Monday, June 30, 2008

I am podcast!

I'm delighted to announce that two of my flash stories are being broadcast as part of the Sharp Things series on the excellent RethinkDaily podcast, the first, Egged On, tomorrow (July 1st) - it is actually up there already (it's the second story). It sounds great, read by an actress, she did a great job!

Click here to visit the site. You can listen there or download it like a regular podcast, through iTunes or whatever.

My second story, The Angel in the Car Park, will be in Episode 7, next week. The full list of episodes is:

Episode 1: The Ways of the Country (Sion Scott-Wilson)
Egged On (Tania Hershman)

Episode 2:
The Rabbit and The Raven (Jenny Adamthwaite)

Episode 3:
Loneliness, Love and Lateral Incisors (Peter Ward)
Little Things (Liam Tullberg)

Episode 4:
Brotherhood (Dave Pickering)

Episode 5:
How does it Feel to be Loved? (Heather Taylor)

Episode 6:
Those Things we can't Talk about (Jenny Adamthwaite)

Episode 7:
Schrodinger's House Plant (Mac Dunlop)
The Angel in the Carpark (Tania Hershman)

Episode 8:
Get a Grip (Peter Brown)

Episode 9:
Statues (Dan Scott)
Plaster Caste (Chris Grollman),
Red Carnation, Whoever It Was, Your Keys,
Tightrope, Shell (Jenny Adamthwaite)
Previously Loved (David Gaffney)
Lines (Dave Pickering)
To Catch a Kidney Thief (Daniel Gent)
Water (Holly Howitt)

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Kindness of Writers

After my rather down post last week, I have had wonderful messages of support and identification from so many of you. Thank you all. Good not to be alone, although I am sorry that we all have these blue periods. It has got me thinking about this thing that we do, this writing thing: when I sit down to write, it is me facing myself, and all my demons. I have the voices in my head, my "characters", but there is much more of me going down on the page than I wanted to admit, I think. That's why I can upset myself by what I write. But I like that. Because it means I am grappling with something, with questions, with life. I hope. I like the idea that I am delving, even though it is dark down there.

On a happier note, I have a lovely tale to share. I have two flash stories appearing in Southword's current issue and the magazine had a launch party last Thursday. It was in Ireland, and, not being anywhere near there, I asked my Dad and stepmother, who do live in Ireland, if they would go as my representatives. To be honest, I was in such a low place on Thursday, I had forgotten about it. And I also hadn't thought they would go.

But they did. And the minute they got home, my stepmother emailed me. They had a wonderful time, she said. They were introduced to Nuala, the editor of the magazine, who I have become very friendly with through cyberspace. And then, much to their - and my - surprise, when it came time for the readings, Nuala stood up and talked about me. She said how much she likes my writing, she mentioned that my Dad and stepmother had come to the launch. And then she read my story.

And, said my stepmother, she read it so beautifully it sounded like a poem. A poem.

When I read the email, I have to say that it made me cry. I had been feeling so depressed, so alone, so misunderstood, and this, to me, was a spark of light hundreds of miles away, a sign that there are connections that are just as real as the ones with people who are in your physical vicinity, connections based on more than just proximity. Nuala had taken a part of me and brought it to life in Ireland. And she had done that in front of my dad and stepmother, who were so proud and thrilled. I couldn't thank her enough for that. Thank you, Nuala. I just wish I could have heard you read my story!

So, here's to connections, whatever they are made of, to the threads that we send out into the world, hoping they will catch somewhere, hoping they will be caught and held.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

A bit down

I am feeling a bit down today. The day seemed to start well enough, getting up early-ish for me (before 9am), which left me with a feeling of great possibility. But by 10.30, a gloom had settled: I was hot, irritable, feeling unproductive, uncreative. I fell back, I am ashamed to say, on that old mood-lifter, Scrabulous. It gives me that adrenalin rush, that mental stimulation that I crave... but it WASTES TIME, and so I then feel guilty about it.

I haven't eaten properly today - but the highlight (and it's only 2pm) is the package that arrived from J this morning (he is away for a month, definitely a reason for some of my blue feeling) which included this:
Divine Orange Milk Chocolate. And it is. Divine. It was only a small bar, thank goodness, or I would be reporting that I was feeling a bit sick from having eaten it all in one go. Got home from my exercise class, made a cup of strong coffee, and ate it all. Amazing.

Still feeling blue, though. I never had such major mood swings while I was working full-time as a journalist. But in the last 18 months, since I gave it all up to write fiction, my lifelong dream, I seem to get depressed very easily. It is the lack of externally-imposed structure, deadlines? Is it something about creativity? I was happy as a journalist, I liked meeting people, but the writing itself was easy, boring. Writing fiction is the opposite - not easy, not boring, and the people I meet are in my head. Is this a recipe for emotional roller-coaster rides? Anyone have any suggestions?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Names and naming characters

The wonderful Sarah Salway invited me to be a guest blogger on her site and talk about characters' names and the naming of characters. The blog post is here. Thanks so much, Sarah, it was a very stimulating thing to think about.

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Local bookshop gives local girl writer hope

Living, as I do, in a non-English speaking country, one which just doesn't have the bookshop culture that is what makes New York or London far more bearable places to spend time in, I had assumed that I wouldn't really be seeing my book on any shelves around here. Then yesterday I was on my way to a new pottery class (is there no end to this woman's talents? I hear you cry. I am pretty crap at it, but love that Zen feeling of sitting at the wheel with my hands on wet clay) and I was early. So I thought I would pop into the little bookshop next door, which had an interesting bargain bin. I had decided, spurred on by a UK small press asking me whether I knew any good Israeli short story writers apart from Etgar Keret, that I should try and read some short stories in Hebrew. I asked the nice woman behind the desk, timidly, if she had anything to recommend. Her enthusiasm almost knocked me over! Yes! she cried, leaping out from behind the cash register, a new collection had arrived last week, she had taken it home and read it in one sitting! Edna Shemesh, she is the author, and I now have her slim volume to read when I feel strong enough to approach pages and pages of Hebrew text with no pictures (I read the newspaper, but that has pictures, it's just not the same).

As I was paying, I shyly mentioned that I, too, was a writer, and that I, too, had a slim volume appearing soon. Could I...? Might I...? Yes! cried the enthusiastic Rachel, I love short stories, please do bring it in. Perhaps we could do a consignment. She said this all in Hebrew, with the last word in English pronounced with an Israeli accent. A consignment. Blimey. Thrills ran through me. I thanked her profusely and left, clutching my book, besumed and delighted.

This beautifully illustrates the wise saying: Don't ask, don't get. Or something like that. Or, Authors Must Try to Sell Their Own Books. Or all of the above. Wheee!

Sunday, June 08, 2008

Proofs of The White Road and Other Stories

They came on Friday, a 145-page PDF file of the proofs of my book, The White Road and Other Stories! As I was printing it out, I nearly cried. Just looking at the title page, and that wonderful page that asserts my rights and has the ISBN number... Very emotional. I have an ISBN number, I join the ranks of thousands, millions, of writers, I join them on shelves, I join them in bookshops, I join them on Amazon. I join them.

I was expecting that it would be hard for me to re-read all my stories and that it would be more of a searching for typos etc..., but what I found, to my surprise, was that I fell in love with all my stories all over again. I read the whole thing through twice, pen in hand, and every time I laughed at the same spots, was moved at the same points, was delighted to be reunited with all these characters again and again. It brought home to me how much I write for myself, and how amazing it is that someone else ever enjoys them, something that it is in some ways so deeply personal to me.

The book won't be in the shops until October, but I should have a copy in my hands before then and I am sure it will unleash a whole new set of emotions. Watch this space!

Saturday, June 07, 2008

Bit of inspiration to start the week: Lorrie Moore and Etgar Keret on writing

This weekend's Guardian has interviews with Lorrie Moore and Etgar Keret, two writers whose short stories I adore. A few choice excerpts:

In lieu of discipline, Moore has obsessiveness, which is not the same thing. "I was obsessive with writing, but I wasn't ever disciplined. Because if you're obsessive you don't need discipline. You just do it all the time. Why would you impose a regimen, when this is your love?"
Keret says he has tried writing novels, but found it more difficult and likens it to trying to "explode slowly." Writing stories, on the other hand, is relatively straightforward. "It's much easier than living."
Full interviews here and here.

Friday, June 06, 2008

The Short Review Issue 8 June 2008

(Cross-posted with The Short Review blog)

Issue 8 June 2008 of The Short Review is now up - lots of ideas for summer reading if you're in the northern hemisphere and books to keep you warm in the winter months if you're down south.

This month's issue is brought to you by the numbers 3, 13 and 18. There are phantasms, bodies, apologies and meetings, a bumper seven author interviews, some lies, some truths, some very tiny gems, a little fantasy and a lot of great writing.

New Reviews:

You Have Time for This
a celebration of the richness that can be packed into the brevity of five hundred words or less...
ed Mark Budman

Ryan Seacrest is Famous
A successful blend of pop culture and lad lit.....
by Dave Housley

Balancing on the Edge of the World
A temperament both in control and struggling with private rage, corrosive humour, then a gentle, dry empathy....
by Elizabeth Baines

The Dream Lover
He describes the miserable burdens of humanity, but his approach is humorous, not grim – a bit like Graham Greene with jokes...
by William Boyd

How They Met

Teens fall in and out of love and lust while navigating the minefields of school, parental expectation and sexuality
by David Levithan

13 Phantasms & Other Stories
A smorgasbord of Blaylock's best short fiction
by James P. Blaylock

Apologies Forthcoming A sensual immersion in the Chinese Cultural Revolution, with stories that expose the everyday hardships of citizens...
by Xujun Eberlein

Bodies in Motion
The first collection I read for which the label novel-in-stories felt appropriate.
by Mary Anne Mohanraj

18 Lies and 3 Truths: 2007 StoryQuarterly Annual
An assortment of stories, some of which sparkled more than others, especially those from newer writers whose trajectories are surely on the rise.
ed by Tom Jenks, Carol Edgarian, MMM Hayes

The Cusp of Something
An original and often beautifully written collection, which challenges and occasionally frustrates readers with its lyrical prose and complex characters.
by Jai Clare

Author Interviews:

"I very consciously organized the order of the stories, with the one page fictions teaching the reader that Black Tickets was an unusual book"
Jayne Anne Phillips, Black Tickets
"I chose what I consider my best stories – and those with some kind of thematic development."
Jai Clare, The Cusp of Something
"I constantly worry about boring the reader. I think this psychology helps me developing a more captivating plot and pace"
Xujun Eberlein, Apologies Forthcoming

"When writing Bodies in Motion, my advisor, looking at an early draft, said that I seemed to be writing for white people, because I was doing a lot of explaining of Sri Lankan culture.That really startled me,..."
Mary Anne Mohanraj, Bodies in Motion
"It honestly blows my mind to imagine what my junior-year-of-high-school self would have thought had someone told him the story he was writing would be published twenty years later in a collection by Knopf... and that it would be his eighth book"
David Levithan, How They Met
"Jennifer [the publisher] also strongly encouraged me to make the story Bare the first story, so the first four words of my collection are 'I shaved my balls...'."
Dave Housley, Ryan Seacrest is Famous
"It was interesting to see the different ways in which my stories "talked" to each other according to the order in which I placed the rest of them – creating different rhythms of mood or style or situation.."
Elizabeth Baines, Balancing on the Edge of the World

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

More publications

Just got back from a lovely two days away in nature in the north, an eco-village that is mostly solar powered, not connected to the national grid. No Internet, no TV, lots of trees. Very relaxing... but two days was enough!

I came back to a few nice bits and pieces:

Riffing on Strings, the anthology inspired by String Theory which includes my short story, Secrets, is now available, from all good bookshops - and Amazon! If you have always wanted to know a bit more about string theory but in a gentler way, without loads of equations, this is the book for you. My copy hasn't arrived yet so in the meantime there is more info at Scriblerus Press.

Something to read without waiting for your Amazon delivery is the June issue of the delightful (and Scottish) Ranfurly Review, in which I have three short shorts. I am in the illustrious company of several writing colleagues: Chelsey Flood, Mark Dalligan, Sarah Ann Watts, Oonah Joslin. Many thanks to editor Colin Gailbraith for a wonderful read!

Ok, now I'd better do some writing, eh?

Sunday, June 01, 2008

Dots on Juice

Just a quick note - my flash story, Dots, is in the latest issue of Juice: A Journal of the Ordinary. It was written in the stunning Anam Cara writers' retreat last summer during a writing session with Vanessa!

OK, off for a few days to celebrate J's birthday in this green and peaceful place.