Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff

NO SOONER THE WORD THAN THE FICTION

Category: Competitions (page 1 of 10)

York Literature Festival Poetry

site-logoI’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.

Sleeping with the Fishes, and other stuff

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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 :)

Opening Lines

p026jj45It’s that time of the year again, when the BBC open their virtual doors to unsolicited short story submissions from writers new to radio. If you are such a person and have a suitable story to hand (or can put one together in a couple of weeks), you have until February 13th to send it in.

I would thoroughly recommend having a go, by the way, because hearing your work read on national radio by a proper actor is, frankly, bloody wonderful. Even hearing the announcer saying your name is pretty fantastic.

However, the odd thing about Opening Lines is that it doesn’t seem to provide much of an opening into the BBC. I used to wonder if it was just me who didn’t get invited back (I thought I’d behaved myself, but you never can tell what other people really think), but it turns out that very few of us have been.

I really must emphasise that I’m not in the least bit ungrateful. Opening Lines was a wonderful thing to put on my CV, and I even got paid for it. I’m also quite sure that it helped me towards getting Dot Dash published. Indeed, if you look at the careers of a lot of other OL alumni, it doesn’t seem to have done any of them any harm either – most notably 2014′s Claire Fuller, who was recently identified as one of the new faces of fiction in the Guardian, no less. But it does seem a little odd that the BBC themselves appear to lose interest.

I recently Googled the names of all the 38 writers whose stories have been broadcast in OL since 2005, or Series 7 (I couldn’t find any data on the earlier years), along with the word BBC. One or two of them proved tricky owing to search pollution (particularly the one who happened to share the name of an ex-Speaker of the House of Commons), but the only ones I could identify as definitely having had further work commissioned were:

  • Zoran Zuvkovic (2005), who had a further short story broadcast two years after his OL appearance; however, he turned out to have had 11 full-length works of fiction and 5 works of non-fiction published before OL, so I’m not sure he really counts as an emerging voice,
  • Ian Dudley (2006), who had a further short story broadcast the year after OL,
  • Kachi A Ozumba (2007), who had a short story commissioned for The Verb three years after his OL appearance; as this was also after an acclaimed novel had been published, I’m not sure if OL can really be said to have been a factor.

(If I’ve missed anyone out, please do let me know.)

But as for the remaining 35 of us, it looks like we’ll have to be content with being one hit wonders. Still, there are worse things to be, and I will at least always have this to remember it by:

 

The Binnacle and Twiction Addiction Again

A couple of very short hits to report. First of all, I snagged an Honourable Honorable Mention in this years The Binnacle Ultra-Short Competition, with my 135-word story “99942 Apophis” (feel free to Google that if you want to find out a clue to the subject matter). The story will also appear in print, along with the winers and the other honourees honorees, which will be nice. Secondly, an as yet untitled 23-word story of mine was published today at Twiction Addiction.

I’ve also been tweaking this site a little bit, adding galleries of all the various anthologies and stuff I’ve been in to the bottom of the Fiction and Poetry pages, as well as a slide show of various appearances that Mrs Darcy made in the bookshops of the UK. Seems such a long time ago…

Fish Poetry Prize

Fish_logoIn case you’re wondering, yes, I still do enter writing competitions. However, my success rate has been somewhat less than stellar lately. No idea why – these things happen; I’ve had stretches like this in the past and I’m sure I will again.

So I was somewhat relieved to find out over the weekend that the drought had ended with a shortlisting and a longlisting in the prestigious Fish Poetry Prize (that’s the one with the €1000 first prize, so not to be sneezed at).

The shortlisted poem is called Lines from an Ape and the longlisted one is called (deep breath, and look away if easily offended) On Going to Watch a YouTube Video of Charles Bukowski and Being Forced to Sit Through an Advert for Fucking Saga Holidays. Both of those arose from a recent writing challenge held on The Write Idea forum, requiring the participants to write a poem a week to  variety of prompts. Try and guess what the prompt might have been for the longlisted poem…

Now I need to decided what to do next with them. Put them back into competition or go for publication? I think I might give them another outing or two before retirement.

New Ghost Stories and other stuff

6-ngs-3d-coverThe Fiction Desk’s sixth anthology, “New Ghost Stories” has just been released, and what a splendid collection it is. Take a look at the stellar list of contributors, for one thing. I’m really looking forward to reading it myself, and not just because there’s one of my stories, “A Whole Bloody Century”, in it. Go on, treat yourself or one of your loved ones to a copy now.

Had a nice piece of news at the weekend, in that I emerged (after six gruelling rounds) as the winner of the fiction section of this year’s NOT The Whittaker Prize. This competition is the semi-official successor to The Write Idea forum’s Whittaker Prize. The contest involved writing a new story every two weeks to a set of prompts. Following this, we all scored each others’ entries anonymously and totted up the results. The best thing about it is that I now have half a dozen new stories that I can eventually submit elsewhere. Some of them will need a severe edit, and one or two may end up in the wastepaper basket, but they’re all about subjects I would never have dreamed of writing about before.

Finally, I had a really nice rejection this week, from The Letters Page. It was nice for two reasons. Firstly, it was handwritten by the editor himself, none other than Jon McGregor. Secondly, because the writers whose work was accepted included the awesome George Saunders and Kevin Barry. One of those rejections that counts for a thousand lesser acceptances, and a nice end to a year that’s been slightly lukewarm at times from the writing point of view.

The Fiction Desk Ghost Story Shortlist

ghost-story-250I was very pleased to find out that my sort-of-or-is-it-really-ghost-story “A Whole Bloody Century” has been shortlisted for The Fiction Desk‘s first annual ghost story competition. Especially so since it now looks as if all the shortlisted stories are also going to be included in an anthology, and not just the winners as previously planned.

“A Hundred Bloody Years” has been kicking around for quite some time. – as long ago as 2009, under its old title “Unquiet”, it was highly commended in a JBWB competition – but up until now, I’ve never been 100% happy with the delivery of the big reveal at the end. I think I’ve finally sorted it now, though, and I’m really looking forward to seeing it in print. The Fiction Desk do produce some excellent anthologies.

Meanwhile, TAKE IT COOL continues on its merry way. In this episode, “The Wrong Corner of the Triangle”, I start to dig into my own family history and come up with something completely unexpected. Hope you’re all still enjoying it. And if you haven’t tried it yet, there’s still plenty of time to catch up before the next one appears on Monday.

Normal Service Will Resume

Oh dear. Another blog gap. Let me try to explain…

I think I may have learnt something important over the last week or so. For various reasons, not all of which I want to reveal quite yet, I’m in a bit of an odd place with my writing. The thing is, despite having had two books published (and several more, if you include the software ones), I’m no closer to working out what kind of a writer I am. Now it’s true that this matters less and less these days – you’ve only got to look at the CVs of the likes of Naomi Alderman and Steven Hall on the Granta Best Young Novelist list to see that – but it would still be nice to have a bit of a clue as to what I’m doing instead of stumbling around in the dark.

So lately I’ve been looking for Signs, and as luck would have it last week there were two opportunities for Signs to appear. Unfortunately, neither Sign bothered to show up. The first one was the announcement of the shortlist for the Venture Award for poetry pamphlets. Now, I didn’t hold out much hope for this one, but a small amount of hope was nonetheless present (because otherwise, why had they put me on the longlist?). However, it wasn’t so much the fact that I failed to make the cut that bothered me, it’s the judge’s remark that many of the collections that fell short had too many weak poems padding them out. My problem is that I haven’t a bloody clue which ones are the weak ones and which are the strong ones. But then again, maybe this means that I’m not a proper poet yet. Either way, I’m no nearer finding out if I’m ever going to be one.

The other Sign that failed to make its scheduled appearance was the shortlist for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Now again, it was an unlikely proposition, given the unprecedented strength of the field this year, but the hope was always there, and as John Cleese’s character says in Clockwise, it’s not the despair – I can cope with that – it’s the hope I can’t stand.

The important thing I have learnt from this is that it’s pointless as a writer to wait for external agencies over which one has no control whatsoever to provide a direction. To be strictly accurate, it’s not actually something I’ve learnt this last week – it’s something I’ve remembered again. After all, I’ve never had a mentor and I’ve always made up my career as I’ve gone along. Back in late 2010, against advice from some people, I started blogging Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens as a direct reaction to my frustration at not getting a short story collection accepted. Two years later, they’d both been published and it didn’t matter that they were two totally different books. Maybe I just need to find another project that I can love and get stuck into it, without worrying about what kind of a thing it is.

The good news is that the week ended with a couple of nice acceptances. The first of these was from Josephine Corcoran’s splendid And Other Poems blog, which specialises in re-publishing poems that haven’t previously appeared online, for “Pants Outside Trousers, Big Letter H On T Shirt, Here To Save The World.” The second was from the Ilanot Review for my short story “Oddly Enough, It Wasn’t About Larry Walters At All.” Coincidentally, out of everything I’ve ever written, I think those may be two of my favourite titles.

Frank O’Connor Longlist

Today the longlist for this year’s Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award was announced, and Dot Dash is on it, which makes a nice double with last week’s Edge Hill longlist. The list itself is even longer than the Edge Hill one, which I guess is reasonable enough given that is a truly international prize rather than one restricted to those born or working in the British Isles.

There are consequently even more big hitters on the list than Edge Hill (if that’s possible) so I have no expectations whatsoever of getting any further. It is, however, quite nice and more than a little weird to be on the same longlist as Molly Ringwald. Yes, that Molly Ringwald.

In other celeb-oriented news, I had a weird Twitter conversation yesterday with Jim Bob out of Carter USM about loft ladders. I thought you might enjoy it, so I storified it.

Finally, I had a very nice review the other day from Dan Purdue, which you can read here. I also found out that the January edition of Faces of Oman (a monthly supplement given with the Times of Oman) had chosen Dot Dash as one of their two books to review. I say review, although the words are taken mostly from the blurb, plus one phrase from the Independent On Sunday piece. I’m there on page 65, next to Virginia Ironside. All very odd.

Edge Hill Longlist and Short Stories Aloud

Last Tuesday (oh God, is it THAT long since I last posted?) was a triple-good day. First of all, I found out that the workshop I mentioned here is now fully booked. Yay! Then I found out that Dot Dash is on the longlist for this year’s Edge Hill Short Story Prize. Double yay! Although I have to say that the excitement of finding that out is somewhat tempered by the daunting size of that longlist and the presence of some VERY big hitters on there. I strongly suspect that this will be about as far as things go. Still, it’s nice while it lasts.

The third good thing to happen was Short Stories Aloud. I’m sure I’ve said it before, but there’s nothing quite like the experience of hearing your words read by a professional actor and Jenny Johns was absolutely brilliant in her interpretations of Return to Cairo and Mirror, Mirror. Steve Hay also gave some excellent readings of a couple of Jon McGregor stories and one by Ernest Hemingway.

Once the formal part of the evening was over, Sarah Franklin, the founder and compere par excellence of SSA proceeded to grill me with questions from the audience. I think I managed to answer most of them, even if (perhaps because) they tended to be actually on the subject of writing, rather than – for example – what my favourite cheese was. They all seemed a very friendly bunch and an exceptionally responsive audience. All in all, it was a most enjoyable evening, and if you’re in the vicinity of Oxford when the next one comes along (check their Facebook group to find out) I’d recommend going along. The cake is pretty damn fine, too.

And finally, now that Easter is over and the first three months of the year are behind us, I really promise to post a bit more. There are several reviews circling round waiting to land and if I’m not careful, they may start to run out of fuel…

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