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:
- (Flattered author self) “Wow! Someone in America has actually read my book and actually likes it!”
- (Legalistic self) “Hmmm. But they didn’t ask for permission, did they?”
- (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.
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…
… is at the wonderful Vanessa Gebbie’s blog, where she says some unexpectedly nice things about my writing, including one quote which will almost certainly make it into my publicity materials. I should qualify what I mean by “unexpectedly nice”, because there is never anything unexpected about Vanessa’s niceness – it’s pretty much guaranteed. But for someone of her stature to say nice things about my work, unprompted, was unexpected, and it means a hell of a lot to me. It really is wonderful when someone whose writing you’ve always admired gets what you’re trying to do.
In other news, last night I had the most extraordinary evening at Story Friday in the Museum of Bath at Work. What made it extraordinary was that the entire museum space was used, and the audience moved about from one venue to the next with a different space being used for each story. I found myself declaiming my story (a new one called “The Alternative Electrician”) from a room full of old machines to an audience on galleries on the two floors above me. Probably the most bizarre performance I’ve ever given by some distance, but I think it went off OK. The other stories were great, too, and massive kudos to Clare Reddaway and her team for coming up with the concept. The next one, incidentally, is going to be held in some underground cellars – with “Underground” being the theme for submissions. I’m seriously tempted to try again.
Last night I went along to Liars’ League to hear my story “The Last Words of Emanuel Prettyjohn” read. I was particularly excited about this because I’d re-written the piece especially for the League so that two actors, one female and one male, could alternate roles and I was desperate to see how this would work out.
Well, I have to say I was seriously impressed with the way that both Lin Sagovsky and Tony Bell threw themselves into it and caught the spirit of the story perfectly. Here they are:
The other stories were wonderful, by the way, with some absolutely superb performances. I’ve been submitting to the League on and off for the last four years and it seems to go from strength to strength. Not only that, but the audiences are getting bigger. I’m sure last night’s must have run into three figures, which is amazing for this kind of thing.
Meanwhile, the “Dot Dash” blog tour continues, and yesterday Dan Purdue invited me to return to Lies, Ink to talk about my experience of entering competitions. I notice that the URL for the post is “guest-post-jonathan-pinnock-talks”. Feel free to mentally add “sense” or “bollocks” as you deem fit.
So that’s another one ticked off, then. I can now say that I have actually performed at a festival, even if it didn’t turn out quite as planned. When I was called up as a last-minute sub, the intention was that I would take part in two events at this year’s Secret Garden Party. The first would be the Literary Death Match slot on Thursday evening, reading one of my own pieces, “Canine Mathematics”. The second would be as a reader for Liars’ League on Friday evening, reading “10 Steps from Nangarhar”, by Helen Dring.
Which would have been fine if we hadn’t spent a considerable part of Thursday afternoon firstly in a queue of traffic crawling towards the festival site, secondly in a slightly smaller queue of traffic awaiting artist accreditation (I think they were performing some kind of complex DNA analysis to establish our bona fides) and then finally scouring the site to find the actual venue (the programme takes an admirably laid-back approach to describing the topography of the site, which is great if you’re wanting to come across unexpected new experiences, but bloody awful if you’re trying to find out where you’re actually performing).
So we – that is Katy Darby, Liars’ League supremo and author of the utterly excellent Gothic romance, “The Whores’ Asylum”, Max Berendt, actor, voiceover artiste and all-round good egg, and myself – missed Literary Death Match altogether. Still, we had a pleasant enough evening and Max offered to let me share his tent, even after I’d warned him of my propensity to snore a lot and fart a bit as well. In the event, I avoided the former by not actually sleeping a wink, owing to the general sonic fug surrounding the site (made up of equal parts doofa-doofa-doofa bass throb, disembodied voices taking it in turns to jabber away the whole night and enough rain to float a fleet of arks). I also avoided the latter, because my bowels took one look at the toilet facilities after just half of Day One and obligingly decided to suspend operations for the duration.
This is the splendidly gender-stereotyped Liars’ League corner of the campsite, with Katy in the pink tent and Max and myself in the blue one. Oh, and that is mud, in case you were wondering. More of that later.
Next day, Katy very generously suggested that since I’d come all that way, I should at least have the opportunity to read one of my own stories during the Liars’ League spot, alongside my other reading of “10 Steps…”, Katy herself reading an extract from “The Whores’ Asylum” and Max reading James Smythe’s splendid “The Honourable Thing”. However, this now meant that I would be reading two pieces, whereas the professional actor in the team, Max, would only be reading one. So I handed “10 Steps…” over to Max in order to concentrate on “Canine Mathematics”.
This is the venue, by the way. Along with a whole load more mud. I should say that I am a survivor of the notorious 2007 WOMAD/WOMUD Festival (so I had indeed packed my wellies), but this was on a truly industrial scale.
It looks nicer inside, doesn’t it? Anyway, it was fun reading here, especially after being rehearsed by Katy, who has a lot of experience in coaching more professional readers than myself for LL. In particular, I was persuaded to attempt a Brummie accent for the cat in the story, and I think I almost managed to pull it off. I think it went down OK, although you couldn’t hear any of the audience reaction from the stage. Either way, I can now most definitely say that I have performed at a festival.
Well, this is amazingly cool. Actually, I’m not sure which is cooler, reading at Literary Death Match or reading at The Secret Garden Party. Either way, I seem to have somehow found my way onto the bill as a last-minute substitute. No idea what it’s going to be like, but if you happen to be in the area of The Secret Forum at around 5:30 PM on Thursday, do come and cheer me on.
(BTW If anyone involved with next year’s Glastonbury Festival happens to be reading this, I’m only a few miles away these days. I can be there in a matter of minutes. Just saying.)
In other unrelated news, broadband seems to have finally reached us in deepest Somerset, so you may be hearing a little more from me from now on. It’s up to you as to whether you consider this a good thing, of course.
Is it really nearly two weeks since I last blogged? I fear it is. There is a good reason for this. I’m deeply immersed in finishing off my current WIP, which is turning out to be a whole load more exciting than I ever thought it would. I just hope that somewhere out there is a publisher who agrees with me when I finish it (some time next week, I hope).
In the meantime, however, I seem to have accidentally signed myself up for eight cuts‘ Flash Slam in honour of National Flash Fiction Day tonight, organised by the indefatigable Dan Holloway and judged by the utterly awesome Tania Hershman. When I say it was accidental, I really do mean that, because Calum Kerr (a.k.a. Mr NFFD Supremo) e-mailed Tania and myself asking if it was OK if he sent Dan our contributors’ copies of the NFFD anthology for us to pick up on the night. This was something of a surprise to me because I wasn’t actually intending to go at the time. However, I was feeling bad that I wasn’t doing anything to celebrate NFFD, so I decided on the spot to go in for it and Dan managed to squeeze me in to the programme.
So if you want to watch me make a fool of myself, do come along to the Albion Beatnik Bookstore in Oxford at 6:30PM tonight. It should be a lot of fun. And if you haven’t done so already, do go and buy a copy of Jawbreakers, the utterly excellent NFFD anthology. I’m in it, but so are a whole load of much better writers as well, including Ali Smith and Ian Rankin.
Oh, and I haven’t forgotten I’ve got a giveaway to sort out, as well as LOADS of reviews. I’m actually thinking of starting up a feature called The Late Review, so long is it since I’ve read some of the books in my “to review” pile.
So much going on lately I haven’t had time yet to put up a link to the story I had read for the Fear and Loathing event at Liars’ League a couple of weeks back. It’s been a while since I last had a piece read there (although not for want of trying – the competition is quite fierce), and things had changed somewhat since the last time. The venue is a lot bigger for one thing, and the audience much larger than the old days upstairs at The Wheatsheaf - although that might possibly have been because a new Stephen King story was on the bill…
Amongst the others on the top-notch bill were fellow VWCer Julie Mayhew and Proxima label-mate Niall Boyce (small world, eh?). It was also nice to finally meet Twitter chums Tim Aldrich and Sumit Paul-Choudhury, who were both in the audience.
Anyway, here’s my piece, “Rare Meat”, expertly read by Greg Page (text here):
Well then. I’m inordinately chuffed to be able to announce that I’m going to be judging the short stories this year for The New Writer. The closing date is November 30th, so that gives you plenty of time to write something utterly brilliant for me. Now I guess you may be wondering what kind of thing I’m looking for, but I’m afraid the massively unhelpful answer is that I won’t know until I see it.
But… I did once write a post for another occasion when I was looking for submissions and I think it may be time to trot that one out again. So… *drum roll* … here’s a repeat appearance for Swiss Toni’s Guide to Writing Short Stories. That should give you a bit of a clue as to what I’m looking for.
In other news, I had a fab time at Liars’ League last night – fantastic audience (wow, it’s grown since the last time I went), some wonderful stories and an absolutely spot on performance of my piece by Greg Page. I’ll post the video when it’s available.
Today we make a brief return to the world of short stories. My piece “Dinner with Sylvia”, a story about some meat with unusual qualities, is in the last-ever edition of “The Battered Suitcase”, which you can get hold of here.
This is a story that searched long and hard for a home – much to my surprise, because there are plenty of lesser stories of mine that have been published. Still, who am I to judge?) Anyway, do take a look.
And if you’re in London tomorrow evening, do head over to The Phoenix in Cavendish Square, where by an odd coincidence a piece of mine called “Rare Meat” is going to be read at Liars’ League. Hmmm. There’s a bit of a theme developing here.
Finally, June Gundlack has reviewed Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens for issue #12 of The Pages magazine. No meat in this one, but a lot of tentacles.