Sunday, June 1, 2008

Publishers, Schmublishers

Who needs a corporation to publish your stuff when you have one of these guys?

The type cabinet used to belong to JRL's mom, and the little press on top is my (40th) birthday present. For those who care about such things, it's a Kelsey Excelsior Mercury Model 5-8. Careful readers of this blog might remember when, several months ago, I read Rhonda Byrne's The Secret and decided to ask the universe for a letterpress. Well, it worked! However, if I'd thought to ask JR's friend Terry from Aurora -- a guy who does letterpress stuff for a living -- where to get one, it would have happened a lot sooner. Duh! Reading The Secret made me dumb. (Thank you, Terry.)

The press will only print 5 X 7 pages, so this is a good time to start writing short short stories. A few days ago I got Flash Fiction Forward, an anthology of 80 very short stories, and I'm really enjoying it. I think I have an idea how to write them: you need to know how you're going to end from the very first word. The story is about getting there as efficiently as possible. I wrote a bunch of short shorts a few years ago but they all felt kind of pointless -- probably they didn't have a point. This time I'll make sure I know the ending when I start and see if that makes a difference.

Does anyone else have any short-short writing secrets? Maybe I should just ask the universe for ideas.


Anonymous said...

I don't. But I am here to say that the letterpress is very cool, very Virginia and Leonard, and I would like to sign up for one of those pages when you're ready to send them out into the world.

jgodsey said...

i always think of short shorts as being structured like a joke..cept doesn't have to be funny.

Anonymous said...

I agree with jgodsey!

5 Red Pandas said...

Ooh, I'm very jealous! I don't have any short short story tips, but have fun with your letterpress.

I'd love to see the finished product.

Pale Ramón said...

Barry Yourgrau is very good, though he writes short, not short short. Try Dan Rhodes' Anthropology and a Hundred Other Stories, a collection of short shorts linked by the theme of unrequited love. Some of the stories are, as my friend Wig would say, "hi-larious."

Good luck!

Anonymous said...

I did a reading with Dan Rhodes once...I've got the collection here somewhere. I agree, it's really funny!

Pale Ramón said...

Read "Money" if you get a chance.

rob said...

Check out Grab Bag by Derek McCormack or Zigzagger by Manuel Munoz.
Amazing short shorts, some just a page. Both writers can tell stories that take only a few minutes of reading but linger for much longer in the brain.
What's the secret? I don't know but I do know that every time I read them, or other short shorts, I get into a short-short frenzy.
Great blog by the way-- I found you through Moonlight Ambulette.

Kirsten said...

That letterpress is beautiful, you'll have a lot of fun with it.

I write flash fiction, but I think my "secret" is simply a short attention span.

amy said...

I would just like to second the letterpress jealousy.


rmellis said...

Thanks, all. Yes, I want to be Virginia Woolf, without the pockets of rocks. Though I took part of a class on letterpress once -- enough to learn how to set and print a page -- I was pregnant and woozy at the time and retained nothing. The press came with this box of stuff, type, pieces of wood, metal galleys, that I have no idea how to use. It will be fun, but a challenge for someone with no aptitude for detail work.

And I will definitely check out those recs, thanks.

Anonymous said...

Those pieces of wood are called, charmingly, "furniture."

David Rochester said...

I went through a long period of writing short shorts and flash fiction to cure me of an overly wordy style which I acquired whilst writing a Victorian novel from the first-person perspective of an introspective windbag ... after ten years of writing that way, I was a master of circumlocutory construction, as indeed this very sentence will tell you.

Anyway, the way I approached the short shorts was to look at them as giving evidence. If I had to save my own life by telling this story, I'd want to tell only as much of it as I had to in order to make the greatest possible impact.

That was overly dramatic, I grant you, but it also worked, especially in figuring out which details to include. Which ones would be most likely to build my case? I mean, I don't want to spend the rest of my life in jail because I told this story the wrong way, you know?

On a strictly technical level, know the end before you start, and you'll sail along.