Little Gems 2012 Author Feature – Catherine Evans

Meet Catherine Evans – Little Gems author taking out 3rd place this year with her short story:

Diamond Shield

We asked Cath (who also happens to be RWA Hearts Talk Editor) what challenges her most about writing a short romance story and if she has any tip/s to share.

The longer I’ve been writing the more challenges I find – and I’m not even looking for them! I’m not quite sure why this story worked when others have failed. This year my story occurred over a short duration of time. Other years I’ve gone for bigger stories, longer time spans and failed. But I don’t know if that’s a tip, or coincidence. Making the anthology was a huge surprise.

Do you have a favourite line/short piece from your short?

This isn’t a favourite line but it’s the line that stuck in my head and inspired the story. “Dia Monde? You can’t be serious. Are you related to Saph Ire?”

What was you inspiration for the story?

I’d been trying to write something for months but I couldn’t get anything to work. I usually write erotic short stories, so to keep it suitable for U18s is a real challenge.

I was meeting a couple of writing buddies for lunch on a Sunday and they’d already written their Gems. I was feeling like a failure with nothing to enter. Then the night before our lunch, that line (from the question before) flashed into my head as I was going to sleep. I scribbled it down and a few other random thoughts about undercover speed dating – I mean where else would you use a stupid line like that? Over the next 3 or 4 days, the story came together. Then I had some advice that my writing lacked “emotion and visceral responses”. So I looked at my Little Gem and it lacked it too. A CP and I went through working out where to add it in. So you could say this one sentence ‘brainwave’, ended up being hard work for quite a few people (thank you Sheri, Anna, Mervet, Anita, Tracey!)

What are you working on now? 

I’m working on an erotic short story for an anthology. And I’m re-writing some of my other work and trying to add in emotion and visceral responses, and delete repetition (my latest bug-bears).

My ultimate goal is to be published in erotica/erotic romance and literary fiction. I know, crazy combination but it seems to be what I write.

How can people find out more about you/your writing? Do you have a website or blog?

I’m creating a web page for myself in my spare time – so it’s probably a few years off yet! I try to avoid internet addictions. I was a net-junkie years ago 🙂 

Will we be able to catch up with you in person at the RWA National Conference in August?

Yes, I’ll be there.

(Ed’s Note: Good, Cath, as I’ve ‘heard’ the conference registrar owes you about a dozen drinks for all your support!)

Thanks for sharing a little about yourself and congratulations on making it between the stunning cover of the 2012 Diamond Edition of Little Gems.

Anthology Orders Now Open

Would you like to order the anthology for yourself, as a special gift or a Christmas (yes I said Christmas) stocking filler?

Orders are now open and we are taking pre-release orders until the end of June, so plenty of time. Use the order form on our RWA website.

NOTE: Pre-release ordering means you are ordering and paying but the anthology will not be available until August (launched at the national conference).
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The Short Story Market

Please Note: This article first appeared in RWA’s official monthly newsletter, Hearts Talk, in December, 2008. Due to the passage of time, some information in the article may no longer be relevant. Please ensure you research your chosen genre thoroughly before submitting.

Go into any large newsagency – heck, go into the super- market even – and flip through the women’s magazines like Woman’s Day. You’ll often find romantic short stories within.

UK magazines like Women’s Weekly report that fiction is a major draw for its readers. According to their writers’ guidelines, Our readers talk about “relaxing” with our short stories. 

Why write short stories?

Short fiction can earn a writer between $90 to $1,000 per story. Shorts also work as a cross-promotion if you’re a novelist. If the reader enjoyed the story the reader may seek the novels out and vice versa. Also, if you’re an aspiring novelist, published stories look good in your query letter.

Sandy Curtis has published stories in Woman’s Day, Take 5, Fresh and Australian Women’s Weekly. She “wrote short stories before I started writing novels. Writing short stories is also a refreshing change from writing novels – you get to the end so much quicker :)”

With over 50 short stories published, novelist Janet Woods finds that writing them is “completely different to writing novels. The effort it takes is intense, but less sustained, so I get the feeling I’ve achieved something in a much shorter time span.”

In 2008 Anna Campbell published stories in Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s Day. “Actually I find short stories really difficult and I think I’d rather write a whole book! I like immersing myself in a whole world which is hard to do in the shorter format.”

Anna Jacobs has published stories in Woman’s Day and elsewhere since 1994. “I get ‘little’ ideas that wouldn’t make a whole novel, but are nice incidents, so I tell them in short story form.”

Types of Stories

Women’s magazines publish short stories in several genres, including romance, women’s fiction, and confessions or trues. Trues’ writers do not get a byline.

Sandii Manning, published in Woman’s Day and True Story notes, “Another market that is easier to break into is the True market. True confessions, True Story and True Romance. These stories are told in first person as if you’re sitting down with a friend, telling all.”

Word Count

Stories published in the weekly magazines usually have a tight word count of between 800 to 2000 words.

Janet Woods says, “Story space has shrunk. When I started out it was easier to place longer stories of about 3,000 words.”

Fiction Specials

Longer stories of up to 6,000 words can be found in the specials. Depending on the magazine, 10 to 25 stories are published at one time. Specials include:

  • That’s Life! Fast Fiction, published quarterly
  • Women’s Weekly (UK) fiction special, published bi-monthly.
  • My Weekly has just started to publish fiction specials of around 15 stories.

Serials

Sandy Curtis has published two-part serials in Woman’s Day. “As a child I loved reading the long serials in the women’s magazines and lamented their demise.” Some markets for the serial remain, and these include Woman’s Day, My Weekly, People’s Friend and Women’s Weekly (UK).

Serials are divided into parts. For example, Women’s Weekly (UK) accepts submissions of two-part to five-part serials.

Anna Jacobs is attracted to writing serials because, “Some of my ideas make for longer ‘short’ story ideas and I find putting them into a serialised form very interesting. It’s challenging to find a way to end each episode on a cliffhanger and keep up readers’ interest.” Around February 2009 she will have a historical serial tale published in My Weekly to coincide with release of her novel Freedom’s Land, which has “the same era and background”.

First Serial Rights

First serial rights (FSR) are where a magazine buys the right to be the first to publish the work. After publication the writer is free to sell the work elsewhere.

Janet Woods says, “Ten years ago I’d pursue multi-markets, and sell overseas rights to the same story I’d had published in Australia.”

Sandy Curtis addresses FSR in her cover letters. “I keep it professional, and make sure I give the genre and word length. Don’t forget to state which rights you are offering, e.g. first Australian rights. Some magazines want New Zealand rights as well.”

Researching the Markets

Look at the entire magazine to see how the stories fit in. Examine the advertisements too, as these will suggest the magazine audience. In People’s Friend advertisements for stairlifts suggest an older reader demographic. But read the fiction too. A recent issue had characters at grammar school through to retirees.

Sandii Manning says, “My advice no matter who you’re submitting to is send away for the guidelines. A lot of the info on the Internet is outdated and incorrect. Also read, read and read the magazine you’re targeting. I know that can be hard if you’re submitting from another country but it really does help.”

Janet Woods says, “Before approaching any magazine or writing the story, you should take time to analyse the target market for content and style, and try and pinpoint the age range of the readership. If you can tailor your story to the publication, it will have a much better chance of acceptance.”

Competitive Markets

Publishing stories in women’s magazines is, as Anna Jacobs notes, “fiercely competitive”.

The Australian Women’s Weekly and Woman’s World (US) are tough markets to enter. Woman’s World pays $1,000 for an 800-word romance. From Woman’s World, Sandii Manning received “some encouraging feedback from the Editor saying that although my story was lovely it wasn’t suitable for their market and requested that I submit any others I had.”

Easy? Maybe not. Achievable? Yes.

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