A dreaded ‘no’ day

Why no isn't really no, when it comes to writing...

By: Clare Howdle,   3 minutes


It’s hard being the ‘no’ guy. In my day job I don’t have to do it very often, but once a year when I’m Feeding, I have to spend a day saying ‘no’ to a lot of people.

For the last few years outside of work, I’ve been trying to showcase, motivate and inspire creative writers in Cornwall and beyond through the Parabola Project, a creative writing anthology that celebrates the written word.

From the raw power of first time writers to the accomplished craft of true masters, it’s all about immersing readers in the wave of talent flooding the creative writing scene right now, all packaged up in one beautiful little publication.

Not satisfied with just bloody good words, we’ve always tried to blend style and substance, complementing short stories, novel extracts, poems, travel journal excerpts and flash fiction with stunning illustrations and photos from some of the creative scene’s most exciting imagemakers.

Parabola Project I, Origins and Parabola Project II, Quickening were a real hit with readers and critics alike ­– some of our writers got contacted by agents who’d read their work in the publication, while others have gone on to win competitions, get published elsewhere and even secure book deals. We like to think that the little boost they got from seeing their own words printed in Parabola might have gone some way towards making that happen.

And so, after the success of our first two books, here we are at Parabola Project issue III:  Horizons and the dreaded ‘no’ day.

Parabola is a open submission process – anyone can submit anything, so long as it ties into the theme and is an original piece of writing. It’s great to see what this sort of freedom attracts, but vaguely terrifying when faced with a mounting stack of submissions and no time at all in which to read them. This year I was lucky enough to be able to enlist the help of the rest of the Stranger Collective team to work through all the submissions and start selecting an editorial list. We each took a pile and spent some time – on Day 10s, on trains, on rainy September evenings –  reading, reflecting and choosing.

It’s always a difficult decision as the whole point of Parabola is that we draw from across the writing spectrum, but a final selection had to be made, so we sat down, deliberated, shared our thoughts and picked our writers. With just 12 slots this year the choice was hard – and the large pile of ‘didn’t-quite-make-its’ weighed heavy on my shoulders as we wrapped up the meeting and I knew I’d have to begin firing out emails to let them know.

It’s so hard to tell someone, who’s put effort into creating something, that it hasn’t cut the mustard. We’ve all been there;  filled with hope when the email pings into your inbox then sinking as you read the content and your spine crumples.

I hope that all the writers we had to turn down for this year’s Parabola Project are able to see it’s not a reflection on their work. Anthologies are so subjective – it’s what works for the people making the choices at that particular time – plain and simple. How they’re feeling, what grabbed them personally about what they read, even what they were doing after work all have a bearing on what gets picked so although it’s hard, it’s important not to take it personally. The best comeback to rejection I always find is to keep on writing. Write more. Write every day. Write better. That’s what it’s all about after all.

And of course, with every ‘no’ day comes a ‘yes’ day too. A day of emailing all the successful  writers and letting them know they’re in, a day of getting excited at the possibilities of what the next little book we are going to create will include, how it will read, look, feel and smell.

And this year’s yes day has been more goosebump-enducing than ever. We’re introducing a darker note to Parabola, with evocative, edgy, bold content that will take our readers somewhere brave and new. From hip hop inspired film noir to world-class poetry, from genre-bending sci-fi to thought provoking musings, Parabola Project III: Horizons is going to change things.

We can’t wait.

Buy a copy of Parabola Project issue II now, or head to the Telltales website to find out the latest news…

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