East of Constantinople, West of Shanghai

Writing from experience

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Reader, I did it! About two hours ago – at the time of publishing this – I sent a short story of mine to a literary magazine, my first literary fiction submission ever. Mainstream as hell, no flashing swords, no roaring rockets, no snarky adventurers in this one. Serious fiction, yessir.
There goes my pulp street cred.

The venue to which I have submitted my piece is so classy and literary and posh that they don’t pay the stories they publish, but in exposure – but I was happy to break my rule, never to give away my work for free, because, first, it was a 330-words piece that I wrote in thirty minutes (and edited in two hours, more about that later), second, I considered more a writing exercise than work, and third, because it is a story I want somebody to publish.

The flash fiction took longer to edit than to write – I wrote it in one go, letting the words fall in their places on the screen, all 400 of them. But when it came to editing, my recent reading of Stephen Fry’s handbook for poetry came into play. And I adjusted my 330 words with much more attention to rhythm than usual. And I generally am pretty attentive to rhythm anyway – I like reading my paragraphs aloud, to see how they work. In the end, I was quite pleased with the result, as it had a certain rhythm, which fit nicely the story as it was, but it took me two hours.

Also, this being a piece of mundane narrative, realistic, you see, no dinosaurs and things in it, I based my story on a real-life event, just like the cool guys say to do.

A few nights back, in fact, I chanced upon one of the local digerati (yes, we have them in Astigianistan, too), fresh out of a classical music concert held in the seat of the cultural association he is the president of. My meeting led to the following momentous exchange:

Q: How was the concert?
A: The soprano was very fuckable.

You can of course see how such a conversation can open to a poor hack like myself the doors of higher literature. Especially if you consider that back when I was in university, I did date for a few years a soprano, and she did concerts for local institutions too. Imagine how much I appreciated the gentleman’s critical commentary.

And so I did what writers – literary or otherwise – usually do in these circumstances. I wrote a story about it. Short, and without any blood or death or curses, despite the fact that those were exactly what I had in mind. A small melancholy piece about lost youth, and songs, and ignorant dicks.

I called it The soprano was fuckable, but when it became clear that the only possible outlet for it would be a literary mag, I shortened it to The Soprano. Nice and smooth. Classy, like.

Now it’s in the hands of a proper literary editor, and if this kills my pulp street cred, what the hell, I’ll build it up from scratch again. But really, I had to send it somewhere.

Author: Davide Mana

Paleontologist. By day, researcher, teacher and ecological statistics guru. By night, pulp fantasy author-publisher, translator and blogger. In the spare time, Orientalist Anonymous, guerilla cook.

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