Well, I didn’t get any further than the shortlist. But I still won some cool swag (I’ve got a couple of them already, but the rest are all new). And here’s my piece, published today with some very nice comments from the judges. Oh all right, if you absolutely insist. This is what they said:
‘A highly inventive and playful piece that recreates – with verve – the Borgesian tension between philosophical inquiry and creative mystery’; ‘witty and clever’; ‘a creative approach to the brief, with an admirable satirical and philosophical tone’.
And in case you’re wondering how I ended up writing it, it was based on the submission I did last year for Tessa Hadley‘s short story module on the Bath Spa Creative Writing MA. Rule no 1 of writing: everything is recyclable…
Well, then. I seem to have made it through to the next stage. This is all rather splendid, because it means that whatever happens, my piece will be published on the Thresholds website. It also means that whatever happens, I’ll win something. I’d completely forgotten there were prizes for all the shortlistees, and to be honest, that stack of books is almost enough to make me hope I don’t win either of the big prizes. Almost, but not quite.
In other news, my 2009 story “Hidden Shallows” was one of managing editor Camille Gooderham Campbell’s picks from the Every Day Fiction archives. In case you’re interested, here’s the Dashipedia entry about how it came into being. (What, you mean you’ve never looked at Dashipedia? Took me bloody ages, that did. Did George Saunders bother doing something like that for “Tenth of December”? Did he hell.)
Quiet here, isn’t it? The reasons for my silence are not entirely unrelated to the terror alluded to in my previous post, which has induced one of my (thankfully quite rare) episodes of frozen brain. Anyway, I had some good news today from the people who run the excellent Thresholds annual feature-writing competition. Last year I failed to make the longlist, although they did like my contribution sufficiently to subsequently publish it. This year I have gone at least one better. There are, however, fourteen very talented writers (including several online chums) still between me and that £500, so I’m not counting my chickens quite yet. Instead, I’ll just be adding it to the list of things to worry about…
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.
I’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.
In 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.
I 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.
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.
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…
February wasn’t a great month when all’s said and done: it very rarely is. January at least has the feeling of something new starting, whereas February seems put there deliberately to bring a dose of cold, dark reality to things. This year seemed particularly bad, as the dayjob workload conspired with it to pick off any brave creative urge that dared to poke its head above the parapet.
Anyway, the good news is that March has got off to a much more promising start, with a 3rd prize in the fiction section of the inaugural Salt Prize. It’s particularly pleasing, because the story I entered is a high-concept piece that I’ve always liked but have ended up continually revising and refining. It also means that of the ten pieces I wrote for the 2007-8 Slingink Scribbling Slam, nine have now found good homes.
It’s also nice to see loads of familiar faces on the lists. The Salt Anthology of New Writing should have some really good stuff in it when it comes out later on in the year.