At 10.30 on a Saturday morning I was in Waterstone’s Piccadilly for the London Short Story Festival. At 10.30 the previous night my colleague convinced me to go to Bierschenke, because it was ‘on the way home’. This was after already having work drinks. I was feeling a little rough in the morning but managed to drag myself out of bed and get in before the event started.
There were a panel of people ranging from writers to agents to editors of magazines, who from the view from my seat, were really just the top of a bunch of heads. They were assembled to present ‘Short Story Gatekeepers’ and give us guidance on how to get our short stories published. But as soon as it started I realized I’m so not in this world. I didn’t know any of the prizes or publications they mentioned. I’m like the person digging in the mines, I’m not selling the finished product, I just do the manual work. It was a bit disheartening because it’s been a struggle lately just to focus on the writing side of things, let alone the part that is supposed to come next.
I started to get distracted by fidgety people around me, taking out their phones to take pictures, send a message, taking out a notebook, then putting away that notebook for a smaller notebook. But even I was distracted. I think it was because I chugged a coffee before I left and was suddenly thinking of all the productive things I should be doing instead. I was making mental lists of what I needed to do, write, look up.
One of the things on my list however was short stops. Even though I felt overwhelmed by what the panel presented and I quickly realized I don’t know much about publishing options for short stories, the discussion at least gave me a list people and organizations to look up.
One of the speakers Tania Hershman said, in reference to the name of the event, ‘it’s called gates for a reason, the door can open’ which was really inspiring. It does often feel like it's a bolted or bricked up door. I felt like she understood most of my uncertainties because she's a writer and editor so, as she said, she’s been on both sides. She also hit the nail on the head when she said some writers scare themselves away from submitting to contests or magazines because they think they’re stuff isn’t ready yet or isn’t quite on topic. Which again resonated deeply with me. So I guess it’s time to get my head out of the sand and get my stories back out into the world. . .