Week 162 – Questionnaire Responses, Questions And Tension Headaches.

We can’t thank you enough for the questionnaires!

Way to go guys!

So this posting will be very little pish, you know, the stuff that I normally write, it’ll be all about your input.

The response was so good that we have decided to answer the questions that you set for us next week. If we didn’t this could stretch to ten thousand words!! (And realistically, it gives the editors time to try and think of something witty and sage like. So no pressure Nik and Diane!! – I can feel the tension – Tramadol anyone?)

Me, I’ll just stick with writing pish!

I’ll get the reviews done for last week and then it is all over to you!

There was only one new writer this week. So as is usual, we welcome L’Erin Ogle, hope she has fun on the site and has a long association with us.

Our topics this week included; turning a blind eye, a courtroom drama, hamsters, life and death and making do.

As always, our initial comments follow.

First up was James Hanna. He’s a well established author and his work is always worth checking out. ‘The Time My Dad Chewed Out A Cop‘ was published on Monday.

‘Silly and OTT but funny and it made me grin.’

‘I reckon the sexism towards the mother was more playful than damaging.’

‘I really did enjoy the story within the story.’

There is no introduction needed for Mr Fred Foote.

Fred’s stories have taken a particular path recently and that says even more about the interest that is always around his submissions.

Tuesday’s story was ‘Saint Peter Interviews Cardinal Chester Mahoney.’

‘I was hooked reading this. It is so reasoned and well crafted.’

‘The abuse was as blatant as the ignoring. This is unfortunately, very relevant.’

‘The section about him not finding the church in error is quite brilliant.’

Mid week came on Wednesday and L’Erin Ogle had her debute story ‘Family Traditions‘ break the back of the week.

‘A dreadful acceptance of, well, everything! But it did make me giggle at parts.’

‘The melancholy style suited the acceptance within the story.’

‘The back story was done brilliantly.’

Another pleasure for you on Thursday and another writer who should be sought out and read!

Leila Allison has given us yet another wonderful story. ‘Blessed Are The Little Things‘ was published on the day before the last day of the week.

‘Brilliant and a tad odd.’

‘Simply, a fun and well written piece of story telling.’

‘I think the hints from the website are relevant and believable.’

And to finish us off on Friday, we had A. Elizabeth Herting. This lady is always a joy to work with.

Lamentation‘ was her fourth outing for us.

‘There are many excellent word choices.’

‘This had impact.’

‘This is very clever. This story could be taken in a few different ways and everyone is thought provoking!’

So as promised, over to you!!!

****

Leila Allison.

1. What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?

1) Unless you get lucky, you will become what you hate..

2. Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?

2) I must be energized and up. Without some distance between myself and darkness, sad stuff resembles a suicide note

3.What do you enjoy most; researching, writing or finishing?

3) Maan, I’m a lazy sack of doorknobs. Guess finishing sucks the least.

4. Have any stories clearly given you an off topic idea that you wondered where it came from?

4) Not story lines so much, but characters will pop up, ones who will go into something else better suited for him or her. My one legged woman came about that way. She was a second banana in one thing I yanked her from and put into another because she’s a leading lady.

5.What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

5) Acts of violence. I recently quit a Stephen King novel because of a scene in which a boy is being killed with a dull knife. I go for it all, but sometimes there are places better left unwritten.

6.If your story has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?

 6) I can’t account for tastes. But LS never bitches and moans about the onslaught of submissions. Some publications kvetch about that so much that I wonder why they ask for submissions. Moreover, LS doesn’t connive to make its own separate style. The wild diversity in subjects writ by the writing gives LS its identity. Also, LS personally gives both good news and the bad. You see, only boneheads reject my stuff.

 I know that you didn’t ask, but if I were a tree I’d be a Presto log.

***

Dave Henson

  1. What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?

I wrote a sci-if story, Classical Monster, about a creature that, when it experienced pain, would cry out in tones from various classical music pieces. One of the human scientists on this planet ends up torturing the creature to hear and document its “music.” As an animal lover, that’s one of the darker thoughts I’ve had for a story.

  1. Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?

No. Working on a story, even if it’s a downer, tends to put me in an upbeat mood. If I’m working on a story, and it’s not going well, I stop and play piano or go for a walk with my wife and our dog. Or take a nap.

  1. What do you enjoy most; researching, writing, or finishing?

Writing. I most enjoy the discovery of seeing where a story is going. I typically have a general idea, but almost always the organic nature of writing provides some unexpected turns. For me, that’s the most enjoyable part of the process.

  1. Have any stories clearly given you an off-topic idea that you wondered where it came from?

My Powdered Friend appeared on Literally Stories. It started as just a story about being able to buy a “friend in a box” and ended up being a story about government spying on and controlling society. That topic emerged wholly from the writing process.

  1. What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

I won’t write a purely personal, “confessional” piece, but apart from that I don’t consider any subject taboo as long as it isn’t treated gratuitously. By that I mean if a character is doing something reprehensible, they should be punished, found out, or experience a profound change by the end of the story. For example, in the story Classical Monster mentioned in answer no. 1 above, the scientist torturing the creature eventually is identified as the “monster” in the story.

  1. If one of your stories has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?

Most of the stories I’ve had on LS were sent there first, but there have been some exceptions. One was The Real Bad Snowman. It was rejected with feedback that the editor had no idea what the story was about. After being greatly offended and sulking for a while, I made some changes to the story to make things clearer without being too obvious. I submitted that version of the story to Literally Stories, and it was accepted.

Questions for you:  I’d be interested in your responses to the same questions you’ve posed to us.

***

Adam Kluger

1.  What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?
Death, pain, suffering, misery all contribute toward making interesting art and writing. It’s ok to visit with these feelings once in a while, it’s part of the human condition, but don’t take up permanent residence there. I try to be a glass half full or a pragmatic optimist. Writing and art have saved me in the darkest of hours.
2.  Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?
It helps to be able to tap into different moods as a touchstone. When it pours forth it has usually been simmering for a while and takes off in various directions and you just try to ride the wave and not crash.
3.  What do you enjoy most; researching, writing or finishing?
Drinking iced coffee, listening to music, reading the insightful/helpful comments in Literally Stories. My method is a combination of literary advice from my favorite writers like Hemingway and Bukowski and a list of about 20 others, and whatever feels honest, uncensored, funny and resonant. It’s easy to write poorly. A lot of people do it. Myself included (ha!). Good writing to me is entertaining and straightforward. The words don’t get in the way. I prefer a direct line. But I also respect that getting from a to b can be achieved through a variety of styles. Great writing is like great music- is works on many different levels, you know it when you see it. It’s something that inspires me to keep working at it until I get it right one of these days.
4.  Have any stories clearly given you an off topic idea that you wondered where it came from?
Definitely. Some of the stories that I write take the form of a parable or open-ended question of individual choice or morality. I’m often surprised by the end result of my stories. That’s what keeps it interesting for me. The experimental nature of the writing and how my characters will start at one point and end somewhere totally unexpected. I guess I’m an abstract expressionist to some degree.
5.  What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?
I try not to limit content or direction. At times, I experience great shame revealing parts of myself hidden under the mask of my characters but there is also something cathartic about sharing my personal failings and foibles with others in a humorous way. I guess I am hoping for the reader to say “It’s ok Adam, I feel the same way sometimes.”
6.  If one of your stories has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?
I love Literally Stories. It feels like home. I’ve had a number of stories accepted and a bunch that have been rejected. I think that Literally Stories has helped me become a better writer. I love reading the other stories to see the creativity, heart and variety of styles. The editor comments are invaluable. Precious bits of insight and affirmation from fellow writers who respect the process and craft offered with sincerity, honesty and love.
Questions (if any) for us:
What now?
***

 A. Elizabeth Herting

  1. What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?

My mind has many dark thoughts twisting and turning through it–it all depends on what triggers the story idea! A very long and tortuous visit to the dental office became a story about a dentist/Elvis impersonator practicing his craft with a chainsaw. A dog and a cat staring at a shadow on a wall led to a scorned, murdering wife getting her comeuppance after using her ex-husband for garden fertilizer. Of course, the darkest thoughts come from real life experiences. Many of my stories have originated from the premature deaths of my parents. I do have to say that the darkest event/thought that instigated a story was a recent funeral I attended. It was a very traditional, religious ceremony for a 13-year-old boy who was rumored to have committed suicide by hanging. Hearing the sound of the dirt hitting the coffin as the mourners wailed was truly horrifying and led me to a very dark place. I have three children, including a daughter who went to school with the boy and knew him. I came home from that heart-breaking experience and wrote the story in a single sitting.

  1. Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?

Being in a similar mood of the story I am writing does help with ideas, but I find that I can write any kind of story if I just sit down and put my mind to it. I have many partially written stories, so I can usually choose which kind to work on depending on the day I am having. With 3 kids, a job at an elementary school and singing in a ladies barbershop quartet, free time to write is a real luxury. Quiet time is almost unheard of so most of my writing is done in the evenings, on a laptop while reclined in an easy chair with the TV on in the background and kids/animals running around me. I seem to thrive on noise and chaos!

  1. What do you enjoy most; researching, writing or finishing?

I love it all, but there is a real feeling of accomplishment in finishing a story for me. Putting in the final touches, going through it over and over, reading it aloud to hear the flow of the words–pure bliss. It is also a thrill to put your story out there, taking a risk that it may be rejected. The agony of rejection and the ecstasy of acceptance. The best part is when a story that has been rejected multiple times finally finds its forever home and you know that someone, somewhere, finally gets it.

  1. Have any stories clearly given you an off topic idea that you wondered where it came from?

This happens all the time. I find myself writing an already established story and a random idea that has nothing to do with anything comes out of nowhere, causing me to stop and write a whole new story. Many times, the new story is finished while the old one languishes. I try never to question when that happens, it is better to just sit back and ride the wave.

  1. What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

I can’t say if anything would ever be off limits when the fancy hits, but I would have a really hard time with certain things. Kids and animals being severely abused immediately springs to mind. It would just be too difficult to describe and try to wear the shoes of a character doing those kinds of things.

  1. If your story has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?

Ah, my friends at LS! I think this question is backward. I always say that I know I am on the right track when LS accepts one of my stories, it is always an honor for me. I know that the question is always about content and many times, the story is just a better fit at another publication. These days, I find myself always submitting at LS even when the story may be a better fit elsewhere. You guys are a touchstone for me, encouraging and kind even in rejection.
Questions: I am dying to know: 1) where do each of you do your best writing? 2) do you have any cool writing rituals? 3) How do you all decide what stories will be published in LS?  4) What are your favorite foods and why?

***

David Lohrey

  1. What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?

I am not sure about that. I have written about murder but I don’t think it sprang from a dark thought, honestly. I need distance to get to the place where I’d like to write and that place is not dark.

  1. Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?

Yes, I think that is right. I do want to be able to be playful though, so once again some distance and some nonchalance is also required. But in “Das Capital” I felt a kind of contempt for the subject and I think that comes through. It was not a “fair” and balanced treatment.

  1. What do you enjoy most; researching, writing or finishing?

Writing. I have not done any research beyond working in the dictionary, but finishing doesn’t do much for me. Then the anxiety starts. No, it is only the writing.

  1. Have any stories clearly given you an off topic idea that you wondered where it came from?

Yes, I wonder about this all the time. I have had most of my story ideas for a while and I don’t quite know why I suddenly find them worth writing down. Why is the story ready, as it were, while for such a long time it wasn’t? This I can’t say. “Authentic” came out of the blue. It was all made up and referred to nothing, no experience of mine, no memory.

  1. What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

I shy away from actual relationships, autobiographical subjects relating to feelings that I have for close friends, for example. I wouldn’t care to explore honestly how I feel about people in my life, personal feelings. I would rather disguise these feelings by fictionalizing them.

  1. If one of your stories has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?

I wondered about that as regards “Kurosawa” and “Maximilian.” There are any number of online literary journals in the US that claim to want edgy material but I find that they don’t. Publishers here seem very tame and cautious. I find this to be very true with poetry, for example, and I believe that the preferred style is abstract in order to avoid controversy. PC restraints are real and sex scares people to death over here. “Max” I guess would be found anti-Semitic. Anyway, I think censorship or self-censorship is in high gear here in the States. I notice that you are less agenda oriented, less part of the Gorki brigade, as I think of the Americans who seem to see writing as part of a project to save the world.

 ***

James Hanna

1) What is the darkest thought that has instigated a short story for you?

The darkest thought is, What will happen if America continues its drift towards fascism? This inspired me to write “The Hangings,” a story that depicts the country as an Orwellian nightmare. This is only a worse case scenario because I think our checks and balances will kick in at some point.  “The Hangings” was published in Literally Stories and also in a journal called A Lonely Riot.

2) Do you need to be in the same mood as your story to write well?

Yes. A writer needs to be completely enmeshed in the worldview of his characters. Otherwise, he is just faking it, and the reader will know.

3) What do you enjoy most: researching, writing or finishing?

I’m not that fond of research, but it’s necessary to maintain the integrity of the story. The actual writing process is what sustains me. And the best stage of a story for me is when it is finally drafted and I’m adding the finishing touches.

4) Have any stories clearly given you an off-topic idea that you wondered where it came from?

I’m not sure I understand this question, but a story idea can come from anywhere if you have a creative mind. A few years ago, my French bulldog propped herself behind my stepson and it looked like he had another head. When I remarked on this he said, “Yeah, a second less capable head.”  Inspired by this remark, I wrote a story entitled, “A Second Less Capable Head.” This became the title story of my anthology: A Second Less Capable Head and Other Rogue Stories. The anthology, which is available on Amazon, was awarded a silver medal by Independent Press Awards.

5) What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

My philosophy is to write in blood. To be creatively successful, a writer has to write about things that scare him. This kind of writing will generate controversy, but so what? If nobody is being offended, probably nothing serious is being created.

6) If one of your stories has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?

The majority of journals turn down stories they would have liked to publish. This is because they only need a few stories per issue. Since Literally Stories publishes five stories a week, I think the editors have the luxury of publishing most of what they like.

***

Fred Vogel

  1. What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?

It’s one about Hugh…but I don’t want to scare him.

  1. Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?

Most of my stories have a humorous ring to them, just as I find humor in day-to-day life. It’s hard for me to take things too seriously (even when dealing with an ignorant, misogynistic, bigoted president).

  1. What do you enjoy most; researching, writing or finishing?

Except for researching Hemingway while writing “Testing the Waters“, I do very little research. The words simply spew from my head and occasionally they make sense. My true enjoyment comes from taking the daily six-hour writing cruise around my brain, clear of any motives (accolades, grants, awards, etc.). The reason I write is because I enjoy writing. When a story is finished, I send it off to certain publishers, then immediately begin work on a new one.

  1. Have any stories clearly given you an off topic idea that you wondered where it came from?

Not that I can recall.

  1. What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

I don’t think there is anything that I would consider taboo, as long as it is in (somewhat) good taste.

  1. If one of your stories has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?

I am a big believer in timing. I am never discouraged when a story is not accepted. I started writing short stories two years ago and feel extremely lucky whenever one of my pieces is published.

As an aside, the kind folks at Literally Stories were the first to take a chance on me when they published my first ever story, “From the Mouth of Peter Dowd“.

***

 James McEwan

What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?

Perhaps not my darkest – being kidnapped by some radical nutters and threatened with a beheading. –Inspired my story My Fear of Light.

Finding a dead body in the woods – and not reporting it. Instead, visiting the corpse every day, with a flask and sandwiches, and having a one-way conversation. Of course, this ends with the realisation that the dead person is Me.

Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?

I need to be relaxed and undisturbed (mentally) and totally involved with the scene. My mood is usually consistent with any emotional effect I try to emulate and can become excessively involved with a character.

What do you enjoy most; researching writing or finishing.

I enjoy the whole process, for instance when I developed my book, “The Case of the Mahjong Dragon” I spent time walking the streets and gardens to make sure the atmosphere of the locations came through. I also enjoyed reading some historical facts from primary sources in the library. Mostly newspapers of the book’s period, 1890s. (Although, trying to go through some of the microfilm strains the eyes.)

Have any stories given you an off-topic idea that you wonder where it came from?

If you mean stories from the site, no not really. In general, I get ideas all the time from many different sources, newspapers and odd people in general. An example is the old guy in my street, as far as I can tell he only has the one set of clothes – never seen him in anything else. Unwashed scruffy hair and beard, He lives off hot takeaway food and drink from the garage shop opposite. Not a care in the world, he walks across the street, the traffic stops to let him pass – I believe he is already dead and he just doesn’t know it. I tried talking to him – blank stares.

What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

Graphic sex – detail by detail – to me this isn’t even titillation. If I need to write a scene that contains sex I would imply what was going on and let the readers imagination run. After all sex is just in the mind.

Politic – how dull. Loud mouthed people living off the public purse.

If one of your stories has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accept it?

Honestly, I have not been writing any quality stories lately out as my enthusiasm has been dampened in the last two years. But where I have had a few rejections, I would always rewrite the work before submitting elsewhere.

***

Rich Ferri

What is the darkest thought that has instigated a story for you?

In the movie The Right Stuff, there’s the specter of death embodied in a somber, dark-suited man going door to door, telling the wives of the test pilots their husband has died. I tried to channel that in my story, “End of the Road,” imagining that an officer in dress blues came to my door one morning to tell me the sorry news. In the story, I say “there’s no rush now,” because as the father answers the door, he already knows his son has died.

Do you need to be in the same mood as the tone of your story to write well?

I don’t need to be in the same mood as the story I’m writing, but I have noticed that what I’m reading has an influence on the way I write. In fact, I try to match my reading to the tone of the story I’m currently working on.

What do you enjoy most; researching, writing or finishing?

I definitely enjoy finishing least, it’s the most painstaking. The fun part is getting the initial story down on paper. I usually workshop it and that’s where the thrill comes in. Then it’s the slow hard slog of wrapping up loose ends and making the story whole. I’m a pants-er, so I don’t do a lot of research prior to writing. Sometimes just a line from a movie or a book will jog a story.

Have any stories clearly given you an off topic idea that you wondered where it came from?

I saw a picture once of a wooden front porch in the middle of a field. I saved the picture and wondered for days, how did that porch get in the middle of the field? Where’s the house? And then I came up with a piece of flash fiction about a house that got washed away in a flood, with a brother and sister clinging to the front porch as it was swept away.

What could you not bring yourself to write about and please explain why?

I was in a class once that studied David Foster Wallace’s “Incarnations of Burned Children,” – I’ll spare you the details, the title is enough. I excoriated the story in class, for two reasons: there are some images I’m happier never imagining; and because it’s simply too easy to elicit an emotional response from the reader with some topics. There’s no subtlety there, no art, it’s like throwing a rubber snake in someone’s lap.

If one of your stories has been refused elsewhere, why do you think we accepted it?

How many times have I read a story in the New Yorker recently and thought – wait, what was that story about? Where’s the tension, did I miss the climax? And I read it again and realize, no, it was just a meandering, slice-of-life story. And it makes you wonder what some magazines are publishing and passing off as short stories. I think LS looks for stories that follow a story arc, that have clear intentions, perhaps “Cheever-esque.” A lot of publishers are looking for edgy work that pushes boundaries, and I’m not too interested in that.

Question for the editors:

I read submission guidelines for another magazine that it must be clear what the story is about in the first 500 words – how important is that to the editors at LS? How far into the story do you get before impatience sets in, wondering what the story is about?

OK folks, that’s us for another week.

Our answers will be there, warts and all on next Saturday’s Post.

I can’t promise profanity, (Yes I can), I can promise wisdom (No I can’t), I can’t promise ranting (Yes I can) and I certainly can promise sobriety (No I can’t)

Hugh

Banner Image: Pixabay.com

7 thoughts on “Week 162 – Questionnaire Responses, Questions And Tension Headaches.

  1. Reading through the answers has been a balm to my blighted soul. So far I have come across similar traits especially as far as question 2 goes. Yet I remain aggrieved that I seem to be the laziest sack of doorknobs on the site, and perhaps planet. How I look forward to a glimpse into the varied lighted minds of Hugh, Nik, and Lady D. What kind of trees are you?

    Like

    • Hi Leila,
      I’ll post my answer to your question next week, with the rest of them.
      Thanks so much for taking part!
      We all found this very interesting and worthwhile. I just hope that it makes some readers seek out your work.
      All the very best.
      Hugh

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I found this a fascinating read, illustrating the variety and range of individuality from the authors, all real people .
    What kind of tree are you?
    I asked my young niece this, she replied; “I think I would be a family tree, because families give presents”. So there you have it, wise words from the young.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Cheers James.
      Thanks for taking part, it’s been a lot of fun.
      I think we are all born wise and life eventually knocks everything from us!!
      All the very best my friend.
      Hugh

      Liked by 2 people

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