30 August 2010

Sun in a cup

I promised Jane I would start posting my lunch again so here you are:

I am calling this Sun in a Cup because there was no sun anywhere else in our fair city today. But it is really carrot soup spiked with fresh summer tomatoes. I used red tomatoes but if you use yellow ones the colour will be even more golden and sunshiney.

For a small batch I use: 250g/1/2lb each carrots and tomatoes, half an onion or two thin leeks (white parts only), 1 liter of stock (maybe 4 cups? you'll have to see if that's too much), a couple of stalks of celery and a couple of twigs of parsley (whole). Chop the onions/leeks and celery and sauté in butter on lowish heat for 10-15 minutes (you don't want to burn them, just soften them up). Add chopped carrots and peeled, cored, chopped tomatoes, sauté for a few more minutes. Then cover with the stock, tossing in a parsley. Bring to a boil then simmer for about 30 minutes, or enough to soften the carrots. Blend when it's cool enough to work with, using all or not-all of the stock to achieve your desired thickness. Salt and pepper should be enough to bring out the flavour of summer-fresh ingredients!

28 August 2010

Can someone help me with the math?

Dear Writer,

Thank you for sending work to XXXX. We had a fantastic response with over 300 writers sending in around 700 submissions. The quality of the writing was very high and we had to make some very hard decisions in order to select the 18 submissions eventually chosen for the book.

I'm afraid we haven't kept any of your work on this occasion, but hope that you will be interested in future XXXX submission calls. Please do keep an eye on the website for other writing opportunities.

This is a slightly edited of the rejection email I found in my inbox this morning. It isn't the first and it won't be the last, but would someone help me do the math here? It's early on Saturday morning. What is the percentage acceptance rate, if 18 pieces are chosen from a pool of 700 submissions?

19 August 2010

"It lodges itself in our throats."

Tidbits from a recent Tim O'Brien article, Telling Tails (thank you, Arts and Letters Daily):

The problem with unsuccessful stories is usually simple: they are boring, a consequence of the failure of imagination.
In fiction workshops, we tend to focus on matters of verisimilitude largely because such issues are so much easier to talk about than the failure of imagination.
Even if one’s goal is to depict ordinary human beings in ordinary human settings, a story must find striking, dramatic, and unexpected ways to accomplish this. Something, somehow, must strike the reader as compelling enough to warrant continued reading.

Inventing a nifty, extraordinary set of behaviors for our characters is not enough. A fiction writer is also challenged to find import in those behaviors. ... Cleverness, in the end, is a sorry (though common) substitute for thematic weight.

[Discussing Jorge Luis Borges's story "The Aleph":] But for me what gives the story its ultimate power—its exquisitely imagined beauty—is the moment at which Borges beholds the unbelievable, obscene, detailed letters that the love of his life had written to Carlos Argentino, that pompous ass upstairs. At this point the story moves from the clever to the emotional and takes on its great thematic heft. It soars beyond a “nifty idea.” It lodges itself in our throats. All of us, I suspect, can imagine beholding things we ought not to have beheld. All of us can understand such pain. In the end, this miraculous little story, with its obviously extraordinary events, illuminates an ordinary but fearsome corner of the human soul.

17 August 2010

Dare I Say It

I am back.

It is now mid-August and rainy, a spell of weeks we must wade through before we get Indian summer, if it deigns to come.

Outside my office window, the chestnut tree is full of bright green chestnut clusters. These weren't visible two weeks ago, when I was last here.

My office is very quiet, as is the building. But there were more people out and about this morning, and more traffic, when I went for my run, and my mailbox was full of advertisements for school supplies.

The season turns....

Helsinki took a bazillion photos this summer, and has taken them all with her on her camera to music camp, so I can't show you anything until she comes back.

I left Clover at home with a friend today, granting them full access to my shoe closet. There are some pairs I swear they have worn more than I have. Soon I shall go home and make something for supper involving minced lamb, and have a poke around for something thick to read. I have just finished 'The Historian' by Elizabeth Kostovo (good summer reading, in case you're looking), and am hovering now between Bitter Lemons by Lawrence Durrell, Summer Lightning by PG Wodehouse, and the dozen other unread books on my nightstand. Any suggestions?