Ooh, this is exciting. Some time ago I was asked to contribute a humorous flash to an anthology for Comic Relief. So I offered them my story ‘Embarrassing Dad’. Fortunately, they seemed to like this, so there I am in the table of contents, along with the likes of Bernard MacLaverty, Roddy Doyle and Lydia Davis. I’ll repeat that. I am in the same table of contents as a Man Booker Shortlistee, a Man Booker Prizewinner and a Man Booker International Prizewinner. It’s all down from here.
Anyway, enough about my involvement. The MOST IMPORTANT THING is that you all go and buy it because it’s for Charidee and, honestly, with that bunch of writers (did I mention David Gaffney, Vanessa Gebbie and Tania Hershman as well?) it’s bound to be the most awesome book published this year. Or possibly this millennium. Century, probably. Decade, certainly.
Here’s where you need to go. Do it now. Please.
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.
And the pre-Christmas flurry of stuff continues. First, and most importantly, the excellent Refugees Welcome anthology is now available to download or order (US or UK). It’s got my story, “Pure Blood” in it, but that’s not the main reason for buying it (it’s actually around about the 273rd reason). Buy it because (a) all the profits go to excellent causes and (b) there are loads of other excellent writers contributing to it.
Next, my story “Heart of Snow” is up at Every Day Fiction today. It’s been a while since I’ve had a story there and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to their December invitation-only season. EDF was one of the very first places to publish a story of mine (this one, since you ask), so they always have a special place in my writer’s heart. Having agreed to do this, I’ve now remembered how active their commenters are and I’m dreading what anyone’s going to say, because I’m really not sure about this story at all!
Finally, seeing as it was Jane Austen’s 240th birthday yesterday, I thought I’d better put together a new Mrs Darcy special. So sit back, take a bite out of a two-headed lizard and enjoy Mrs Darcy: Fury Road. Had to happen, really.
My cheeky little flash “Graffiti” went up at Spelk the other day. In case you’re wondering where the idea for this came from, I was thinking about the “sword” dangling from Orion’s belt and whether that interpretation might have been somewhat bowdlerised over the years…
In other news, I was chuffed to find out last week that I was one of the finalists in this year’s Aesthetica Creative Writing Award for my short story “Adagio Assai”. I also found out that my humorous flash “Embarrassing Dad” had been accepted for Flash Magazine’s forthcoming “Funny Bone” anthology, which I’d been invited to submit to a while back. I always panic when I get invited to submit to things, because I never know if the piece has been accepted on its merits or simply because I got a free pass. I’d like to think that they could have turned this one down, but I’ll never really know. (This is, incidentally, the same reason why I try to avoid self-publishing – I need to know that whatever I’ve done has succeeded in fooling at least one gatekeeper.)
And finally, I also found out last week that I have passed my MA in Creative Writing. Get me.
Back in the middle of September, the excellent Greg McQueen put out a call for stories to make up a new charity anthology, Refugees Welcome, in aid of Syrian refugees. The guidelines were for stories up to 3000 words:
Stories about hope, happiness, humour, stories that somehow shine a light in a dark situation.
I really wanted to submit to this one, for two reasons. Firstly, Greg’s charity anthologies are excellent (I’ve still not quite forgiven myself for failing to submit to the Haiti one, but I was proud to be part of the Pakistan earthquake book). But more importantly, the whole tone of the current debate about refugees sickens me, and the idea of being part of a project that would plaster the phrase ‘Refugees Welcome’ all over the internet appealed to me.
There were, however, a couple of problems. The first one was that the submission deadline was the day after the final deadline for my MA manuscript. The second, slightly trickier one, was that bit about hope, happiness and humour, and shining a light in a dark situation. This is not an area that I am comfortable with. I can do humour (I think) but it tends to be a bit on the dark side. My forte is more in the area of casting a shadow over a light and cheerful situation.
Anyway, in the end I did manage to come up with something that came close to ticking the right boxes and I just squeezed it in before the deadline. And last night I found out that “Pure Blood” was one of the twenty-one stories accepted. Watch out for me boring you about it a bit more when the anthology gets published.
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…
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.
The first ever Salt Anthology of New Writing is now out, featuring – amongst other things – my story “Duo for Oboe and Violin, Op 27”. Loads of other good stuff in there, so I’d definitely rate it as a “buy”.
Also out today is a cheeky little flash of mine, “Wood”, at the splendid Cease, Cows magazine. They’ve picked a great illustration for it, too.
Time for a quick round-up on stuff I’ve had published recently.
First of all, there’s my poem “Pants Outside Trousers, Big Letter H On T Shirt, Here To Save The World”, which got its first online outing at Josephine Corcoran’s splendid And Other Poems… blog.
Next, my flash “contemplating rothko” was published in “Scraps”, this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology. I also did a post for the NFFD blog on “Telling Untold Stories” and took part in a reading to celebrate the day in Bristol.
And then my story “Oddly Enough, It Wasn’t About Larry Walters At All” appeared in the prestigious Israeli literary magazine, The Ilanot Review, alongside some really cool other writers including Sara Crowley, Sarah Hilary, Nuala Ní Chonchúir and Valerie O’Riordan.
Finally, my dark little flash “Room 31” was accepted for publication by the established Greek literary magazine Στάχτες – or, to be more precise, its new English Wednesdays feature. That should appear towards the end of the month, and I think it’s quite an interesting piece because it bears out a lot of what Calum was saying in his guest post about telling the story by implication instead of spelling out every detail. I’ll let you know when it’s published anyway.