An Anthology of Not So Normal Narrators Genre: Short Story Anthology of diverse YA voices with stories by K.C. Finn, Kell Cowley, Eddie House, Mary Ball Howkins, Tonia Markou, Jack Bumby, A Rose, Colby Wren Fierek, Oceania Chee, Catherine Johnson
In every new story we pick up, we’re seeking an exciting original voice. So why are there still voices we don’t hear from nearly enough? Why are there characters that so rarely take centre stage? In this collection from Odd Voice Out press, we discover the stories of twelve teenagers who stand out from the crowd and who’ll not easily be forgotten.
With settings that range from Scotland to Syria, Mexico to Mauritius, Africa to Russia, these stories take us to all corners of the globe and into the lives of young people with their own unique circumstances and perspectives. Characters dealing with issues of culture and class, exploring their sexuality and gender identity, or letting us into their experiences with illness, disability or neurodiversity. Their tales span all genres and can’t be reduced to labels. These are stories about bending the rules and breaking the law. Stories of fighting for survival and finding your place in the world. Stories of family solidarity, unlikely friendships and aching first love told by teenagers who don’t always fit in and aren’t often heard.
With a foreword by award winning YA author Catherine Johnson, this anthology brings together the top ten stories of Odd Voice Out’s 2019 Not So Normal Narrators contest, as well as bonus stories from in-house authors Kell Cowley and K.C. Finn.
Odd Voice Out press is the brainchild of offbeat YA writers, K.C. Finn and Kell Cowley – two author friends from Chester who decided to go into business together and start their own literary label. They settled on the name Odd Voice Out, partly because the shape of its acronym inspired the cute bespectacled owl logo. But mostly because this name set the tone for the sort of YA fiction they love to read and write. They are dedicated fans of oddball fiction, misfit fiction, stories that are unusual and voices that stand out from the crowd.
During their own experience writing for YA publishers, agents and anthology collections over the years, they have been frustrated to find there is still a depressing amount of conforming to standards, the same conventional characters always taking centre-stage and genre tropes that are seldom subverted. And there’s still far too much playing it safe rather than pushing the boundaries, even in a time when readers are demanding greater diversity and own voices in the stories they want to see. So when it came the first short story competition for OVO Press, they wanted to hand the mic to the type of YA protagonists who aren’t often heard. Having received submissions from all over the world, they found writers of all different backgrounds, experience levels and ages – some of them still teenagers themselves. This resulted in the incredible anthology of Odd Voices that's now available worldwide!
Teens of Tomorrow Writing Contest Information:
YA Fiction's March into the Future
Open for Entries: Friday 21st February, 2020
Deadline: Monday 31st August, 2020
Prompt: Future-Focused Diverse Teen Fiction
Prize: £200, £100, £50 (First, second and third prize respectively)
Publication: A dedicated anthology will include the top ten tales, available winter 2020/21.
Wordcount: 2000 - 5000
Internationally open to entrants aged fourteen and above.
We stand at the dawn of a new and uncertain decade. Here at Odd Voice Out press we are calling for short stories that reflect the socio-political issues that young people are dealing with now and will continue to tackle in the coming years. Entries submitted to our Teens of Tomorrow contest can be any genre - fantastical or realistic - and they may be set in the future, the present or even the past, provided that they centre on forward-looking teenage characters grappling with the world around them, the times ahead of them and the roles they personally aspire to play. Send us your utopias, dystopias, protest stories, political thrillers, social satires, climate fiction and prophetic steampunk.
Turn the hashtags trending today into a powerful YA story of tomorrow!
Your short stories with ‘odd voices’ must be written for a YA audience (that’s around 12 to 19 years old), but other than that they may be set in any genre or time period. This means that relevant content which is sexual, violent or contains extreme language will be accepted, provided it is somewhat moderated for a teen audience, rather than for adults (think about movies rated 15, compared to 18).
Our contest is open to writers aged fourteen and over from all nationalities and backgrounds (you should be at least fourteen years old by the closing date for entries). Entries must be no more 5,000 words long and be a minimum of 2000 words. Your entry should not have been previously published, self-published or accepted for publication in print or online, or have won or been highly placed (e.g. shortlisted or semi-finalist) in another competition at any other time. Longlisted stories are acceptable, provided they have not been in print or online in full.
After our closing date of Monday 31st August, we will select ten finalists to feature in an anthology collection that will be made available in ebook and print editions, to be released alongside our usual book range. The winning entry will also receive a £200 cash prize, whilst second and third place will receive £100 and £50 respectively. All ten finalists will also be invited to participate in social media promotions, live events, interviews and broadcasts as per the promotion schedule for the anthology.
To cover prize fees and reading time, there is a small entry fee of £4 per story, payable via PayPal at the time of entering. Authors may enter up to five different stories, but must pay the entry fee for each one as a separate entry and transaction.
Co-authored stories are accepted, up to a maximum of two authors per story, and in the event of winning, authors would share the prize money evenly.
Odd Voice Out is an independent literary press, publishing YA and crossover stories filled with unique characters thrown into extraordinary circumstances. Our genre-bending books take contemporary social and political themes and explore them through a range of historical, futuristic, surreal and supernatural settings. Our diverse young heroes are never your typical leading guys and girls, but are flawed insecure misfits struggling with everything from racial and sexual identity, to body issues, disabilities, mental health and worst of all, being teenagers growing up in worlds gone mad.
Eddie House Interview – Author of ‘Breathe’, First Prize Winner
1. So how does it feel to win a writing competition?
It’s amazing! “Breathe” was written over a year before submission to OVO and had been rejected from previous publications. OVO was a “last chance” attempt at submission before entirely scrapping the idea. To win first prize for a germ of an idea was overwhelming and really boosted my confidence in my writing ability.
2. One of the main reasons ‘Breathe’ captivated us so much was the depth of its world-building. How did your vision of this dark future come together?
During my own teenage years, dystopian stories were a massive part of YA literature (thanks to “The Hunger Games” series). When writing “Breathe” I was visualising Whittier, Alaska- the town that lives almost entirely as a community in a 14 story building- as inspiration for the setting. “Breathe” was almost entirely planned in my head and written in a couple of sittings. I wrote the parts I knew and the parts I couldn’t figure out or hadn’t considered were left for interpretation by readers- in a short story with a word limit, to spend too much time on world-building and explanation would detract from the actual story.
3. Are there any particular dystopian authors, YA or otherwise, who you took inspiration from in the writing of this story?
Ben Elton’s “Blind Faith” was my first introduction to dystopian novels when I was 12. His world was filled with so many parallels to current media saturation, consumerism, and technology that it felt very “real” as to looking at how society would be on track to end up there. I wanted to reflect that in my writing as a “warning” to readers about the current climate in society.
4. Your depiction of a corrupt health system and lack of adequate care for people in poverty carries a lot of real world resonance. What made you want to tackle this very pressing issue?
As mentioned above- we all know the current state of UK healthcare and the pressure the NHS is under is not sustainable. The idea of “birth debt” came from reading about the health care system in the USA. Just giving birth in a hospital there incurs thousands of dollars of debt. As with all dystopian stories, “Breathe” comes with the underlying warning of “this could be reality if change does not happen fast”.
5. Your narrator Bella is in love with Em, a girl with cystic fibrosis, while Bella herself suffers with anxiety. How did you handle the contrast of these two conditions with the common theme of breathing difficulties?
I previously suffered debilitating panic attacks, which went largely ignored by those around me. There’s stigma surrounding both mental and physical health (especially with “invisible illnesses”) so that was in my mind when writing. I think mostly I just like the juxtaposition and parallels!
6. It struck me that Bella’s feelings for Em would resonate not only with queer readers but asexual readers too. The lack of labels is refreshing. What do you hope readers take away from their relationship?
Because “Breathe” is set in the future, it made sense to me that LGBT+ culture, language, and societal view would be completely different from how it is now. I deliberately didn’t touch on that explanation and left it for readers to infer if Bella keeping her feelings secret came from a fear of homophobia or simply fear of rejection. The “confession” of feelings is overshadowed by the life or death choices and Em’s feelings (either reciprocated or not) are not touched upon. I didn’t consider this from an asexual readers point of view when writing but I like that it was picked up on! I think the important thing to take away that I was trying to get across, is that this story was never about the romance. For Bella, retaining her friendship was far more important than having feelings reciprocated and I hope this demonstrates the importance of platonic relationships and how they hold just as much value as romantic ones.
7. What advice would you give to other writers looking to intermingle important current issues with speculative and/or fantasy genres?
Honestly, I don’t consider myself a reader of fantasy genres! I have a sociological background which is definitely reflected in everything I write. I’d advise to pay attention to the cultures and society around you. Make observations, question social norms, think critically. Most importantly, when deciding to interject certain topics into your writing, consider using personal accounts and anecdotal stories as research. This can be a good way to bring characters to life and make writing more realistic- even in a fantasy setting.
8. What’s your next creative project?
My main project at the moment is a full length poetry book focused on teenage years with themes of sexism, mental health, and the pressure current teens are under. I’m aiming to have a final draft by November of this year. I do have ideas for another couple of horror themed YA stories (think zombies and paranormal experiences) but I’m waiting for the right time to work on them. My full time job as a support worker takes up a huge amount of my time but writing is a hugely cathartic experience for me which I enjoy a lot.
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