Zoë Writes

An Australian author living in Norway

Category: Short Stories (page 1 of 2)

Uncomfortable truths

In the flurry of stress and activity that has been the pulling together of the second Oslo Writers’ League anthology, I almost forgot to contribute a piece myself. In the end, I ran so short on time I had to dig through my short story stock and find something already written, then repurpose it. In this case, where the themes were “Identity” and “Crossroads”, I decided the best fit was a non-fiction piece I wrote under pressure from a former colleague who was fascinated by my discomfort with all things Australian. Being homeless—in the sense of never having really felt “at home” anywhere—is a sensitive subject for me, and writing the piece was both unsettling and revealing. Even when it was complete, I didn’t know what to do with it. I couldn’t very well submit it to Australian journals, not when, to my mind at least, it was unpatriotic to the point of being insulting. But would foreign journals understand it? Or, more importantly, care what it was saying? I doubted it (as I often doubt myself—it’s a writer’s prerogative). So I put it away and tried not to think about it.

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Launched

On Friday I attended my first book launch and signing along with my fellow OIWG members (that’s the Oslo International Writers’ Group for anyone not familiar).  We launched our first anthology, North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway at Café Fedora, and with sixty or more supporters looking on, we shared readings from the book and raised a tidy sum for the Norwegian volunteer organization, Utdanningshjelpen.

My reading of one of my two stories from the book, Far North, True North, was unfortunately cut short by a dead camera battery, but here’s the part that survived:

Being asked to sign books was both a surprise and an honour – there were many more people who wanted their copies signed than I ever expected, with some people even asking for extra copies for their friends and family members. My fellow authors and I got such a buzz from seeing so many enthusiastic readers pick up our book, but truly the best part of the evening was when Felix from Utdanningshjelpen told us his story, and how he came to found the organization.

Felix Omondi Osok comes from Kenya, and grew up an orphan in the city of Maseno. But he was lucky: as a fourteen year old, he got a job as a project assistant with “Rotary Doctor Bank” where his dedication and determination was noticed. Felix received a lot of support from his grandparents, but it was difficult for him to gain enough money to finish school. Two doctors from the Doctor Bank decided to support Felix with extra money so that he could continue his education. Today, Felix holds a masters degree from Oslo University. Through Utdanningshjelpen, Felix helps children in similar situations to his own, of which there are all too many.

We hope that the money we are raising through the sale of our book will help support the education of children in developing countries, so that they may find their own voices.

OIWG

Bree Switzer reads from her piece, Maggie’s Farm

The paperback version of the book is now on sale at Amazon:

http://amzn.com/1909374539 or http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/1909374539

E-book released

North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway is now available for Kindle and other ebook readers! The paperback is just around the corner, but if you can’t wait, here are the ebook links:

Amazon (Kindle)

http://amzn.com/B00CTU0KH2 (US)

http://www.amazon.co.uk/dp/B00CTU0KH2 (UK)

Kobo

http://bit.ly/18pnW5G

Apple iStore

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/north-sun-south-moon/id650166540?mt=11

Barnes and Noble (Nook)

http://bit.ly/11tQTuf

Smashwords (EPUB)

http://www.smashwords.com/books/view/316919

Remember, all profits go to Utdanningshjelpen, a Norwegian volunteer organization helping children and young people in developing countries fulfil their educational potential.

Perhaps you’re wondering a little about the stories in the book. Hey, I understand. It’s all very well to buy a book because the proceeds go to charity, but would you actually read (and, more importantly, enjoy) the thing? Not everyone reads short stories, or poetry, or non-fiction essays. It’s hard to know what to expect. So, to help ease you into our little world, here is a hint of what you’ll find inside…

In Go North, Young Man, Brian Talgo reveals the serendipitous trail of true events that led him to Norway from the United States, and in Orientation, Audrey Camp overcomes the disorienting effects of her first two weeks in Oslo by mapping out the new city she calls home. My short story Far North, True North, presents two contrasting definitions of north for someone born far south of the equator. In Tolerance, Chelsea Ranger tells the true story of Lizhong “Frank” Li, a Chinese refugee to Norway who was imprisoned for his beliefs and tortured by his own government. Mauricio Ruiz gives us Estrellita, a short story about a desperate woman who takes advantage of the Norwegian custom of leaving babies to sleep unattended in their strollers outside cafés. Bree Switzer’s short story Maggie’s Farm is the story of a woman searching for a way to let go of her pain. We explore the rich history of Scandinavia in Turn, Turn, Turn, Anna Maria Moore’s short story inspired by her mother’s childhood in post-WWII Sweden. Going back in time a bit further, Evelinn Enoksen gives a chilling account of a band of Vikings making their way home after a battle that has almost wiped them out in Frost.

I hope this small taste has inspired you to take a look at the book. I’m so proud of all the authors, and am amazed at the combined effect these stories have when collected together in a single volume.

North of the Sun…

If you’ve been wondering where the fairy tale posts have gone, it may appease you to know that they’ve taken a temporary backseat for a very good cause. I have been busy editing, proofreading and polishing fourteen great stories for the upcoming Oslo International Writers’ Group anthology, North of the Sun, South of the Moon: New Voices from Norway.

Today I’ve been working with fellow group member Chelsea Ranger to arrange our launch party. The e-book is set to launch on the 17th of May, to coincide with Norway’s grunnlovsdag (Constitution Day), with the paperback to follow in time for the party on the 7th of June. Profits from sales of the book will go to Utdanningshjelpen, a Norwegian charity which supports students in developing nations. The wonderful Anthony and Nicole from Cafe Fedora have offered to host the event at a steep discount, with the extra money raised from ticket sales to go directly to the charity.

The anthology has been written to two themes: Adaptation and North, and the pieces themselves range from short fiction to non-fiction to poetry. Some are uplifting, while others explore the darker side of human nature, but all together they make for a fascinating and thought-provoking read.

Book cover

The featured image on this post, The Wanderer, was painted by another talented OIWG member, Brian Talgo, and will grace the cover of the book, with the design by Ken Dawson. The book will be published by Holland House. And I can now reveal the actual cover:

I’m so excited to share these stories with you, and especially proud to be doing it for such a worthy cause.

I have two stories in this anthology, one a short fiction piece called The Social Animal, and the other a fictionalised account of real events, Far North, True North. These will appear alongside the fiction, nonfiction, and poetry of seven of my talented fellow OIWG members:

Audrey Camp

Chelsea Ranger

Brian Talgo

Mauricio Ruiz

Evelinn Enoksen

Bree Switzer

Anna Maria Moore

If you’re in Oslo, you might like to join us at Café Fedora for the launch party on the 7th of June. Here are the details:

Date: 7th June 2013 at 7:00pm

Place: Café Fedora, Frognerveien 22, Oslo

Price: 200 NOK per person

Food and drinks are included in the ticket price, and you will also hear the authors give readings, have the opportunity to buy the book and/or donate directly to Utdanningshjelpen, as well as be in the running to win a signed copy of the book.

Tickets are limited, so please buy yours today! Café Fedora’s owners, Anthony and Nicole Juvera, have made it possible for all tickets sold for the launch event to support the charity, too. The Oslo International Writers’ Group is open to writers of all kinds in the Oslo area. We meet once a month. Find us on Facebook if you’re interested in joining. We are always happy to welcome new blood, and you don’t even have to bleed–I mean read–at your first meeting!

Strange Tales from the Scriptorian Vaults

I’ve been published! My story, Grace of Women, appears in Strange Tales from the Scriptorian Vaults, newly published on Kindle and other ebook readers by Kristell Ink. The book begins when newly appointed Sergeant Crystal Lewis is sent to the parallel world, Earth 267, where she and her team discover a London different to those their agency has investigated before. Steam powered ships fill the sky, metal creatures scurry through the streets, and The Great Library is now nothing more than a burnt-out shell. Crystal’s investigations discover the records of the Scriptorians: elite explorers, scientists and chroniclers, chosen for their wordsmith abilities, their tenacious belief in uncovering the truth, their passion for the bizarre and baffling.

The stories that follow are those Sergeant Lewis discovers, the stories of the Scriptorians themselves.

Strange Tales from the Scriptorian Vaults is available now on Kindle from Amazon.com and Amazon.co.uk and in epub and other formats from Smashwords. Print versions are soon to follow.

All profits from sales of the book go to First Story, a UK based charity which promotes literacy and creativity to young people by holding workshops, which are often run by renowned authors.

Bookkus short story contest

Update: I won! Thank you to everyone who voted. Rocks In His Socks came in first and will be published in Bookkus’s short story anthology in early 2013.

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Adaptation

Talking to writer friends online about a year ago, I realised how much I was missing being able to talk to other writers face-to-face. When I met Brian, a fellow writer and Oslo resident on a writers’ website, I got to thinking how great it would be to have a local network, especially of international writers. So I decided to start the Oslo International Writers’ Group. It began as a Facebook group, but a few of us quickly agreed to have regular meetings to talk about writing and critique each other’s work.

We’ve now been meeting regularly for more than six months, each month focusing on one writer’s submitted piece, which has been of great value both to the writer and the critics. We’ve read some great work so far, as well as talked about our own work and experiences in relation to the discussed pieces.

Now we’re venturing into new territory by putting together an anthology of short stories, both fiction and non-fiction, with the theme “Adaptation”. The theme will be interpreted by each individual writer in their own way, and each story will be written to showcase the writer’s personal style.

Many of us are ex-pats, so the theme of Adaptation is close to our hearts. First drafts will be presented and discussed at our next meeting after the summer break, and I’m really looking forward to reading what each of our talented members comes up with.

Watch this space for more details and news of a release date!

The Oslo International Writers’ Group is open to any writer living in or around Oslo, Norway. You are welcome to join the Facebook group without attending the meetings – join here. We exist to discuss writing generally as well as our individual writing projects, to support and promote each other and to add a social element to the oftentimes lonely life of a professional (or amateur) writer.

Historical Sci-Fi – Steampunk

A brand new publishing imprint, Kristell Ink, recently approached me to write a short story for their upcoming Steampunk anthology called Scriptorian Tales. I’m delighted to be a part of this project, even though this is a step into new territory for me, genre-wise. Steampunk is a fascinating genre, blending historical fiction with the science that might have been. It’s not for the faint-hearted and there is quite a bit of research to be done to make the stories authentic. Nevertheless, I am excited about my idea and am well into writing my first draft.

Here’s the brief from Kristell Ink:

The loopers, agents employed by the quorum on Tellus Primus, travel to parallel worlds to gather intelligence and weapons for the impending Chromerican invasion.

Tellus, Gaia, Earth, they all seem the same; until one day, Looper Team C from the Beta site (the colonies of British occupied America) land on a planet they name Earth 267 – where technology has taken a slightly different turn. Giant steam-powered machines (airships, scuttle-creatures, hot air balloons) all work diligently alongside the traditionally fossil-fuelled contraptions (cars, lorries, trucks), and society remains firmly in the grasp of Victorian ideals and etiquette.

During the loopers’ undercover search of what they come to realise is London, they stumble upon a locked room, full of the weird, the wonderful and the frankly insane. Inside that room lays a huge book bound in some unknown material.

Inside that book are the strange tales recorded by the Scriptorians, who created the Great Library of London that was tragically lost in some long ago fire.

The Scriptorians were elite explorers, scientists and chroniclers, chosen for their wordsmith abilities, their tenacious belief in uncovering the truth, their passion for the bizarre and baffling. There is some evidence that these mysterious adventurers, fighters and writers also discovered the technology to loop and visit other parallel worlds.

These are those tales…

I will take on the role of honorary Scriptorian, and will pen one such tale. I’m very excited to be part of it, and can’t wait to read the stories that will feature alongside my own. I’ll post again when my draft is complete (it’s due by the end of August) and tell you more then.

 

Sabra’s Fathers

Nick and Darren have been together for five years, but it’s only recently that Nick has started to think about parenthood. Though he knows they are financially unable to consider surrogacy, and Darren is not interested in adoption, Nick can’t stop thinking about the idea of being a father. When his best friend has a baby, his dreams take flight and he plans a trip to South Africa to meet with an adoption agency, letting Darren believe they are just going on a safari holiday.

This story was inspired by a number of things: firstly by the African child I began sponsoring at the beginning of this year, secondly by a gay couple, friends of ours, who have just announced their second surrogate pregnancy and also by friends who have mixed feelings about parenthood. I also recalled my days working at the Equal Opportunity Commission, and some of the cases we dealt with that involved discrimination against gay people. I wanted to write a story that could be about any couple, gay or straight, that explored issues all couples face. The story serves to illustrate the challenges facing couples considering parenthood, and the emotions they can experience.

Sabra’s Fathers is complete at 3600 words.

Waiting For Her

This week I decided to take a look at a day in the life of a shut-in. Someone who waits all day for the person who takes care of him to return, unable to leave, trapped inside by his own fears and neuroses.

The inspiration for this story came from my two cats, Sushi and Mojo. They have been inside-cats their whole lives. When we first brought them home from the shelter, we lived on the second floor and the only safe place to let them out was onto the balcony. Since we’ve moved to a first floor apartment, they have the opportunity to go out but are now too scared. Sometimes when the windows are open, they press their noses to the frame, breathing in all the exotic scents the outside world has to offer. They would love to venture out, but all those fascinating things are terrifying at the same time. They never make it past the doormat.

What I wanted to achieve with this story was a sort of exploration of these types of fears, but in a way that shows how people and animals share the same types of fears. And how the love of another can assuage those fears with the smallest touch.

Waiting For Her is complete at 1800 words.

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