Well, then. LOVE AND LOSS AND OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF hits the shelves today, which means I am now the author of a poetry collection. I still find this an extraordinary thing to be able to say, so forgive me for sounding a bit excited.
Oh, and I don’t think I’ve blogged yet about the extraordinary cover.
In case you’re wondering how it came about, this is what happened. A few weeks back, Adam at Silhouette Press emailed me to ask if I had any ideas about a design. My response was that I was really hopeless at this kind of thing, so hopeless in fact that my PRIMARY REASON for never wanting to self-publish was to avoid responsibility for a cover design.
But I threw out a couple of vague ideas as follows:
Just wondering if some kind of combination of Cupid and Death might fit the theme of Love and Loss, and I was wondering if you could either have Cupid perched daintily on top of a skull, or Death leaning over Cupid’s shoulder trying to spoil his aim.
Either of which would have been equally terrible. But sometimes when you chuck out the germ of an idea, someone way more talented picks it up and runs with it, and after a small amount of back and forth, we ended up with this:
which is absolutely perfect. I think the barcode on the rose is a touch of genius.
So there we are. The book is out there. The launch is next Tuesday and you’re all welcome to come along (details here). As soon as I have more information on how/where to buy it, I’ll put them on the website, somewhere under this page.
Woah. Look at me. A bloody poet.
Well, here’s some news that I’ve been sitting on for some time – since last June in fact. I’m very pleased to announce that, contrary to what you may have been thinking, I have not one but two new books in the pipeline. Regular readers of this blog (yeah, maybe the use of the plural there was a little ambitious) will be aware that my short story collection, DIP FLASH, will be appearing next year, courtesy of Cultured Llama.
However, I can now reveal that my first poetry collection, LOVE AND LOSS AND OTHER IMPORTANT STUFF, is actually going to be published first. In about a month, in fact. The publisher for this slim volume is the excellent Silhouette Press, and I will be reading some of the poems in it at a launch event at Housman’s bookshop in London on June 6th along with fellow SP poets Jamie Thrasivoulou and Andrea Mbarushimana. Frankly, this will probably be the poetry event of the year, so you really won’t want to miss this.
I have to say that when I was a kid, “one day I will have a book of poetry published” was not on my list of predictions for the future. But I’m dead chuffed that it’s going to happen.
Now. What next?
A new flash of mine went up at the excellent Spelk yesterday. Usually these things come from prompts, but this one emerged out of the blue. Can’t quite remember exactly how it emerged, mind. I think it was probably the mysterious cage that set it going and it acquired a life of its own after that. You are free to add your own interpretations, explanations and back stories as you see fit.
Ooh, this is exciting. Some time ago I was asked to contribute a humorous flash to an anthology for Comic Relief. So I offered them my story ‘Embarrassing Dad’. Fortunately, they seemed to like this, so there I am in the table of contents, along with the likes of Bernard MacLaverty, Roddy Doyle and Lydia Davis. I’ll repeat that. I am in the same table of contents as a Man Booker Shortlistee, a Man Booker Prizewinner and a Man Booker International Prizewinner. It’s all down from here.
Anyway, enough about my involvement. The MOST IMPORTANT THING is that you all go and buy it because it’s for Charidee and, honestly, with that bunch of writers (did I mention David Gaffney, Vanessa Gebbie and Tania Hershman as well?) it’s bound to be the most awesome book published this year. Or possibly this millennium. Century, probably. Decade, certainly.
Here’s where you need to go. Do it now. Please.
I should have posted about this yesterday, but I didn’t really feel like writing anything because of that thing that happened in the US. I haven’t got anything to add to the millions of words already written on the subject, except to point you in the direction of this post from eight years ago, which is really quite a sad thing to read now.
Ah well, onwards and possibly upwards. My poem “The Incredible Zabriskie Ponders His Retirement Plan” was published at Ink, Sweat and Tears yesterday. I’m quite pleased with how this one worked out, and I hope you like it too.
I haven’t had a lot of short fiction published lately (mainly because I haven’t actually written much), so it’s nice to see this one up at EDF. On the face of it, it’s quite an inconsequential little story, but I think the subject – familial solidarity – is one that doesn’t get touched on a lot. I’ll be interested to see what the transatlantic audience make of the references to Little Chefs and Eddie Stobart lorries…
Back in April, I wrote a poem. It was (and I appreciate these things are always subjective) intended to be a funny poem. However, I couldn’t work out where to send it, and to cut a long story short, I ended up creating my very own online poetry magazine, specifically aimed at publishing humorous poetry, Spilling Cocoa Over Martin Amis.
Of course, what happened next was that one of the responders to my very first post on SCOMA (still not sure about that acronym – sounds like an unpleasant medical condition) pointed out that a humorous poetry magazine already existed, in the shape of Lighten Up Online. Well, there’s room enough in the world for two humorous poetry magazines, so I went ahead with SCOMA anyway. Doesn’t seem to have done either of us any harm so far.
Having set up SCOMA, I thought the least I could do was send LUO the poem that started the thought process off. So that’s exactly what I did. What’s more, they agreed to publish it, and it went up on their site last week.
The odd thing about it was that in the few months between submission and publication, it’s already become out of date, what with Gawker being sued out of existence. Such are the perils of trying to write up-to-the-minute satire. I can see this is one piece that’s going to evolve over the years.
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.)
One of my New Year resolutions was to blog more often. And lo, only two days after the last post, here’s another one. Actually, this should probably have appeared back in December, when this story was first published in The Pygmy Giant, but I didn’t actually notice that it was up until Shirley Golden on Twitter happened to remark on it.
In the spring of last year, I was persuaded to put on a Creative Writing course at the pub in a village near us. For whatever reason (limited catchment area / botched publicity / the person running it) it wasn’t particularly well attended, with the class size hovering between one and two for its duration. However, if nothing else, I can at least say that the course gave birth to this flash, because one of the tasks I set my tutee was to write a story beginning with this phrase (which I came up with at random on the spur of the moment):
Derek’s wife ran off with a porpoise.
I thought I ought to show willing by writing something myself, and this flash is what I came up with.