Spotlight interview with Declan Meade
Over the next few weeks we are conducting interviews with the facilitators who will be running workshops at this years Dalkey Creates Festival.
Below is the transcript of an interview with The Stinging Fly editor and publisher Declan Meade.
You founded the literary magazine The Stinging Fly in 1997. For readers who are not involved in literary circles or who aren’t aware. Could you give us a brief run through what that’s about?
Well it’s a magazine of new writers and writing, basically back in 1997 I was trying to write short stories myself, in writers’ courses. I joined writers’ groups and I was meeting a lot of people who had the same common complaint. That there were hardly any places where they could share their work and get them published or be considered for publication . So at that time me and a friend decided that we should set up a magazine. It wasn’t in any way a long term plan. It was more a reaction to all these tales of woe. We got to work very quickly and work came in and it kind of proved that there was a need for this type of thing. It just so happened, I think at that particular time, there were very few magazines around. Magazines tended to come and go, now there’s a much healthier magazine scene then there was 20 years ago.
So really you're providing opportunities for writers to be published.
Yeah absolutely, that’s what it is. I mean the aim is having somewhere to aim towards when you are sitting down to write a poem or short story or when you have that poem or short story finished. That there is somewhere there you can send it off to, and you know people are going to read it seriously and give it proper consideration. There’s the chance to be published and read by people. That’s an important motivation for the starting up writer and an important milestone along the way, to get your first publication.
I recently read that Stinging Fly has developed a book publishing wing?
Yes so we started that in 2005 that was a kind of a reaction to the fact that we could see writers coming through with short stories in the magazine. The next hurdle for them was to get a book or a story published. Traditional publishing in regards to short stories gave writers of it a wide berth, -for good reason perhaps, because they’re not a big seller in terms of the market. But I believe short stories offer some of the best writing. We want to give those writers who are seriously working towards the opportunity of getting published, a start in their career, in terms of writing novels or short stories, to get a book under their belt. Get started in that way, you know?
While I’m talking to you, is there anyone deeply interesting that you’ve come across…any stand out project that you are working on at the moment?
Well we’ve just brought out a book of stories, Levitation by Sean O'Reilly, a writer I’ve been working with on different projects for the last 12 years. We tend to work more often with new authors who come to us through the magazine. Next year we're planning to publish collections by Wendy Erskine and Nicole Flattery. They are two very different writers so they will be two very different books, but hopefully both will be deeply interesting in their own way. It's certainly exciting for me now, reading each new story from them as it comes in.
So what advice to writers who are looking to get published, who are on their way up?
The magazine scene is much better now. There are many choices of magazines for you to choose from to send your work to. I think it’s really important to read those magazines and see what other people are doing. Select which of those magazines might best suit your work, in terms of their target audience.
Are there any common mistakes?
One of the most common mistakes is sending your work out too early. Sending out your work for publication, before the ink has dried and you’ve put a full stop on the last paragraph. It’s really important to take your time on that. Let the work sit for a while and try and judge it, subjectively or objectively before sending it out. So the biggest mistake we see is we’re getting work that isn’t yet fully realised. Getting an early draft out there -which I completely understand is important for writers in the beginning, you have to get work out there to start getting the work published. I think it’s really important that you’re making a good first impression, to do that I think you have to give the work a bit more time and a bit more effort. Put as much effort in as you possibly can before you send something finished.
You started out as a writer. Your role is as an editor now. Was there a moment, a bit of a turning point when that happened?
There was... in the sense that I hadn’t really considered the role of editor before or that it was something I might be. I was always interested in reading and in writing. I love books, so they were a great thing for me growing up and I was always interested in working in this area. Teachers advised me to work as a journalist and creative writing was certainly mentioned. But no one ever really said to me, ‘What about editing?’ So it was just by walking into it, realising there was a need for it and that this was something I definitely wanted to do. Kind of fortunate in that way!
It’s very similar to curating…you’re curating content. It’s a very new term in a weird way…. It’s the 20th year anniversary of the Stinging Fly. Do you have anything planned to celebrate 20 years in business?
Well we’ll try to have a party! We’re working on an anthology of stories from 20 years of the magazine. We’re putting it together for late November. Should be about 40 stories from over the 20 years. It’s been an interesting experience going through all that work again. Showing our favourites and the work we think best represents what we have been doing for the last 20 years.
Ok, so you’ve got a bit of a deadline! Is that coming out this year?
That is coming out this year. That is one of my deadlines for this month, yeah.
Declan Meade will be hosting a workshop called 'Writing and Publishing in Ireland Today' on Saturday October 21st 2-5pm in Harold Boys' School.