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.
(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.
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’.
In other news, my flash ‘Cinema Date’ had been published on the splendid Stand Up Tragedywebsite. 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.
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.
I haven’t had much in the way of short stories or poetry published this year, but this one, “The Canonisation of St Geoff”, in The Pygmy Giant, just snuck in under the wire.
Its genesis is quite interesting. In our very first Professional Skills workshop at Bath Spa, our tutor, Celia Brayfield, asked us to pick a word and then write down as many connotations as we could think of around it. We then passed it to the person next to us so they could add a few more. Then we had half an hour or so (I think) to write something using that material. And this piece (somewhat edited since) is what emerged. My word, incidentally, was “Saint”, for reasons which one day may become clear. Or not.
The picture shows three highly respectable print publications containing recent work of mine that I don’t think I’ve mentioned here previously. Issue 13 of Ariadne’s Thread contains my poem “Parable”. The Eleventh Annual Ultra-Short Edition of The Binnacle contains my flash “99942 Apophis. Finally, Unthology 6 contains my short story “Hay. Pee. Ah. Wrist.” It’s always nice to have stuff published, but even nicer to see it in print.
Every year the people who run the Thresholds short story forum hold a feature writing competition. I entered it for the first time this year, with a piece that drew heavily on this blog post from around this time last year. I didn’t make the long list, but they decided my piece was worth publishing anyway, which is nice. And here it is. I still think it’s relevant.
A couple of very short hits to report. First of all, I snagged an Honourable Honorable Mention in this years The Binnacle Ultra-Short Competition, with my 135-word story “99942 Apophis” (feel free to Google that if you want to find out a clue to the subject matter). The story will also appear in print, along with the winers and the other honourees honorees, which will be nice. Secondly, an as yet untitled 23-word story of mine was published today at Twiction Addiction.
We interrupt our normal service of adverts and other tiresome promotion of my wonderful new book TAKE IT COOL (available from all good bookshops and also by clicking over here —>) to bring you an extraordinary piece of Pinnock juvenilia that I came across at the weekend while sorting out some old files. This opinion piece was written for a school essay competition in which the three “best” entries (and the inverted commas are entirely deliberate) got to be published in The Bedfordshire Times. So this would be my first ever publication, although as far as I remember I didn’t get paid.
The subject of the essay was London’s third airport, a topic of considerable interest to the inhabitants of Bedford at the time as one of the proposed sites was at Thurleigh, not far away from the town centre. My piece bore the bold title THURLEIGH – MADNESS OR MARVEL? Unfortunately, I don’t have the actual cutting from the Bedfordshire Times (my parents having probably decided that it was best not to encourage me too much), but I do have my handwritten original.
This is my favourite bit, wherein I display a precociously practical approach to the problem, although with an alarmingly cavalier attitude to wildlife. Foulness, incidentally, was one of the many sites that have been proposed over the years for Thames Estuary Airport. It’s also one of the best place names ever.
Mrs P’s only comment on seeing this was “I bet you were a right little tosser.”
It’s been a long and twisty journey, but today sees the publication of my fourth book, TAKE IT COOL, by the wonderful Two Ravens Press.
I recently found the first draft of the first chapter that I read out at the Verulam Writers Circle, and the file is dated March 2005. However, I must have had the idea before then, because I seem to have started buying Dennis Pinnock’s records again in June 2004 (‘Woman be Fair’ / ‘Fair’s Fair’ from Action Records in Preston, via GEMM). So that makes it over a decade since I started out on this mad quest.
Why did it take so long? Probably because I had no idea who on earth would be interested in such a thing. Sure, whenever I read bits of it out to my friends, they’d say encouraging things, but that’s what friends do. I had no idea if the general public would be remotely interested (I still don’t).
I lost count of the number of queries I made to agents and publishers, but I’m pretty certain it’s in excess of 60. However, it wasn’t as if I hadn’t been through all this before. MRS DARCY VERSUS THE ALIENS went through at least 40 rejections before Proxima picked it up. This is not unusual, by any means. I know a lot of published writers and the only thing they all have in common is that they’ve stuck with it, even when the whole world seemed to be against them.
My name's Jonathan Pinnock. I lead a dual life. In one half of this, I run a software development company called Jonathan Pinnock and Associates. If you've come here looking for that, here's where you need to go.
However, if you've come here to find out about the other half of my life, as a writer of fiction and non-fiction, you've come to the right place.
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There's quite a lot of stuff on this site (apart from the blog), but if you want to find your way around, the sitemap is probably a good place to start as any.
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The bio-historico-musicological-memoir thing Take It Cool was published by Two Ravens Press in July 2014.
The Scott Prize-winning short story collection Dot Dash was published by Salt in November 2012.