Saturday, November 26, 2005

The Survival of the Short Story!

I felt I had to tackle the subject after reading Cavan's recent post on the 'Death of the Short Story'. This is a very tricky and fascinating topic and one which is certainly multi-layered. The short fiction market is, no doubt, struggling, on numerous fronts, but I for one believe in this medium and am quite fond of it. I enjoy reading it and enjoy writing it more so.

When it comes to, I think the issue lies in the fact that there aren't many widely available and easy-accessed journals/mags, and people mostly have to subscribe to get their hands on a copy! And then again, the majority of these publications are in the higher-end of the market.

But as I am preparing a collection of short stories for publication, such matters directly affect me, whether I like it or not.

Like I said, I love short stories and feel strongly about them. That's why I've put Moments together. And I'm hoping that it will find many readers. I do believe that short fiction can be more effective, to a degree, than the novel form, in that it can be more instantaneous, powerful and intriguing.

I enjoy reading collections by a single author. It can be a lot of fun and I think there are many people who feel the same. It's just a matter of getting the right combination of stories and, as with everything else, targeting it at the right audience. I know a lot of people dismiss short stories and collections, but sometimes they can offer a different reading experince.

Look at what David Mitchell had achieved with Cloud Atlas. This was a very smart way of incorporating a multi-layered short story collection into one body and present it as a novel.

Perhaps that's where the survival of the short story lies. I'm hoping to find out when Moments comes out!

Tuesday, November 22, 2005

The Delayed Cambridge Post

Alright, so I suppose you're all wondering: what the hell happened? This guy is flown to Cambridge to attend this literature seminar yet, more than four months later, he never even mentions it?

Apologies. Here, I present you thee, a complete post (article) on my thoughts of that very matter in question. This is a piece I wrote for the British Council and was published in their most recent newsletter. I've cut chunks out of it here. (if you go to my flickr account you will find a group photo from the event).

Writer’s Paradise

The prospect of spending eight days in the company of some of Britain’s finest established authors as well as an international group of writers, publishers, translators and editors might have been daunting at first, but once I stepped into the Downing College campus in Cambridge, I realized that I was in for an extraordinary experience.

I was invited by the British Council Bahrain to take part in the 29th Cambridge Seminar on contemporary literature, following the publication of my debut novel QuixotiQ last year, which is the very first to be written by a Bahraini in the English language. The novel became a national best-seller and went on to win the Bahraini Outstanding Book of the Year Award.

A wonderful and exciting line-up of some of the most influential and talented authors of British contemporary literature – from different backgrounds and genres – gave talks, readings and recitals over the week, from established veterans such as the infectiously funny Paul Bailey, the truly British Alan Bennett and the wonderfully genteel Terry Eagleton (whose reading of Oscar Wilde was one of the many highlights of the seminar) to some of today’s most inspiring and promising authors like the witty Hari Kunzru, the easy-going Toby Litt and the serious entertainer Nadeem Aslam.

As much as these talks and readings, and the chance of meeting such formidable authors and writers in person, was both inspirational and educational, it was also the interaction with my fellow participants that made the whole event an even more pleasurable experience. With about 50 men and women from the five corners of the world – writers, authors, publishers, editors, academics and translators – the seminar was truly a melting pot of talents, experiences and cultures and an extraordinary opportunity to build relations and establish contact with people from within the literature and publishing industry.

The seminar also gave me the chance to perform my first public reading, as part of the various activities scheduled on the programme. On a personal level, this was undoubtedly the most significant experience. I read two of my short stories and to my delight they both received resounding acceptance and confidence-boosting praise.

Those lovely summer afternoons, sipping tea and dipping biscuits at the steps of the Howard Building, engaging in cultural, political and literal debates and discussing everything from modern music to the impact of cultural fusion on the state of international contemporary literature, will remain forever with me as some of my fondest memories.

By bringing us all together, and by offering us a rare close-encounter with some of today’s finest authors, the British Council created what must be one of the most creative and inspirational gatherings. For me, as an upcoming and aspiring writer, it was everything I was expecting and hoping for.

Thursday, November 17, 2005

The Pasta Strain

I think I've done a lot better this time around with revision and editing and, with the help of my beloved Karen, I reckon we got ourselves a decent collection of short stories. Moments is about 95% ready for publication, the next step being, where to take it from there.

With QuixotiQ, there was some sort of communication breakdown which resulted in allowing some mistakes and bad grammar to slip through, but having the chance to work on things together in person, is a lot better. The process - thanks a great deal to Karen, I must confess - gained me some more insight and made me a little more (gasp) patient! Having said that, I still believe there is more room for improvement.

I was surprised at how a story could read so much better by simply taking a word or two out, moving sentences around, and tweaking things here and there. The important thing is to keep the story flowing and to maintain consistency. I used to shrug off suggestions or comments on revision and 'more' editing, but I understand now.

It's a question of sifting through it all, like draining pasta in a colander! Let's face it, you wouldn't want the starchy water with that do you?

Didn't think so.

Wednesday, November 09, 2005

Meeting a God

Last Saturday, I had an encounter with a god!

Well, actually, his name was Neil Gaiman. Anyone who's visited this blog before will find the name familiar. I had mentioned him once or twice you see, he only happens to be my hero. I can easily say that he is one of my biggest inspirations and idols in the world of literature.

Anyhow, Mr Gaiman had a book signing in Norwich and Karen and I traveled the few miles especially for the occasion. I wasn't going to let this opportunity go to waste. And I'm glad I didn't.

The event was held at Ottakar's bookstore and quite a few people turned up for it. The queue zigzagged like a snake around the stork's ailse! I must admit, I did get a bit nervous. Hell, this guy was my idol. I've read almost all of his work - both novels and graphic ones too - and I worship his creations. His Sandman books simply changed my life.

I took my hardback Anansi Boys copy and the paperback Marvel 1602 comic book with me for him to sign. Gaiman was exactly how I expected him to be, genuinely nice, friendly and - er - a bit scruffy! We spoke briefly, but I'll never forget it. Unfortunately, I had taken a photo on a digital camera but it was mistakingly wiped out, something that was as close as a catastrophic-traumatic disaster to me as they could get.

Lastly, if you've not read anything for Gaiman yet, I urge you to do. You are more than likely to enjoy it. And I'm a happy bunny for actually meeting the man in person.