In 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.
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.
A 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.
(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…
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 ‘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.
There 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…
Fine 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.
I’ve probably said this before, but I do find poetry a little baffling. I think I have a reasonable idea of what constitutes a half-decent story, but I don’t really have a clue when it comes to poems. ‘The Orange Girl and the Philosopher’ is a case in point. I wrote it originally for a challenge on the late, lamented Slingink website back in late 2008. I didn’t think it was much cop, to be honest, but it got some very positive comments from some of the real poets there (and I think it even won that week month’s challenge).
I’ve sent it out every now and then since, and it’s been largely ignored, apart from one commendation in the quarterly JBWB competition. Anyway, last Saturday it gained another commendation, this time at the York Literature Festival / YorkMix Poetry competition, as one of over (really?) 1700 entries, and – according to the judge – ahead of ‘several well-known poets’.
In other news, my flash ‘Cinema Date’ had been published on the splendid Stand Up Tragedywebsite. Now this is a piece that was never going to win any prizes, but it’s always made me laugh, so I’m very pleased it’s found a home.
First of all, my rather peculiar flash, “Sleeping with the Fishes” is now up at Cease, Cows magazine. I’m not 100% sure what it means, but I think I like it anyway. See what you think. I like the picture they’ve chosen to go with it.
Secondly, another equally curious flash, “Limbo”, has been accepted by the up and coming Fine Linen Magazine. Rather surprisingly in this day and age, this is a paying gig, so I’m doubly pleased about this.
Thirdly, I got longlisted in this year’s Fish Short Story Competition. Slightly mixed feeling about this. Yes, it’s nice to be longlisted, but it is a hell of a long longlist…
Finally, there’s something else. But I can’t tell you quite yet
I’m beginning to think there are essentially two publication strategies open to the short story / poetry writer. Strategy 1) is to find somewhere you like and who likes you, and chuck everything you have at them. Strategy 2) is to systematically try to tick off as many different places as possible.
Most of the time, I lean towards option 2), but every now and then I like to try to return to old haunts. Often it turns out that these old haunts are not interested in what I have to offer (which is good, because I’d hate to be accepted just because it’s me and we got on so well last time), but every so often I get welcomed back. This, of course, is even better.
So here I am, back in the excellent Irish children’s magazine, The Caterpillar, with three poems: “The Sulphurous Sphygnum”, “The Limpopo Loon” and “Bodrills”. I’ve got quite a few of these things lying around, but I have absolutely no idea what to do with them. I would love to see them in a big illustrated book, but I suspect the chances of getting such a thing published are close to zero.
I’ve also been allowed back into the splendid Cease, Cows magazine, with a forthcoming flash entitled “Sleeping With The Fishes”. I don’t know when it’s going to appear, but I will let you know. In the meantime, here’s the last piece I did for them, “Wood“.
Finally, a lot of you writers out there (particularly the ones on MFA / CW MA programmes) have been getting into a bit of a lather about this rather snippy piece of clickbait. Must admit I found it pretty annoying too (particularly the ageist stuff). But then I read this splendid riposte by the ever-reliable Chuck Wendig, and I felt a lot better. A whole lot better.
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.
If, on the other hand, you've arrived here by accident whilst searching for Japanese Tentacle Porn, I suggest you try using a different search engine.
There's quite a lot of stuff on this site (apart from the blog), but if you want to find your way around, the sitemap is probably a good place to start as any.
If you'd like to contact me, my e-mail address is jon AT jonathanpinnock DOT com. If you'd like to sign up for my exciting new newsletter, please fill in this form:
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.