Wednesday, April 25, 2007

The Rundown

Well this morning we accepted our 4th story for the 2007 Shiny Trio Series. At almost the halfway mark, I thought it might be interesting to have a look at some of our stats.

We've received 120 submissions.
Of those, 44% have been from female authors with a ratio of 61 male subs to 53 female and 6 unknown.
Of those, 16 were Australian authors (13%) and overwhelmingly 77 or 64% were from Americans. The full nationality breakdown is as follows:

16 Australian
7 Canadian
1 Israeli
3 New Zealanders
1 Swede
5 Britons
77 Americans

We have accepted 3 stories from female authors and 1 from a male. We have accepted 2 stories from Aussies, 1 from a Brit and 1 from an American.

Our submission guidelines state that we are looking for stories between 2000 and 8000 words. We have read 429,421 submitted words, with the average story being about 3730 words. It's not surprising then that 3 of the stories we have accepted are at the 3000 - 3500 mark. The shortest story we have received is 900 words and the longest is 9650 words. 14 submitted stories fell outside the submission guidelines range and of these, whilst all still fully considered, we have accepted none.

Our average turnaround for a story in the slushpile is 6 days. The longest turnaround was 61 days and 93 of the submitted stories were in the slushpile for less than one week.

Submissions are logged with a number in the order that they are received. Our accepted stories came in at 38, 78, 99 and 118. So if I put my best predictive hat on, by the numbers, we should be accepting stories 128 and 138. (Hey, I'm an Engineer ... that's what we *do*!!)

- Alisa

Saturday, April 21, 2007

The Shiny 5 with Ben Payne

1. What's your favourite kind of story to read?

My favourite stories are about people. They move me, or make me think about my own life or life in general. They challenge me. They make me feel less alone.

They have some aspect of life in them which glimmers and slips through my eye into my brain and makes me think "Oh yeah, that's right... that’s how life is..."

The best stories make you feel more alive for having read them...

2. Do you prefer character or plot driven stories?

I prefer character driven stories. I think that "why" people do things is a lot more interesting than "how", and that short stories tend to reflect that. The plot of a story tends to deal with how things happened, the character stuff tends to look into why the characters acted the way they did, and how the events affected them. The how stuff is far from irrelevant, of course, but it's the "why" that interests me the most.

Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule.

3. Would you rather be stranded on a desert island or on a space station

Would I be alone on the space station? Cos if not, then that one, definitely...

If I had to be alone, I think I'd prefer the desert island... less claustrophobic, and at least I could befriend a jaguar or something. It could fetch my tea and we could have interesting conversations over coconuts.

4. What do you like about YA over other subgenres?

YA tends to say, "Let's skip the bull. Let's get to the point."

I can think of a few subgenres that could do with heeding that advice.

There's less room for pretension... I don't think YA audiences are impressed by tricks... they just want to get into the guts of the story, into the guts of the characters, into the depths of our internal selves.

I think YA also appeals to me because it isn't afraid to say that how we feel and how we think *matters*... I think a lot of authors aimed at older readers become almost embarrassed by emotion... they want to hide it underneath guns or magic battles or whatever... YA authors need to get into the raw emotion because that's what their audience demands... teenagers, you see, (and select adult readers) are not yet dead inside:)

5. What are you looking for in stories submitted to Shiny?

I'm not gonna repeat what I've already said, but I'll try to sum it up.

I want stories that make me laugh, stories that grip me and hold me in my seat.

I want stories that smash my heart with a brick.

I want stories that undo my sense of self and make me reconfigure the way I think about everything I think.

I want prose that makes reading something I enjoy.

I want characters I am interested in and/or care about.

I want stories that make me feel that reading them was the best way I could have spent that twenty or so minutes of my life.

...and stories with talking birds. I like talking birds.

Tuesday, April 17, 2007

Shiny Review: So Yesterday

So Yesterday
by Scott Westerfeld
Reviewed by Alisa Krasnostein

Currently I'm in a Scott Westerfeld state of mind. In fact, he's rapidly becoming one of my favourite authors. I've just finished So Yesterday which Tansy suggested I read since she mentioned it in the Shiny Submission Guidelines and all.

What I love most about Westerfeld is his writing style. It's laid back and affable but it's intimate – he makes you feel as though the narrator is in direct dialogue with you, the reader. You never feel removed or set back from the action. Perhaps that's why I so often find myself sitting down for just 10 minutes of reading and surfacing 50 pages or more later. Reading his work is effortless and a pleasure.

Westerfeld doesn't talk down to his (intended) audience – his characters are you adults but he doesn't balk from using grown up material and language. Westerfeld also tends to use interesting and adult topics around which he writes his YA plots. In a world where young adults mature faster than ever before, Westerfeld shows himself to be in touch with his audience. Whilst his characters still struggle with the familiar YA issues – coming of age, first loves and discovery of identity and place in the world – they do so very mature scenarios. Westerfeld writes with such a likeable sense of humour that its hard not to find yourself smiling at offhanded, throwaway asides. Finally, his books are smart, the plots driven by clever devices and I always finish a Westerfeld novel in some way smarter than when I started it. I like that he writes intelligently and uses facts to inform in a fun and fascinating way.

So Yesterday, as hinted at by the title, is about "cool" and the manufacturing of "cool". Hunter lives in New York City and is a cool hunter – that's someone who is hired to find out what will be the next cool fad. How does he do it? He looks out for "innovators" – those people in society who just *are* cool. These are the people who invent. They invent the new gadgets and gimmicks, new ways of doing things or wearing things. Hunter is employed by "The Client" to find these on-the-verge-of-being-fads – like shoe styles, ways of wearing a cap, the new must-have mobile – so that they can commercialise it and profit off it. Just as Hunter meets and falls for Jen, an innovator who he discovers for the way she laces her shoes, his boss, Mandy, mysteriously disappears. Hunter and Jen embark on an utterly cool New York City adventure of a lifetime to get to the bottom of who abducted Mandy and why.

A couple of years ago I saw a documentary made for MTV on this very subject. It looked at the way large corporations seek out to find sub culture before it becomes pop culture and repackage it and serve it back up to consumers as their subculture. Examples in the documentary included the Pepsi Top 10 Video Hits and the Mountain Dew sponsored Pop Album launch parties. It kind of reminds me of the hangers-on at parties that somehow become part of the event. You don't really remember inviting them but you can't forget that they were there. An important part of culture jamming (that's when you subvert the adoption of some fad) is pointing out to consumers how they are being subliminally manipulated into consuming. This documentary did that for me at the time and So Yesterday worked to reinforce those ideas.

Throughout the book, the narrator refuses to label name drop, preferring to refer to labels and products in several worded descriptions. This tool works to bring the reader along and feel part of it. "Oh yes!" you think, as you recognise references to Nike, the Matrix movie franchise and so on. And it serves to make you feel ... well ... cool. That is, of course, until the culture jammers come into play. And you realise both in real life and in So Yesterday that your brand recognition is a manipulative play to make you consume what you think is cool and what you think is cool is because you feel a part of some kind of (manufactured) cool movement. Because as we all know, the truly cool are those riding the crest of the cool wave – the innovators. The rest of us are well, merely adopters.

This book is going on my 2007 list of Really Really Good Books I read. It was a quick and enjoyable read which made me think about who I am in society and what and why I consume the products that I do.

Monday, April 16, 2007

The Shiny 5 with Tansy

1. What's your favourite kind of story to read?
Funny, or witty, with a strong character voice and bright, colourful visuals.

2. Do you prefer character or plot driven stories?
Character all the way, though it helps if the plot doesn't suck.

3. Would you rather be stranded on a desert island or on a space station
I hate the outdoors, so space station. As long as they have broadband. :)

4. What do you like about YA over other subgenres?
I find that the stories are more fluid and don't get as bogged down in trying to impress the reader as adult fiction often does. And there's more of a focus on clean prose & interesting characters and situations rather than the kind of pretty-for-the-sake-of-it writing that feels like work to read it. I don't mind working to get the most out of my reading sometimes, but when I read for entertainment I want to be entertained! Plus there happens to be some awesome stuff in the YA genre right now - some great authors who really excite me.

5. What are you looking for in stories submitted to Shiny?
Strong, character based stories in which something happens - too many promising stories have been let down by finishing where the story really should be getting started. Some fun, bright stuff would be good because so far the best stories we've received have been on the emo side, and I want contrast. We could also do with some girly toned stories that aren't completely frivolous - chick lit for teens, but with substance. I'd love to publish something of the quality of Kelly Link's "The Fairy Handbag" or Ellen Klages' "In the House of Seven Librarians".