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.
Didn’t have time to post about this before I went off on my hols (and very nice they were to, thanks for asking). Anyway, here’s my poem “Paradise Found Wanting” up at the ever-excellent Ink, Sweat and Tears. Don’t think it really needs much by way of explanation…
Not much else to report, apart from the fact that my frankly rather puerile flash “The Sixth Generation” is going to be included in the forthcoming National Flash Fiction Day anthology “Eating My Words”. There will be more details on how and where to purchase in due course. Having been one of the judges for the 100-word competition, I can say with hand on my heart that there will be some seriously good stuff in there. As well as my piece.
TAKE IT COOL has been edited, proof-read and finally typeset (coincidentally by my chum, the excellent Calum Kerr), and will be published on July 14th. I’ve now reached that point with the book where I’m completely and utterly convinced that no-one is going to buy it, no-one is going to review it and it’s all going to be horribly embarrassing. This is entirely normal.
I’ve reactivated the Hiveminding blog, now that my bees seem to have survived the winter. If bees are your thing (or indeed if they aren’t), do take a look.
And then I’ve got to think about what to write next. The problem, as ever, is not a lack of ideas. There are just too many things I want to do, and none of them has any continuity with anything I’ve done before. So what’s new, then?
The Spring edition of the Irish literary magazine The Stinging Fly has just been published, and what a lovely thing it is. It’s always nice to appear in print, and I’m especially chuffed that my odd little magical realist flash “The Meaning of the Rabbit” has been included in Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s flash fiction showcase, along with loads of other cool people’s work.
I do hope that last Monday’s BristolCon fringe audience appreciate that magical realism reference, by the way.
If you’re near Bath this Friday, do come along to Story Fridays at 7:30PM in Burdall’s Yard, where I will be reading “Nature’s Banquet” as part of their “Feral” evening. More – ahem – magical realism.
Finally, I had an urge the other day to start submitting some TwitFic again, and I’ve just had a couple of acceptances, from Confettifall and Twiction Addiction. They’ll both be appearing in April, and I’ll give you a nudge when they do.
The Fiction Desk’s sixth anthology, “New Ghost Stories” has just been released, and what a splendid collection it is. Take a look at the stellar list of contributors, for one thing. I’m really looking forward to reading it myself, and not just because there’s one of my stories, “A Whole Bloody Century”, in it. Go on, treat yourself or one of your loved ones to a copy now.
Had a nice piece of news at the weekend, in that I emerged (after six gruelling rounds) as the winner of the fiction section of this year’s NOT The Whittaker Prize. This competition is the semi-official successor to The Write Idea forum’s Whittaker Prize. The contest involved writing a new story every two weeks to a set of prompts. Following this, we all scored each others’ entries anonymously and totted up the results. The best thing about it is that I now have half a dozen new stories that I can eventually submit elsewhere. Some of them will need a severe edit, and one or two may end up in the wastepaper basket, but they’re all about subjects I would never have dreamed of writing about before.
Finally, I had a really nice rejection this week, from The Letters Page. It was nice for two reasons. Firstly, it was handwritten by the editor himself, none other than Jon McGregor. Secondly, because the writers whose work was accepted included the awesome George Saunders and Kevin Barry. One of those rejections that counts for a thousand lesser acceptances, and a nice end to a year that’s been slightly lukewarm at times from the writing point of view.
Well, obviously, it’s all of these. But it’s also because Christmas Dodos – Festive Things on the Verge of Extinction is the perfect stocking filler (assuming, obviously, that the recipient of your generosity already has both Mrs Darcy and Dot Dash). So I’d suggest you order one now – it’s available from the usualplaces. And tell Steve/Scott I recommended it – one of these days I may need another quote or review from him…
I almost forgot to mention that my short story “Cure for Burroughs” is in the new edition of Synaesthesia Magazine. This edition is nominally about science and numbers, although my piece has a pretty tangential relationship to real science, if the truth were told. I quite like it, though.
It’s nice to be back at Every Day Fiction. This piece first saw the light of day at Story Fridays in Bath, where I read it in a room full of odd bits of old machinery, a location that seemed curiously appropriate. It’s not a particularly deep piece, but I’m quite fond of it.
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.
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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.