Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff

NO SOONER THE WORD THAN THE FICTION

Category: Competitions (page 1 of 10)

Café Writers Poetry Competition Commendation

PrintI’ve said it before and I’ll say it again: I still don’t really understand poetry. With fiction, I can read most things and have a decent stab at working out what they’re going on about, however opaque or experimental. But there is a sizeable body of poetry that eludes me completely, and I’m forced into a position where the best I can say is that sometimes I like what I read and sometimes I don’t. I really don’t feel I’m that much above the level of understanding shown in this hilarious exchange on the York Literature Festival / YorkMix poetry competition.

Which is an odd way of introducing the fact that I’ve just won a commended prize in the latest Café Writers competition – one of a dozen prizewinners chosen out of almost 2000. Yes, you read that right. 2000. I still can’t really get my head round it. It’s actually the best competition result I’ve had in years, whether fiction or poetry, and yet I still don’t really feel I know what I’m doing.

The awful truth is that I haven’t actually written a poem for over a year. There are good reasons for this – I’ve been concentrating on my current novel, for one thing – but it still means I feel like a bit of a fraud. I like writing poetry, though, and I’m sure I’ll go back to it soon once the first phase of novel edits are done. And maybe I’ll understand it a bit better one day so I begin to feel like a proper poet.

Oh, and I do like the published prizewinners, by the way – especially ‘Living in Trap Street’, which is wonderful. Take a look.

Fish Off The Hook

Excellent news. The people at Fish have sorted out the problem with my entry. The problem – as far as I can make out – seems to have been a twofold one.

First of all, there definitely seems to be some kind of issue with the “buy one entry, get one half price” offer. I know of at least one other person who has had a similar problem (although, for reasons related to the second part of the problem, they got their entry fixed a lot quicker than mine). The good news is that they appear to be going through all the “unpaid” entries by hand and sorting them out. (I don’t envy them having to do that.) However, if you have taken advantage of this offer, it might be worth checking your author page to see what the status of the second one is.

The second part of the problem was to do with my having two author accounts and e-mailing them from the address that was tied to the wrong one. For some reason, they don’t seem to be able to look up entries by using the name of the account (which I was giving them), or indeed by using the number of the entry (which I was also giving them). They can only look them up by using the e-mail address, which of course was the only piece of information that I was (implicitly) giving them that was wrong. The result of which was that I appeared to be banging on about a completely unrelated entry that was (a) paid for, (b) for a different competition and (c) several years old. They almost certainly assumed I was some kind of crank.

Many thanks to the people at Fish and also to those who helped behind the scenes.

The only thing is, after all that, I’m really not sure if the entry’s any good. But I guess it’s the principle that counts.

The One That Got Away

UPDATE This issue has now been resolved satisfactorily. More information here.

Attention short story writers! Has anyone else had problems with their entries for the Fish competition this year? Or is it just me?

This is what happened to me.

I’m a pretty regular entrant for the Fish competitions. They’re pricey, but there’s potentially a fair bit of kudos to be had if you get into the winners’ enclosure. I haven’t, as it happens (and chances are I won’t in the future once this post has gone live) but I have been shortlisted for the poetry competition in 2014, the flash fiction one in 2008 and the full length short story one in 2009. Long shortlists, but close enough to make it think it might be worth carrying on entering.

On November 30th of last year, I uploaded two entries for the short story prize, noting that whereas the price for one entry was €20, the price for two was €30. I duly paid my €30 via PayPal. However, I didn’t receive any confirmation that my stories had been entered, so I went to look at my author page on their website, where it appeared that only one of the stories had actually been entered. The other one was flagged as “unpaid”.

So I wrote to Fish via their online form:

I just entered a couple of stories for the short story prize and paid €30 (order ID XXXXX). However, only the first one is showing up as being “paid”. Can you reassure me that both will be entered into the competition?

I also mentioned underneath my sign-off that my user account was JonPin. Remember this, because it will be important later.

On December 1st, I got this message back:

You have uploaded and paid for one Flash Fiction entry.

To upload more, simply repeat the entry process.

Let me know if I can help in any way.

Huh?

This is what I wrote back:

I hope not! If you take a look at my account, you’ll see that I uploaded and paid for two short stories (entry ids SS15/YYYYY and SS15/ZZZZZ). I paid €30 for this (€20 for the first one and €10 for the second one). However, only SS 15/YYYYY is marked as having status “Marked”. SS 15/ZZZZZ is marked as having status “Unpaid”. I hope this doesn’t mean that it hasn’t been entered.

I then got a generic e-mail from the “Fish Publishing Team”:

We noticed you are experiencing difficulty uploading one or more entries to the Short Story competition.

Entry lines have been extended until December 3rd at mid-night GMT, to assist you with any technical difficulties you may have encountered.

Let us know if we can help in any way.

To which I responded thus:

No problem in uploading at all. The story is there and, crucially, paid for. The problem is, as I’ve already reported to you, it’s showing up as “Unpaid”. So extending the deadline isn’t going to do me any good, I’m afraid.

Their response on December 2nd was not entirely helpful:

Your entry is showing up as paid from this end.

So I replied with this:

Sorry to be pedantic, but do you mean that BOTH of my entries are showing up as paid? Because SS15/ZZZZZ is still showing up as unpaid.

They replied with this:

Yes, with the e-mail address: [redacted 1] there is one entry. Do you have another account set up with a different e-mail address?

which at least explained some of the confusion. It turned out that I had a zombie author account (jonpinnock) at Fish containing a single one page story entry from 2013 which was tied to the e-mail address [redacted 1]. My main author account was tied to a different e-mail address, [redacted 2].

Unfortunately, the people at Fish had assumed that because I was e-mailing from [redacted 1], I was referring to the zombie account, despite (a) the fact that I’d told them I was specifically referring to the user account JonPin, (b) the only story in the jonpinnock account was one from 2013 and (c) none of the short story identifiers I’d given them matched up with the zombie account.

I thought I could clear things up by sending them, on December 3rd, a couple of screenshots from JonPin:

Please find attached two screenshots (user JonPin). The first is from my payment screen. As you can see, I’ve paid for TWO entries, the first at €20, the second at the discounted price of €10.

[screenshot showing entry ID XXXXX with two stories, YYYYY at €20 and ZZZZZ at €10]

The second screenshot is from my entries screen, where it shows the second entry as “Unpaid”.

[screenshot showing YYYYY flagged as “marked” and ZZZZZ flagged as “unpaid”]

Please can you sort this out?

There was no reply to this, so on December 7th, I e-mailed them again:

I was just wondering if you’d got any closer to resolving this. It’s still showing exactly the same – both paid for, but only one marked as such. The account name is JonPin, and I think it’s tied to account [redacted 2].

There was still no reply from Fish, so on December 17th, I e-mailed them again:

This still doesn’t seem to have been resolved. I just logged in again as user JonPin and the situation is exactly as I reported before: two entries to the short story competition paid for, but only one of them marked as such. Can you please either confirm that both have indeed been entered (and marked as such) or refund the fee for the second entry, €10.

Which seemed fair enough.

However, there was still no response from Fish and to be honest I got caught up in Christmas and other stuff and didn’t chase it any further. But then on January 25th, a stray neuron fired at Fish HQ and the following e-mail popped into my inbox:

From this end, you have uploaded one entry and paid for it and there is no sign of  another entry.
What competition did you enter it to? Can you please forward a copy of your PayPal receipt?

Apologies for any inconvenience.

Gritting my teeth, I responded with a screenshot of my PayPal receipt:

I entered two stories (SS15/YYYYY and SS15/ZZZZZ) into the Short Story Competition. I’m attaching my PayPal receipt which clearly shows that I paid €30, i.e.€20 for the first one and then the discounted price €10 for the second.

I hope it isn’t too late to sort this out.

There was no response to this. So yesterday (January 26th) I thought I’d nudge them along once more in case they were still confused about what I was talking about:

I’m attaching a picture of part of my author page (JonPin). As you can see, I have one entry flagged as marked and one flagged as unpaid. Can you please either (1) reassure me that the “unpaid” one (which, as we all know, has actually been paid for) has been entered and marked or (2) refund me the €10 for my second entry.

What worries me is that this suggests there is a problem with your entry system and I’m sure there must be many others in the same situation.

So far I have had no response to this at all.

Anyone else taken advantage of the €30 two-story discount? If so, have both your stories been entered? Have you checked?

Graffiti and Other Things

Screen Shot 2015-12-04 at 09.36.20My 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.

Flashing in Bristol

BristolFlash Readings (Updated)As you can see from the flyer to the left, I will be celebrating National Flash Fiction Day this coming Saturday by performing at Foyles in Bristol, along with loads of other totally awesome people (is that really Adam Marek in there?). It should be an utterly ace evening and what’s more it’s completely free! So if you’re close to Bristol (say, no less than a day’s travel away), you have no excuse whatsoever not to turn up.

In other news, a couple of weeks back I was pleased to hear I’d made the longlist for this year’s Short Fiction magazine competition. This is the second longlist appearance for the story in question this year, although this is a slightly more compact longlist than the one for the Fish Short Story Prize. The shortlist is announced in July.

I’ve been meaning to blog in more detail about my MA but I haven’t quite had the time yet, and I probably won’t for a while as I am currently buried deep inside my manuscript. I’ve calculated that I need to average 500 words per working day between now and the end of September. I’m currently hitting 1000 a day, so things are on track so far. It could yet all go horribly wrong, though.

Hairdressing

1372603_300A 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…

Limbo in Fine Linen

Fine LinenFine Linen is not just another literary magazine. It’s a chapbook plus a broadside plus a linen bookmark plus a cardboard bookmark. In fact, it’s a pretty extraordinary artefact all round.

And I’m in the new edition, with a piece called ‘Limbo’, somewhere in the broadside bit (I think that’s what it’s called, anyway – it opens out to a sort of poster thing). I’m in great company, too, with folk like Susan Howe, Simon Kewin, Kathy Steinemann and Angel Zapata.

Well worth getting hold of, if I say so myself.

In other news, this year’s National Flash Fiction Day Micro-Fiction Competition has just opened for business, and I’m one of the judges again this year. Make me laugh. Make me cry. Make me scratch my head and ask WTF just happened.

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

cow_anatomy_dorsal_skeletoncropwhitespace

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:

 

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