1988.

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Dahl himself provided a brief introduction to each episode.
In ‘Mrs Bixby and the Colonel’s Coat‘ he gave an insight into his writing process … 

“This is a play about a very expensive mink coat. The original story is quite short. But I’m such a ridiculously slow writer that it took me something like 5 months to get the thing finished which is more than 600 working hours. That probably sounds a bit silly to you. In trying to work the plot out properly I took so many wrong turnings and went up so many blind alleys I nearly went crazy. Don’t forget a short-story writer is working in miniature and he can’t afford to splash his paint all over the canvas. He has to be extremely precise. I find it very difficult.”

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A short story is …

A short story is …

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Edna O’Brien …

Edna O’Brien …

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Edna O’Brien (born 15 December 1930) is an award-winning Irish novelist, memoirist, playwright, poet and short story writer. Philip Roth has described her “the most gifted woman now writing in English”, while former President of Ireland Mary Robinson has cited her as “one of the great creative writers of her generation.” Her first novel Country Girls was published in 1960 and her latest,The Little Red Chairs, in 2015.

O'Brien, pictured here with her parents, Lena and Michael, was born in Drewsboro, County Clare.

She gave an nterview in 1984 to the Paris Review for their Art of Fiction series and spoke briefly about her writing routine.

“When I am working I write in a kind of trance, longhand, in these several copybooks. I write in the morning because one is nearer to the unconscious, the source of inspiration. I never work at night because by then the shackles of the day are around me, what James Stephens (author of The Crock of Gold) called “That flat, dull catalogue of dreary things that fasten themselves to my wings,” and I don’t sit down three hundred and sixty-five days a year because I’m not that kind of writer. I wish I were! 

I get up in the morning, have a cup of tea, and come into this room to work. I never go out to lunch, never, but I stop around one or two and spend the rest of the afternoon attending to mundane things. In the evening I might read or go out to a play or a film, or see my sons.”

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And in 2007 she was a featured author in the Guardian’s Writers Rooms series.

“The clock does not tick or chime, which suits me perfectly since I cannot bear noise of any description when I am writing
I write by hand. I do not understand how people can arrive at even a flicker of creativity by means of a computer.”

Bernard Malamud …

Bernard Malamud 

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Bernard Malamud (1914 – 1986)

Bernard Malamud was one of the best known American Jewish authors of the 20th century. His baseball novel, The Natural, was adapted into a 1984  film starring Robert Redford. His 1966 novel, The Fixer, about anti-Semitism in Tzarist Russia, won both the National Book Award and the Pulitzer Prize.

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Malamud believed that self-disipline and being well organised were vital to writing successfully. He told one interviewer:

There are enormously talented people around but the problem is getting organized to use your talents. A lot of people lose it, they just lose it. Life starts turning somersaults over your back and the next thing you know you’re confronting things that seem to you more important than getting organized to do your writing. And if you can’t get organized, then you can kiss your talent goodbye. It happens in so many cases, it’s almost a loss, as though you have a field of flowers and were never able to collect them. [1]

The novelist and short-story writer was, in the words of his biographer, Philip Davis, a “time-haunted man.” Malamud’s daughter remembers him being “absolutely, compulsively prompt” throughout his life, and notes that he could become extremely agitated when made late. This obsessive punctuality served him well as a writer. Although he made his living as a teacher for most of his life, Malamud always found time to write and apparently never lacked for discipline. “Discipline is an ideal for the self,” he once said. “If you have to discipline yourself to achieve art, you discipline yourself.” 

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Malamud began writing seriously in 1940, when he was twenty-six, and soon after landed a job teaching night school in Brooklyn. His classes were from 6:00 until 10:00 in the evening, so he was able to write for five hours during the day, typically between 10:00 A.M. and 5:00 P.M. with a break at 12:30 to eat lunch, shave, and read for an hour. After eight years of this schedule, Malamud accepted a university teaching position in Oregon, moving there in 1949 with his wife and their young son. At the time, he had yet even to sell a story. But over the next dozen years he wrote four books, thanks in part to a favorable teaching schedule. Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays were devoted to classes, office hours, and grading papers; Tuesday, Thursdays, and Saturdays Malamud spent on his novels and short stories (“and I sneak parts of Sundays,” he said).

On writing days in Oregon, Malamud rose at 7:30, exercised for ten minutes, ate breakfast, and arrived at his office by 9:00. A full morning of writing usually amounted to only a page, two at best. After lunch, he revised the morning’s output, then returned home around 4:00. A short nap preceded domestic activities: dinner at 6:15, conversation with the family, help with the children’s homework. After the kids went to sleep, Malamud read for three hours–he usually spent half the time on fiction, half on nonfiction connected to his stories and novels–before going to sleep at midnight.

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Although he was a creature of habit, Malamud was wary of placing too much importance on his particular work rituals. He told an interviewer:

There’s no one way—there’s so much drivel about this subject. You’re who you are, not Fitzgerald or Thomas Wolfe. You write by sitting down and writing. There’s no particular time or place—you suit yourself, your nature. How one works, assuming he’s disciplined, doesn’t matter. If he or she is not disciplined, no sympathetic magic will help. The trick is to make time—not steal it—and produce the fiction. If the stories come, you get them written, you’re on the right track. Eventually everyone learns his or her own best way. The real mystery to crack is you. [2]

Sources:
[1] Bernard Malamud, interviewed by Mary Long. Mademoiselle. August 1976
[2] Daily Rituals by Mason Currey