Sunday, January 15, 2012

Brief Reading and Writing Reflection on 2011

Books Read 2011

A Dance with Dragons George R.R. Martin

On Writing Stephen King

The Last Werewolf Glen Duncan

The Bloody Chamber Angela Carter

The Anansi Boys Neil Gaiman

The Lovely Bones Alice Sebold

The Confidential Agent Graham Greene

Flight Sherman Alexie

Song of Kali Dan Simmons

Istanbul The Imperial City by John Freely (History)

The Dog Said Bow Wow Michael Swanwick

The Great God Pan Arthur Machen

Monisgnor Quixote Graham Greene

The Shadow of the Torturer Gene Wolfe

The Quantity Theory of Insanity Will Self

Wolfborn Sue Bursztynski (YA novel)

The Secret History of Moscow Ekaterina Sedia

In the Evil Hour Gabriel Garcia Marquez

I’m just a few stories from finishing New Australian Stories 2 (ed. Aviva Tuffield) and Tales of Old Earth by Michael Swanwick. Both will be included in next year’s list.

Only four female writers were included in my 2011 reading (last year they were all male bar one). I do feel as though this is a habit I need to break. Needless to say, Sue Bursztynski’s novel was a great YA book (the first of the genre that I’ve read in a decade); I bought Alice Sebold’s other novel The Almost Moon after being more than impressed by The Lovely Bones and I have fallen for Angela Carter’s breathtaking prose and consequently swooped on whatever of hers I could find. So hopefully I’ll read a few more female writers in 2012 (I choose from my ‘books to be read shelves’ at random). As usual there was far more parity in my short fiction reading.

I have also read more spec fic/genre than the norm and asides from providing a great escape it was a pleasure to see some excellent work in the field.



I am now subscribing to Meanjin to partner Overland Literary Journal (a journal I adore) and ASIM (for my genre hit). It is a relief that Andromeda is still available in print as Aurealis has succumbed to the electronic form. I prefer reading fiction the old fashioned way – for some vague reason I tend to miss a lot on screen.

I have dropped my Dotdotdash subscription only because I buy it at their launches. Other Australian journals that  I've read and enjoyed include: Kill Your Darlings, Wet Ink and Griffith Review. During 2012, I plan on reading the occasional Southerly and Island too.

From the US I have taken out a One Story subscription, a great concept in which a quality ‘longer short story’ arrives in your mail every three weeks. The idea being that the story itself is the focus and therefore liberated of any surrounding interference (advertising or even other stories). The first one will arrive soon.

There are many other captivating journals in the overseas market (the US have a plethora of outstanding ones). I’ve read: McSweeney’s Review, Tin House, The Paris Review, Granta, Zoetrope: All Story and of course The New Yorker (most of these I’ve picked up at either New Edition or Planet Bookstore here in Perth). In 2012 I would like to taste: Ploughshares, Harper’s, Atlantic Monthly, The Southern Review, Glimmer Train, New England Review and Crazy Horse. My subscription dilemma lives on...

In American speculative fiction I am planning on subscribing to one of the following: Asimov’s, Magazine of F&SF, Weird Tales (still waiting to see how it eventuates with the change of owners) and possibly Shimmerzine.

Interzone in the UK and On Spec in Canada may also be worth a look at.

Feel free to comment on any journal or give your own recommendations.

Short Stories

This year I have anally recorded the short fiction that I’ve read: 96 (many of them long short stories/novelettes). In my nerdy blog fashion I will put up a list of 24 of my favourite short stories from my 2011 reading, which represents a fair chunk at 25%. I am quite selective with my short fiction reading and all but a handful this year ranged from good to exceptional. So the 24 will be a recommended reading list for lovers of short fiction.


If you are interested in my thoughts on any of the novels feel free to ask or even comment on them yourself. I did not want to rank them and although I was surprisingly disappointed by Gabriel Garcia Marquez’ debut novel it has been a great reading year.

Writing Reflection

My first two stories that I had written were published in Dotdotdash5 (Dec 2010) and Andromeda Spaceways (April 2011) and I pinched myself. Then ‘Reading Coffee’ was published in Overland Literary Journal 204 (Sep 2011) and I was ecstatic (to put it mildly). I had always maintained a strong belief in the story but it was still a privilege for it to find a home in the pages of a literary journal I revere - especially as ‘Reading Coffee’ is at the ‘difficult-to-publish’ length of 5000 words. Contributing a couple of blog posts for the Overland website was also a treat.

With my first publication I thought it might have been the work of the Goddess Tyche; the second made me think that perhaps I should scribble away some more, especially as they were both foundational pieces in my writing development (a cause for celebration rather than denigration); and the third both aided and buttressed my self-belief as a writer.


I’ll just continue with my sporadic and hackneyed cafĂ© posts. I don’t aim for them to be anything more than raw and unpolished as my chief focus is on writing fiction. Hopefully the posts are enjoyable and informative to some of the many out there interested in the world of reading and writing.

Happy New Year!


  1. Great wrap-up for 2011, here's to an even more successful and bookish 2012!

  2. I'm honoured to have been one of the three female writers whose work you read in 2011! ;-)

  3. Hi Sue, a slight adjustment to one of four. Pleasure to read your novel, I really enjoyed that it was loosely based on a folk tale. Rest assured that Joyce Carol Oates (one of my all time beloved short story writers), Alice Munro, Margaret Atwood and now Angela Carter are all well represented on my reading-shelves - so hopefully 2012 will level the score.

    And cheers, Phil.

  4. And hopefully some Margo Lanagan too.

  5. Hey Ant, I concur, great wrap up. Your reading list puts me to shame.