By Greg Hudson
Arts & Life Editor
Critically acclaimed Canadian author Stephen Marche agreed to judge the Eyeopener’s First Annual Super-short Fiction contest. In an exclusive interview with Marche on Saturday it was confirmed that the winner of the fledgling fiction contest would be selected by the award-nominated author.
Marche’s new book, Shining at the Bottom of the Sea hit bookshelves in August and is already making a splash on both sides of the border. Recently The New York Times announced that it “may be the most exciting mash-up of literary genres since David Mitchell’s Cloud Atlas [the Eyeopener assumes this a compliment].” This, after the paper said his first novel was “dazzling.”
Shining at the Bottom of the Sea isn’t quite a novel, at least not in the traditional sense. It’s an imagined anthology culled from the best works of the fictional island of Sanjania. It is also evidence that Marche is nothing if not hard working.
“It was exhausting,” he says over the phone from his home in Toronto, where he lives with his wife, Sarah Fulford, the new editor of Toronto Life.
In creating the mock-thology Marche wrote more than a hundred pieces of short fiction, in dozens of voices and styles, then, like an anthologist, chose the best works.
Composing and compiling the entire literary history of an island, complete with divergent styles and voices, is a far cry from his first novel, Raymond and Hannah, which detailed the fragmented love story between a man and a woman who are separated after a week of passion. The divergence between the two works is something that Marche takes pride in, he says. He wants each novel he writes to be unique.
He’ll be looking for that same creativity in the short stories he’ll judge.
“Short stories seem easy, but are hard to do,” he says. “In novels not every moment has all the pressure in the world.” Nominated for an O. Henry award in 2002, he knows what it takes to write a proper short story.
It turns out that part of what it takes is a healthy dose of self-doubt. “What you want to do is build up your doubt so you don’t write badly,” Marche says. This might not be the most encouraging statement from a contest judge.
Deadline for submission is Nov. 5, 2007. The winners will be printed and announced in our final issue of the semester. This means that the Eyeopener is reminding students to submit their fiction.
Your work won’t be judged by hack peers, reading with jealous scrutiny. We have a professional for that.