A couple of years ago when I was still an undergraduate, I found myself being taught how to do HTML and WordPress with a select bunch of other writers. Our teacher was Giselle Leeb, 47, website developer, IT trainer and writer. She’s lived in Beeston for two and a half years but grew up in South Africa. I caught up with her to find out what she’s up to and how her writing career is going.
Giselle has had 20 short stories published so far. They have appeared in publications such as Reckoning, Litro, Lady Churchill’s Rosebud Wristlet, Mslexia, The Stockholm Review, and Firewords Quarterly among others. She has recently become assistant editor at Reckoning, an annual journal of creative writing on environmental justice, who published her short story Wolfinia in December 2016.
The secret behind getting her stories published is to always write and constantly submit. “I write every day except for weekends,” says Giselle. “I’ve got enough short stories to try and put some into a collection, I’ve got the stories and the manuscript ready.”
For someone who usually submits short stories to publications, putting together a collection would seem like the natural progression. I ask her which publishers she has in mind for the collection.
“There’s quite a few good indie publishers, but it’s very hard to get short story collections published if you’re a relatively unknown writer.”
Giselle submits stories as much as she writes them, and doing so has revealed new things about her writing style and capabilities that even she didn’t realise. The last story she had published was ‘The Dog’s Aren’t Barking’ which appears in Supernatural Tales. She wrote it and submitted it despite it not being her preferred genre.
“I don’t normally write supernatural stories,” she reveals. “That’s the longest short story I’ve written (about 6,500 words). I was a bit unsure because it’s not my usual genre. I wasn’t sure if they would publish it but I was very chuffed.”
She describes her usual genre as ‘literary slipstream’, an area of fiction I’d never heard of until that moment. “It’s a bit like magic realism or weird tales,” she explains. “It’s a literary story setting in a real town but there’s some strange element to it.”
It’s absolutely essential to have feedback from a group
Although I write fiction and poetry, I hardly ever submit them to competitions or publications, but Giselle believes that submitting work helps with the motivation to write.
“I’ll try out competition themes and sometimes they spark something off. You can get too distracted by it, addicted,” she laughs.
She also makes use of websites that can help with tracking submissions such as Duotrope and The (Submissions) Grinder. “I’ve got about 20 stories I’m sending out at the moment so it’s quite important. It’s really easy to forget where you’ve sent a story.”
For anyone who has never submitted creative work before and doesn’t know where to start, the answer is simple: Google it.
“Look at competitions,” says Giselle. “It will always be there, it’s not like anyone is going to take it away or do the exact same stories!”
In issue 47 of The Beestonian we featured an interview with Beeston author Megan Taylor, who is Giselle’s partner. They met through both being members of the same fiction group, and had known one another two years before they got together. Giselle explains the benefits of being in a relationship with another writer.
“We write quite differently but I think we’ve got a good appreciation of each other’s work. We definitely bounce ideas off each other but it’s never rivalrous. For me, it’s absolutely essential to have feedback from a group or from Megan.”
In the near future Giselle is hoping to so some workshops with Writing East Midlands, but for now she is enjoying going through the slash pile of unsolicited submissions at Reckoning, and getting an idea of what it feels like to be on the other side.
It was announced recently that Giselle will have one of her stories published in Best British Short Stories 2017 by Salt Publishing. The anthology will be available on 15 June and is available to pre-order now from Amazon and Waterstones.
You can find out more about Giselle’s writing and publications on her website: giselleleeb.com