The Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award – reputedly the world’s richest short story prize, awarding €25,000 annually to the author of the year’s best short story collection – has revealed its six-strong 2014 shortlist. The field is led by A. L. Kennedy and Lorrie Moore, both writers who have found great success with short stories in the past. Their respective titles All the Rage and Bark are joined on the shortlist by Laura van den Berg’s The Isle of Youth, Ben Marcus’ Leaving the Sea and the work of two debuting authors, Phil Klay’s Redeployment and Colin Barrett’s Young Skins. Four of the six authors are American, with Kennedy and Barrett the only representatives of, respectively, Scotland and Ireland.
The prize’s winner will be announced in July after deliberations by a judging panel consisting of novelists and short story writers Manuel Gonzales and Alison MacLeod and poet Matthew Sweeney. MacLeod told The Guardian ‘The stories in these collections moved me, provoked me, and knocked the breath out of me. They take the reader down deep; they bring him or her up short. With every great short story – and they are numerous across these six collections – the world expands. So does life itself. With a powerful collection, one grows bigger by at least several lives.’
The award was established in 2005 by the Munster Literature Centre in Cork as an offshoot of the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Festival, itself named in honour of the famed Irish writer, with its first prize given to Yiyun Li for A Thousand Years of Good Prayers. Since then, it has been awarded to authors including Haruki Murakami, Miranda July, Jhumpa Lahiri, Edna O’Brien and Nathan Englander, with other notable nominees including Joyce Carol Oates, Colm Tóibín and T. C. Boyle. Last year’s winner was David Constantine, for his Tea at the Midland and Other Stories.
This year’s Baileys Women’s Prize for Fiction has gone to Eimear McBride for her debut novel, A Girl is a Half-Formed Thing. The book has already won the Kerry Group Irish Novel of the Year award and the Goldsmiths Prize, is nominated for the Desmond Elliott Prize and has been shortlisted for the inaugural Folio Prize. McBride took the Baileys over presumed favourite Donna Tartt’s third novel, The Goldfinch, as well as similarly big names Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie and Jhumpa Lahiri and fellow first-time novelists Hannah Kent and Audrey Magee (not to mention the longlisted Margaret Atwood, Rachel Kushner and Eleanor Catton). The book’s triumph is a major coup for its original publisher, the small Norwich independent Galley Beggar Press, for which it was a launch title (it was subsequently picked up for paperback by Faber & Faber).
Accepting the award, McBride said: ‘I hope it will serve as an incentive to publishers everywhere to take a look at difficult books and think again. We are all writers but we are all readers first. There is a contract between publishers and readers which must be honoured, readers can not be underestimated.’ It took McBride nine years to find a publisher willing to take on her innovatively-styled manuscript, having written the novel a decade ago, aged 27.
Former MD of Penguin Helen Fraser, head of a judging panel comprised of Mary Beard, Caitlin Moran, Denise Mina and Sophie Raworth, told The Guardian: ‘Very early on Eimear stood out from the crowd. We all put ourselves into purdah to re-read the shortlisted books but it was only when we started cautiously exchanging emails in the past week that we realised what a strong contender it was. It took us one hour to get the shortlist down to two books, and the remaining three hours to decide between them – but this is a truly worthy winner.’
Shots fired in the ongoing dispute between Amazon and Hachette in the US over profit margins on ebooks: so little faith does the online retail behemoth appear to have in resolving the situation quickly that, in a post on its Kindle forum earlier this week, it recommended that anyone in urgent need of a Hachette title ‘purchase a new or used version from one of our third-party sellers or from one of our competitors.’ That’s Amazon – the company so keen to retain your business that it hopes to integrate drone technology to make its deliveries more efficient and might use your browsing history to send you items that you didn’t even order but probably want – turning away your business rather than accepting Hachette’s terms. In this ‘mum and dad are going through some things’ scenario, dad just rented a flat on the other side of town.
After much hard work trying to break into the industry, Jasmine Joynson found her dream job as Publicity Assistant at one of the big five publishers. Now managing her own publicity campaigns and promoting some of today’s biggest children’s authors, Jasmine offers her own tips for the notoriously difficult task of landing a first job in publishing…
GET SOME WORK EXPERIENCE
When I was on my first work experience placement, the company was holding an open day for students called something along the lines of ‘How to get into publishing’.
The marketing assistant sitting across from me had been asked to give a brief talk on just this subject. One of the publicists in the department asked her what she was going to say.
She replied, ‘Um…work experience. Then get some more work experience.’
Spoiler alert: the first half of this article is going to be me reiterating this. But why exactly is work experience so vital?
1. How do you actually know you want to work in publishing without seeing what goes on? Work experience is a good way to find out IF you should even bother trying to get into publishing: you can use it as a chance to ask people about their jobs and the industry.
2. It’s unlikely that, for entry-level positions, you will be considered for interview without some work experience. Not impossible, but unlikely. Most jobs advertised in publishing get lots of applicants, and why interview someone who doesn’t have any experience of publishing at all when many do?
3. Without work experience, you may struggle to answer common interview questions like ‘Describe what you think the role will entail’ or ‘What do you think the difference between sales and publicity is?’ It’s also useful if you can ‘give an example of a time you solved a problem’ in a publishing setting.
4. If you impress during a placement you will probably spring to mind next time someone hears of a friend or colleague recruiting. Publishing is a small industry and if a job opens up it’s not unusual for someone to email around to their counterparts in other companies and ask for details of potential candidates.
MAKE A GOOD IMPRESSION
When you do find a work experience placement, please don’t waste the opportunity. In short, smile a lot and be willing to get on with things.
You may well be asked to do boring admin tasks like updating spreadsheets, mailing books and booking taxis. Try not to look bored or complain.
It sounds obvious but if you act like you’d rather be somewhere else then the team you’re working with will wonder why you’re there and definitely won’t recommend you in future.
FINE-TUNE YOUR CV
As far as I’m aware (and I’m far too junior to recruit) there are no hard and fast rules about how to format your CV.
What I will say is that publishing is a creative industry and therefore mine is ‘skills-based’. To elaborate, after a little introduction that explains briefly who I am, I list five of my ‘key skills’ (and an example that demonstrates each).
If I were a doctor I imagine I’d lead with my education but as publishing is less prescriptive I think it’s best to focus on what you CAN DO, not what you have done.
PREPARE FOR INTERVIEW
I’m sure there are lots of different interview formats and styles. I had to do a short exercise in my first interview and then talk the two interviewers through the answers I came up with, while in preparation for my second interview I had to make a brief campaign plan.
These are the kind of things you should be told ahead of time. In order to prepare in general just make sure you can talk about your skills and why you want to work in the role you’re applying for.
The other thing I would say is know the list. Find out what they publish and go into a bookshop and have a look at the books if you have time. Turning up at a publisher without at least some knowledge of their list is not going to send good vibes to your interviewers.
KNOW THE JOB
Before you spend time and energy on trying to land your ‘dream job’, be aware of the inevitable downsides of the role. If you managed to do some work experience then you should have an idea of this.
In the final interview for my current job, my then-interviewer, now-boss told me ‘this job involves a lot of admin that won’t go away’. She was not lying.
I spend a lot of my time on admin tasks like updating mailing lists, sending coverage to authors and editors, uploading details of events to our database, replying to external enquiries, dealing with invoices, writing internal publicity updates.
And there are other aspects of working in a publicity department that may not appeal to some, too, such as working evenings, weekends, and very early mornings.
Having written all that, I will now say that I LOVE my job. Publishing is filled with wonderful, enthusiastic people and working with them is a privilege. Everyone is there because they love books.
Working in my current role I have met some of my childhood heroes including Jacqueline Wilson, Malorie Blackman and John Boyne. I also work with some of the most inspirational, amazingly talented, hysterically funny people who I hope will be the next generation’s favourite authors.
It can be very hard to break into publishing as jobs are so in-demand. At some points I genuinely believed I wouldn’t ever get anything approaching the job I wanted. But I did. So I would advise you to be persistent!
In news whose tolerability likely correlates directly to your own patience for its chief proponent, American restaurant chain Chipotle has begun printing specially commissioned short pieces of prose on its bags and cups at the suggestion of Jonathan Safran Foer, the divisive author of Everything is Illuminated, Extremely Loud and Incredibly Close and Eating Animals. The texts are designed to be read in two minutes or so, and come from a range of big-name contributors, including Toni Morrison, George Saunders, Sarah Silverman, Malcolm Gladwell and Judd Apatow.