Wednesday, March 5, 2008

The short and short of it

I teach writing and I have a student who is in a South-east Asian jail for life. He writes short stories and they are the most beautifully written, thought-provoking stories. He has given me permission to try to get them published. I’d really like to help him, to give him something to live for. Do you know if any publishers in Aus would be interested in something like that? I couldn’t help thinking that if some of the Bali Nine contributed to an anthology it would be more marketable and an important thing for young people to read. I must stress I’m personally not interested in making money out of this, but I feel these are important voice to be heard.

Here's the bad news: short story collections are the orphan children of Australian publishing. They have a couple of foster parents (Scribe and the University of Western Australia Press) and 'Aunties' (the Girls' Night In collections) but have largely been abandoned by the tribe. It's hard to know why - short stories are great for bus trips and the like. Many great writers of recent times cut their teeth on short stories; I fell in love with Truman Capote's writing through his short stories, which I discovered in the local library while I was researching a school essay on Plato and Son of Plato. And I just completely digressed ...

If you're looking for an Australian publisher, try submitting to one of the two I mentioned. Americans love short stories more than we do, though, so if you're serious about getting this collection published, try submitting the stories to American agents.

Here's the other news: Australians may want to read about the Bali Nine but I suspect they wouldn't want to read anything written by them. Schapelle Corby was the only Kerobokan prisoner whose own story was going to sell books, and it did, but she also had a co-writer. Schapelle was also famous enough for her publisher not to have to worry about the fact that she couldn't do publicity for the book, which is a concern with your student. This will sound quite cold and businesslike, but publishing is a business.

If what you really, really want is to get these stories out into the world - if money is irrelevant - then set up a website to publish the stories and then look into ways of getting publicity for them, starting with telling your other students.

1 comment:

Clare Harris said...

umm.. I wondered about The Big Issue or some other 'socially aware' publication? Don't know, just wondered...