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.
And the pre-Christmas flurry of stuff continues. First, and most importantly, the excellent Refugees Welcome anthology is now available to download or order (US or UK). It’s got my story, “Pure Blood” in it, but that’s not the main reason for buying it (it’s actually around about the 273rd reason). Buy it because (a) all the profits go to excellent causes and (b) there are loads of other excellent writers contributing to it.
Next, my story “Heart of Snow” is up at Every Day Fiction today. It’s been a while since I’ve had a story there and I was delighted to be asked to contribute to their December invitation-only season. EDF was one of the very first places to publish a story of mine (this one, since you ask), so they always have a special place in my writer’s heart. Having agreed to do this, I’ve now remembered how active their commenters are and I’m dreading what anyone’s going to say, because I’m really not sure about this story at all!
Finally, seeing as it was Jane Austen’s 240th birthday yesterday, I thought I’d better put together a new Mrs Darcy special. So sit back, take a bite out of a two-headed lizard and enjoy Mrs Darcy: Fury Road. Had to happen, really.
Bit of a pre-Christmas flurry of activity going on here. First of all, my story “Phosphorescence” is now up at The Nottingham Review. As I think I mentioned when I posted about its acceptance, it was shortlisted – under a different name – for the Bridport Prize back in 2012 but it’s struggled to find a home ever since. I think the reason for this is that it doesn’t, on the face of it, make a lot of sense. To be honest, I really wasn’t sure what I was doing when I wrote it, but it sort of felt right, so I went with it. I should do this more often.
I’ve also had an acceptance from The Pygmy Giant for my flash “Phocoena Phocoena”. Not sure when this is going to appear, but I’ll let you know.
And finally, I’ve also got something coming up at an old favourite haunt of mine, but I think I’ll keep that under wraps for the time being. Always keep your readership hungry for more, eh?
My 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.
In 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”.
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.
A 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…
Fine 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.
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.
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
I’m beginning to think there are essentially two publication strategies open to the short story / poetry writer. Strategy 1) is to find somewhere you like and who likes you, and chuck everything you have at them. Strategy 2) is to systematically try to tick off as many different places as possible.
Most of the time, I lean towards option 2), but every now and then I like to try to return to old haunts. Often it turns out that these old haunts are not interested in what I have to offer (which is good, because I’d hate to be accepted just because it’s me and we got on so well last time), but every so often I get welcomed back. This, of course, is even better.
So here I am, back in the excellent Irish children’s magazine, The Caterpillar, with three poems: “The Sulphurous Sphygnum”, “The Limpopo Loon” and “Bodrills”. I’ve got quite a few of these things lying around, but I have absolutely no idea what to do with them. I would love to see them in a big illustrated book, but I suspect the chances of getting such a thing published are close to zero.
I’ve also been allowed back into the splendid Cease, Cows magazine, with a forthcoming flash entitled “Sleeping With The Fishes”. I don’t know when it’s going to appear, but I will let you know. In the meantime, here’s the last piece I did for them, “Wood“.
Finally, a lot of you writers out there (particularly the ones on MFA / CW MA programmes) have been getting into a bit of a lather about this rather snippy piece of clickbait. Must admit I found it pretty annoying too (particularly the ageist stuff). But then I read this splendid riposte by the ever-reliable Chuck Wendig, and I felt a lot better. A whole lot better.