Today Jim bates tells us about being on our "fast track" programme. Enjoy the conversation!
How did you find working on our “fast track” project?
Working with you CafeLit folks is always a joy and this time was no exception. “Old Many Jasperson and Othe Stories” is my third collection published by you after “Resilience” in February 2021, and “Short Stuff” in July 2021. It is my first collection following the “fast track” process, and I couldn’t have been happier. My first query was sent in the middle of May of this year and by the middle of August, my collection was published!! I’d say that was a FANTASTIC turnaround! Your team members are both professional and accessible. All I had to do was organize my work which in my case took some time because my hard drive blew up in 2020 and I lost a lot of stories that had previously been published on CafeLit. Thank goodness for CafeLit Achieves!! Once I got the stories recovered and added to those I hadn’t lost the rest was fun. I organized the order and sent the document off to you guys to work your magic. I love that you have such a knowledgeable and diligent editorial staff. I feel my stories only get better after you’ve looked at them! I think this collection, with my brother’s painting on the cover, is wonderful. It’s great to see these stories all together in one collection. Thank you so much!!
Within Old Man Jasperson there is a novella that has months of the year as chapter headings. Can you tell us more about that?
My idea at the end of 2021 was to write a serial dealing with Covid-19. I chose a young married couple and their two small children and had them move to a small town in northern Minnesota to “get away” from the crisis. Of course, that was impossible to do as the young couple soon found out. What they did find, however, was that they became closer as a family, they made some really good friends, and they learned a lot about themselves. Each story centered on a month of the year 2021 they were there. I sent CafeLit a story a month corresponding to the respective month in the life of the young family. Three were selected for the Best of 2023 Anthology. Thank you so much for that. It was a fun series to write.
You frequently post stories on CafeLit. How do you choose the drink?
I send CafeLit a story every month. The drink I choose happens to be whatever I’m drinking at the time. I’m afraid I have a very boring palate. That’s why you see a lot of black coffee, ice water, and lemonade LOL!
Can you tell us something about your journey towards becoming a prolific writer of short stories?
To be honest, I used to hate reading short stories. I loved the long novel format and that’s where I spent my reading hours growing up and for many, many more hours in the years after that far into adulthood. When I met author Kathy Sharp at an online writing class, the final project was a 500-word story. I hammered it out and was not unsatisfied with the results. Kathy liked it. From that moment on (2015), I refocused my writing efforts from the rather long and rambling 8k to 12k stories I had been writing to the shorter form. I was hooked. The first story you guys published on CafeLit in March 2018 was less than 2k. I found that I loved the short format and still do to this day because it forces me to be succinct and to not fill up the page with a lot of fluff, something I am prone to do. (Still do!!) I read a lot of short stories now. I just finished a collection by Truman Capote “Breakfast at Tiffany’s and Other Stories” which was interesting, enjoyable, and inspiring. I’ve also recently read “We Live In Water” a brilliantly written collection by Jess Walter as well as “Shots Fired” a collection of perfectly realized short stories by the gifted contemporary western author C. J. Box. As I concentrated on short stories, I came across a form I was unfamiliar with, flash fiction. I also came across 100-word drabbles. Again, another form I had no clue about. So, I started writing even shorter stories!! Summing up, I love to write. I will always let the character (s) carry the story, but sometimes it’s good to challenge myself to go with a particular format, ie. short story, flash fiction, or drabble just for fun. I find it keeps things interesting and fresh. Hopefully for both myself and the reader!
Do you have any tips for writers who are trying to get published in the short story market?
Firstly, one should write and write and write, and then write some more so that you have a lot of stories. Ray Bradbury said once, “If you write a 500-word story a week for a year, I guarantee you will have a good story in there by the end of that year.” I chuckled at this because I believe it’s true. You can never have too many stories. The reason for this is my second bit of advice: Send those stories out to as many places as you can. How does one find where to send them? I have found that word of mouth on Facebook is a good place to tap into. I belong to three writer’s groups. Whenever anyone mentions they have a story published somewhere I check out that site. That’s how I found places like The Literary Yard and Spillwords when I was first starting to submit. And, I might add, they are places I still submit to. Getting established takes time because there are a lot of sites out there. The challenge is to find places that like your work. Not every publication does. I get tons of rejections, but I keep trying. Once I find a place that likes my work, I will continue to send to them. (Like you, Gill!)
While I’m at it, I just want to say how much I appreciate the support you have given my writing over the past five years, Gill. It means the world to me that you like most of my work enough to include my stories on the CafeLit site and in Five Best of Anthologies. Not to mention publishing three collections of my work, “Resilience,” “Short Stuff” and “Old Man Jasperson and Other Stories.” Thank you, thank you, thank you from the bottom of my heart! And here’s to many more years of working together!