The eagle-eyed amongst you will have noticed the neat button in my sidebar announcing my involvement with this year’s Chinese Whisperings short fiction anthologies. Long term readers of this blog will be already be aware of CW’s unique brand of short fiction from my review of the first anthology, The Red Book, published late last year.
For those not already in the know, Chinese Whisperings is a series of short fiction collections with a twist. Each of the stories published in a Chinese Whisperings anthology is part of a larger tapestry, with stories inter-weaving and over-lapping in a myriad of ways, as each successive writer takes a minor character or situation from a previous story and develops their story from that point. The big picture is masterminded by the editors behind the ambitious collections, Jodi Cleghorn and Paul Anderson.
This year will see the publication of two Chinese Whispering collections, the Yin Book, written by emerging female authors, and the Yang Book, featuring the work of emerging male authors. The authors, both male and female, have all been introduced over on the Chinese Whisperings website, each author page featuring a brief interview and links to their work across the interweb.
I was excited and honoured to be asked to take part in the Yang book earlier this year. Back when approached by Jodi to take part, the scheduled time for writing my story seemed so far away, yet somehow, today is the first day of my first week of CW work, in which I will produce my first draft of around four thousand words.
If you had asked me last night what I was going to write about I would not have been able to answer. I dealt with my lack of ideas by watching a bit of Heroes and Hung and getting an early night, sure that inspiration would hit me. as of mid-morning today there was still no joy and panic was starting to flap its wings to get my attention. I was happy to have to go and get a prescription of iron tablets from the pharmacy for my pregnant wife. Any excuse to get away from the blank page taunting me.
When I arrived at the pharmacy it was closed for a short break. There was nothing I could do but sit and wait for them to reopen as it wasn’t worth heading home to come back. It was while sitting waiting and thinking that my characters unfolded themselves. I suddenly had them, the two characters, my narrator and his mother, whose conflict would drive the four thousand words I needed to write. I rushed back to the car to grab a pen and paper; yes, I had left my notebook at home, bad form for any writer.
While I waited I planned out the story structure and managed to draft a few key paragraphs along with my final sentence. It seems my writing process heavily leans on having a final sentence in place before I can start. The pharmacists reopening dragged me reluctantly from my fictional world. I stuffed the prescription and my notes in my coat pocket and hurried home.
A little later while googling airports I found a wonderful, true/bizarre event that I could adapt and weave into the actions of my main character in and around the airport. I had everything I needed. Except time to write the story. That comes tomorrow when the boys are both in school for a full day.
But that wasn’t the best writing related thing to happen to me today. This evening, after sorting through my notes ready for tomorrow I noticed I had a facebook message from Claudia Osmond, the writer from the Yin book scheduled to write at the same time as me. She wanted to know if we could link our stories and proceeded to outline her character and the central thrust of her plot. By some strange twist of authorial coincidence her main character seemed to mirror my own and a way for the two stories to interlink was immediately apparent. We now plan to share our rough drafts to see if the opportunity to link them is as strong as it appears.
It is just this kind of collaboration I signed up to Chinese Whispers to experience. I have Claudia to thank for the fact it has kicked off so quickly. And Paul and Jodi to thank for asking me to be part of this exciting project. and with that I better be off for an early night. Got a lot of writing to do tomorrow.
In the meantime, why don’t you go buy the first Chinese Whisperings collection, The Red Book. I’m not in it, but ten great writers are.