Are you an emerging science fiction and fantasy writer wondering where to send your work? In Fabula-divinos: The Tale Tellers is a fantastic new Australian short-fiction market that’s aimed directly at new writers who have yet to be professionally published. Speakeasy recently caught up with editor Nicole Murphy to discuss what they’re looking for and how writers can aid their chances of getting accepted.

Speakeasy: In fabula-divinos only debuted recently, and your submission model is fairly unique in that you’re offering a short three-week mentorship to writers whose work is accepted. Why did you choose this approach for the webzine?

Nicole Murphy: I love editing, and I love educating and helping writers as well. Generally, those two things are kept separate but in a fabulous moment of inspiration, it occurred to me that if I specifically aimed my publishing endeavour at developing writers, I could achieve both. I didn’t want to do an anthology because that requires a lot of intensive work for several weeks and that would be time I couldn’t write myself. But I thought I could fit editing one story a month amongst my writing, and focussing on one story would enable me to go deeply into the editing and really work with a writer. So that’s the basis of the In fabula-divinos editing/mentoring model.

Speakeasy: How have the writers you’ve published thus far made use of their three weeks of mentorship? What sort of things are you being asked about?

Nicole Murphy: Holly Kench, the first writer, fired lots of questions at me. The second writer, Tony Owens, has been more focussed on the story itself so far (although by the very nature of explaining the editorial process you teach about the industry). Questions that Holly asked included ‘what happens when a book is ready to go, how is it launched’, ‘how did I get started in the industry, how do you get to the point of having novels published’, ‘do you need to have published short stories to get novels published’ and we discussed things like critiquing, for the love versus paid publication and so on. I really enjoyed the process because having to answer questions really clarifies things in my mind.

Speakeasy: At the time of this interview your first story has just gone live – Holly Kench’s The Secret Life of a Zombie Fan. What made you pick this story for publication?

Nicole Murphy: I easily got the first submissions down to a choice of two stories. I was looking for stories that I enjoyed, that spoke to me in some manner. I chose Holly’s story over the other to make a statement. Firstly, it was a choice between a male and female writer and I believe that there is a gender inequity in publishing and I wanted to do something to redress that and secondly Holly is Australian, the other writer was not, and I wanted to give the home team a boost. The second story was chosen for a very different reason. I had three stories that I liked, and I chose Tony’s because I felt his story was the one I could work the best with, that I had more to offer him in getting that story up to scratch than the other two (one of which in my opinion probably involved a complete re-write to get to the really interesting aspect of the story).

Speakeasy: You’ve got a fairly detailed explanation of what you’re looking for written into your writer’s guidelines. What additional advice would you offer prospective contributors based on the first few months of submissions?

Nicole Murphy: Backstory and motivation is really, really important, particularly in a short story like this where you don’t have much wordage. In order to ensure the story still has the depth and interest to captivate a reader, the author needs to know everything that’s going on, even if it’s not written on the page. That’s the main way to ensure you can provide the sort of details and description that are going to make the story sing. Other things – make sure you’ve edited and thought through the piece so you’re providing your best work. And ask yourself this question – is my story doing something different or interesting in terms of the genre? You can use the same tropes or ideas, but it’s got to be fresh and unique.

Speakeasy: You’ve just finished a crowd-funding push to fund the magazine for its first year. This model has proven to be effective for overseas genre publications such as Strange Horizons, but it’s underutilised in Australian science fiction and fantasy.  What made you choose this approach? What advice would you offer editors considering crowdfunding in the future?

Nicole Murphy: It came about out of necessity. Originally, the plan was that I’d fund the project from my own writing, but that’s been more difficult than anticipated. So I had to wait until I could afford to do it, but then got sick of waiting. I didn’t get enough for the entire project, but I got enough to start and keep it going for a few months. I might crowdsource again later in the year to see if I can’t raise the rest, also I’m going to try for grants and corporate sponsorship as well. Eventually, I’m hoping the annual anthologies that will be published as part of the project will fund it.

I’ve been watching crowd-sourcing for some time. One of my favourite musicians, Amanda Palmer, is a big supporter of it. Unfortunately for us here in Australia, we can’t use Kickstarter the biggest because you need an American bank account so I used Indie Go-Go, which was a really simple process and they paid out easily. You do lose quite a bit in fees, so you have to build that into the money you raise. Also, it requires a lot of promotion to let people know. And coming up with rewards that entice requires some imagination and determination. But all in all, I think it’s a great idea. I’ve supported crowd-funding projects in the past and will do so in the future and I dare say I’ll use it again myself as well.

Speakeasy: You’re paying what works out to be a professional rate for stories published in In fabula-divinos – a rarity for Australian short-fiction markets publishing fantasy and SF. What factors led to you setting that pay-rate?

Nicole Murphy: There were a couple of things involved. First, $100 is a nice round number, particularly in terms of remembering it and my memory can be a bit foggy at times J So when I talk to people, I easily remember the pay rate. Also, the writers do a lot of work in the three weeks from selection to publication. I run through a professional editing process such as they’d experience if their novel were picked up by a major publisher so first there’s an editorial letter to address big issues, then there’s copy-editing which might be done in just one pass but could take two or three and then there’s proofing. I think that amount of work deserves proper remuneration, hence a professional pay rate.

Thanks to Nicole for taking the time to answer our questions. Writers interested in submitting to In Fabula-divinos can access their submission guidelines online.

Nicole Murphy has been a primary school teacher, bookstore owner, journalist and checkout chick. She grew up reading Tolkien, Lewis and Le Guin; spent her twenties discovering Quick, Lindsey and Deveraux and lives her love of science fiction and fantasy through her involvement with the Conflux science fiction conventions. Her urban fantasy trilogy Dream of Asarlai is published in Australia/NZ by HarperVoyager. She’s just commenced a new venture, In fabula-divinos (http://thetaletellers.wordpress.com) which is aimed at mentoring up-and-coming writers. She lives with her husband in Queanbeyan, NSW. Visit her website http://nicolermurphy.com

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