100 Days of 100neHundred: Behind the Scenes

Today we are celebrating 100 days of 100neHundred!  Laura Besley’s second collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred explores a kaleidoscope of emotions through 100 stories of exactly 100 words.

We spoke to author Laura Besley and Arachne Press Director and Editor, Cherry Potts to bring you a behind the scenes look at the commissioning and editing process of 100neHundred and the particular challenges and joys of creating a collection of flash fiction:

Laura, can you give us a brief introduction to your writing career and where your inspiration comes from?

Over the last 12 years I’ve been writing as much as time has allowed, around work and/or childcare. My writing journey started with literal journeys: travel writing about my time living and teaching in Germany and Hong Kong. Fiction writing soon followed.
I realised early on that I had plenty of ideas, but struggled to write more than a paragraph or two. Quite by chance I discovered Calum Kerr online (Director for National Flash Fiction Day at the time). He had set himself a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction (max. 500 words) every day for a year. I did the same. In that year I learned a lot about my writing, not least that I loved short fiction.

Cherry, when did you first come across Laura’s writing and how did the idea for 100neHundred come about?

Laura was one of the contributors to Story Cities, our 2019 flash fiction anthology which explores (almost) every corner of urban life in anonymous cities. Her story Slim Odds was about estranged sisters sitting opposite each other on a train. It was deliciously off-kilter, and now I’ve read more, a typical Laura story. For our eighth anniversary in 2020 I put out an invitation to people who we had already published, looking for collections and novels. Laura was one of those who responded, with her concept in place, and a lot of stories already written. My initial reaction was that it was a little gimmicky, but would make it easy to market, but once I read the stories it was an immediate and firm ‘yes’.

Laura, was the idea of a collection of a hundred stories daunting? How many did you need to write and how long did you have in which to do it?

I’d amassed the 100 stories originally submitted over many years, so in that way it didn’t feel daunting. It just occurred to me at one point that I had enough to put together a collection and 100 stories of 100 words seemed like the best format. I submitted the manuscript of 100neHundred to Cherry in March 2020 and was delighted when she said she wanted to publish it. Things were a little delayed by the pandemic, but in September 2020, after Arachne secured funding from The Arts Council, I got the go ahead. However, there were 25 stories Cherry didn’t like enough to include. Over the next three months I wrote another 35-40 stories, finally both agreeing on the final one hundred stories to include.

Cherry, were there any particular challenges (expected or unexpected!) in editing a collection of stories with such a precise word count?

The predictable one was that they weren’t all exactly 100 words to start off with! And it wasn’t as simple as adding or subtracting a word here or there. Laura had played with the grammar here and there to hit the target, so I edited as though we weren’t aiming at 100 words, and then gave them back and said, now fix the ‘100’ thing. Taking the titles into the header so it wasn’t counted in the file helped! There were some stories that ended up turned inside out in order to get there. And some that we decided to lose because the 100 limit just didn’t suit them, they needed more room to find themselves.
I was afraid that it would get tedious, every story being the same length, (and remember I read a great many more than 100 stories, and all of them multiple times!) but it wasn’t the case – a lot of stories felt a lot longer, and some seemed to whizz by so fast I could barely catch them – 100 words is actually quite a generous limit, it allows for a lot of variety.

Laura, the stories in 100neHundred are divided into four sections, each named for a season. Can you tell us a little bit more about that decision, and how you decided where each story fitted within the collection?

I decided to divide the collection up into sections to make it more appealing and manageable for the reader, thinking that being faced with a bulk of 100 stories, despite them being short, might feel a little daunting. The idea of seasons seemed, to me, the most natural step to take. Once that was decided I looked for obvious markers to place them within the different sections, like the weather, or people’s clothing, but also I looked at the mood of the pieces, as well as trying to strike a balance overall making sure that pieces, in style genre and content, were evenly distributed across the collection.

Were the any moments of disagreement during the edit, or stories that you each
felt strongly about in different ways?

Cherry:
Oh boy – not so much an individual story, but a thread of stories. With the initial 100 stories, I started a spreadsheet with a loose themes column. This was mainly because it helps me work out how to sell a collection if I can track the writer’s preoccupations, and also to check I wasn’t imagining a particular slant to the book.
There were an awful lot of deaths, dead mother/father/brother/sister/friend/child… children, one way or another. Maybe Laura as a young mum was working out her anxieties? I think I actually gave Laura a corpse limit. It was quite amicable!

Laura: Generally, there were no big disagreements (I don’t think!), but there is one story I can recall submitting in the new batch that Cherry said: “No, just no”. And I realised there was no point trying to persuade her otherwise. That’s fine – as readers, writers and editors we all have personal tastes and preferences.

The response to 100neHundred has been incredibly positive, from readers and reviewers alike. Why do you think these stories have resonated so much with people?

Cherry: I think the brevity and apparent simplicity of a 100 word story allows the reader to project a huge amount of their own interpretation onto the characters and situations, so that they relate to the story more than they would if there was extraneous description. The surburban houses are the houses in the suburbs you live in, or travel through, the men and women in the office are the ones you work with; particularly when you are given only a he or she to play with. I wouldn’t say the stories quite achieve universality, but there’s a huge stride towards it.

Laura: I’m absolutely thrilled with the positive response 100neHundred has received. It’s impossible, for me at least, to say with any certainty why these stories have resonated with people. I’m just extremely grateful that they have. Every kind word and positive response is so uplifting.

100neHundred by Laura Besley is available now. Buy a paperback copy from our webshop or get the audiobook.
 

More dates for The Dowry Blade readings

Moving into March already.

Meet author Cherry Potts and hear readings from The Dowry Blade, buy a signed copy, and ask questions if you feel so inclined!

Cherry and Julian small

3rd March, 7pm 

Beckenham Bookshop

42 High Street
Beckenham
Kent
BR3 1AY

(near Beckenham Junction)

 

 

 

 

IMG_857024th March 7pm

Gays The Word

66 Marchmont Street
London
WC1N 1AB

(Between Kings Cross and Russell Square Tube stations)

A joint reading with Kate Foley, poetry and fantasy, what a heady mix!

Readings from The Dowry Blade and The Don’t Touch Garden

£3 on the door, but there’s alcohol.

The Dowry Blade – books have arrived!

The printers (TJI) have done a lovely job, and the books look absolutely amazing. So you can place orders for The Dowry Blade direct with us via our web shop NOW, and come along to events and buy a copy, but it won’t be in the bookshops until 25th February. Get yours ahead of the crowd!

Dowry blade arrives

Launching The Dowry Blade in Clapham

Our lovely friends at Clapham Books are hosting a publication day event for
The Dowry Blade our first adult novel, by Cherry Potts.

Join us at 

Clapham Books

26 The Pavement, Clapham Common, SW4 0JA

7:30 – 9pm on Thursday 25th February

for reading, signed copies of the book and discussion,

Free!

The Dowry Blade FRONT Cover final

The Dowry Blade is a lesbian epic fantasy of the strength and limitations of love and loyalty in a time of war and danger: between friends, lovers, kin, strangers– and enemies.

 

Launching The Dowry Blade in Lewisham

Our lovely friends at Lewisham Library are hosting a just-pre-publication event for The Dowry Blade our first adult novel, by Cherry Potts.

Join us at Lewisham Library 199-201 Lewisham High Street SE13 6LG

6:30 – 8pm on Wednesday 24th February

(the day before publication)

Free!

for readings, discussion,

modestly reduced pre-publication pricing on (signed) copies of the book,

and I believe there will be refreshments, which may include cakes!

The Dowry Blade FRONT Cover final

The Dowry Blade is a lesbian epic fantasy of the strength and limitations of love and loyalty in a time of war and danger: between friends, lovers, kin, strangers– and enemies.

Suitable for anyone over the age of fourteen.

Solstice Shorts on the Radio and on the Street

Listen to Cherry Potts talking about Solstice Shorts 2015: Longest Night to Gill Manly on Croydon Radio : (our segment is from 1:11 to 1:26 approximately.)
As well as talking we’ve been getting wet on the streets of Greenwich delivering leaflets and posters to like-minded venues,2015-12-08 15.33.01

 

and putting up the banner outside the library.2015-12-08 15.02.04

Heading out to bookshops in the locality today, and the Albany tomorrow. We have a LOT of A4 posters, if anyone has somewhere to put one – a window on a main-ish street, a pub wall,  the noticeboard at work, community board at your local cafe… if you are close enough to Forest Hill to pick one up or for us to drop one (or more!) round, get in touch.

 

Support Solstice Shorts come to a booklaunch

If you’ve never been to a book launch but always wondered what really happens you are invited to Arachne’s next one, which will be for The Dowry Blade, Arachne founder Cherry Potts‘ Fantasy epic. there are a handful of invitations up for grabs as part of our crowd fund for Solstice shorts Longest Night,

The Dowry Blade is around 170,000 words long, so is coming out in support of its smaller siblings the short story, generally weighing in (for Solshorts anyway) at around 2000 words.

The booklaunch will be in late February, in London – either central or South East, so if you’d like to come along, support our festival! You only have until 1st December to grab an invitation! It may look a bit like this. There will be drink, there may be cake…

meeting authors and eating cake at an Arachne event

meeting authors and eating cake at an Arachne event

Professional edit of your 2000 word story/ novel extract

Another of our offers for crowd fund supporters – a professional edit from Arachne Press managing editor Cherry Potts. For £100 you will get thorough, honest, detailed feedback on up to 2000 words of short story or 2000 word novel extract. £200 a total bargain! Be grateful we aren’t offering you under-editor Julian’s services…

Help us raise enough to run Solstice Shorts 2015, Longest Night by contributing to our crowd fund at Indiegogo.

LGBT History Month – Cherry Potts & VA Fearon shout about Lesbian Literature

Video

Shouting turned out not to be needed, but here we are talking about Lesbian Literature at North Kensington Library last week.

If you want more Lesbian (and Gay) Literature from Cherry, catch her reading and discussing her own work and that of Arachne Press more generally on Thursday 26th February at Richmond Lending Library,  Little Green, London, TW9 1QL 7pm. book for this event (£2)

 

Celebrate LGBT History Month 2015

Celebrating LGBT history month, Cherry Potts, Arachne’s owner and editor, and author of Mosaic of Air is appearing in an exhibition of photos by Tom Dingley at various venues in Lewisham Borough as part of Tom’s #Outcome project.

Cherry Potts copyright Tom Dingley 2014

Cherry Potts copyright Tom Dingley 2014

Cherry will also be talking about lesbian literature, publishing and reading from her work,
at North Kensington Library on 12th February at 6pm (With V A Fearon) free!

Shouting about Lesbian Literature: coming out as a lesbian writer

Cherry Potts’ first collection of lesbian short stories, Mosaic of Air was published over 20 years ago, and she now owns her own independent publishing house, Arachne Press. V.A. Fearon’s first self-published crime thriller, The Girl with the Treasure Chest came out last year. What has changed for the Lesbian author in the interim? What has the recent surge of self and indie publishing done for lesbian literature (and what is it anyway)? Two personal approaches with readings.

Book your free place for this event at North Kensington Library. Tel: 020 7361 3010
and at Richmond Library on 26th February at 7pm (£2).

An evening with writer and publisher Cherry Potts at Richmond Lending Library

Join writer and publisher Cherry Potts for an evening of readings and informal discussion of Lesbian and Gay writing with a whirl through anything from myth to science fiction. Cherry will read from her own work and others published by her award-winning publishing house, Arachne Press. Tickets £2.00 including refreshments.

Richmond Lending Library, Little Green, Richmond, TW9 1QL

You can book online for the Richmond Library event