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.
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…
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…
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’.
I still don’t really know if it’s any cop, though. Still, you can judge for yourself – it’s there on the website if you scroll down to near the bottom.
In other news, my flash ‘Cinema Date’ had been published on the splendid Stand Up Tragedy website. 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.
Several odd bits and pieces to report.
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.
Lots of excitement here at Pinnock Towers. First of all, I had a sudden urge yesterday to see if I could get a few more of my strange animal poems for kids published. So I dug out a selection, read them through and fixed some of the scansion (amazing what you find when you go back to something with a more critical eye). Given that (a) the only place I know of that publishes that kind of thing is The Caterpillar and (b) they’ve published a couple of mine there before, I decided to send them to The Caterpillar. Classic marketing skills on display there.
Anyway, I had a very positive response the same day and some of them will indeed be appearing in either the next edition or the one after that. I’ll let you know either way. Seriously, if you do have kids who enjoy reading (or indeed kids who don’t and bloody well ought to), it’s a terrific magazine. Oh, and did I mention that it’s published people such as Michael Morpurgo, Frank Cottrell Boyce and John Hegley. That last name may make readers of TAKE IT COOL prick up their ears, as they may recall that I once almost formed a band with him.
The other even more exciting thing is that I’ve just been invited to be Steve Yabsley‘s main guest on his lunchtime show at BBC Radio Bristol / Somerset on Wednesday October 1st. Make a note in your diaries now. I will too, with a special addendum telling me to get there several hours in advance, unlike my Ujima Radio cock-up.
One of the essential activities for a writer who has just had a book published is to Google their own name at regular intervals in combination with the name of their book to see if any new reviews have turned up. For a writer lurking in the lower levels of the food chain, this can be a depressingly futile thing to do, but occasionally things can turn up, such as this lovely piece from Scotland’s The Herald.
Apart from a minor inaccuracy in the very first clause (I was actually in my early 20s when I came across the single), it manages to convey the essence of the book far better than I ever could myself. And that is more than you could ever ask from a reviewer.
Last Friday I was interviewed about the book by the lovely Freya Morris. You can read what I said here. And the very wonderful Itz Caribbean website are running a competition where you can win a copy. Get in, I say.
What else has been going on? Oh yes, my entry for Thresholds Short Story Forum‘s recent feature writing competition, which failed to make the shortlist and was thus mentally consigned to the dustbin of oblivion, is going to be published in September there after all. Not only will this make me very happy, but it will also come as a massive surprise to the subject of the piece.
Finally, I had an acceptance the other day from the very classy-looking Ariadne’s Thread magazine for my poem “Parable”, which will appear in issue 13, later this year.
Didn’t have time to post about this before I went off on my hols (and very nice they were to, thanks for asking). Anyway, here’s my poem “Paradise Found Wanting” up at the ever-excellent Ink, Sweat and Tears. Don’t think it really needs much by way of explanation…
Not much else to report, apart from the fact that my frankly rather puerile flash “The Sixth Generation” is going to be included in the forthcoming National Flash Fiction Day anthology “Eating My Words”. There will be more details on how and where to purchase in due course. Having been one of the judges for the 100-word competition, I can say with hand on my heart that there will be some seriously good stuff in there. As well as my piece.
Take It Cool is now feeling a lot less exposed, because it now has a back cover as well as a front one. And apart from that picture of yours truly, it’s rather spiffy, is it not? All we need now is the book to come out and for loads of people to read it.
What? Someone has already? You’re kidding…
Many thanks to Pete Sutton for some very nice comments there.
Meanwhile, back in short story land, I had an acceptance yesterday from the people at the very excellent Unthology for a rather odd story of mine called “Hay. Pee. Ah. Wrist.” Not sure if it’s going to be Unthology 6 or Unthology 7, but either way it’s going to be extremely cool to join that list.
The Spring edition of the Irish literary magazine The Stinging Fly has just been published, and what a lovely thing it is. It’s always nice to appear in print, and I’m especially chuffed that my odd little magical realist flash “The Meaning of the Rabbit” has been included in Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s flash fiction showcase, along with loads of other cool people’s work.
I do hope that last Monday’s BristolCon fringe audience appreciate that magical realism reference, by the way.
The excellent Short Review have also put up an interview I did with them about DOT DASH and other stuff. I quote George Saunders in it, which just goes to show how hip I am.
If you’re near Bath this Friday, do come along to Story Fridays at 7:30PM in Burdall’s Yard, where I will be reading “Nature’s Banquet” as part of their “Feral” evening. More – ahem – magical realism.
Finally, I had an urge the other day to start submitting some TwitFic again, and I’ve just had a couple of acceptances, from Confettifall and Twiction Addiction. They’ll both be appearing in April, and I’ll give you a nudge when they do.