Friday, November 25, 2011

Finishing Sarah Salway's Sentences...etc...

So, I'm over at Sarah Salway's blog today, finishing her sentences.... And also in Bridport, running 2 flash fiction workshops at the Open Book festival together with Vanessa Gebbie (workshop one this morning was wonderful, thank you if you came along and flashed with us!) And thirdly, I'm thrilled to have been shortlisted, for the third year running, in PANK's 1001 Awesome Words contest, for my piece, The Tragedy of Tragic Men, to be published in PANK next February. Congratulations to all! The full list is here.

And finally, Ink Tears did a video interview with me, about short stories (of course!) and I was a bit nervous about being videoed, and then about seeing it, but Sara-Mae Tuson did a brilliant job editing it so I thought I'd share...:

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Sir Paul Nurse and Poetry

(Cross-posted with the Bristol University Science Faculty blog)

Photo: Royal Society
There were two great events held here in Bristol last night, one at the University and one at the Bristol Old Vic, and I was hoping against hope that I would find a connection between them to make this blog post flow! And... what do you know? I did. The first was Sir Paul Nurse, president of the Royal Society, Nobel Prize winner, geneticist, president of Rockefeller University New York... all-round very very interesting scientist and excellent talker-about-science! He was giving the Sir Anthony Epstein lecture at the Wills Tower, in the largest, cathedral-like space, which was packed to the rafters... His topic was "Great Ideas in Biology" and he was quick to point out that these weren't THE great ideas in biology but his pick of great ideas... although he felt that most people would agree on 4 out of the 5.

So, what were his great ideas? Well: The Cell, The Gene, Evolution by Natural Selection, Life as Chemistry (and Physics) and the fifth, possibly contentious one, Biology as an Organized System, by which he meant looking at the biological networks and how they are structured, looking at the flow of "information", at the system as an information carrier.

It was all fascinating stuff, some of which I already knew a bit of, but always good to be reminded what a chromosome is, for example... with some great slides and historical perspective! I was then heading to a poetry event, so, I hear you ask, how are the two connected?? Well, it was at Great Idea Number 3, which you would assume centred around one Charles Darwin. But no, in fact Sir Paul wanted to focus on Charles' grandad, Erasmus, who was the first to talk about evolution (Charles later supplied the vast quantities of data to prove it). Not only that, apparently Erasmus - who was a colourful figure, so large that he cut an oval out of his dining table so he might sit rather nearer to his supper, and fathered 14 children - was a poet, at one time "one of the best known poets in England"! And not only that, he wrote much of his scientific reports in blank verse! (See Jenny Uglow on Erasmus Darwin's poetry in The Guardian). The Poetry Foundation gives us his poem, The Botanic Garden, and here is an excerpt:
 “You taught mysterious Bacon to explore
Metallic veins, and part the dross from ore;
With sylvan coal in whirling mills combine
The crystal’d nitre, and the sulphurous mine;
Through wiry nets the black diffusion strain,
And close an airy ocean in a grain.—
Pent in dark chambers of cylindric brass,
Slumbers in grim repose the sooty mass;
Lit by the brilliant spark, from grain to grain
Runs the quick fire along the kindling train;
On the pain’d ear-drum bursts the sudden crash
Starts the red-flame, and death pursues the flash.—
Fear’s feeble hand directs the fiery darts,
And strength and courage yield to chemic arts;
Guilt with pale brow the mimic thunder owns,
And tyrants tremble on their blood-stain’d thrones.

Stirring stuff! Now the poets I went to see after this lecture, Luke Kennard and Tom Philips,  did not deal directly with biology but I feel that Erasmus D would have enjoyed the evening, which moved from a searing critique/love poem about Portishead to a tale of the Murderer being taken for a haircut. I was immensely impressed by the whole event, organised monthly by Word of Mouth -  highly recommended if you are in the vicinity!

So, an evening of poetry, biology and biological poetry, what more could I have wanted?

Monday, November 14, 2011

New Scientist & Beat the Dust

I've been waiting years to be able to say this: New Scientist have asked me for a science-inspired short story to run in the December 24th issue! I am very very excited... it's a flash story inspired by my time in the biochemistry lab, we will see what New Scientist readers make of it! The title story of my collection, The White Road, which is inspired by an article from New Scientist, was published in New Scientist online just after the book came out and that provoked some interesting discussion....

I'm also delighted to have a flash story, Move Quickly Now, in the current issue of Beat the Dust, along with a playlist inspired by the story, which was a wonderful thing to be asked to do.  A taster:
She said, “Move quickly now and we'll go together. No, don't look behind. No, don't.” He wondered but followed, only being small and not yet ready for disagreements. Or rather, not yet ready to see if this would be what he decided to be disagreeable about. He was a small boy who chose his battles carefully ....
Read the rest here.

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Happy 4th Birthday to The Short Review!
Happy birthday! This month The Short Review, the journal I founded and edit, turns four years old. In that time, 439 story collections and anthologies have been reviewed, by our forty or so reviewers worldwide, and over 250 authors interviewed... We all do what we do for love of the short story and to spread the word about as many short story collections as possible so readers can get hold of them, demand them from their local bookshops or libraries, buy them as presents.

 Four years on, we are so overwhelmed with offers of collections to review that we have had to declare a hiatus in accepting new review copies so that we can catch our breath! A good sign, we think. A very good sign! How could you help us celebrate our birthday? Tell someone about a short story collection you love. Tell ten people. Spread it around! 

This month's issue includes an unprecedented seven reviews of multi-author anthologies, which means that we are bringing you short stories by more authors than ever before! From women aloud to the bride stripped bare, the gold boy and the emerald girl, the best british and european fiction, what doesn't kill you if you're with the bears or on the Paris metro in nineteen seventysomething... and... ... 

Giveaways - In honour of our birthday - and of the UK's National Short Story Week - we are giving away NINE books: 4 of the books we are reviewing this month - and an extra 5 short story collections! You could win Best British Short Stories 2011, Best European Fiction 2012, the National Short Story Week charity audiobook anthology Women Aloud - and Affirm Press's Long Story Shorts set of six short story collections, which includes Barry Divola's Nineteen Seventysomething. Visit the Competitions page to find out how to win.

Monday, November 07, 2011

Publication Day for Vanessa Gebbie's The Coward's Tale!

Huge congratulations to my great mate Vanessa Gebbie who's fourth book ( hot on the heels of two short story collections and Short Circuit, a book of articles about writing short stories) The Coward's Tale, her first novel, is published today by Bloomsbury. First, the cover is absolutely gorgeous, isn't it? Second, I cannot wait to read it, I've sampled Chapter 1 and can't wait to get my hands on the rest... It's getting wonderful reviews already, which doesn't surprise me one bit.

Here's a taste for you:

‘My name is Laddy Merridew. I’m a cry-baby. I’m sorry.’  
‘And my name is Ianto Jenkins. I am a coward. And that’s worse.’ 
The boy Laddy Merridew, sent to live with his grandmother, stumbles off the bus into a small Welsh mining community, where he begins an unlikely friendship with Ianto Passchendaele Jenkins, the town beggar-storyteller. 
Ianto is watchman over the legacy of the collapse many years ago of Kindly Light Pit, a disaster whose echoes reverberate down the generations of the town. Through Ianto’s stories Laddy is drawn into both the town’s history and the conundrums of the present. 
Why has woodwork teacher Icarus Evans striven most of his life to carve wooden feathers that will float on an updraft? Why is the undertaker Tutt Bevan trying to find a straight path through the town? Why does James Little, the old gas-meter emptier, dig his allotment by moonlight? And why does window cleaner Judah Jones take autumn leaves into a disused chapel? 
These and other men of the town, and the women who mothered them, married them and mourned them, are bound together by the echoes of the Kindly Light tragedy and by the mysterious figure of Ianto Jenkins, whose stories of loyalty and betrayal, loss and love, form an unforgettable, spellbinding tapestry. The Coward’s Tale is a powerfully imagined, poetic and haunting novel, spiked with humour. It is a story of kinship and kindness, guilt and atonement, and the ways in which we carve the present out of an unforgiving past.

Visit Vanessa's Coward's Tale blog to find out more... and buy the book on Amazon here.

Friday, November 04, 2011

New stories and upcoming deadlines

Yes, yes, it's been a while, where does the time go! A quick few links to recently-published stories:
  • Like Owls is published in SPECS, an annual print journal which is full of the weird and wonderful (my kind of thing). You can't read the prose poem online but you can watch a video of me reading it and read a short paragraph about how I came to write it.
  • All Activity is Silent is published in Issue 15 of kill author, an online journal also filled with weird and wonderful. (You can also hear me reading it on the site.)
  • And third for the weird and wonderful, The Watch My Father Wanted, in Metazen. Text only! These kinds of publications make me so happy, that there are others on my warped wavelength. They are full of gems, do check them out.
I've just had a story accepted by Beat the Dust, coming in November, and another by Metazen for December 8th Lovely, all lovely. To inspire - me and you! - here are some upcoming deadlines for story and poetry submissions:

Deadline Nov 30th:

The New Writer Poetry and Prose Prizes: for "fact, fiction and poetry" entry online or by post, open to all, prize fund £2500. Categories judged by Jon Pinnock (read my interview with him here), Sally Quilford (who produces a writing calendar) and Bill Greenwell.  

Whispered Words: 1000 words max: "welcomes fiction and non-fiction. We accept prose of all kinds: literary, science fiction, children’s, memoir, essay, creative non-fiction. Theme: Whispered Words," entry online, open to all, 1st prize  $1000.

Commonwealth Short Story Prize:Awarded for the best piece of unpublished short fiction (2000 – 5000 words). Submissions must be made by the author of the short story. Regional winners receive £1,000 and the overall winner receives £5,000. Entry online only, open to Commononwealth only.

Diamond Light Reading Short Story & Flash Fic Comp: Competition by UK synchotron (don't know what that is? Here's your chance to find out!): "we’re inviting you to submit a story of up to 3,000 words inspired by Diamond – the facility, the science and the people. There’s also a Flash Fiction prize for stories under 300 words. Stories can be in any genre and there is no minimum word limit. The top three writers will receive a cash prize, and these, along with those highly commended by the judges, will be published in an anthology of short stories." £500 first prize. Entry online only, open to all.

I'll stop there for the moment... got to go do some writing. Good luck to all!