Quintette of Questions: Jane Elliot

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

Jane Elliot

smoothie-200-200x3001. What’s the name of your latest story – and how hard was it to pick a title?

My latest book is called Smoothie, and it was actually my easiest title ever!  Usually I worry and fret about titles, but one of my favorite parts about Smoothie was the idea that something small — like going out for a frozen treat — could have life-changing consequences.  I wanted my title to reflect that idea.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest story?

Melissa McCarthy for Heather, no question.  Natalie’s a bit tougher — I can’t decide between Zoie Palmer of today or Linda Hamilton post-Terminator 1 and pre-Terminator 2.  Maybe a combination of the two?

3. What five words best describe your story?

Adventure, personal growth, comedy, romance

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple?

At the moment it’s Phryne Fisher and Jack Robinson from Miss Fisher’s Murder Mysteries.  I love the respect between them, despite their different backgrounds and social class, and I love the slow build of their romance as Jack adjusts to the idea that he’s in love with a “modern woman” of the 1920s.  (Fingers crossed that there will be a season 4 – I want to see how Phryne deals with the concept of *shudder* monogamy!)

 5. What song has had the most impact on your life?

I’ve never been particularly musically inclined, and didn’t own a single piece of music until I was nearly in high school.  Then I heard R.E.M.’s Losing My Religion and my entire understanding of music changed.  I’ve built a very eclectic music collection since then and listen to a wide variety of bands, but I still get a thrill every time I hear Losing My Religion.

About Smoothie

Nothing much ever happens to Heather, until the day she’s innocently minding her own business when a bomb goes off – and she’s swept up into the kind of adventure that only happens to people on TV!

Thankfully she’s about as prepared and resourceful as a girl can be, because all of a sudden she’s in the middle of a road movie along with an extraordinary woman named Natalie and the two of them find themselves running for their lives into and out of a mess of complicated situations in which nobody is ever quite what he or she might appear to be.

About Jane Elliot

avatarJane Elliot has been writing novels, short stories, and screenplays for over twenty years. She believes that fiction can help promote understanding and acceptance of alternative and marginalized societal groups and most of her writing is focused on relationships, be they platonic or romantic, between individuals from all walks of life.

Buy Smoothie

Smoothie (Amazon.com)

Melbourne Literary: Secret Message in Centreway Arcade

IMG_0919The Centreway Building was built in 1911-1912 and refurbished in the 1980s. During the latter work, a designer with a keen sense of irony installed a feature wall in the middle of the arcade.

A grid pattern on the wall is affixed with numerous letters (if you climb up to the first floor you can see them more clearly). Although hard to read, the letters spell out the following message:

“We live in a society that sets an inordinate value on consumer goods and services.”

It’s an intriguingly non-consumerist message for a shopping arcade. Nice work from the refurbishment architects, Cocks Carmichael and Whitford! (The original buildings architects, from the 1911-12 construction, were HW + FB Tompkins.)

For the font nerds among us, the message is in uppercase Helvetica.


A few years ago, I created the Melbourne Literary and Melbourne Peculiar apps in celebration of Melbourne’s standing as a UNESCO City of Literature, as well as some of the daggy, weird and downright peculiar things I love about my city. I thought I’d share the occasional entry from the apps. They are still available on both iTunes and Android, though they are no longer updated.

Quintette of Questions: AB Gayle

Quintette asks writers five quick questions. This week’s interview is with:

AB Gayle

TKJFF_Composite_1000x15951. What’s the name of your latest story – and how hard was it to pick a title?

Tyler Knoll:  Originally it was titled Just for Fun as that’s why it was written, but no one wanted to read it because they’d never heard of an author by that name.

A.B. Gayle: For good reason! You didn’t exist before then!

Tyler Knoll: See what I have to put up with?!?! And she uses nearly as many exclamation marks as I do! Well, anyway, this nice lady, Lily Velden, from Wayward Ink Publishing read it and decided it was funny and worth sharing with the world — or with Ms A.B. Gayle’s friends at least.

A.B. Gayle: You have to admit that’s at least more than your circle of friends. How many have you got now? Rupert isn’t talking to you. Robert is convinced you’re after his job, and Gareth…

Tyler Knoll: Shhh. Please don’t use the G word. It’s banned at our place.

A.B. Gayle: Exactly! You need me even if you don’t want to admit it.

2. If you could choose anyone from any time period, who would you cast as the leads in your latest story?

Tyler Knoll: I think you can tell from the video that I’m perfect for the part. As for the plethora of G… (Oops, nearly used the G word myself)

A.B. Gayle: Guys you fuck?

Tyler Knoll: Please, that’s just tacky. I prefer to think of them as stepping stones on my path to discovering my one true love.

A.B. Gayle: Ooh, you used the “L” word!

Tyler Knoll: Hey, you’re the one who said no one would read it, if it didn’t have a happy monogamous ending!

A.B. Gayle: I said that was one of the reasons no one would like it. Big difference.

Tyler Knoll: Now, who’s being snarky? But to answer this nice lady’s question. There are three photos of one of the actors who would be perfect in the video trailer, and another is mentioned explicitly in the book, but you have to read the book and look at the trailer to work out who is who. Doing otherwise would be a massive SPOILER. Here, check out the Just for Fun trailer.

As for the guy I end up with? That I will leave to your imagination. He’s shy.

3. What five words best describe your story?

Tyler Knoll: Fun! Happy! Amusing! Witty! Entertaining!

A.B. Gayle: Humph. I would have used Unlikely porn. Preposterous plot. Far-fetched fantasy. Poorly written BDSM and corny romance

Tyler Knoll: Whose fault is that?

A.B. Gayle: Good point. Doesn’t mean I’m wrong

Tyler Knoll: Anyway you used thirteen words, or does a hyphenated word count as one?

A.B. Gayle: Sigh. Have I mentioned lately that you give me a headache?

Tyler Knoll: Ha, ha. To quote a character who shall remain nameless. I am what you take for a headache!

4. Who is your favourite fictional couple? 

A.B. Gayle: Ben and Nik from John Wiltshire’s “More Heat than the Sun” series

Tyler Knoll: (Silence)

A.B. Gayle: What? Is that a pout I see? Read the question, she said “favourite Fictional” character. I can’t use you two!

 5. What song always makes you cry?

A.B. Gayle: Take Me to Church by Hozier makes me cry, particularly if accompanied by the original video.

Once I realised what was going to happen, I had to stop watching. I prefer watching this one.


Tyler Knoll: For once we are in agreement! Thankfully, now in the United States we can get the gold ring, picket fence and two and a half dogs statistically speaking (otherwise known as the GRPFATAAHDSS!)

About Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun 

Tyler Knoll was born one wild, stormy night in April 2013.

Of course, Tyler might tell you he was born twenty years earlier, but should we believe anything he says? That’s for you to decide.

In Tyler’s first adventure—like many a gay man before him—he was SNARED by gay porn, wallowing in tales of bigger, stronger, harder….

Then his fickle mind was seduced and SHREDDED by the prospect of BDSM and slavery.

When a Big Misunderstanding SLASHED at Tyler’s sanity, almost costing him his life, he turned to another genre for his salvation. But even this encounter proved potentially hazardous—not from freezing temperatures, but at the hands of irate fans.

Finally, tired and SCREWED by all his trials and tribulations, he discovers—like many storybook heroes before him—that sometimes Mr. Right is closer than we think.

About AB Gayle

2006-10-01 20.11.55-3Unlike many authors, A.B. Gayle hasn’t been writing stories all her life. Instead she’s been living life.

Her travels have taken her from the fjords of Norway to the southern tip of New Zealand. In between, she’s worked in so many different towns she’s lost count. A.B. has shoveled shit in cow yards, mustered sheep, been polite to customers, traded insults with politicians. Sometimes she needs to be forgiven as she get confused as to who needs what where. 

Now living in Sydney, Australia, A.B. finally has time to allow her real life experiences to morph with her fertile imagination in order to create fiction that she hopes her readers will enjoy. 

Best known for her Opposites Attract series, A.B. values feedback on her writing, both negative and positive.

Buy Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun

The Books of Love: Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun by AB Gayle

Reviewed by Narrelle M Harris

The blurb…

TKJFF_Composite_1000x1595Tyler Knoll was born one wild, stormy night in April 2013.

Of course, Tyler might tell you he was born twenty years earlier, but should we believe anything he says? That’s for you to decide.

In Tyler’s first adventure—like many a gay man before him—he was SNARED by gay porn, wallowing in tales of bigger, stronger, harder….

Then his fickle mind was seduced and SHREDDED by the prospect of BDSM and slavery.

When a Big Misunderstanding SLASHED at Tyler’s sanity, almost costing him his life, he turned to another genre for his salvation. But even this encounter proved potentially hazardous—not from freezing temperatures, but at the hands of irate fans.

Finally, tired and SCREWED by all his trials and tribulations, he discovers—like many storybook heroes before him—that sometimes Mr. Right is closer than we think.

The review…

The four books of Tyler Knoll’s sexy adventures are a vastly entertaining read! Presented as a series of books written by Tyler himself for self-publication, they are full of sly asides, terrible spelling, and discussions with the reader, the editor and with a ‘ universal reader’ beyond the fourth wall. It’s all very meta, but metatextuality with a breezy, cheeky air. If you like the idea of playing games with the form while still having a story and some sexytimes, this could be the book for you.

The series in turns lampoons and embraces all the traditions and tropes of MM erotic romance. There’s sauciness aplenty within the self-aware commentary and general silliness, and some sections lead you along a garden path and then spring a dizzy twist before the raunch makes another appearance.

Tyler Knoll’s Just for Fun is exactly that. It’s a quick, silly, funny read with a likeable protagonist, plenty of magic realism and a sweet ending.

Excerpt

At least he wasn’t mad at me. He kept giggling and shaking his head, muttering, “Tyler, Tyler, Tyler. What am I going to do?”

His broken glasses and the lens were sitting on the desk behind him. I picked them up. “Don’t worry. It’s easy. My screw fits into this little hole perfectly.”

He burst out laughing again.

I handed him his glasses and Dilbert put them back on. I heaved a sigh of relief. Now he wasn’t the sexy stranger who I knew would feature in my dreams for the next few evenings.

“Thanks,” he muttered. His hand shook slightly as he dragged a pack of Marlboro’s out of his pocket.

“Erm….”

Dilbert had only recently started to smoke. Or maybe he’d been doing it forever, but I only just noticed. Since the introduction of the compulsory no smoking policy, employees had been bitching about having to stand on the footpath. Dilbert’s suggestion to management that an unused loading dock could be converted to a secluded landscaped area was surprisingly successful. They must look after their smokers back in Oz.

Personally, I didn’t care either way because I didn’t smoke, but Dilbert took advantage of the maximum permitted breaks and joined me in the courtyard about five times a day. Seeing I had to maintain the garden anyway, he suggested I do those chores while he lit up a fag. His use of the word had offended me at first, but he assured me that’s what they were called back home. Anyway, I noticed he never used the term again in my presence. I’d wondered if I should also persuade him to stop smoking, but then he wouldn’t have an excuse to visit me so often.

I enjoyed those short breaks. For some weird reason, we were never disturbed, although I heard later that there must be some problem with the door into the basement as someone had complained that they couldn’t get it open. It seemed fine when Dilbert and I checked, so they mustn’t have been pushing hard enough.

Dilbert’s hand was still shaking when he tried to flick the lighter. “Fuck!” he said.

“Erm….” Should I remind him that we were still inside? Technically, he was in a superior position in the company, but Mrs. Stringer had reassured me that while I was down here, I was in control. Or in charge. I wasn’t sure which word she used. Both gave me an unusual sensation of security. A space where I belonged. “Shouldn’t we?” I gestured toward the door leading from the underground car park to the outdoor smoking area.

Dilbert chuckled. “Sorry. Force of habit. I always light up after a screw.”

Buy Tyler Knoll’s Just For Fun

 See the book trailer!

 

The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

Melbourne Literary: Newspaper House Mosaic

Newspaper House

247 Collins Street, Melbourne

When the Herald and Weekly Times newspaper took possession of this 1884 building in 1932, it decided to commission a new facade. Artist Napier Waller took on the task of creating its gilded mosaic, inspired by Puck’s line “I’ll put a girdle round about the earth”, taken from Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream.

The three panels depict technological advances of the time. The glass mosaic is a rare example of decorative mosaics in Melbourne.

The newspaper has since moved its HQ to Southbank, but the mosaic on Collins Street – now Heritage listed – remains to mark its place in history, and remind us of how much more quickly we can put a girdle round about the earth with modern communications technology.

I’ve always like looking up from the opposite side of the road on Collins Street to see this piece. It’s stylish, but it also feels very confident and optimistic. It’s fun to take the time and look at the detail, not only on the main picture but on the inner sections beside the windows. It’s elegant and colourful and marries the notions of eloquence and story telling with broader worldwide communications.

I’ll admit, too, that I think the mischievous Puck would probably be having a field day on Twitter.

A few years ago, I created the Melbourne Literary app in celebration of Melbourne’s standing as a UNESCO City of Literature. I thought I’d share the occasional entry from it. It’s still available on both iTunes and Android, though it’s no longer updated.

Review: Beyond Time (Time Shifters Book 1) by Laura N Anile

Time_Shifters_Book1Laura K Anile’s Beyond Time is the first book in an action-filled YA series. In this volume, 17 year old Ryder Worthington is on his way to school when he encounters a pair of bullies. One moment he’s in the midst of a fight, but excruciating pain suddenly takes him out, and the next thing he knows he wakes up  112 years in the future – in someone else’s body.

Trapped in the body of Ziron – the young man who has apparently senselessly jeapardised his whole life to change places with the boy from the past – Ryder must keep the secret of his altered identity from everyone but the two scientists behind the experimental time-shifting tecyhnology. This is almost impossible in a future where the world has been all but destroyed by a catalclysmic war, where the chasm between the haves and have-nots is huge and rebellion against the controlling government is boiling over.

Ryder ends up tangled in the rebellion, falling in love with someone who thinks he’s Ziron and developing a strained friendship (when they’re not enemies) with Jet – who is also a rival for Kira’s attentions.

Beyond Time is snappily paced and builds a bleak but believable world. More could be made of it, I think, but the parts we see are distinctive. Ryder’s attempts to blend in and make sense of his new surroundings are understandably full of slips, particularly as he gets drawn deeper and deeper in to a very dangerous situation. The consequences of discovery, he’s told, could be deadly, but since every turn holds a deadly secret and so many lives are at stake, there are plenty of heart-stopping moments for Ryder and the reader alike.

The teenage posturing between Ryder and Jet over Kira’s affections borders on the wearing, but just as it’s getting way too annoying, one or both of them shows a little maturity and real care and respect for Kira, which seems a pretty realistic way of portraying teenage rivals in love slowly learning how to grow up.

Kira is a bit too perfect and, for someone who shows she can handle herself well, a bit passive at times, but the core of a good character is there. The fact that she’s seen through Ryder’s first-person, besotted eyes naturally paints her more as a subject of adoration, and I hope she gets to shine a bit more in upcoming books.

The young boy, Tom, who befriends Ryder/Ziron (after a fractious beginning) is easily the most sympathetic character, and this younger boy is often the voice of reason when Jet and Ryder get too argy-bargy in their rivalry.

All of these relationships and clashes are happening with a backdrop of rebellion against an unfair system, many mysteries around Ryder’s real identity and the motivations of the time-shifted Ziron, Jet’s difficult past, Kira’s concern for her mysteriously vanished father, Dr Tanaka, and the biggest mystery of all – what happens to the people who have won the lottery to get passage out of this failing world and into Paradise.

The story is very readable, though a bit clunky in  parts. A tighter edit could help the story along (and a few typos and errors sneak in on occasion) but otherwise the text flows easily, and Anile keeps up a brisk pace. I’m looking forward to the second novel of the series, to see how Ryder’s teetering secrets and the big reveal in the last chapter will affect both the teenagers who are starting to grow up and the harsh world in which they live.

 See more at Laura N Anile’s website.

Buy Beyond Time (Time Shifters Book 1)

 

The Books of Love: Grievous Harm by Sandy Curtis

Reviewed by LynC

Grievous-Harm-front-coverThe blurb…

When a child is in danger, every second counts.

In Sydney, Australia, The Loving Hand church understands how children can be a commodity more precious than gold.

When Kate Maclaren flies in from Los Angeles, desperate to find her missing niece, she opens a door into this world, and uncovers a network of corruption and cruelty that stretches across the country.

Agent John Corey, torn by long-buried guilt, and harbouring  secrets he must not reveal, joins

forces with Kate to expose the sinister cult before more children disappear. He will risk everything, even defying orders, to help Kate uncover the truth and keep her safe.

But when their journey into Australia’s Outback reveals the psychopath at the centre of the network, it is Kate who discovers she will do anything for the people she loves.

The review…

Sandy Curtis is one of those strong, no-nonsense, get out and do things people, and her protagonist reflects every ounce of this. Try to thwart her? She’ll find a way around you. So, both her reluctant companion – John Corey, and the people threatening her niece’s wellbeing find.

Used to bailing out her sister-in-law when she gets herself in trouble, Kate flies in expecting to have to do so again. What she doesn’t expect is that her sister-in-law has willingly taken herself and her daughter (Kate’s niece) off into the wilds of NSW to a hippy style commune. It takes all her ingenuity and acting skills to follow her. Along the way she collects a tail in John Corey, a government employee in a department which answers directly to the PM’s Office and no-one else, who follows her because she is unwittingly a lead in his investigations into a child abuse case.

He breaks cover to rescue her, and from there the two travel together, little realising their different agendas will turn out to be the same one. Without his knowledge of Australia’s unforgiving bushland, his undercover skills, and his police skills she could not have succeeded. Without her he has a tendency to wallow in guilt and forget that the danger to the children is nigh and must be dealt with urgently. He needs her to keep him focussed on the important things in life.

Sandy, living in Bundaberg in remote Australia, knows her stuff when it comes to cattle, rodeos, and survival in the Australian bushland, and she imbues John with all those skills.When Kate and John are caught and tortured and raped (Yes, there is a realistic rape scene.), it may be Kate’s ingenuity which gets them free, but it is John’s know how which saves them.

The rape puts a massive barrier between their growing attraction, and attempts later to overwrite the memories are only partially successful, but <*spoiler alert* – scrollover to read text> after Kate’s niece, Cindy, is rescued and John is hospitalized for his efforts, this barrier loses its potency. It will always be there, but their co-dependency, friendship, and attraction is expected to win out in a most satisfying way.

I do have a bit of a gripe about her characterization of Glen, the Hostel receptionist, who is so helpful to Kate. He came over as too aggressively gay at first, but later when he became a real person, Sandy toned him down – until, that is, he needed to be so overt in order to throw someone chasing Kate off the trail. I suspect she is not that familiar with members of the LGBTIQA (or QUILTBAG) community, but set Glen up as gay because it was a very useful plot point.

Oh, and if any Americans reading the book are surprised at the lack of Indigenes and Kangaroos in the Outback; Australia, the ‘real’ Australia, is like that. Sandy paints a very realistic picture of our cattle country, and utilises it well as a major player in the plot.

From the opening lines ‘The sign above the front door said the brothel was legal.’, to the closing scenes I was hooked. We know from that opening scene to the final pages just what is at stake and we are as eager as the protagonists to prevent any further harm to the children. Both John and Kate are sympathetic protagonists whom we want to be successful, not only in their individual quests, but also, in their relationship. Sandy Curtis does not fail us.

An excellent, fast paced read from beginning to end.

Buy Grievous Harm

About LynC

LynCLynC is a 50-something year old widow, juggling the demands of writing Science Fiction and being a single Mum.

In the past two years LynC has had four short stories published; one of which — Nematalien — was nominated for an award in 2013. Her first novel — Nil By Mouth (Satalyte Publishing) — was launched at the Australian National Science Fiction Convention in Melbourne in June 2014. (Narrelle’s note: this is an excellent book and I recommend it highly.)

LynC resides, with her two ‘new’ adults, four cats, and two canaries, in a hidden area less than ten kilometres from the Melbourne CBD (in Australia) surrounded by creeks and wooded hills.


The Books of Love are romance book reviews of both new releases and old favourites.

Score for Sharp – and bonus versions

Kitty_iconI have written a number of songs that don’t appear in Kitty and Cadaver (though they may show up in the second book, when I get to it.)

This one, Sharp, was (like Copper Beaches) written as a sort of Sherlock filk song exploring John Watson’s youth and his relationships.

Sharp was based on the idea that as a teenager he had walked in on his sister Harry cutting a girlfriend’s name into her arm.

(In my head, they are a very dysfunctional family, after his mother’s death and their father’s and Harry’s ensuing depression and alcoholism.)

.

Sharp

Red ink,
black letters,
parchment skin
Is this the only way you know to let love in?

Strange joy
Blessed pain
Ecstacy
Is it only when the love hurts
that you think it’s real?

See it to believe it, carve it on your heart
Leave a message from your arteries
And the love just falls apart

And the memories are sharp
So sharp
You can’t use my hand or heart
So cut me out.

Etch a name into the bone
Not hers, not yours, but ours alone
Let these words be written
“I could not stand to listen”

You’re the one who’s leaving
You have cut away the ties
And the neatest slice is bleeding
Goodbye, goodbye
the red ink writes

Red ink,
black letters,
parchment skin
Is this the only way you know to let love in?

And the memories are sharp
So sharp
You can’t use my hand or heart
So cut me out.

They’re not necessarily kind lyrics. They’re the words of an angry young man whose family is falling apart and he can’t work out how to keep them together and functional. Especially as neither his father nor sister seems to want him to.

Of course, one of the wonderful things about filk, fandom and music, is that other people may come along and play in your sandpit. A fellow Sherlock fan was inspired to play with the lyric, come up with her own melody and record it for her Soundcloud account. (She’s also done her own version of another filk I wrote, Battlefield).

Here is my own version, sung a capella.

At Continuum 11 this year, Ann Poore performed a version of it (and her take on Gretel’s Lullaby and Down as well) during a filk singing session.

(By the way, if you’re interested in filk – which is basically the fan version of folk music – Ann and I have started the Melbourne Filkers group on Facebook and we’re hoping to find others to join us to develop a local singing scene.)

And here is the score for my version:

Sharp 1Sharp 2

And as always, if you’re moved to try your own version of it, I’d love to hear it.

Music Score for Copper Beaches

LaszloI’ve had a very productive few weeks, having submitted three short stories to various anthologies and also sent my first full-length adventure-romance novel, Ravenfall, to my publisher for consideration.

Before I get fully into my new book, The Adventure of the Colonial Boy, I thought I’d share another of the songs for Kitty and Cadaver.

Copper Beaches, as the name suggests, was something I first wrote while noodling about with Sherlockian ideas – though the connection to Holmes isn’t at all obvious from the lyric. It actually relates to an idea I had about BBC Watson having had a more reckless youth, and these lyrics represent the decision he made to find a more constructive path. Once it was done, I felt the whole thing could do extra service as a song in Chapter Seven of Kitty and Cadaver.

In that chapter, Laszlo (the band violinist), Yuka (drummer) and Sal (guitar) are teaching the song to new recruits, Kitty and Stephen. Thematically in that book, the lyrics are very relevant to all three of those singing it.

Here’s the lyric on its own:

Copper beaches

A seaside in rain and a hollow in the heart
And sand is a grave for rocks and bone
Smashed up by the tide and time
An ancient stage
Where we’ll go with age
and we always go alone

And the sun’s going down and it’s bleeding into
An ocean to swallow the sorrow down
And the bronze on the water and silver horizon
In the blazing light, I keep my eyes on
the copper that’s staining the place where I stand
I’m on firmer ground in this copper sand.

It’s nothing to anyone how old is the earth
It’s nothing to the sea that my mother gave birth
And the sun doesn’t care if I live or die
But it’s such a beautiful sky

And everyone’s bleeding and lonely and scared
And the world wouldn’t notice if anyone cared
But we do
And we’re too small to matter to oceans and skies
And our hearts are too broken to love after lies
But we do
But we do

This tiny heart in the burning world
Is finding a flame in these copper beaches
the sun doesn’t care if I live or die
It’s such a beautiful sky

And everyone’s bleeding and lonely and scared
And the world wouldn’t notice if anyone cared
But we do
And we’re too small to matter to oceans and skies
And our hearts are too broken to love after lies
But we do
But we do

And here is the score:

Copper Beaches p1

Copper Beaches p2The song is meant to be very rock – in my head there are drums, bass and lead guitar, maybe keyboards. I was listening to a lot of Shinedown at the time, so think of that, a bit.

I’d be all for someone having a go at playing it/arranging it and sending the result to me, if you have time on your hands. :)

“For sale: Baby shoes, never worn” – a happy ending

babyshoesThere’s a story that does the rounds that Ernest Hemingway once wrote the shortest, saddest story every told, for a $10 bet.

For sale: Baby shoes, never worn.

I first heard that six word story when Mary Borsellino told of how she had found it so terribly sad that her friend, artist Audrey Fox, decided to subvert the gloominess of it. Since they both enjoyed monster stories, Audrey used that as an inspiration to illustrate the story in a way that gave it a happy ending (a version of which you can see here – Audrey redrew the picture for my blog!).

Of the picture, Audrey says, “I was really just using my imagination and thinking about what else the story could mean that wasn’t ‘sad baby tragedy’.”

That story, and the story of Audrey’s illustration, made it into one of Mary Borsellino‘s Wolf House books, from memory, but I’ve always loved that whole story-in-a-story

Now, the saddest part of this whole thing is that the Hemingway part of it isn’t true. Ernest Hemingway’s writing of the tragic six-word novel is an urban legend.

A very similar story actually dates at least to Hemingway’s own childhood, when a newspaper classifieds section titled Terse Tales of the Town published the item, “For sale, baby carriage, never been used” in 1906. Similarly worded stories popped up again every few years in newspapers.

Whether the bet with Hemingway ever happened (and if it did, whether Hemingway quoted this story deliberately) is unclear – but that version of the story is ascribed to literary agent, Peter Miller, who first told it in 1974 – after Hemingway’s death – and then published it in a 1991 book. It was just the latest in a long line of stories about that story, but it’s the one that stuck.

The idea of writing something so perfectly pithy over lunch is an appealing legend, but the perfection and pithiness of the six word ‘novel’ remains, whatever its origin.

I don’t think it spoils the tale to note that Hemingway didn’t create it. I love the fact that this little notion first popped up in 1906 (if not earlier) and proceeded to grow, little by little, acquiring embellishments as it rolled down the years, until it grew to the story of a dinner party and a bet and a writer of terse words.

Or until it grew to the story of terse words, a sad friend, and an artist who decided to turn the whole thing on its head.

It’s a great reminder that many stories never stop being told, and never stop growing in the telling. It’s a reminder that stories can mean different things to different generations and that sometimes, if you look at an old story in a new way, it can grow into a whole new meaning.

Sometimes with tentacles.

You can find some of Audrey’s art, and other art that she likes, on her Tumblr.

 

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