Friday, 9 March 2012

Take a Leap success

It all started with an email which promoted a competition run by Writers were encouraged to enter submissions written around the theme of 'Take a Leap', as 2012is a leap year. The competition was also promoting flash fiction and the word count was 750, an encouraging figure, long enough to develop an idea but short enough to allow fairly instant gratification. I set to writing a couple of entries, not with confidence of winning but from the joy of having a reason to write something other than my novel which is frankly stuck, and the widely interpretable theme.  The editors Sarah and Muli were confident that they would find five good stories to award as competition winners and publish in an e-anthology on Kindle. In the event they were pleasantly surprised by the standard and number of entries and chose ten stories to publish.

The email announcing the winners was sent on 5 March and I was very happy to receive it. Sending off your writing to faceless editors and judges is a bit like sending your child to school on her own for the first time. There is a relinquishing of responsibility while retaining a pride in the relationship and trust that all the hard work put in about looking both ways when crossing the road and not speaking to strangers has paid off. The attention to voice, theme, character and setting pays off and when a professional in the field approves of your finished product, that is reward in itself.

Being able to log on to Amazon and see my name next to a book advertised for sale is also a reward, one which I find unaccountably amusing. After all I just entered a competition in response to an email, how random is that?

Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Book reviewing

In 2011 I turned my hand to the task of writing book reviews. It is an interesting exercise which has raised questions for me about how honest one should be about a book's failings as well as its strengths. Two of the sites that I have written for are designed to offer support to novice writers but in slightly different ways. Book Country which is allied to the Penguin publishing group allows writers to submit up to 30,000 words of their novel for readers/fellow writers to comment on. In this case one is encouraged to offer advice on how the writing could be improved under specific headings and then give a rating. Lancashire Writing Hub offers the opportunity for writers to submit short extracts from their writing which members are encouraged to comment on and also has a conventional book review slot for completed works.
When offering feedback on a novice writer's work one should be encouraging and supportive, that goes without saying but too often serious faults in the writing are treated like the elephant in the room, pretend it isn't there and everyone will be happy. It doesn't work. How can writers improve if their faults are never pointed out? The biggest elephants are those which occupy the world of e-publishing. Unedited work which has not had the benefit of informed peer review or any form of critical attention is regularly published on digital platforms. Most of these books would never have been accepted by an agent, publishers would reject them out of hand as unreadable and quite rightly.
So how does a writer who loves books respond when asked to review a self-published book which has more holes in the plot than Rab C. Nesbitt's vest? Do you point out the glaringly obvious or do you turn a blind eye to the elephant stomping about destroying the living room? That is a matter for one's conscience and the publication's editorial policy but let's point out the rampaging pachyderm before someone gets hurt.

This blog is not intended to refer to a particular book review or book.

My latest review can be found on:

Sunday, 10 July 2011

Edge Hill MA Short Story Competition

Hello bloggers

I am pleased and frankly stunned to announce that I was the winner of the Edge Hill MA Short Story competition 2011. I arrived unfashionably late to the award ceremony at the Charing Cross Road Blackwells bookshop due to a touchingly naive  belief that traffic wouldn't be a problem and the Harry Potter effect. Not spell casting wizards, but sight seers at the premier of the final film. Nevertheless, I was happy to meet the shortlisted authors for the prestigious short story collection prize and to receive the cheque which was my first major financial reward for my writing. (A small payment from the BBC more than a decade ago hardly counts). Interviews and photos will be available on the Edge Hill website next week.
      Thank you to the judging panel who selected my story and to Robert Sheppard, Dan Pantano and Ailsa Cox for the excellent MA Creative Writing course which I have enjoyed for the last two years.
       More stories coming soon! See URL for the full story.

Wednesday, 13 April 2011

Flash fiction

She is the sort of woman who doesn’t own a kitchen. She gravitates to the kitchens in other people’s houses or flats, even the grubby, ill fitted ones with their non- matching appliances, rust edged fridges and grease destroyed ovens.  Wistfully she picks up spoons and filthy teacloths placing them back where she found them because she has no notion where such things could belong.
She is the sort of woman who drifts from one man to another, they find her inattention fascinating at first, liberating with nothing asked of them. But after awhile they become aggrieved, she does not see them, does not need them and they leave to find a more dependent woman, someone they can impinge on, leave a mark.
She is the sort of woman who goes to work in a smart suit, high heels and a straightened bob.  Her briefcase is polished and never over filled. Sometimes she gets the train, but often drives her sleek sports car, gleaming as though it had never felt rain or splashed through a muddy puddle.
She is the sort of woman who rescues donkeys. Releasing them from cruel owners and giving them love and clean grass, a warm stable and a goat for company.  This woman is the one in wellies and a corduroy jacket with leather patches on the elbows. She got it from a charity shop in Cheltenham, a good find; a rich dilettante’s cast off, hardly worn. The country life experiment a failure heralding a rapid retreat to the crowded streets of the city and Hugo Boss.
She is the sort of woman who has two wardrobes. Not just two cupboards made of wood with coat hangers and a huddle of worn jumpers. She has two sets of clothes, one each for her dual personalities. 
She still has no kitchen of her own.  Her childhood was spent moving between boarding school and home, a country house hotel with majestic stainless steel kitchen appliances set in a cool tiled room with green floors. Chefs whirled in a mesmerising dance of heat and food, pans clashing, flames climbing in blue green flares and little girls are not allowed.
She keeps her life in boxes.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Want to read something?
Try natterjack. I have two new pieces on this select and thoughfully edited zine. Chill your blood with a flash fiction of sheer Vengeance then chuckle over a spot of poet's Revenge!

On the other hand, talking quality writing, have you read David Mitchell's latest novel, The Thousand Autumns of Jacob Zoet'?  I read this recently and it achieves something quite spectacular, 3D writing! The setting is so well described and the characters are so at home in the setting, the reader is treated to a cinematic experience. We time travel to a distant Japan and an 18th century Dutch trading port where life is brutal and moral strength an anomaly. Two characters with built in morality do battle with the forces of evil and sort of win, in a self-sacrificing way. Everything described and lived through in this tale is totally believable and obviously meticulously researched. Politics, trading traditions, Japanese ceremony and tender, believable homan relationships all blend into an addictive story with a moving ending.

When is the next book coming out?

Let  me know if you have read Thousand Autumns.

Friday, 18 March 2011

Japanese tragedy

I was horrified to receive jokes about the terrible events in Japan. How can anyone be so sick as to make jokes about massive loss of life and suffering?

Sunday, 13 March 2011

New Blog

Well, this is a milestone in  my life, my very own blog. I didn't realise it was so easy. I have a twitter account as well. So, what am I going to write? Ah, that is a problem I face everyday. Deciding what to write about. Writing I suppose. And reading. And books. Possibly about the joys (?) of a Creative Writing MA.

I was a World Book Night Giver. It sounds a bit evangelical but the message was given along with free books. Reading is good for you. Enjoy. 48 copies of Cloud Atlas by David Mitchell are now circulating the reading populace straight from my hands. Entertaining, informing and possibly perplexing readers in a frustrated, throw the book across the room sort of way. You either love it with a passion or totally do not get it. I am in the passionate loving camp but totally understand the other point of view.

Still waiting to receive a free book from the million that were given away. Life of Pi anyone?