Jonathan Pinnock - Writer of Stuff

NO SOONER THE WORD THAN THE FICTION

Category: Performances (page 1 of 5)

This and That

14-mockupIn the immortal words of Granny Weatherwax, I aten’t dead (in case you were wondering). I’ve been quite busy with one thing or another – some of it to do with the day job, some of it to do with writing and the rest to do with real life – which means the blog has had to take a bit of a back seat.

But here are a few things that have happened recently, writing-wise.

My current work in progress, which I will refer to by the tantalising initials of TTAAAP, has now hit somewhere around the 45K word mark. Of this, around 25K is eligible to be considered for my final MA submission of a 40K manuscript (basically because the first 20K is mostly stuff that has already been used in earlier submissions). I would dearly love to say loads more about TTAAAP, but I won’t, because I’m superstitious like that.

Out of the blue, TAKE IT COOL had a nice review from David Hebblethwaite (I’d forgotten I’d even sent him a copy). His final remark sums up both the appeal and the problem of the book in a single sentence:

Take It Cool tells an intriguing story, whatever your immediate interest in its subject matter.

I think I’m going to have to accept that TAKE IT COOL was always a long shot. But I’m still pleased it’s out there.

Issue 14 of the very stylish Structo magazine is now available, including (amongst others) my story “The Picture of Mrs Tandogan”.

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I think this may be my favourite story of the moment. Except possibly that one. Or that one. Anyway, it’s good to see it finding such a nice home.

Finally, my story “Ventriloquism for Dummies”, which was read at Liars’ League back in May, has now been selected to be read at the Sevenoaks Literary Celebration in October. I think I might try to get there this time.

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.

Ventriloquism for Dummies

So where do you get your ideas from, eh? Traditionally this is the question that writers dread, although I actually find it quite fascinating. In fact I went so far as to set up an entire Wiki devoted to the story behind the story for every single one in Dot Dash. (Not sure if this indicates vanity or obsessiveness or – more likely – a combination of both.)

Sometimes the process is a lot simpler. A title arrives, unbidden, in your head, just as you are about to walk to the station for your daily commute. By the end of the walk, the bare bones of the story are there, just waiting for you to flesh them out a bit. This was how ‘Ventriloquism for Dummies’ came into being, back in the days when I had a regular commute. I submitted it here or there but it didn’t quite work and no-one was interested in publishing it.

A few years later I noticed that Liars’ League had a forthcoming theme called ‘Master & Servant’ and my old story seemed to be a perfect fit. So I took it out of the drawer, shaved getting on for a quarter off its length and simplified the horrendously complicated ending. This turned it into a much better story, which was duly accepted, subject to some very helpful editorial suggestions.

So here it is, read superbly by the excellent Tony Bell. Hope you like it.

Hello, I’m Back!

Whoops. There seems to have been a bit of a hiatus there. No real reason, apart from being generally disorganised. So here are a few things that have happened recently:

I’ve had a couple of Twitter fictions published, at Twiction Addiction and Confettifall respectively.

The recordings from my recent appearances at BristolCon Fringe and Story Fridays Feral have been put online. I put in another appearance last month at BristolCon Fringe, for Fringe in a Flash, although the recording from that hasn’t been put up yet. And speaking of Bristol, here’s a nice passing mention in a piece on Bristol SF writers.

TAKE IT COOL has been edited, proof-read and finally typeset (coincidentally by my chum, the excellent Calum Kerr), and will be published on July 14th. I’ve now reached that point with the book where I’m completely and utterly convinced that no-one is going to buy it, no-one is going to review it and it’s all going to be horribly embarrassing. This is entirely normal.

I’ve reactivated the Hiveminding blog, now that my bees seem to have survived the winter. If bees are your thing (or indeed if they aren’t), do take a look.

And then I’ve got to think about what to write next. The problem, as ever, is not a lack of ideas. There are just too many things I want to do, and none of them has any continuity with anything I’ve done before. So what’s new, then?

The Stinging Fly and Other Stuff

Issue_027_cov_0The 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.

The Sound of My Voice

One thing they don’t tell you when you start getting into writing is that whether you like it or not, you’re going to end up having to perform your work too. It’s an essential part of the marketing and self-promotion process. There is, however, nothing more off-putting than going to a reading and hearing a mumbled, gabbled, incoherent performance, so it’s worth devoting some effort into getting it right – even if, like me, the last time you performed on stage was at school. And in my case at least, that was a loooong time ago.

Unfortunately, you can practice all you like at home and in front of friends or your writers’ group, perhaps, but the point at which you really start to learn is when you stand up in front of a live audience of strangers and try to convince them that what you’ve written is worth their attention. So over the last few years I’ve sought out opportunities to read my work and the odd thing is that I’ve begun to really enjoy it. There have, of course, been one or two duff efforts – times when I’ve wished the ground would swallow me up – but they’re all learning experiences. But when you get it right, there is nothing quite like the buzz you get from hearing an audience react to something you’ve written. And of course, if you have merchandise (i.e. books) to sell, the better the performance, the more units you shift.

So here are a couple of recent recordings. The first is from the Open Mic night at The Swan in Wedmore. It’s about twelve and a half minutes long:

And here’s one from the most recent Acoustic Night Bristol. Much better sound quality, and only a couple of minutes long:

Finally, here’s something a bit different. It’s a kind of audio story that I put together, and I guess it’s my attempt to try to explore the area left vacant by the likes of Ivor Cutler and Vivan Stanshall. If that isn’t too presumptuous. It probably is, isn’t it? Ah well.

Forthcoming Appearances

get-writing-2014-logoIt’s getting near that time of year when the excellent Get Writing conference begins to loom on the horizon like a looming conference type of thing. This year I’m doing a workshop called “Think You’re Funny, Eh?” I’m not entirely sure if humour can be taught, but I am certain that there are a number of relatively simple techniques that can be learnt in order to make humour work better. This is what it says in the programme anyway:

In this workshop, he uses examples from the classics of comic literature (and also, if no-one manages to stop him, his own work) to show you how to locate your reader’s funny bone.

If this sounds like the kind of thing that you’d like to attend, here’s where you go to book. Apart from my own workshop (obviously), I also strongly recommend that you see if you can get into David Roden‘s. The one he did last year was absolutely magnificent.

The other thing I’m doing is an appearance at the BristolCon Fringe, on Monday February 17th, along with Scott Lewis and Snorri Kristjansson. No idea what I’ll be reading yet, but I guess it will have a sci-fi-ish sort of bent. Which could mean almost anything, frankly. I’d go if I were you.

The Story Player

series-220x180One of the things I’m coming to realise is that the most exciting thing that can happen as a writer is when someone with a different skill set collaborates with you. I am by nature a solitary creature when it comes to the actual business of putting the words together, but I love seeing what happens when you let go of the words and let someone else play with them.

So far I’ve been lucky enough to have a few of my stories illustrated by some very talented artists (although I’m still awaiting a full-blown graphic novelisation – my life would probably be complete if that ever happened). I’ve also had some excellent live readings by some wonderful actors and a couple of excellent studio productions (one by the BBC and another by Short Story Radio).

And we can now make that three excellent studio productions, because a new site has just gone up called The Story Player, and my story “The Birdman of Farringdon Road” is one of the first to appear there. It’s expertly read by David Wayman and superbly produced by the man behind Short Story Radio, The Story Player and National Short Story Week, Ian Skillicorn. Do have a listen – it’s only 12 minutes long. Whilst you’re there, take a listen to some of the other stories from great writers like Susie Maguire and – coming soon – Tania Hershman and Jon McGregor.

I also heard today that my story “The Alternative Electrician”, which I read at Story Friday in Bath nearly a year ago, has been accepted for publication by Every Day Fiction. It’ll be nice to see that one getting a second audience.

And don’t forget that “Take It Cool” is still running, having just hit its thirtieth episode. If you haven’t been following it, don’t worry, there’ll be another “Previously…” post along soon. Or just start wherever you like and pick it up from there. I’m not fussy. Just as long as you read it, right?

Undercover Soundtrack and other stuff

I think I’m going to stop promising to post more frequently, because it’s beginning to get embarrassing, so many times have a failed to stick to my intentions. So I’m not going to say another word about that.

Instead, I’ll point you in the direction of a number of things that I’ve done recently. First of all, take a look at Roz Morris’ excellent Undercover Soundtrack blog, where I was her guest last week the week before last, talking about the music behind DOT DASH.

Then take a look at this odd little story about the geopolitics of cake consumption called “Definitely the Jam” that I did a while back for the National Flash Fiction Day FlashFlood blog and completely forgot to say anything about here. Actually, National Flash Fiction Day draws ever nearer, and I’m looking forward to seeing this year’s anthology, which was announced here. My piece is called “contemplating rothko”, and it has a bit of an experimental feel to it.

Finally, do take a look at this Kickstarter for the forthcoming Arachne Press anthology, WEIRD LIES, which contains a different version of “The Last Words of Emanuel Prettyjohn” from the one in DOT DASH (and hence absolutely essential for all Pinnock completists). One of the items on offer is quite remarkable – the chance to appear in your very own special episode of MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS! I’m more than a little surprised that no-one has gone for it yet…

[EDITED TO ADD: Eek. I forgot to mention that if you’re in the Bristol area on National Flash Fiction Day (that’s Saturday June 22nd), there are a couple of ace NFFD-related events going on. First of all, there’s a flash fiction workshop in the afternoon run by none other than the awesome Tania Hershman and Calum Kerr (details here and here). Not only that, but on the same day there’s an evening of flash fiction with an absolutely stellar line-up (details here and here). How can you resist?]

Fun with Google

Every now and then, I Google my own name. Sometimes I can go as long as an hour before I feel the need to do it again. This is of course, absolutely essential practice for a writer; it is, after all, of vital importance to know what one’s readership is thinking about one. Sometimes, for a change, I even use other search engines (DuckDuckGo‘s pretty good, if you want to stay clear of the Google data-harvesting machine) and different spellings. And every now and then, odd things pop up.

Like this, for example, written by a teacher who went to the launch of the 2011 Bristol Short Story Prize. Here’s my favourite extract:

Mr. Pinnock read the funniest story I have ever heard about a drunk, some vomit and a dog.

Of course, as was pointed out to me on Twitter, there is a crucial missing comma there, potentially reducing the population from which the sample is taken to somewhere in the region of one. Still, it’s a great quote. And also, oddly, a great name for a band if I ever decide to form one. I can just imagine Stuart Maconie announcing the latest release from ” A Drunk, Some Vomit and a Dog”, can’t you?

The other mention I found was a little more outré. Did you know there was a regular event in New York called “Naked Girls Reading”? Nope, me neither. But there is, and it is exactly what it says on the tin. Here’s the slightly NSFW link to it.

Now if you can somehow manage to skip past the tab labelled “Photos” and select “Past events” instead, you will notice that in January, one of the works read was “The Amazing Arnolfini and His Wife” from “Dot Dash”. This resulted in several conflicting reactions:

  1. (Flattered author self) “Wow! Someone in America has actually read my book and actually likes it!”
  2. (Legalistic self) “Hmmm. But they didn’t ask for permission, did they?”
  3. (Inner 12-year-old self) “Naked women! On stage! In New York! Reading my stuff! Phwooarr!”

Well, I’ve tweeted them regarding 2. Whether or not it was deliberate, they need to know it was a bit naughty. And yes, I did think (or at least my inner 12-year-old did) of asking them for a video as payment. But then it struck me that it might come across as a bit creepy. Look at me, being all mature and responsible.

This is what I love about being a writer. The unexpected, random stuff. You really never can tell what’s going to happen once you put your work out there.

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