Back in August, the very wonderful Every Day Poets published a poem of mine that – to my amazement – turned out to be their most read poem of that month. And that means that the lovely Oonagh Joslin of EDP has now interviewed me about my poetry. Now this is all a bit odd, because I know very little about poetry. In fact, the technical term for what I know about poetry is “bugger all”. This isn’t false modesty, by the way: I really do know very little. I only had my first poem published in September of last year (by Ink, Sweat and Tears, as it happens – it’s here in case you’re interested, although I should warn you that there are some rude words in it). I haven’t even read a lot of poetry either if the truth were told and I’ve certainly never been taught anything about it since schooldays.
I guess the reason for all the foregoing is to excuse myself if I sound shallow. Ach the hell with it, make up your own minds.
(Ooh, one other thing – nearly forgot. The list of contributors for the forthcoming Shroud poetry anthology has just been announced here. I’m really quite massively chuffed to be in with that lot.)
This week I have been thinking a lot about Romola Garai. Now don’t get me wrong – she’s very pretty, no doubt about that, but she’s not really my type. No, it was this extraordinary interview in Sunday’s Independent that set me off. There’s loads of stuff about her acting and all the wonderful people she’s worked with, which is all jolly interesting – and then she moves on to talk about her burgeoning writing career. This is what she says:
While acting is what she wants to do for now, she nonetheless hankers after writing, for which, she says, she needs to spend time in London. “I need to interact with the city,” she says, “to meet people, to have strange things happen to me – otherwise what would I write about?” She writes more and more as she gets older, feels that she’s improving and may end up doing the Open University’s creative writing MA when she can afford to take a year off.
What?! Did she really say “otherwise what would I write about”? Yes, I’m afraid she did. I have a feeling that she may have taken on board the “write about what you know” dictum a little too literally. Although to be honest, I would have thought that even at her tender years, as an international actress she’s probably had a few more unusual experiences and met more peculiar people than the rest of us who have spent our long working lives in open-plan offices and cubicles.
No, the crucial point about writing that she seems to be missing is that it’s all about imagination. Unless she can learn to put hers to good use, however many bizarre things that happen to her as she “interacts with the city”, chances are that the end result is going to be a more than a little flat. But I wish her luck anyway – I hope I’m proved wrong.
Curiously, you could say that it was in many ways a failure of imagination that resulted in the recent BBC adaptation of “Emma” (in which Ms Garai took the title role) being so uninspiring. Everyone involved seemed to be under the impression that it should look as much as possible like the Gwyneth Paltrow movie of a few years back, rather than something new. By contrast, the most interesting adaptation of “Emma” in recent years remains “Clueless”, a film that remained 100% faithful to the source material and yet created something completely original out of it.
And another Twitter fiction market is cracked! This was a bit more of a challenge, as Outshine require tweets involving optimistic, near-future science fiction, and it’s so much easier to write dystopian stuff. But it was worth persevering with, as they pay $5 per tweet – which, in this case, works out at just under 23¢ a word. And there aren’t many markets out there that pay that kind of rate, are there? My piece goes up on Saturday December 12th, and I’ll link to it then.
Here’s another Twitter fiction market that I discovered thanks to the twitfic forum: escarp. I submitted a piece to them last night, received the acceptance this morning, and it’s just been published here. Interestingly, I’ve just been editing a story for submission to a competition that’s closing soon, and I’ve been finding that I seem to be a lot harsher on loose writing than I used to be. Now maybe this is just something that happens with practice anyway, but I’d like to think that messing around with Twitter may have had something to do with it too.
It’s always a pleasure to find a new market, so I was particularly excited when one of my colleagues on Café Doom brought the excellent Library of the Living Dead Press to my attention. LotLDP is something of a specialist imprint, dealing exclusively in Zombie-related books (I’m guessing that you’d spotted that already). Now I like dealing with organisations who know their market, especially when they are run by someone called Dr Pus – even if I have a feeling that it may not be his real name. In fact, he may well not have had any medical training at all, come to think of it.
Still, the good news is that the aforementioned Dr Pus has just accepted my piece “Quarantine Island” for his forthcoming compilation “Zombology III”. So woo-hoo, I think. Yes, definitely a woo-hoo.
[EDITED TO ADD: In case anyone out there is interested in submitting to LotLD, here are full details of all their current anthologies. Prolific, aren't they?]
I’ve found a new forum to hang out on: twitfic, which is dedicated to (guess) Twitter fiction, and I’m already reaping the benefits. I had no idea how many outlets there were for Twitter fiction, and I certainly hadn’t come across 7×20 before. This one takes poetry as well as fiction, so I sent them a haiku and it’s been accepted for publication in December. I have this horrible feeling that Twitter fiction could get addictive. But is that necessarily a bad thing?
After the phenomenal success of the first year of Fifty-Two Stitches (copies of the anthology still available here). the redoubtable Aaron Polson has decided to do it all over again, and I’m very pleased to say that my flash “The Wrong Thing to Say” is going to be part of it. Good to hear that fellow Year 1 alumnus (or is it alumna? I have no idea – so much for a classical education) Cate Gardner is going to be in there too, and I’m guessing that she won’t be the only other repeat offender. And in honour of Fifty-Two Stitches going into its second year, I have nicked the new site banner to head up this post. Nice, isn’t it?
I’ve just heard that my rather peculiar bilingual piece “The Language of Angels” has been accepted for the inaugural issue of Eclectic Flash. I think I like this magazine already. More about the piece when it gets published.
[EDITED TO ADD: Have you seen the bios of the editors? I like this magazine even more now I've seen these.]
Had a thoroughly wonderful time at Sparks Night last night, in the intimate venue at Upstairs at Three and Ten, Brighton. Jo Mortimer compered in her entertainingly idiosyncratic way and the whole evening went off without a hitch. Some great pieces by Jac Cattaneo, Katie McCullough (read by Jo), Yeu-Ing Mo, Wendy Greenhalgh, Vanessa Gellard and Vanessa Gebbie. Oh, and me – have a feeling I was there as the token bloke, to be honest. I read “Canine Mathematics“, accompanied by a wonderfully apposite photo, which I’ll post up if I can get hold of (a) an image and (b) permission. I particularly liked the pieces by both Vanessas and Wendy Greenhalgh.
After the event, the audience and performers all mingled in the bar downstairs and I was sorry to leave to catch my train (and replacement bus service and train again). What a lovely bunch of people. Especially nice to meet Vanessa Gebbie, as I have long been an admirer of her work, and I will in fact be interviewing her at some point in the not-too-distant future about (amongst other things) her work on editing “Short Circuit“, the new must-have definitive book on writing short stories. Here’s the post on her blog about the night. It was also nice to meet James Burt again, having previously been on the same bill as him at Liars’ League, as well as Vanessa Gellard and Robin Taylor, who I’ve previously only known on Twitter – my first tweet-up!
Oh, and if anyone is interested to read about how “Canine Mathematics” came into existence, here’s the full story.
The near-misses are coming thick and fast. I found out today that my poem about Lizzie Siddal, “Imitation of a Suicide”, was Highly Commended in the Hastings International Poetry Competition. This is probably my most complex poem to date, so I’m especially pleased that it’s (almost) hit the spot. The letter also said that ‘your work is worthy of consideration for “FIRST TIME MAGAZINE” should you wish to submit your poetry’. So I have