I’m slowly coming to the conclusion that I’m nothing more than a shallow attention-seeker. On the negative side, this is not necessarily a truth that a bloke of my moderately advanced years likes to come to (I was hoping for a bit more gravitas by now, frankly), but on the plus side, it does at least align itself very well with my nascent writing career. Because every now and then one is called upon to read something one has written in public, and this tends to work better when one is enjoying it.
Which is one of the reasons why I jumped at the opportunity to nip down to Bristol yesterday to attend the launch event for the 2012 short story competition. One of the other reasons was of course that the BSSP is rapidly becoming one of the top short story prizes in the country so I was very honoured indeed to be asked. Also, Joe Melia, who pretty much is the BSSP, is a top bloke and it was great to see him again. Oh, and did I mention that none other than Tania Hershman was also on the bill?
The event seemed to go very well – there was certainly a good-sized audience and some excellent readings. Emily Bullock (nice to see her again too!) started the evening by reading an extract from this year’s prizewinning story, “My Girl”, a wonderfully visceral piece of writing. She was followed by Alan Toyne, who read an extract from his shortlisted story from the first year of the BSSP, “Tuesday Night”, a very wittily-observed description of a male bonding ritual. Then I did my bit – I’d decided to read a couple of whole stories rather than extracts, so I went for “Canine Mathematics” and “Advice re Elephants”, which seemed to go down OK. Then Tania wrapped up proceedings with four utterly wonderful flashes – I knew (and loved) a couple of them already and the other two were equally beguiling.
Then we all mingled for a while and drank a glass or two. It was lovely to see Sarah Hilary and Nastasya Parker again, who were both in the audience, and it was also great to meet Twitter chum Chris Wakling, whose latest book “What I Did” I’ve just ordered. Oh, and Foyles had also ordered in a dozen or so copies of Mrs Darcy, half of which went on the night, which I don’t think is too bad considering it wasn’t her event at all. I also signed the other half, so if there’s anyone in Bristol who’s after a copy with the tentacle signature, get down to Cabot Place now.
And the fun continues tomorrow night, where I’m going to be sitting alongside the awesomely-talented John Harding (whose “Florence and Giles” may well be the best book I’ve read this year) on the Firestation Book Swap sofa. Do come along – it should be a good evening. To whet your appetite, here’s my pre-swap interview with the lovely Emma Buckley of Beat Magazine.