‘Have you ever heard Latin American music coming from an upper room over a shop, and lingered briefly at the sign about dancing classes? Perhaps you have seen people–a man in built-up shoes or a woman with a surfeit of silver bangles–heading for an old town hall after dark. The world of ballroom dancing and tango lessons has its own etiquette and hierarchies. Libby Sommer’s new fiction ‘The Crystal Ballroom’ lifts the lid on the delights and pitfalls of this fascinating sub-culture …
‘Sommer has great skill in creating atmosphere. The music, the swirling scents of aftershave and sweat, the decor of ballrooms, flats, motels and shared tents are powerfully evoked …
‘Some of the best passages in the book express the joy of dancing:
We’re practising walking the length of the hall. Alberto says that in Buenos Aires students of tango spend two years just learning to walk properly. “Extend forward,” he says, “step forward, only placing the weight on the extended leg at the last moment, toes pointed, sides of the feet staying connected on the floor.” Then backwards with a straight leg, torso pulled up, chest up and out, and with a partner again, always there’s that special connection with a partner.
Hopefully, this wonderful review by Penelope Nelson will give sales of the book a boost. ‘The Crystal Ballroom’ is available directly from Gininnderra Press, in bookstores, and online.
I had a five minute spot last Wednesday at the Society of Women Writers monthly lunch meeting at the State Library of NSW in Sydney. I was given the opportunity to stand up in front of a microphone and speak about my two books. It was a chance to confront my fear of public speaking and tell everyone ‘The Crystal Ballroom’ (Ginninderra Press) had been launched the previous week in Melbourne. I’d only spoken in public twice before, at the two launches. It was a very scary experience. Apparently, most of us fear speaking in front of an audience more than death. So, even though I appeared confident, my hands kept up their shaking for some time after I sat down again. But very pleased with myself for doing it. Those more experienced than me tell me it gets easier every time.
Anyway, the thrust of what I said was that I am transitioning from short story writer to novelist. My debut novel, ‘My Year With Sammy’ (Ginninderra Press) is really a novella and ‘The Crystal Ballroom’ a collection of short stories that I’ve linked together with an “I” narrator and the narrator’s friend, Ingrid. The two women get together over a coffee to talk about the dances they go to, who they see there, and who is sleeping with who, and who’s paying the rent 🙂
It was a device I used to turn a collection of short stories into a novel.
What about you? Have you been able to successfully change the form you write in?
Three weeks till launch of my second novel ‘The Crystal Ballroom’, a novel-in-stories.
So what is a novel-in-stories? One famous example is Elizabeth Strout’s Pullitzer Prize-winning ‘Olive Kitteridge’.
‘A penetrating, vibrant exploration of the human soul, the story of Olive Kitteridge will make you laugh, nod in recognition, wince in pain, and shed a tear or two.’ – Goodreads
‘In a voice more powerful and compassionate than ever before, New York Times bestselling author Elizabeth Strout binds together thirteen rich, luminous narratives into a book with the heft of a novel, through the presence of one larger-than-life, unforgettable character: Olive Kitteridge.’
A novel-in-stories, or connected short stories that together become more than the sum of their parts, is also known as a short story cycle.
‘A short story cycle (sometimes referred to as a story sequence or compositenovel) is a collection of short stories in which the narratives are specifically composed and arranged with the goal of creating an enhanced or different experience when reading the group as a whole as opposed to its individual parts.’ – Wikipedia
‘A novel-in-stories is a book-length collection of short stories that are interconnected. (One of the very first examples of this genre is The Canterbury Tales; a more recent example is The Girl’s Guide to Hunting and Fishing, by Melissa Bank.) A novel-in-stories overcomes two key challenges for writers: the challenge of writing a novel-length work, and the challenge of publishing a book-length work of unrelated short stories. (Few publishers are willing to publish a short-story collection from an unknown writer.) So, the novel-in-stories helps you sell a story collection like you would a novel—as long as the interconnected nature of the stories is strong and acts as a compelling hook. Another advantage to novels-in-stories is that they afford you the opportunity to publish pieces of your novel in a variety of literary magazines, which might attract the attention of an editor or agent.’ – Writer’s Digest
‘The Crystal Ballroom’ is connected by place and by a first person narrator and her friend who exchange stories about the characters they meet at the singles dances as they search for a regular dance partner.
The book will be launched by Stephen Matthews on 1 July in downtown Melbourne at Collected Works Bookshop at an afternoon of launches and book reading to celebrate Ginninderra Press’s 21 years of independent publishing.
Tango is a passionate dance. A conversation between two people in which they can express every musical mood through steps and improvised movement. (Source Unknown)
Just before nine o’clock in the evening, Sofya gets out of her car and looks up at the sky. She has sensed a shift in the weather. There is another breath of wind, a whispering in the air, but the clouds are stagnant against the dark night. She turns and moves downhill towards the club, ejecting the chewing gum out of her mouth with a loud splat into the bushes, feels the first drops of rain on her bare arms. She passes the public phone box where frangipanis lie on the grass, picks one up, sniffs at it, throws it back, then quickly enters the club. Continue reading →