Cover blurbs are funny things. I’m fairly sure that if (and sadly it’s a very big ‘if’) TAKE IT COOL had ever made it into the bricks and mortar shops, Ian Rankin’s ‘Lovely stuff!’ on the cover might have gone some way towards making a passing punter pick the thing up (although it’s also just struck me that what I really should have done was try to get a second blurb from Rankin’ Roger of The Beat – it was a book about reggae after all).
Anyway, sometimes you get a blurb from Ian Rankin. And sometimes you get one from me, like the lucky people from the excellent Unthank Books. Unthank have just launched THE END, a totally ace anthology of stories based on paintings, and this is what I said about it:
At the end of the book, you’ll probably want to go back and start reading it all over again.
Actually, what I said in full was:
All good things come to an end. All bad things do, too. In this remarkably varied collection, many different things, both good and bad, come to an end: situations, performances, relationships, childhoods, lives and sometimes the whole world. Some of the endings are unexpected and some are pre-destined. We read what happened before the ending and sometimes what happened afterwards. And at the end of the book, you’ll probably want to go back and start reading it all over again.
Less of a blurb than a whole bloody review, in fact, so it’s not surprising it got trimmed a little to fit on the cover. Still, as I said, it’s an ace book. There’s more about the project here and you can pre-order yourself a copy here. Go on.
Is it that time of year already? Apparently it is. A week tomorrow (June 25th) is National Flash Fiction Day, 2016. I think I’m right in saying this is the fifth incarnation of the event, which suggests an impressive level of commitment from Calum Kerr and his loyal band of organisers.
As ever, there was a microfiction competition, for which my very short piece “Saved for Later” was longlisted – although it was up against some stiff competition (take a look at the second prize winner in particular) and got no further. I was slightly anxious that this might mean that I was going to miss being included in the NFFD anthology for the first time ever (as I didn’t even get a free pass this time – for the last couple of years I’ve been a microfiction judge). However, my submission “Family Values” was indeed selected, so my record remains untarnished.
And here’s the book itself – rather striking, don’t you think? You can buy copies here and if you take a look at the list of authors, I think you’ll agree with me that it promises to be rather special.
Had a mildly traumatic few days this week, after an OSX upgrade caused my vintage desktop computer to give up the ghost. It’s lasted almost seven years, so I can’t really complain. What I will say is that, for the third time in recent years, Apple’s Time Machine has proved to be a life-saver. If you rely on a Mac and haven’t set up Time Machine, (1) WHAT IS WRONG WITH YOU? and (2) DO IT NOW.
While all this was going on, I had an acceptance for my poem ‘The Incredible Zabriskie Ponders His Retirement Plan’, which will appear at the excellent Ink, Sweat and Tears in about three months or so from now. I’m really pleased that this one is going to get an airing, as I’m rather fond of it.
And so this year’s Fish campaign draws to a close, with longlistings in the short story and flash categories and (yay!) a shortlisting in the poetry category. I didn’t make much of a fuss about the longlistings, because the Fish longlists do tend to be rather long, but I’m quite pleased about the shortlisting, given that it makes my entry one of the sixty-odd selected out of an entry of a thousand or so.
The poem in question is the same one that was commended in the Café Writers Competition a little while back, which is nice in some ways because it means that two entirely separate judging panels have decided that it has merit. It’s also slightly frustrating because it also means that two entirely separate judging panels have decided that it doesn’t quite have enough merit to get a placing. Such are the joys of competitions.
The first week and a bit, actually, but who’s counting? It’s a day or two over a month since I registered the www.spillingcocoa.com domain and it’s all going a whole load better than I’d ever imagined. For one thing, I’d only anticipated having enough material to publish a poem a week, but it soon became clear that a poem a day was not only going to be possible but also necessary in order to get through all the wonderful stuff I was being sent.
Not only that, but people are reading the poems. Rating them. Sharing them. Subscribing. Take a look at this usage statistics graph:
I won’t divulge the scale used (yet – although let’s just say that the traffic is a LOT higher than I get here), but what the shape of it means is that, following the inevitable initial burst of activity, we seem to have settled down to a remarkably consistent traffic profile. I’d half-expected interest to drop off, but it doesn’t seem to have done so quite yet.
This, of course, is mostly down to the excellent quality of the submissions, and the good news is there’s plenty more to come. But please don’t be afraid to submit – as I hope you can see, we have a pretty broad definition of what constitutes humour.
The oddest thing that happened in the last week was finding out that we had a Duotrope listing a mere two days after going live. I had no idea they were so proactive. Quite a scary moment in some ways, though, because at that moment it suddenly seemed that this was something real and rather public. It is of course entirely possible that at some point in the future, in the middle of some horrendous scandal, I may look back on this time and wonder how it all seemed so innocent. Let’s hope not, though, eh?
Thought I’d give this place a bit of a spring clean. I’ve moved the menus around up there ^^^, so that all the short stuff is gathered together in one place, leaving room for a couple of new pages. I also found out (somewhat belatedly) that you could embed tweets amazingly easily, so the TwitFic page looks a lot smarter now.
The first of the new pages is Plays and it contains the entire script of my one and only radio play, D.O.E., along with the long and tragic tale of its non-production. Do take a look.
The other one is Audio, and this contains a couple of performance recordings, along with the first and only episode of a peculiar serial called The Last Snows of Summer. I still quite like this, although it is entirely possible that your mileage may vary.
Meanwhile, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis is primed and ready to start publishing this very Sunday, May 1st. As Shaw Taylor used to say, “Keep ’em peeled!”
Well, I didn’t get any further than the shortlist. But I still won some cool swag (I’ve got a couple of them already, but the rest are all new). And here’s my piece, published today with some very nice comments from the judges. Oh all right, if you absolutely insist. This is what they said:
‘A highly inventive and playful piece that recreates – with verve – the Borgesian tension between philosophical inquiry and creative mystery’; ‘witty and clever’; ‘a creative approach to the brief, with an admirable satirical and philosophical tone’.
And in case you’re wondering how I ended up writing it, it was based on the submission I did last year for Tessa Hadley‘s short story module on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA. Rule no 1 of writing: everything is recyclable…
On paper, this sounded amazing. A high-adrenaline heist thriller shot in a single take on the early morning streets of Berlin. No cuts, no trickery, just one long hand-held take. I love a narrative gimmick, me, and this sounded right up my street. Here’s the trailer. Fun, eh?
I should have been warned. Last time I fell for this kind of thing, I wasted an hour and a half of my life watching “Russian Ark”, which is a fabulously glitzy single-take ramble through the rooms of the Winter Palace of the Hermitage Museum. Totally spectacular and technically brilliant, but (for me at any rate) it lost the plot, along with my attention, about halfway round. It became far more entertaining to wonder about all the frantic scurrying around there must have been going on behind the scenes.
The thing is, gimmicks are great fun, but if that’s all there is, the story fails to resonate. The main reason why Pixar were successful from the off wasn’t just that they produced the first-ever full-length computer-animated film. It was that they coupled their technical brilliance with a terrific story, and it’s the story that ultimately lingers on. The clue’s in the title of their first feature, “Toy Story”. It’s technology (toys) and narrative (story) working together. I’m really looking forward to putting that into a PowerPoint presentation one day, BTW.
“Victoria” is, despite the hype, not a great film. For me (again), while it was technically clever, it didn’t work at all as a story. However, it didn’t work at all in quite an interesting way, because not only did the gimmick fail to serve the story – it actually wrecked it completely.
Now from this point on there will be spoilers, so I’ll make a break and then continue.
Well, then. I seem to have made it through to the next stage. This is all rather splendid, because it means that whatever happens, my piece will be published on the Thresholds website. It also means that whatever happens, I’ll win something. I’d completely forgotten there were prizes for all the shortlistees, and to be honest, that stack of books is almost enough to make me hope I don’t win either of the big prizes. Almost, but not quite.
My name's Jonathan Pinnock. I lead a dual life. In one half of this, I run a software development company called Jonathan Pinnock and Associates. If you've come here looking for that, here's where you need to go.
However, if you've come here to find out about the other half of my life, as a writer of fiction and non-fiction, you've come to the right place.
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The bio-historico-musicological-memoir thing Take It Cool was published by Two Ravens Press in July 2014.
The Scott Prize-winning short story collection Dot Dash was published by Salt in November 2012.