Friday, June 13, 2008

Countdown to 100

I just sold a short story, “Waiting” to Thema, in the US, my fourth sale to them, and my 96th short story publication. It’s taking me a while to get to 100.

My first sale to Thema, by the way, was “Sister’s Room” back in 2004, where I was at number 83. Then I sold “Following the Cat” in 2006 (88), and “Neighbors” in 2007 (90). 91 was “Malaysian Games”, runner-up in 2007 Wisdom-Faulkner Short Story contest, which I’m led to believe will be published in 2008, but so far they haven’t contacted me (they have the right to publish or not publish it due to its runner-up position). If they pass on this, then I’ll have to revise my tally, which in the past I’ve had to do on numerous occasions, when one publication or another changed its mind (usually when they change editors).

Short stories 92 and 93 are “Transactions in Thai” and “Only in Malaysia”; both published in Malaysia in 2008 in Silverfish New Writings 7. 94 was “The Future Barrister” published in Singapore in QRLS. For 95, I’m not allowed to disclose this since it’s for a future examination (around the world I’m told), whereby they’ll be using one fourth of the actual story.

That brings me back to 96. And four more to go until I reach 100! I still have a few stories floating around in the marketplace so I may get some more sales real soon. Then again months can go by…and nothing. For years I hardly sent anything out (focusing my time on novels and screenplays), and then I had two major and one minor move, from the US to Penang, Malaysia, within Penang, and then from Penang to Kuching, Sarawak (also in Malaysia but across the sea) where I put everything on hold until I had a firm address. Children (and occasionally work) have also turned my writing life upside down.

But now I’m close to 100 and that’s exciting for me! Some stories, I have to admit have been published more than once, in non-competing markets like here in Malaysia and Singapore, where I’m based. I’ve also published short stories in India, Japan, Denmark, France, Australia, United Kingdom and USA.

My first published short story was “Mat Salleh” based on my Malaysian wedding, in The New Straits Times back in 1986. Another story was accepted in 1985 but it didn’t get published until much later. How many different stories have I published? Technically 28, and I’ve been stuck on that number since 2003! Many of the stories, over the years, have been completely overhauled, with new titles and some even doubled in length, but, technically, it’s the same “story”. What to do?

When was the last time I actually wrote a brand new story (as opposed to editing and overhauling old stories, which I do regularly every year, including reviving a few from the dead)? In 2003 I wrote “Father’s Day” and also wrote ‘This is Only a Test”, after I found the long-lost (ten years!), heavily-edited first draft (long-hand) in the wrong desk file. Since it was never completed, I consider this my “latest” story. I've started a few other stories, including one last year, but never got around to completing them.

My biggest year for selling short stories was 1992, I sold 16! Back then I was aggressively marketing them to put food on the table. So why do I keep score? If you don’t, how will you know where you stand? If I include my articles, anecdotes and books, then I stand at 435. Sounds like a lot, right? To put that in perspective, I have friends who are columnists for newspapers and they blow by that number in less then 9 years. And if you work for a newspaper, you can do that number in one year!

Still, I’m happy to be at 96 in short stories publications, and I’m looking forward to counting down to 100. I just hope I can sell my latest two stories, or two other stories that have never been published (I have five in that category, not including the dozens of stories discarded decades ago), so I can finally reach 30! In terms of age, I passed that number a long time ago. And decades from now I hope to reach that other 100. I wonder how many short stories I’ll have published by then? One thing for certain, I will be keeping score.


***Here the link to my website, to MPH online for orders for all three of my books, including my latest, Spirit of Malaysia and for Trois autres Malaisie.

4 comments:

KeeMan said...

Hello Mr. Robert,

Wow, i can't believe you're actually in UNIMAS. Luckily, my friend who taught ERW (the youngest instructor) told me that.

I think i used to see you around at CLS but just didn't have the chance to talk.

It's amazing how you can still be active in writing and as a keen followers of Malaysian Literature in English, i do enjoy reading your stories especially "On Fridays". Your depiction of the Malay girl in that taxi "painted" my dream for quite some time. :)

Well, i just bought your latest edition of Lovers and Strangers Revisited from MPH online. Mind if i ask you for an autograph?

Regards,
Kee Man

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Hi Kee Man,
Thanks. Did you buy the revised and extended version (17 stories) from MPH, with the red cover of the lady lying in bed? That will be coming out soon. Just finished the revisions/corrections of the final proofs. If so, you might be the first person to purchase a copy! Yes, I'll gladly sign the copy, either version. Just look me up at UNIMAS or if you happen to see me around CLS, don't hesitate to approach me.

Best wishes,
Robert

MayaKirana said...

Hi Robert

I am sure with your new book out, reaching 100 and beyond would be easy! See you in Kuching end of the month. And congratulations on the new book! Here's to more stuff to update on your website then.

BorneoExpatWriter said...

Phooi Kheng,
Thanks. I just need to keep on submitting. Keep my stories out there. I used to be real good at this, quite disciplined, whereby at any one time I would have at least 20-30 stories in circulation to various editors. It sure worked before! Having a full time job and two active toddlers just makes it all a little more challenging! Robert