Thursday, May 24, 2012

This Week... Stroud, Spread the Word, and Online Story Workshop

So, above is a photo which warms my heart - the first sighting of MMWAUP in a bookshop, the fabulous Waterstones Bristol Galleries! They now have several signed copies, if you are in the area. And if you happen to be in either Stroud on Sunday or London on Tuesday, please do come along and say hi...

to Stroud Stories, at the Stroud Valley Artspace, 8pm Sunday night, where I am honoured to be headlining a fabulous line up, as part of the Stroud Site Festival, and will have some copies of my book there too.

And then on Tuesday I'm being allowed to talk and talk about short stories as part of Spread The Word's Short Story: Big Picture event, where I am on a panel which includes Bloomsbury editor Helen Garnon-Williams, Ted Hodginkson, the online editor of Granta, and Di Spiers, the producer for readings on BBC Radio 4, all chaired by BBC Radio producer Aasiya Lodhi. The event is 6.30-8.30pm at the Free Word Centre and I believe there are still a few tickets left. Will have some copies of my book there too!

Now, delving into ancient history, way way before I had any books, before I had published anything at all, around 15 years ago, when I began trying to write short stories, what I did was take workshops. As many as I could. Workshops with amazing teachers who showed me what a short story could be and helped me write my first, then my second... I went to workshops in the US and the UK, and they were invaluable.

Nowadays, in the Internet era, you don't have to fly anywhere - there are online workshops, and one I would like to highly recommend is a brand-new venture from two garlanded short story writers I respect, admire and trust - Tom Vowler and Zoe Lambert's The Art of The Short Story:

The 6-week online course looks at the following elements:A brief history of the short story
Narrative voice
Leaving space for the reader
Critical analysis and revision
Structure and unity of effect
Submitting to competitions and journals
Aimed at writers of all levels, there are weekly exercises and the tutors provide detailed feedback on your work. You will also receive critiques from fellow students. The course, whilst being dynamic and challenging, takes a nurturing, encouraging approach. At the end of the course you should have a story of publishable standard, along with several more pieces of fiction to take forward. For details on the next course see the above link.
The next course starts on June 11th and costs £145 (or £125 if you bookby June 4th). Find out more here. Frankly, if I wasn't going abroad in June, I'd do it. There's always always more to learn, even for those of us who have been at it for 15 years!

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Flash Slam & Bristol Short Story Prize Longlist

 I had a fantastic time as the guest "commentator" at the National Flash Fiction Day flash fiction slam last Wed in Oxford! Thanks so much to the inimitable Dan Holloway for organising, lovely to meet Twitter friends Pete Domican (who blogged about it here), Emily Cleaver and Sue Howe and see old mate Jon Pinnock, all of whom read beautifully, and Rebecca Emin, who judged beautifully! And huge congrats to flash slam winner Kevlin Henney - who read beautifully too, and entertained us immensely! He was in a very good mood the whole way home to Bristol, where he kindly dropped me off. A wonderful night had by all! Roll on next year's NFFD!

In other good news, the longlist for the Bristol Short Story Prize was announced today: 40 stories were longlisted out of a total of 2,304 entries. Some familiar names, many new to me!
  2012 Bristol Short Story Prize longlist:

Eugenia Will Come Back To You Someday – Kaj Anderson-Bauer (USA)
Naked As Eve – John Arnold (Australia)
Running to Nuthin’ – Lewis Bardsley (England)
Unearthed – Catherine Bokkers (The Netherlands)
The Swimmer – Lizzie Boyle (England)
Between Sea and Shore – Darci Bysouth (Scotland)
Dreams of Flying – Alexandra Carey (England)
Lobster – Alys Conran ( Wales)
Inked – Neil Durrant (Australia)
The Angel of the Warmth – Rachel J Fenton (New Zealand)
Time – Clare Fisher (England)
Battleground – Lisa Frank (Ireland)
Keith Morris is a Royal Plum – Martin Cathcart Froden (Scotland)
Something Somewhere Went Wrong – Sarah Gilmartin (Ireland)
People Like Her – Kerry Hood (England)
Apple Shot – Tracey Iceton (England)
Nice Blokes – Brian Jennings (England)
Meat – Avril Joy (England)
Dark Matter – Magda Knight (England)
Last Days of the Unicorn  - Danielle McLaughlin (Ireland)
On The Day Weldon Kees Disappeared – Alan Mumford (England)
Flashpoint – Susan Murray (England)
Heaven on the Horizon – Noel O’Regan (Ireland)
Ghost in the Machine – Christopher Parvin ( England)
Sharks, Choices – Matt Plass (England)
Horses – Thomas Pyner (England)
Yoki and the Toy Surprise – Angela Readman (England)
Going Grapefruit – Ian Richards (England)
Beekiller – Ethel Rohan (USA)
Forty-Five RPM in Chicago – Derek Routledge (Wales)
Senile – Safia Shah (England)
The Bird – Samantha Short (England)
The Attack at Delium – William Telford (England)
Mackerel for Tea – Rhoda Thompson (England)
Jelly Feel Real – Ellie Walsh (England)
After the Flood – Melanie Whipman ( England)
I Once Knew Salman Rushdie - Hilary Wilce (England)
The Life of Ethan – Emily Williamson (England)
Flowers on the Flagstone – Mairi Wilson (Scotland)
Symmetry – Samuel Wright  (England)

Highly Commended:
Crik Crak – E.L. Appleby ( England)
The Homecoming – Cait Atherton (Thailand)
And the Sea Gave Up Its Dead - Faith Barnes (Wales)
The Swanrite – Phillip Belcher
Last Wednesday – Cristina Burduja (England)
Stillness Comes – Michael John Burrows  (Canada)
Transition – Holly Corfield Carr (England)
Beautiful Horizon – Sharda Dean (England)
White – Mark Dixon (England)
Living – Samuel Dodson (England)
For Gracie – Ruth Driscoll (England)
Glimmer – Kat Ellis (Wales)
Vitiligo – Jo Else (England)
A Death in the Family – Kathleen English (England)
The Beginning – Louise Gethin  (England)
Where Steamers Wait... – T.D. Griggs (England)
Soap Opera in a Red Camaro – Norma Harrs (Canada)
A Young Country – Joanna Herrmann (England)
Angel Eggs – Nydia Hetherington ( England)
The Genitals and the Soul – David B Huebert (Canada)
Confessions of a Pigeon Feeder – Charlotte Humphries (England)
Puddings in the Park – Clair Humphries (England)
Lally – Tina Jackson  (England)
The Wish Improvement Mechanism – Amy Kellam (England)
Detective Noir – Ryan Anthony Licata (England)
Yellow River – Karen Lindsay
The Lady Bandit – Kelly Matsuura (Japan)
The Novel Factory – Luke Melia (England)
Geminids – Will Miles (England)
Sweetness – Lorraine Nevin (South Africa)
You Always Hurt – Michael Nicholson (England)
The Elephant Sun – Emyr Payne (Wales)
Frank Has Weeds – Mike Pym (England)
Greasbys – Olivia Rana (Northern Ireland)
Flight of Fancy – Mary Reynolds ( Ireland)
White Witch – Don Roy (Canada)
Afternoon Lullaby – Susha Chandra Ryner  ( England)
Craving – Erics Sail (England)
Moving In – Janet Swinney (England)
A Dance in the Bomb Shelter – Steven Tizzard

Congrats to all, fingers crossed for the shortlist!

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Happy National Flash Fiction Day - And A Giveaway!

It's National Flash Fiction Day!! Here's hoping you all have a good one... head over to the official website to find out what's going on around the country! A huge round of applause for founder and organizer Calum Kerr, what a job this man has done. Wow. Check out his Flash Flood journal, with a veritable cascade of fantastic flash fiction posted since midnight last night, and ongoing! The Thresholds short story forum has a great article celebrating the day, and Twitter-length flash fiction that has been submitted.Also: the amazing anthology he has produced, Jawbreakers, which includes stories by Ali Smith, Ian Rankin, and more (including me) is FREE to download just today for the Kindle. Get it here. And the Flash Fiction South West's gorgeous anthology, Kissing Frankenstein and Other Stories, is available here.

And me? Well, I'm heading off shortly to Oxford to the gorgeous Albion Beatnik bookstore (see the pic) for Eight Cuts' Flash Fiction Slam which starts at 6.30pm tonight, a feast of flash fiction slammers going head to head (not me, I'm too cowardly). I shall be offering gentle comments on the proceedings and some stern words about the joys of flash fiction. Come join us!

If you can't make any of the events, not sure what this is all about, a great place to start are the anthologies that first inspired my love for the short short story:

This is a pic of them on my desk... they were published from the 1980s onwards (no flash fiction was not invented in the 21st century), all edited by the indominitable Robert Shaphard and James Thomas, and include luminaries such as Grace Paley, Aimee Bender, Barry Yourgrau, and many many more.

The eagle-eyed amongst you many notice that I actually have TWO copies of Sudden Fiction: American Short Short Stories, and so to honour this day I am going to give away a copy to one lucky blog reader. No need to do anything, just express interest in the comments section and one person will be picked out of a hat later in the week. I will send it anywhere in the world...

Happy happy flash fiction day!

Friday, May 11, 2012

All about flash fiction

I think I may have written a blogpost with this title before but anyway it's still all about flash fiction because next Wednesday, may 16th, is the first ever National Flash Fiction Day! Brainchild of Calum Kerr, he has proven himself not just to be a person of endless creative ideas but also supremely organised and efficient in executing them and inspiring others. NFFD has gathered momentum worldwide, not just in its home country here in the UK.

So, what does it mean? Well, firstly, there is a National Flash Fiction Day anthology of brand new flash fiction, Jawbreakers, which includes stories by these lovely folk - and me!

Ali Smith, Jen Campbell, Dan Powell, Vanessa Gebbie , Amy Mackelden Laura Wilkinson David Gaffney  Brindley Hallam Dennis Rupan Malakin Tania Hershman Nathan Good  Rin Simpson Sarah Hilary Sara Crowley  Jenn Ashworth Bob Jacobs  Ian Rankin Benjamin Judge Mark Sheerin  Nigel McLoughlin Natalie Bowers Alex Thornber Valerie O'Riordan Carrie Etter L.A. Craig Calum Kerr Kylie Grant  Sal Page Jonathan Pinnock Susan F. Giles Martha Williams  Sarah-Clare Conlon  Eli Goldstone David R. Morgan Alison Wells SJI Holliday Nicholas Murray Eunice Yeates Nick Garrard Jay Barnett Kirsty Logan Kevlin Henney David Gilbert  Simon Thirsk  Sue Walker-Stokes Erinna Mettler Emma J.Lannie Jessica Patient  Brian George Trevor Byrne  Sally Zigmond Angela Readman Dan Carpenter Clare O'Brien  Alun Williams Jenny Adamthwaite Tim Stevenson Jason Bagshaw

You can pre-or your copy here, or pop to the official launch of NFFD next Wed in Southampton...

There is also a flash fiction anthology from here, Flash fiction south-west, which I am thrilled to also be included in, along with Sarah Hilary, Pauline Masurel, Martha Williams, Rin Simpson, Debs Rickard, Kevlin Henney and many others ...and the anthology is actually named after my flash, Kissing Frankenstein and Other Stories....

There are events up and down the country - and I'd like to invite you to the event I'm involved in, a flash fiction slam in Oxford organised by the inimitable Dan Holloway of eight cuts at the fabulous Albion beatnik bookstore. Kick off is at 6.30pm, free entry if you bring something to read! Come and entertain us with your flash fiction, or come to be entertained! I'll be reading something from my new book (did I mention I have a new book? :) ) and participating in the general merriment.

As if Calum wasn't busy enough - he's even launching a journal for NFFD entitled Flash Flood and wherever you are in the world, he wants your submissions of flash stories of 500 words or less! Find out more here. 

On the topic of flash, if you're wondering what it is and how to write it, come to Cork in September and join me for four days of flash writing workshops during the wonderful Cork International Short Story Festival (a slice of heaven for the short story junkie), Bath in October for a flash workshop at Mr B's Emporium for Writing Events Bath, or Devon in November for an Arvon Foundation 5 day course with me and Adam Marek in short and very short stories....

And on the topic of short stories, there are still some tickets left for Short Story Big Picture, the discussion in London on May 29th organised by Spread the Word, with an excellent panel including Di Spiers of BBC Radio 4, Ted Hodginkson from Granta, Helen Garnons-Williams from Bloomsbury, and me, talking about short stories. Should be fun! Come ask us some hard questions! (I will be reading a teeny fiction from my book there too.)

Friday, May 04, 2012

Book launch!

I had the most amazing time last night at the launch of my new collection, My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions, here in beautiful Bristol at the Arnolfini bookstore. Walking in to see the amazing display of about 60 copies of the book was fantastic! I was too flummoxed to take a picture...

 To be honest, I'd had a few book launch anxiety dreams, but it exceeded all my expectations, a gathering of people from all walks of my life here in Bristol - and some from much further afield, thank you Elizabeth Baines, Calum "Mr National Flash Fiction Day" Kerr and Elaine Chiew for travelling so far!

I didn't really have a minute to chat to people, from the first moment I was sitting at a table, signed copies...

Me signing books for Sara Davies and George Ferguson
The other special guest of the evening, who hadn't told me til a few hours before that she was coming, was....

Yes, she is no upright piano!
... my mother, who had fashioned this lovely hat for herself, although some doubted she actually was my mother ... :) The star of my book trailer, it was great to have her there, and she hadn't known that I dedicated the book to her, so I think that was a nice surprise for her.

Half way through, my publisher, the simply superb Richard Jones, of Tangent Books, made a speech, talking about difficult times for publishers and the need to support beautiful bookshops like the one we were in at the Arnolfini, and then he said some embarassingly lovely things about me.

I said some lovely things back, and talked a bit about how it feels to have a second book, and how this time rather than elated and deeply shocked, I feel really happy and very proud, a different sensation, very very nice. I mentioned how it's important to most short story writers that their stories find good homes, and how I feel that these 56 fictions have found a wonderful home and, although they were written over several years with no thought of a collection, I imagine them inside the book, having a conversation with each other... And then I read a few stories...which I thought were at the more cheery end of the spectrum, but look at their faces, poor dears!:

Some more attendees...
Fabulous writer friend Ally Kennon and wonderful partner Dan
Becky Jones the Biochemist, from the biochemistry lab at Bristol Uni that I was writer-in-residence in.
Wonderful writer friend Elizabeth Baines and her lovely partner John.

Professor Michael Berry, Galit and Robert

Dr Michael Short
My mother and my brother, Nick H
The excellent Joe "Mr Bristol Short Story Prize" Melia & the lovely Ali Reynolds, one of the BSSP judges

After the bookshop closed, we adjourned to the Arnolfini cafe and then the remaining few moved on to Las Iguanas for Mexican food, cocktails (and a cup of tea for me).

I'm not generally much of a party person, but last night was very special, just amazing - thank you Richard for throwing me the launch, and thank you to everybody who came and everyone who couldn't make it but was there in spirit! My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions is launched!

Thursday, May 03, 2012

Publication Day!

My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions, published by Tangent Books, UK
It's here! My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions is officially published today! Wow. I can't quite believe I am now the author of two books, two gorgeous books full of fictions. I'm very lucky. In a minute I'll invite you to head over to my newly-redesigned website to find out more about the book, read some of the fictions, and find out where to buy it. (And read two newly-published interviews with me, at The View From Here magazine, where I talk about short stories, and at Christopher Allen's I Must Be Off blog about ex-pats, where I talk about being an ex-ex-pat...)

And if you are in or near Bristol, do come and raise a glass with me at my book launch at Arnolfini's bookshop tonight, Thurs May 3rd, 6-7.45pm!

But before that, take 1 minute 28 seconds to watch the fabulous book trailer created for me by my wonderful partner, James! I rather like it... (my first ever book trailer):

There are enough for all of you!
Ok, now you can head over to my newly-redesigned website ...!