Saturday 26 August 2023

Some Other Writers’ Blogs: Allison Symes


Allison writes a lot of articles for Chandlers Ford Today.

She writes about many topics to do with writing.  She’s actually interviewed me several times on the site. We’ve talked about:

-          One of my non-fiction books, a handbook for writers who work with schools

-          Writing historical fiction

-          Networking  for writers

-          Teaching creative writing  

-          My work as a publisher

Take a look here..

Her specialism is flash fiction and she has several articles about this including:

-          Interviews with other authors

-          The nature of flash fiction

-          Her own collections

See here her articles on flash fiction.

Allison is a great fan of the Swanwick Writers conference and always adds some information about it to this site. If you’re undecided about whether this conference is for you or not you may find these articles helpful. Allison gives plenty of information about the last three conferences: what happens, how useful and enjoyable that is and also shows us plenty of photos and video clips. Do take a look here.    

Allison is also a member of the Association of Christian Writers and give sus information about that as well here.  

Allison now runs some very successful workshops on creative writing and on writing flash fiction in particular. She writes about this here.

Yes, Allison offers us plenty of interesting material on this site and in fact there are all sorts of interesting articles elsewhere on the blog.  Take a look.

Thursday 24 August 2023

Our first "fast track" author, Jim Bates

 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!




Saturday 12 August 2023

Stacie Eirich talks about here involvement with The Best of CafeLit 12 and her writing life in general


I wanted to write a short summer story that was as sweet as its location — an ice cream shop. Because I don’t often write flash or romantic fiction, it was a way to challenge myself. 

I found CafeLit while browsing Poets & Writers online. 

 I enjoy reading and writing short stories. They are special because of their ability to draw you in and make you care about a place, its characters and their lives in only a few pages. Writing a compelling story in 2000 words is hard. Less than 1000? Even harder. But it’s an art I hope many writers keep practicing and sharing. 

In the university town where I grew up, there is a cafe where academics, writers, musicians, artists and wayfinders hang out. Simply called The Coffeehouse, It is a space I’ve spent many afternoons and evenings in, having conversations with other writers and listening to live mic sessions while having a cuppa.  

In the city where my home is now, outside of New Orleans, there’s a shop called The Book & The Bean. It’s owner sells everything from books and brew to wall art, homemade soaps and handmade jewelry, artisan clothing, and creole foods. On evenings and weekends, the shop hosts book clubs, local authors, makers and musicians. My books are available there, as well as the books and art of some of my friends. 

I’m primarily a poet, but also write short stories, flash and children’s fiction. My published series, The Dream Chronicles, is a fantasy adventure for middle-grade readers. My picture book in-verse, titled Warriors, is forthcoming with Storyberries, a publisher in Australia, later this year. 

Currently, I’m working on poems for a collection based on my experiences as mother and caregiver to a child battling cancer. Tentatively titled Hope like Sunlight, they are the most poignant and vulnerable poems I’ve ever written. These poems are our journey to a cure and a path to light through darkness. I feel it’s important to share them with others, to help patients and families facing a terrible diagnosis, surgeries and long term treatment know that they are not alone — and that poetry, art and music can be powerful therapies along the way. 


Stacie Eirich is a mother of two, writer & singer. Her work has recently appeared or is forthcoming in Synkroniciti Magazine, The Bluebird Word, Susurrus, Paper Dragon and Cerasus Review, among others. Her children’s storybook-in-verse, Warriors, is forthcoming with Storyberries. She is currently living in Memphis, TN, caring for her daughter through cancer treatments at St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital. 


The Best of CafeLit 12 contributor Sharon Zajdman is on my blog today



Why did you write the stories that are in this volume?


'How My Mum Came To Forgive Omar Sharif' is a story which bubbled out of an e-mail.  I wrote it in an hour and tossed it across the Atlantic, to Café Lit.  I was surprised by its warm reception but then, I have long been cautioned not to dismiss what come easily to me.

           ' Amazing' Grace is another matter.  It was written as an homage to a woman, as well as to her wonderfully kind husband, who inspired the writing of my breakthrough book (I Want You To Be Free).  Their emotional support sustained me during the darkest days of my life.   

             I discovered Café Lit after submitting short stories to Bridgehouse Publishing’s annual themed anthologies.  The first story I sent was accepted and, if memory serves, so were two or three more.  Mark Twain quipped, “I wrote a long story because I didn’t have time to write a short one.”  I believe he meant that one carves and chisels finely when working in miniature.  Still, I was intimidated by  the prospect of producing a full-length book.  It was the American novelist (the lady featured in Amazing Grace) who urged and encouraged me to make the attempt.  “If you can succeed in short form, you can succeed in long form.  Generate the material and then cut the cloth.” 


For those interested in learning more about my work; see the provided links.



Wednesday 9 August 2023

Julia Wood tells us about her involvement with CafeLit



What inspired me to write One Green Bottle? The story started out as a tale of a lonely old woman who talked to the clothes on her washing line believing it to be her son back from the war. I knew I wanted to write about dementia but that also I wanted to find a way to infuse it with humour, even where that humour has an undertone of sadness. I also knew I wanted to write in the Lancastrian/Mancunian dialect, as I think it’s a dialect that lends itself to a strong narrative voice. I used the metaphor of her son, as a green bottle and the song as a theme for a soldier in the war before I realised that the song Nine Green Bottles actually was used in that context historically! The rest of the story came out of that idea, that the focal point was mortality, that  sense of waiting for some kind of release.


I found out about Café Lit through Duotrope, which I have used to submit short stories.


I enjoy reading short stories; I particularly love the children’s stories by Oscar Wilde as they are so beautiful, really coming to life through the sharpness of the tales told. I also enjoy the stories of the horror writer Ramsey Campbell, and Henry James. For me, the appeal of short stories is that, as readers, we get a little glimpse into a world that is briefly presented to us, but when written well, a short story leaves the reader with an image, or an idea that stays with them because of how compact and focused they are.


I know of a creative café at Phoenix, Leicester, where people meet up in order to write, though I have never used it.


I began writing before I could read, literally at about two years old, when my mother would come in in the night and take down things I wanted to say. I have no idea if she kept them or what they said…I write mainly Women’s Fiction/Humour and humour is important to me because of its cathartic value, maybe especially in the face of struggle or tragedy, but I am also inspired by the wit of Oscar Wilde, Victoria Wood, and Alan Bennett. I grew up with Coronation Street and northern humour continues to play a part in my writing even when I am not writing in a northern dialect. For me , humour is anarchic, playing with life, playing with the rules, turning things upside down. Although I don’t consider myself a ‘political’ writer in any direct sense, I admire writers who use humour as a weapon to deconstruct societal norms because if people could take themselves less seriously the world would be a better place and there would be no wars.

 Here is a link to the anthology, In the Kitchen, in which my story, Written in Soup is included.      

 This link is for the Dark and Light anthology, in which my story, Daisy and Dolly’s Amazing Lockdown Adventure appears.


Julia's bio 

Julia Wood holds a Masters’ Degree in Continental Philosophy from Warwick University and has previously published a non-fiction book, The Resurrection of Oscar Wilde: A Cultural Afterlife (Lutterworth Press, 2007). She is a writer of Women’s Fiction and short stories, many of which have been anthologised.

Her women’s fiction/ comedy novel, The Adventures of Jenny Bean, aged 49, and an Awful Lot was longlisted for the Fiction Factory First Chapter competition (September 2022) and the Yeovil Literary Prize (June, 2023). The sequel novella, Jenny Bean, Calamity Queen, was short listed for the CWIP Prize (February 2023) and will be published in The Book of Witty Women anthology in September.

Her short story, One Green Bottle, has been selected to appear in The Best of Café Lit Anthology, 2023, and will be published in August this year.

Other short stories that have appeared in anthologies, include - Exhausting a Place in Leicester, (Lulu, September 2019), Songs for the Elephant Man (Mantle Lane Press, October 2019) and In the Kitchen, (Dahlia Press, 2020), Dark and Light Anthology (Rulers’ Wit, 2021) Resolutions (Bridge House Publishing, 2021), the Cafe Lit Online Magazine, The Anansi Archive, The Writers’ Foundry Review (2022) and Cerasus Magazine (Ed, John Wilks, Cerasus Poetry, London, 2023).

She has had stories shortlisted for, No Spiders were Harmed in the Making of this Anthology, 2020 and the Hastings Short Story Prize, 2020, and of course, the CWIP Prize (2023). She has been a regular contributor for Journals of a Pandemic, and Pendemic and has had a monologue performed by Make It Write. (September 2022)

She is a longstanding member of Leicester Writers’ Club.

Tuesday 8 August 2023

Fleur Lind, one of the contributores to The Best of CafeLit 12, tells us about her relationship with CafeLit and writing


What inspired you to write this story?
It was November, Christmas was sneaking up and this story idea popped up when an article appeared in our local paper advertising Santa Helpers needed for the Shopping Centre. I imagined Santa sending a letter back after receiving a confusing present list.

How did you get to find out about CafeLit?
My good friend and mentor, author Mason Bushell told me about CafeLit and what a  great platform it is to send my quirky short stories.

Do You enjoy reading short stories?  What's special/ important about them?
Yes, very much.  I like how they are quick to read but have as much substance as a longer story.

Tell us a little more about your writing.
I have written and published four books:  
*A trilogy; a sci-fi fantasy set in a fictitious rest home where the residents and staff stumble over an unlikely portal for time travel. It is laced with humour, a splash of sarcasm and loads of fun.  I am currently working on redefining this story from a trilogy to a series of seven shorter books. This series will have a fresh look with new titles. Watch this space ;-)

*My first memoir/story about my first trip to the UK and Europe in 2019. Blarney to Bastille is the celebration of my holiday 'up north'. I hadn't travelled further than between NZ and Australia, so this was a long overdue OE. It was 40 years being dreamed about, 2 years planning and saving for, and 5 weeks doing it!

I now enjoy writing short stories, and I have fun with weekly prompts. Or an idea pops up from a snippet of conversation or something I see.  I'm frequently writing notes on my Notepad app.  I have been writing short stories for seven years and have quite a stash now, so there was a need to store them on a website to share with readers.  I also have what I call rustic poetry because I break the rules when writing them, and I have added recipes that are dear to me. Martha is a new character who I have a lot of fun writing about.  She is old enough to know better but she does it anyway, she speaks her mind, can be sarcastic, is fun, always means well, and has a kind heart. Things just seem to go a bit haywire when she is about; she is a magnet for trouble.