Dr. Seth Clabough’s short story Sharing Wounds was published by Aesthetica when he was first starting out as a writer. Since then, Clabough has published his debut novel All Things Await, available from Amazon and Barnes & Noble. With the 10th Aesthetica Creative Writing Award currently open for entries, accepting short fiction and poetry from emerging and established writers, we speak to Clabough about his literary career since his participation in Aesthetica.
A: Prior to the publication of your debut novel All Things Await in June 2016, your work has comprised of poetry and short stories. How did you find the transition from short fiction to writing a novel?
SC: I actually started out writing a novel, but the short fiction came out first because writing a novel can take a long time. In terms of transitioning between the forms, I’d say writing a novel is way harder than writing short fiction in all facets except one: readers often grant novelists more time to get into the rhythm of the narrative; short/flash fiction writers have to hit the mark right away. My experience has been that novel writing is like a month-long wilderness marathon and short stories are like competitive high diving: in the former, you just feel lucky to emerge roughed-up and wild-eyed at the end; in the latter, it’s more about pulling off something beautiful in a very short span before you hit the water.
A: In 2010 you received a travel grant which allowed you and your family to live in Costa Rica for three months. How important was that experience in shaping the novel?
SC: Absolutely essential. From Marquez and Carver to Lorrie Moore and Jonathan Franzen, writers often talk about how important it is for authors to use their actual experiences as the root of their fictional scenes, and the grant helped me go and gather those experiences first-hand in the remote surfing village where the second half of the novel takes place. The rustic cafés I wrote in were full of interesting international travellers and the swells were terrific, but it’s also true that I went totally deaf from surfer’s ear and at one point found myself fighting off two thieves with a garden hoe. These experiences and others built for me – through a long accumulation – an increasingly detailed picture of Santa Teresa, and I think that authenticity is evident in the novel. I didn’t just write it. I lived it.
A: Aesthetica was one of the earliest publications to feature your work, the short story Sharing Wounds. Can you talk about how the experience has influenced your literary career?
SC: Well, after being assured that someone at Aesthetica hadn’t made some sort of mistake, it was a huge confidence boost! Writers should try and be impervious to rejection because there’s so much of it (even for established writers), but it’s also true that getting something published early on validates and energises a writer. Most writers probably owe their literary career to those first few journals and magazines that saw promise in their work. I know I do, and, I mean, Aesthetica is such a cool publication with an international audience – I was completely thrilled.
A: Can you give any advice to writers beginning their careers and hoping to expand their readership?
SC: There’s so many ways to expand your readership these days online, but it all must start with creating something worthy of having readers. Once you’ve written something like that, try and be deliberate and thoughtful about where you send it. It’s true that new writers might have a better shot with new journals and magazines, but after you get a couple of publications under your belt, start sending your writing to top tier magazines and journals first because they have an established readership already built in.
A: Aesthetica is currently holding its annual Creative Writing Prize, now in its 10th year. How important do you think awards, programmes and features run by publications are for emerging writers?
SC: A prize from a reputable magazine or journal can make a huge difference for a writer and open a lot of doors. I’m speaking from experience here – a fiction prize that I was lucky enough to win played a big part in helping me land a literary agent for All Things Await, which, in turn, helped secure a publisher. There are a lot of prizes out there, though, so writers should be careful because some are far more reputable than others. But a prize from a magazine with national and international distribution and a readership of over three-hundred thousand like Aesthetica would – without question – provide a writer with an incredible platform to jump-start a literary career.
Entries are open for the 10th Aesthetica Creative Writing Award until 31 August. Submit here: www.aestheticamagazine.com/cwa
1. Courtesy of Aesthetica Creative Writing Award.