Friday, September 28, 2012

Plymouth & Cork...

I'm not a very good blogger these days, I am sorry. If you take a look at the previous post you'll see what's keeping me busy - and there are other things i'm doing that aren't on the list too, a bit of a whirlwind time right now. But frankly, it's all writing-related, and it's ALL good! Last week I had the honour of having my own event at the brand-new Plymouth International Book Festival, in its first of what I hope will be many many years.... I chatted for about an hour, interspersed with reading some of the stories from MMWAUP, and I did worry that I was talking about myself too much. (A worry I have often). But the audience were just lovely, asked some great questions, and then came and chatted to me afterwards and bought books. It was great to talk to people, find out if they're writers, readers, what they're writing. It gives me such a boost, doing events like this, talking about the short story without anyone asking me to "defend" it, because I don't believe the short story needs defending...!

The next day I rushed straight off to Cork for the heavenly short story festival, my fourth time at the festival, a highlight of my calendar. This time, though, I was being worked very hard - teaching a 4-day flash fiction workshop, for three hours each morning, then reading from my new book, together with the wonderful and fellow flash-brained Nick Parker, author of The Exploding Boy and Other Tiny Tales (see left). Nick, my great mate Nuala Ni Chonchiur and I were then invited onto a panel entitled, somewhat controversially in our opinion, "Is Flash Fiction a True Literary Form or Just Something for Chancers" - luckily the large audience in Cork library seemed to agree with us that it didn't matter at all what a piece of writing is labelled as or how long or short it is. Phew!

I had the enormous honour of being the one to introduce and moderate the session with two new and instant favourite writers: the inimitable Canadian author Zsuzsi Gartner, author of two collections (Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and All the Anxious Girls on Earth) and the excellent English author Sarah Hall, whose first collection (finally, after four award-winning novels!) is The Beautiful Indifference. I was nervous about introducing them properly, because at first glance you might superficially assign their stories to very different genres, labels... But their stories are unlabel-able both because they are unique and because they have a lot in common, despite very different styles. I hope I did them justice - go and read their books, their stories will slay you. I love being slayed by a short story.

And then... yes, there's more! Later that night, much later, I was the first to read at a brand new event for the Cork fest, the Flash Fiction Rapid Fire, where writers literally queued on the stage and read their tiny stories, 500 words max, in quick succession! I was extremely proud that 7 of my 10 workshoppers read that night, many of them for the first time ever. I felt quite parental!

The next day was our last workshop day, and then an afternoon of events including the sublime Lydia Davis, certainly proving that word length has no bearing on story substance ... and then the final day of the festival we listened, spellbound, to Frank O'Connor award-winner Nathan Englander reading one of his stories and talking so wisely and enthusiastically about writing. A real real treat and a worthy winner!

To get back to the workshop, I felt like I learned so much from spending 4 days talking, reading and writing flash fiction with my group. I experimented on them and they were so receptive, no-one refused to do anything, and I think we all had a lot of fun. We batted around thoughts of what flash fiction might be, then let go of the need for definitions and just got on and did it. A fantastic group, they shared their work, and it was all so great, I expect to see their names gracing the pages of lit mags and competition shortlists very soon. 

If you fancy trying your hand at some flash fiction for the reduced time commitment of only 2 hours (!), there are still some spaces left on my workshop at Mr B's Emporium in Bath on October 11th. Visit Writing Events Bath to book.

Nuala is a much better blogger than me, she deserves her shortlisting for the Blog Awards Ireland - she has a lengthy blog post about the festival, with pictures. Read all about it here! Also, the phenomenal lit magazine Five Dials has put together a special Cork-festival-themed issue with contributions from many of the authors who were there. It's so big it's been split into two! Read Part 1 here, with stories by Lydia Davis, Kevin Barry, Nuala, Joe Dunthorne and more - I have a new short story (over 2000 words long!) coming in Part 2.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Around and About for the Next 8 weeks

By the time this blog post goes up I will be in Plymouth for my event tonight at the Central Library as part of the first Plymouth International Book Fest - do come if you are in the area, we kick off at 6.30pm!

I am around and about a lot over the next 8 weeks and I wanted to list all my events here, and if any of you can come to something, it would be great to meet you. But before that, if you're in the vicinity of Bath this Friday, head over to Story Friday from 7pm to hear my friend Sarah Hilary and five other writers read their short stories inspired by The Fall. Wish I could be there but I will be...

Sept 19-22nd: running four flash fiction workshops, Cork International Short Story Festival in Cork, Ireland, and reading from my new collection. Booking now open

Wednesday 26 Sept reading at the launch of the STILL anthology, Foyles, London, Event Facebook page, 6.30pm

Thursday 11 Oct running flash fiction workshop for Writing Events in Bath, at Mr B's bookshop, Bath, 6.30pm-8.30pm. Booking now open

Saturday 13 Oct Interviewing novelist James Long about his long-awaited sequel to Ferney at Unputdownable Bristol Festival of Literature, Waterstones, Bristol Booking now open

Tuesday 16 Oct reading at Ragged Stone, monthly open mic night, Portishead

Saturday 20 Oct Reading alongside Nikesh Shukla, Valerie O’Riordan, Sanjida O’Connell, Miles Chambers & Maria McCann at Unputdownable Bristol Festival of Literature, Left Bank, Bristol. Booking now open

Tuesday 23 Oct guest author, with Kerry Hudson, at Stories Aloud, Oxford

Thursday 25 Oct Doing workshop for creative writing undergrads, Bath Spa University, Bath

Saturday 27 Oct taking part in the Lit Up Write Now! one-day conference, Bournemouth. Booking now open

Monday 29 Oct reading at the Bristol University Staff Creative Writing Club, Bristol.

7 Nov guest at Swansea University creative writing seminar

19-24th Nov Co-tutoring an Arvon Foundation short story course with Adam Marek, and special guest Helen Dunmore, Totleigh Barton

After that...I will be having a rest!

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Flash fiction tours South Gloucestershire

I wanted to give a shout-out to my friend and writing colleague Pauline Masurel, who is doing the wonderful job of bringing more flash fiction to South Gloucestershhire over the autumn!  She has organised a display of flash fiction books to browse and borrow which will be doing a tour of a number of libraries in South Glos this autumn.  Its itinerary is as follows:   

Bradley Stoke Library  -  10-15 September    
Patchway Library  -  19-28 September    
Filton Library  -  29 September-9 October   
Emersons Green Library  -  11-23 October 
Winterbourne Library  - 26 October-3 November

Also, Pauline, an excellent writer of the short and very very short, will be running a couple of free, informal workshops to introduce flash fiction, share some of her own tiny and magical stories and invite participants to write their own.  These will be taking place:

7-8pm on Thursday 18 October @ Emersons Green Library  
6-7pm on Friday 2 November @ Winterbourne Library
(Please note that the event at Winterbourne requires booking, which can be done at

The display and workshops are part of South Gloucestershire Council's 'Discover Festival' and further details of all events in the festival can be found at:

If you are in the area, I highly recommend you checking out both the displays and Pauline's workshops, we could all do with more tiny fictions, something small and perfectly formed, in our lives, no?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

On BBC Radio Bristol!

I was interviewed by the delightful Steve Yabsley - a fellow short story writer, it turns out! - on his show on BBC Radio Bristol yesterday. You can Listen Again to us chatting about short stories and me reading two from my collection on the show for another 6 days, til Friday 21st, here. I arrive 32 minutes in. Thanks to Steve for having me!

Thursday, September 13, 2012

STILL anthology launch & short story competition!

This gorgeous creature arrived in the post this morning - ain't it beautiful? Of course, STILL is an anthology of short stories inspired by Roelof Bakker's photographs, so aesthetics are to be expected!

I'm delighted to have a short short story in there, Switchgirls - and I'm in great company, alongside Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, SJ Butler, Myriam Frey, SL Grey,  James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Ava Homa, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Claire Massey, Jan Van Mersbergen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, James Miller, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan, Jan Woolf, Evie Wyld and Xu Xi. I can't wait to read the anthology.

STILL will be launched at Foyles bookshop in London on Sept 26th - I will be reading my story, as will many of the other authors, so please do join us! Here's the event's Facebook page. Foyles will also be exhibiting the photographs with story excerpts.

Now, you too have a chance to be part of this wonderful enterprise - Foyles and Roelof are running a competition:  write a short short story of no more than 500 words inspired by Roelof's photograph here, deadline Oct 10th.

The winning story will be displayed in the Gallery at Foyles, a week after the competition closing date, alongside the exhibition, which runs from Monday 17th September until Tuesday 30th October, as well as on the Foyles and Negative Press London websites. In addition, the winner will receive a copy of Still, a signed 30 x 30cm print of the 'The Stage (Piano)' and copies of Nicholas Hogg's The Hummingbird and the Bear and Evie Wyld's After the Fire, A Still Small Voice. (The competition will be judged by Roelof, Nick, Evie and Foyles Local Marketing Manager, Lisa Bywater)

Find out more details on the Foyles website - the photograph that is your inspiration is just stunning, like all Roelof's images. Go for it - good luck! Hope to see you on Sept 26th.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

A new "book trailer" for MMWAUP!

I have some lovely friends... here's the gorgeous "book trailer" my very talented pal, Ilene Prusher (whose excellent first novel, the Baghdad Fixer, is out in November) made for me. Cute, eh?

Friday, September 07, 2012

Waiting on our doormat

We just got back from holiday and here are all the goodies that were waiting on our doormat! So thrilling are they that I thought I'd give them all a shout out. So, we have...

Regular reads:
  • New Scientist with its intriguing cover promising "Food for thought"
  • The New Yorker, my staple weekend read, including a short story by Thomas McGuane
  • Poets and Writers magazine, which I love every few months, not just for the competition deadlines but great articles about many aspects of writing
  • Sentence, the annual journal of prose poetry, which I find enlightening and inspiring, sitting on the blurred boundary between prose and poetry. 
New arrivals:
  • The first issue of The Liner, a brand new transatlantic and very gorgeous lit mag from both London and Los Angeles. It features a poem by Blake Morrison, among a great roster
  • The first issue of Black & Blue magazine, also very good looking, and featuring a story by Angela Readman, so it's already impressing me!
  • The first pamphlet in my subscription to The Cupboard Pamphlets, which publishes a pamphlet of creative prose every quarter. It's a gorgeous tiny object: Our Commutual Mea Culpa by Chanelle Benz.
  • Crime and Guilt by Ferdinand von Schirach - a collection of two collections of short stories by a German lawyer, bought because of Scott Pack's excellent review of one of the stories over at Me and My Big Mouth: Shorts.
  • Lightning Rods by Helen DeWitt, the latest book in my subscription to And Other Stories, who supply me with fantastic literature every few months, including the stunning, Booker-longlisted, Swimming Home by Deborah Levy. I trust that this book will similarly enthrall. 
  • Elsewhere, from Cargo Publishing - a volume of four collections which is  a joint production between the Scottish publisher and the fantastic McSweeneys, featuring 50 authors. Can't wait to get stuck inhere. 
 And finally, to entertain me when I need to give my eyes a rest from all this literary feasting... my new favourite find (thank you, BBC 6 Music!), Matthew E White's new album, Big Inner. So I will leave you with a treat, his song, Big Love. It's soooo good. Got to go, I've got reading to do!