Irish Book Day 2014 is extra special because of our collaboration with Irish literary magazine The Stinging Fly to create the first original Irish Book Day publication. Declan Meade of The Stinging Fly gives us a little insight into the process of creating What's the Story?
Declan Meade is the founding editor and publisher of The Stinging Fly magazine. In 2005 he set up The Stinging Fly Press. He has edited two anthologies of short stories for the imprint: These Are Our Lives (2006) and Let’s Be Alone Together (2008). He teaches a module on the business of publishing at the American College Dublin as part of their MFA in Creative Writing.
Tell us a bit about The Stinging Fly?
The Stinging Fly is a literary magazine based in Dublin that publishes new writers and new writing. I set it up with a friend of mine back in the late 1990s. At the time I was trying to write short stories myself – and I was meeting a lot of writers who were just starting out and who complained of the fact it was really hard to get their work published. There weren’t many places publishing short stories, in particular. So my friend and I just thought that we’d give this a go. We put out a call for submissions and very quickly the stories and poems started coming in. There was enough good work to put together our first issue. I think the first issue was about 28 pages and we had five stories and about twenty poems. And the work is still coming in now sixteen years later.
How did you get involved with Irish Book Day?
I was lucky enough to have been invited to take part in the Solas Nua Writers Festival in 2011. I met Dennis Houlihan when I was in D.C. It was always the plan that we’d try to do something together again and Irish Book Day was really the perfect opportunity for us to collaborate.
I love the idea of getting a free book. I also love any opportunity to discover new writers. That’s what Irish Book Day offers – that’s what it is all about.
What were the criteria you had in mind when creating What’s the Story?
I wanted to bring together in one volume some really good stories and poems that we have published in our different books and in recent issues of the magazine. Generally in deciding whether to publish a piece of writing, I will rely first and foremost on my gut reaction as a reader. If I’ve enjoyed reading a poem or story – if it has excited me, or thrilled me, if it has made me laugh or made me cry – I want to share that experience with other people. Of course, not everyone will respond to the work in the same way as I have. I hope that some people will though.
With What’s The Story? as well, I wanted to offer a range of styles and approaches to the story and the poem. It’s a showcase for these different writers and their different work. Taken all together, I hope it will offer readers some fresh and interesting perspectives on Ireland and on Irishness now.
Tell us about the stories and poems you chose?
We’ve published four single-author short story collections under The Stinging Fly imprint. There are stories from each of those books here. Kevin Barry is the writer readers are most likely to have heard of and read before. Since we published his first collection, he has gone on to get published in The New Yorker and in other US magazines and to win a number of prestigious international prizes. His books are now published in the US by Graywolf. ‘Atlantic City’ is the first story from Kevin’s first book – and I think it’s still one of his favorites. It’s a very funny story about a group of teenagers and then it switches and it becomes a very sad story. I still remember reading it for the first time and that is true of the other stories and the poems in What’s The Story? too.
As a rule I tend not to say much about the work that I publish. I prefer to stand back and to let the readers decide. I think all these stories and poems deserve to be read and to be read widely – that is why I chose them for the book. I’m delighted that Irish Book Day is providing the opportunity for this work to reach a whole new group of readers. Reaching more readers, new readers – that’s something that will always make writers and publishers happy.
Irish Book Day is March 17th. Solas Nua volunteers will be giving away free copies of What's the Story? at Metro Stations and other locations around Washington D.C. Check Facebook and Twitter for up-to-date details on the day. If you get a book share your thoughts with us on Social Media using #whatsthestory
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