Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff


Spelk, The Nottingham Review and Other Stuff

A casual viewer of this blog over the last few months would scarcely guess that it’s been running pretty much continuously for seven and a bit years. Time was when I’d be constantly bombarding you with reports about things I’d had accepted or published, to say nothing of the occasional interview or even a review or two. I recently got invited to a couple of events for book bloggers at the Groucho Club, and I felt too embarrassed to go because it’s been so long since I last reviewed anything here.

Still, even though the blog is a bit thin on the ground, I have been writing stuff. TTAAAP is now over 77000 words long and is nearing the final showdown. I’d love to share some nuggets of information about the process I’m going through with it, but it feels a bit presumptuous to do so. I still feel like a complete beginner with this. Perhaps I always will. One thing I can say is that I had a massive wobble last week when I discovered a plot hole the size of a small crater and it seemed like I was going to have to unpick a considerable part of the book in order to fix it. Fortunately, I managed to find an acceptable way of filling it, and I think I can now see my way to the finish. Just one detail to sort out, and we’re done. Then one last edit, and it’s over to the beta readers.

In the meantime, I’ve had a couple of acceptances for short stories. My cheeky little ultra-short, “Graffiti”, has been taken by Spelk, and my slightly longer story, “Phosphorescence”, has been taken by The Nottingham Review. “Phosphorescence” was actually shortlisted in the 2012 Bridport Prize under the name “The Joy Inside”, but it’s been struggling to find a nice home ever since. I’m quite fond of it, even if I still don’t quite understand it. You’ll see what I mean when it gets published.

Refugees Welcome Anthology

12074783_785777198214482_843759186885204020_nBack in the middle of September, the excellent Greg McQueen put out a call for stories to make up a new charity anthology, Refugees Welcome, in aid of Syrian refugees. The guidelines were for stories up to 3000 words:

Stories about hope, happiness, humour, stories that somehow shine a light in a dark situation.

I really wanted to submit to this one, for two reasons. Firstly, Greg’s charity anthologies are excellent (I’ve still not quite forgiven myself for failing to submit to the Haiti one, but I was proud to be part of the Pakistan earthquake book). But more importantly, the whole tone of the current debate about refugees sickens me, and the idea of being part of a project that  would  plaster the phrase ‘Refugees Welcome’ all over the internet appealed to me.

There were, however, a couple of problems. The first one was that the submission deadline was the day after the final deadline for my MA manuscript. The second, slightly trickier one, was that bit about hope, happiness and humour, and shining a light in a dark situation. This is not an area that I am comfortable with. I can do humour (I think) but it tends to be a bit on the dark side. My forte is more in the area of casting a shadow over a light and cheerful situation.

Anyway, in the end I did manage to come up with something that came close to ticking the right boxes and I just squeezed it in before the deadline. And last night I found out that “Pure Blood” was one of the twenty-one stories accepted. Watch out for me boring you about it a bit more when the anthology gets published.

Liars’ League at Sevenoaks

Last Wednesday I delivered my 40000 word (well, 41439, words to be accurate) manuscript to Bath Spa for marking. Since then I have been tidying up a few things that got slightly out of hand during that final burst of activity, and now it’s time to breathe some life back into this thing.

At some point, I’m going to blog about the strange and wonderful world of Creative Writing MA courses, and I’ve also got a review or two lined up. But first, I thought I’d gently ease into things with a brief report on Tuesday’s Liars’ League event at the Sevenoaks Literary Celebration.

I’ve been submitting stuff to Liars’ League since 2008. Sometimes they pick my stuff, sometimes they don’t (which is, incidentally, what makes it especially satisfying when they do pick one). Anyway, back in May, they picked a story of mine called “Ventriloquism for Dummies”. Unfortunately I didn’t get there on the night, so when I heard that it was also going to be read again at a special LL night in Sevenoaks featuring stories from all eight years of the League, I was determined to go along.

I was so glad I did. Clive Greenwood gave the piece an absolutely superb reading, bringing out every nuance of the story. In fact, every single reader was excellent, and I thoroughly enjoyed the whole evening. What’s more, there was a decent sized audience – well in excess of 100, I would have thought. Eat your heart out, all you who say the short story is in trouble.

Anyway, judge for yourself. Here’s Clive:

And here’s a picture of the assembled actors, plus an author or two. One of these days I may learn to look like a normal human being when I’m having my picture taken.



Meanwhile, in other news, I almost forgot to mention that TAKE IT COOL got a very nice review from the lovely Marija Smits:

This book is fascinating and as creative non-fiction goes, a highly-enjoyable read. The author is a fine writer and very, very funny; he has the kind of self-deprecating, weird humour that really tickles me and I laughed out loud at many parts.

One final thing: if you’re interested in a signed copy of MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS, I’ve reduced the UK price to £4.99 including P&P. Bargain, I say. Bargain. GET IN.

This and That

14-mockupIn the immortal words of Granny Weatherwax, I aten’t dead (in case you were wondering). I’ve been quite busy with one thing or another – some of it to do with the day job, some of it to do with writing and the rest to do with real life – which means the blog has had to take a bit of a back seat.

But here are a few things that have happened recently, writing-wise.

My current work in progress, which I will refer to by the tantalising initials of TTAAAP, has now hit somewhere around the 45K word mark. Of this, around 25K is eligible to be considered for my final MA submission of a 40K manuscript (basically because the first 20K is mostly stuff that has already been used in earlier submissions). I would dearly love to say loads more about TTAAAP, but I won’t, because I’m superstitious like that.

Out of the blue, TAKE IT COOL had a nice review from David Hebblethwaite (I’d forgotten I’d even sent him a copy). His final remark sums up both the appeal and the problem of the book in a single sentence:

Take It Cool tells an intriguing story, whatever your immediate interest in its subject matter.

I think I’m going to have to accept that TAKE IT COOL was always a long shot. But I’m still pleased it’s out there.

Issue 14 of the very stylish Structo magazine is now available, including (amongst others) my story “The Picture of Mrs Tandogan”.


I think this may be my favourite story of the moment. Except possibly that one. Or that one. Anyway, it’s good to see it finding such a nice home.

Finally, my story “Ventriloquism for Dummies”, which was read at Liars’ League back in May, has now been selected to be read at the Sevenoaks Literary Celebration in October. I think I might try to get there this time.

Flashing in Bristol

BristolFlash Readings (Updated)As you can see from the flyer to the left, I will be celebrating National Flash Fiction Day this coming Saturday by performing at Foyles in Bristol, along with loads of other totally awesome people (is that really Adam Marek in there?). It should be an utterly ace evening and what’s more it’s completely free! So if you’re close to Bristol (say, no less than a day’s travel away), you have no excuse whatsoever not to turn up.

In other news, a couple of weeks back I was pleased to hear I’d made the longlist for this year’s Short Fiction magazine competition. This is the second longlist appearance for the story in question this year, although this is a slightly more compact longlist than the one for the Fish Short Story Prize. The shortlist is announced in July.

I’ve been meaning to blog in more detail about my MA but I haven’t quite had the time yet, and I probably won’t for a while as I am currently buried deep inside my manuscript. I’ve calculated that I need to average 500 words per working day between now and the end of September. I’m currently hitting 1000 a day, so things are on track so far. It could yet all go horribly wrong, though.


1372603_300A couple of months ago I was asked if I fancied submitting a 300-600 word short story on the theme of “Unisex” for the very elegant and stylish .Cent magazine‘s “Man: Explained” edition. Well, I had an idea, wrote it up, sent it in and didn’t hear another word. I assumed that it wasn’t quite what they were looking for and put it to the back of my mind.

Until, that is, it got published, along with a rather spiffy illustration.

(In case you’re wondering, Sammy did exist and he did used to tell me that my girlfriend wouldnae like me with one ear. He was a deeply scary man.)

In other news, I am delighted to be able to announce that my flash “Ultima Thule” will appear in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology. OK, I got a free pass as one of the judges for the micro fiction competition, but I’m especially pleased to see it find a good home as it’s a piece I’ve always liked.

And speaking of the micro fiction competition, I really should be getting back to the judging. There were 300 entries this year and I need to read them all and pick and grade my favourites before the end of the month…

Ventriloquism for Dummies

So where do you get your ideas from, eh? Traditionally this is the question that writers dread, although I actually find it quite fascinating. In fact I went so far as to set up an entire Wiki devoted to the story behind the story for every single one in Dot Dash. (Not sure if this indicates vanity or obsessiveness or – more likely – a combination of both.)

Sometimes the process is a lot simpler. A title arrives, unbidden, in your head, just as you are about to walk to the station for your daily commute. By the end of the walk, the bare bones of the story are there, just waiting for you to flesh them out a bit. This was how ‘Ventriloquism for Dummies’ came into being, back in the days when I had a regular commute. I submitted it here or there but it didn’t quite work and no-one was interested in publishing it.

A few years later I noticed that Liars’ League had a forthcoming theme called ‘Master & Servant’ and my old story seemed to be a perfect fit. So I took it out of the drawer, shaved getting on for a quarter off its length and simplified the horrendously complicated ending. This turned it into a much better story, which was duly accepted, subject to some very helpful editorial suggestions.

So here it is, read superbly by the excellent Tony Bell. Hope you like it.

My Book is Sad

Take it Cool Cover with groovesMy book ‘Take It Cool’ is sad because no-one has reviewed it. Actually, that’s not strictly true, because the Herald really liked it and Family Tree Magazine made it their TOP CHOICE for September 2014. Even Songlines … well, let’s not go there, because I don’t think they got what I was trying to do. Several bloggers have also chipped in with some nice comments. Have a look here if you want to see more.

BUT there haven’t been any reviews at all on either Amazon or Goodreads. And that makes my book sad, because it makes it feel terribly unloved.

So, if you live in the UK, I’m offering to give away not ONE, not TWO but THREE copies of it. All you have to do is add a comment below↓, and I’ll put you into the draw.

THERE ARE, HOWEVER, STRINGS ATTACHED. If you are one of the lucky people who gets a free copy of this very entertaining book, your part of the bargain is that you have to write a review on Amazon or Goodreads (or preferably both) within the next month or so.


Off you go, then!

Structo and a Return to Liars’ League

transparent_logo-Custom1There are few more satisfying things that can happen to a short story writer than finding a good home for a much-loved and much-passed-over story. In fact, the only thing that comes close is finally getting accepted by a classy print journal after several failed attempts.

This week’s acceptance of ‘The Picture of Mrs Tandoğan’ by Structo ticked both of these boxes.

I first wrote this story in late 2012, not long after we’d moved down to Somerset. I knew it was a decent concept, and I started submitting it straight away. But it was singularly unloved, possibly because it had never been through any sort of critique process. Last year, my old chum Oscar Windsor-Smith took a look at it and pointed out several weaknesses that I hadn’t noticed. I sent it out again. Still no luck. I then put it through two different workshop groups on my Bath Spa MA course, and that seems to have finally done the trick.

This acceptance was followed the very next day by one from Liars’ League for ‘Ventriloquism for Dummies’, for their forthcoming ‘Master & Servant’ event. This is a story I originally wrote back in 2009, basically because the title popped into my head and I had to do something with it. However, the ending was far too tricksy, although it wasn’t until the MA course that I realised this. Also, the need to hack it from over 2500 words to under the 2000 limit required by LL tightened the story up a lot.

So that’s two stories that I can at last wave a fond farewell to, knowing that they’ll be happy in their new homes. I’m now wondering if any of my other long-stay residents are going to move out any time soon…

Limbo in Fine Linen

Fine LinenFine Linen is not just another literary magazine. It’s a chapbook plus a broadside plus a linen bookmark plus a cardboard bookmark. In fact, it’s a pretty extraordinary artefact all round.

And I’m in the new edition, with a piece called ‘Limbo’, somewhere in the broadside bit (I think that’s what it’s called, anyway – it opens out to a sort of poster thing). I’m in great company, too, with folk like Susan Howe, Simon Kewin, Kathy Steinemann and Angel Zapata.

Well worth getting hold of, if I say so myself.

In other news, this year’s National Flash Fiction Day Micro-Fiction Competition has just opened for business, and I’m one of the judges again this year. Make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me scratch my head and ask WTF just happened.

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