Thursday 22 December 2011
There are many story recommendations flying about at the moment, and I'd like to add three more to the mix. One's in an anthology, and the other two can be read by following the links below.
First up is "Circadia", from Rich Hall's book, Magnificent Bastards. I finished reading this collection a few days ago and Circadia is the stand-out story, by my reckoning. It's a fantastically constructed tale in which the narrator meets a man claiming to be terminally ill and finds himself agreeing to be on call, ready to help the guy end his life when the time comes. The eerie, mountainside setting and the odd community living there perfectly complement the uneasy deal the two men strike, and the story is by turns poignant and hilarious as the narrator struggles to find a way out of his obligation.
Secondly, Meditation for the Dead by Jakob Drud. You can read this at FlashFictionOnline.com, a website that has published some great flash fiction over the years. Meditation for the Dead is a brilliant twist on the zombie genre, done in the style of one of those self-hypnosis tapes that were briefly popular back in the day. It manages to be amusing and sinister simultaneously, which is quite an achievement.
And my last selection is Spencer Holst's Brilliant Silence, which I couldn't find online in any official capacity, but did manage to track down this version, which has a handy (perhaps) Spanish translation to go with it. This one's a very short flash piece about two bears who are left to their own devices when the circus they are part of disbands after an accident. In fairness, the story is pretty slight, but the imagery is beautiful and the bears dancing at the end of the story is a mental picture that's stayed with me ever since I first read it, which must be at least three years ago now.
I hope you enjoy those. There's not a lot else for me to add, except the obligatory reminder that there is still plenty of time to enter my competition to win £50 to spend at Amazon.co.uk. Yes, I really am giving away a £50 voucher (plus a £10 runner-up voucher), it's free to enter and you don't even need to buy a copy of my book. Bargain!
Thursday 15 December 2011
|Books & Ink, Banbury|
The past few days have been pretty good.
Last Saturday I was very pleased to deliver a batch of my books to Books & Ink in Banbury. This is a fantastic little shop - well, I say little; they have over 25,000 books in stock - tucked away in the heart of the town but well worth seeking out. Find them on Facebook here, or check out the website here.
It's run by the extremely knowledgeable, helpful, and friendly Sam. She definitely understands the importance of the written word - the shop's mantra is "Read Books, Write Books, Live Books, Love Books", and when you look around the numerous shelves and displays it quickly becomes clear the place is run with the kind of passion for books that is all too often absent from those big chain stores.
With a mix of new, second-hand, and antiquarian books, it's one of those shops that's a joy to browse around, just seeing what catches your attention. Every time I've gone there I've spent more than I intended, finding books I had no idea I needed before I'd set foot inside. And that, my friends, is exactly what I want from a bookshop.
|Actual books on an actual shelf in an actual bookshop...|
- I reached Number Eight in the Ten-Four Challenge, with an entry sent to the Willesden Herald competition (you might just have time to squeeze in an entry there).
- A few more entries for my competition arrived. It seems to be gaining momentum, which is great. Still plenty of time to enter if you haven't already.
- I picked up a Highly Commended in the NAWG open competition. Which is nice.
Monday 5 December 2011
I struggled a bit with the reading. It felt very strange talking into a microphone, and I made the mistake of trying to do it all in one take. I found I could read for about four or five minutes before stumbling over a word or messing up something simple like turning a page. After a bit of trial and error, I found a way of stitching together separate 'takes', meaning I didn't have the pressure of having to get it right from beginning to end. Eventually I had four sections that I was happy with. I spliced them together, produced a couple of very simple slides to act as a rolling background for the story, and uploaded it to YouTube.
It got rejected - my 2000-word story took around fifteen and a half minutes to read, and YouTube has a maximum limit of 15 minutes for new members (I signed up specifically to upload the clip). So I then had to go through and re-edit, chopping off the introduction I'd done at the beginning and cutting down as many of the pauses as I could get away with. It's not worked perfectly, I thought I'd judged the pauses pretty well in the original version, so the edit sounds a little rushed in places. If I'd had longer to play around with this, I think I'd have edited the story down and done another reading, but I didn't have a lot of time to play with, and I wanted to get it uploaded while it was still relevant - i.e. in the build-up to Christmas.
For a first attempt, I don't think it's too bad. I've learned a lot, and if the story gets a good response, I'll certainly have another go with a different story. I'll try to get a better set of visuals to go with it, too.
I wrote Evergreen in December 2009, too late to submit anywhere in time for that Christmas. The following year I sent it to Linda Lewis's 'Catherine Howard' Winter Competition, and it picked up third place, yet remained unpublished. So I was planning to see if I could find a home for it in time for Christmas 2011. However, when I was putting together the stories for Somewhere to Start From back in May this year, I decided that I'd like to include it, thus limiting my chances of getting it published anywhere else.
Anyway, enough preamble - check the story out HERE.
Or, now that I've realised I can just embed it, listen to it here:
I'd love to know what people thought - did you enjoy it? Or should I keep my mouth shut in future?
Thursday 1 December 2011
And the answer to that is, "Reasonably". I'm up to seven now, with entries sent (since my last post on the subject) to the NAWG Open Competition, the BBC's Opening Lines, and The New Writer. I don't really have a sense of how I might do in any of these, so hopefully I won't be too disheartened if none of them come to anything. For the NAWG one, Linda Lewis has selected the shortlist (which is, as yet, unpublished) and I've won a second and third prize in the two competitions she organised herself last year, so there's a chance she might have liked the story I sent this time. The final judging is done by a panel of NAWG people, though, so even if I have got through, their tastes are a complete unknown.
The New Writer competition is different again. Jonathan Pinnock is the judge there and, after reading his highly entertaining romp, Mrs Darcy Versus The Aliens, I have a feeling he might enjoy the story I sent in, but the arrangement at TNW is more traditional - and in fact the reverse of NAWG - in that Jonathan will only see the shortlist. So if the initial readers aren't keen on a story about a XXXXX from XXXXXX who finds himself completely XXXXXXXX, tries to XXXXXX a XXXX with the local XXXXXX XXXXXX, gets caught up with all manner of XXXX XXXXXXX and ends up having to XXXX his own XXXXXX, then I'm dead in the water there, too. [Obviously I've had to censor key elements there to ensure I don't jeopardise the anonymous judging process].
It seems kind of audacious sending stuff to the BBC, but I think the story I chose suits their criteria. Well, it's the right length and there's not too much dialogue, which is what they asked for, so I don't think I've fallen at either of the really obvious hurdles.
I will, of course, keep you posted if anything happens on any of these fronts. And I'll be revealing details of where I send the final three entries of the year, assuming I manage to write/edit them in time...
In the meantime, I'm also curating my own competition, the Somewhere To Start From Treasure Hunt! The initial response to it has been more muted than I had hoped, so I would just like to assure everybody that it is a genuine competition, it's really easy to complete (if you can read and count, you'll have it sussed in no time), and the odds of winning a prize are extremely good. It's also free to enter, with a chance to win £50 to spend at Amazon.co.uk - that's got to be worth a shot, surely? Good luck!
*Well, I say everybody. What I really mean is that Teresa Stenson said she was "waiting to see what happens", a couple of weeks ago (in the comments bit).
Saturday 26 November 2011
All you need to do to find out more is view the dedicated page on this blog, by selecting the tab above, or clicking THIS LINK.
Thursday 24 November 2011
With that in mind, I'd like to take a moment to applaud the efforts of two of the smaller fixtures on the short fiction competition calendar. The Brighton CoW CD turned up a few months ago, and I've been meaning to mention it ever since. The the anthology of the winning and shortlisted entries of the H. E. Bates Competition arrived last week. It's prompted me into highlighting that, despite the grim times we keep being told we're living in, there are plenty of people out there doing a damn fine job.
The Brighton CoW comps and the HE Bates competition (run by the Northampton Writers' Group) don't have the clout of the Bristol Prize or the near-mythical status of Bridport, but from my experience (a couple of placings at Brighton, a shortlisting at HE Bates), they have something equally important - organisers with a real enthusiasm for writing, and the respect for writers that comes with it.
There's nothing flashy about their websites and the prize funds aren't going to have your local Ferrari dealer beating a path to your door. But what they do have is the right attitude. I've contacted both organisations, either to ask a question or confirm something about my story, and in both cases I've received a polite and speedy response. The HE Bates competition has an awards ceremony where the results are announced, and when the organisers heard I was considering making a round trip of several hundred miles to attend, they were kind enough to let me know that I hadn't actually won anything. I still would have gone along though, if I hadn't been working so far away at the time.
The Brighton CoW bunch in particular seem to go all-out with their 'winners' packs'. In addition to the cheque they sent a certificate, a postcard with future competitions on the front and a hand-written 'Congratulations!' message on the back, and - odd, though possibly handy - a credit-card sized calendar. It's all a bit homespun but to be honest I was rather charmed by the attention to detail and the enthusiasm for their contests all this conveys. When the CD turned up (I wasn't expecting it, although I note they do say something on the website about recording the stories for possible broadcast on hospital radio - I assume, with the amount of swearing in "A Night In with Zil", they'd have to broadcast mine very late at night), it was put together with more enthusiasm than polish, but I really like it. The guy who reads mine sounds a bit like Andy Hamilton of Radio Four fame, and he does an admirable job of bringing the characters to life.
The HE Bates Competition Anthology is again put together in a straightforward way. It's spiral bound and laid out clearly and while it won't win any design awards it still shows the kind of effort going on behind the scenes. Okay, so it's not the ready-for-Waterstones paperback of the Bristol Prize or the slick small-press effort from the Willesden Herald, but even so, the cost of printing and binding, plus postage, is probably more than I paid in entry fees. I'm guessing both these organisations are run on very limited resources, or more likely a voluntary basis, fuelled by the desire to encourage writers and promote their respective writing groups, rather than to make shedloads of money.
The timing of this post isn't ideal, because both current competitions end in the next few days, but if you have something of a suitable length and content, it's worth giving them a go. They're shining stars in a sometimes murky world, and they deserve to do well.
Thursday 10 November 2011
Thursday 3 November 2011
Thursday 27 October 2011
I keep track of all my submissions, successes and 'near-misses' in an Excel spreadsheet, and when I went into it to update the Flash500 result, I noticed I hadn't scored out the story I tried in the Wells Festival of Literature Short Story Competition. I knew I hadn't won anything because the awards ceremony had come and gone a week or two previously, but out of curiosity I dialled up the site anyway. Much to my surprise, I found I'd come third!
At least, it seemed like I had. When I first looked, the results page had my story title, but the author was listed as "unknown". As you can see, the title isn't exactly commonplace, so I sent a cautious enquiry to the organisers. They got back to me incredibly quickly, confirming that all was well, I had won a prize and the cheque was already in the post. So that put a smile on my face.
And then the surprises kept coming... I picked up a copy of November's Writers' Forum yesterday. Iain Banks features on the cover, and yours truly makes an appearance, too. I posted some comments on Sally Quilford's competition blog, and several of them have been incorporated into her column. So there I am, suddenly sounding like an authority on competitions with restrictions on who can enter, e.g. women-only competitions, those limited to a certain geographical locations, etc. Are they necessary? Patronising? Discriminatory? What do you think?
Incidentally, the Ten-Four Challenge is up to four stories out, as I sent a flash piece sent to Every Day Fiction, with two months left of the year. I should hit five tomorrow, as I'm hoping to submit a story to the NAWG competition. It's a bit last-minute (the deadline's Monday), but it's worth a try. Just needs a final proofread...
Wednesday 12 October 2011
The second thing was that I actually had to knuckle down and come up with a workshop. I'm not a naturally outgoing person, and my assessment of my own abilities tends toward a sort of painful modesty, so the prospect of standing in front of a room full of strangers and telling them how to 'do' fiction wasn't exactly one that filled me with anything other than trepidation. However, I prepared as best I could, faced The Fear, and got the job done. People said nice things about what I did, and some, such as Martine and Ric, went as far as writing them down.
Eventually, I got invited back, and that's where I've been for the last few days. I did two smaller workshops this time, the first with Guernsey Writers' Circle and the second with a group of students at the College of Performing Arts. The former, on Thursday night, was a lively affair, with an enthusiastic group who were kind enough to listen to me prattling on about editing for an hour. I worked through an example of extreme editing, where I'd taken an 800-word flash and boiled it down to a 250-word piece of microfiction. It was an interesting exercise to go through and it generated a lot of debate about which was the "better" of the two stories, and whether the elements lost from the original to reduce the word count were compensated for by the more direct impact of the shortened version. It was great to chat to the group (three of whom I'd met at the Flash Fiction workshop), and get a sense for the enthusiasm they have for writing and the various projects the island has on at the moment.
The following day, I found myself feeling very envious of the students, nearly all of whom hadn't really done any creative writing other than assignments for school. I took a long break from writing when I was younger, and as I talked to the students about character, plot, and description, I couldn't help thinking that if I'd picked it up when I was their age I'd be a whole decade ahead of where I am now. [Oh, the possibilities!] They were a brilliant group, champing at the bit to get started on their stories and full of ideas for quirky characters and interesting situations to put them in. They were definitely making a great start and I'm sure their finished stories will be well worth reading.
Both sessions were very rewarding and filled me with enthusiasm for my own writing. I even managed to get a little bit done on a new story while I was over there, although whether it'll amount to anything, only time will tell.
Sunday 2 October 2011
Firstly, the Ten-Four Challenge continues. I sent an entry in to The Spilling Ink Fiction Prize, which I first heard about after my friend Karen had a story published in the Spilling Ink Review. It looks like a good site, and the competition prizes are impressive, with the added incentive of print publication for the winners and shortlisted stories.
It wasn't the story I'd intended to submit. The one I'd planned to send is a humorous piece that had already gone to the Sean O'Faolain competition without catching the judge's eye, and I thought I could just do a quick edit to knock it into shape. This proved not to be the case, though. I know what's wrong - the beginning needs to be shorter and snappier, the middle needs tightening to bring out the humour, and the end is okay but would benefit from a sharper final paragraph. But I couldn't seem to correct any of these problems in time for the closing date. I made the beginning better, but even longer. I thought up some new jokes to put in, but they meant I needed to change parts of the plot. Before long the whole thing seemed to be coming apart at the seams. I started thinking the story just wasn't 'ready', and that's something I hope to come back to in a separate blog post.
I also submitted a flash piece to MicroHorror.com. This was accepted, which I'm very pleased about. I wouldn't consider myself as a horror writer or reader, although I enjoy the tension the genre requires, and the clarity of the imagery the words on the page/screen must create is another reason for a writer of any discipline to dip into it occasionally, at least. There's a contest on the website at the moment, ending (appropriately enough) on Halloween, with the theme of "Water". So, get your fright on, folks!
I'm not fully sure my MicroHorror début counts towards the Ten-Four Challenge, as it isn't a paying market and the story in question, "Anatomy of a Crime", was one of the 'previously unpublished' stories I included in my anthology, Somewhere to Start From. But for the moment I'm going to class it as half a point towards my total - as 2.5 stories submitted at the end of September is quarter of the way to the target, a quarter of the way towards the deadline.
In other good news, I'm off to Guernsey again towards the end of next week. I'll be talking to the Guernsey Writers' Group about editing and giving a more general writing workshop to Performing Arts students. The rest of the weekend will be spent catching up with my mum and stepdad, walking on beaches and coastal paths, and gorging on the delights of the wonderful Tennerfest. I'm keeping my fingers crossed this sunny weather hangs around a little longer.
Sunday 18 September 2011
But, of course, it would be foolish to assume that I'd done nothing except come up with a snappy handle for my self-imposed exercise. I mean, I'm sure it's technically possible for a writer to procrastinate by embracing meaningless but oh-so-slightly writing-related tasks, but that's got to be a pretty rare occurrence, right?
Anyway, I'm happy to report that I have launched myself out of the metaphorical starting blocks, by sending off an entry to Flash500. So, one down, nine to go.
For the Flash500 competition, I have taken something I wrote for a contest earlier in the year and re-jigged it a bit. As those of you gifted with Sherlock Holmes-esque deductive skills will have guessed, Flash500 is a competition for flash fiction with an upper word count limit of 500. The original version of my entry was for a competition with an even smaller word count, so I took advantage of the extra space by developing the central concept a little and fleshing out the central character. I'm always wary of making stories longer; it's all too easy to let the prose get a little sloppy or for the plot to wander off on tangents when you have extra words to play with, but I think in this case it was justified. The new version of the story feels less sparse, and it's hopefully easier to understand what's going on. We shall see.
Wednesday 14 September 2011
Wednesday 31 August 2011
On the writing front, I've found it very difficult to make any real progress. I've been working on a reading for my sister's wedding, which I am very honoured to have been asked to do and only slightly freaked out by the prospect of having to stand up and read it out in the church in a couple of days' time. Other than that, I've made a few tentative steps with a couple of short stories, and am kicking around a few ideas for something a bit longer.
My confidence has taken a knock this month as the results for a couple of competitions I'd been quite excited about were announced, and my name was conspicuous by its absence. It feels like quite a while since I had anything accepted or placed, and I've started to worry that I've lost most of the momentum I'd built up earlier in the year. However, all writers have dry spells, and if I'm honest the most significant reason I've not had much success is because I've hardly submitted anything over the last few months. I'm promising myself that September will be different...
As a sliver of good news, I was pleased to discover that I've had my first sale of my anthology via Amazon. Thank you, mystery shopper, whoever and wherever you are! Although it's great to be on Amazon, I wasn't really expecting any sales via that route, so I'm chuffed that I've chalked up at least one. Hooray!
I also stumbled across a new competition listed on Linda Lewis's blog - it's run by the NAWG (National Association of Writers' Groups). Closing date is 31st October 2011, word count 500 - 2,000, prizes of £250/£100/£50. £5 entry fee with optional critique at an extra £3. Full details are here. Sounds like it might be worth a shot.
Thursday 11 August 2011
Monday 25 July 2011
This year it's an extra special one because my friend Teresa Stenson was picked as a runner-up with her story "Things Which Are Not True". Only the winner gets a place in the printed magazine alongside all the established authors, but the runners-up get a slot on the Guardian website. Do check Teresa's story out, it's excellent.
It's been a while since I had any success of my own to report so it's nice to be able to relive my own Guardian experience through somebody I know. It's been a couple of years, but I remember the dry mouth, the racing pulse and the rollercoaster of elation and being-utterly-convinced-it's-all-a-horrible-scam that came along with the notification email.
I know it means a lot to Teresa and I couldn't be happier for her. The best bit is that she predicted we'd be swapping successes this year, which means I get a prize at Bridport. I can't pretend I'm not excited about that prospect.
Thursday 14 July 2011
With that in mind, here's something relatively minor that brings a smile to my face:
One of these days I'll get used to seeing my name in the paper. Until then, I'll be clutching my clippings and grinning like the Cheshire Cat and thinking, "So what if I didn't win that competition? I'm still an author."
After all, it's in the Guernsey Press. It must be true.
Monday 4 July 2011
Thursday 23 June 2011
Our mission was simple: write stuff, critique stuff, gorge ourselves on cake and excellent home cooking, wash it all down with lashings and lashings of wine, and then launch into a nightly no-holds-barred, to-the-death "Articulate" grudge match.
It was great fun, and I got a lot out of it in terms of finding proper focus for my writing. The pieces I submitted for critiquing were old, and in some ways I felt I was doing both them and myself a disservice by not offering up something a bit fresher. The problem is that with very small chunks of free time available, I have struggled to produce much in recent weeks (if not months), so I've been digging up old stuff to edit and buff up - in the hope that it will at least keep whatever part of my brain generates fiction ticking over for the time being. Getting together with fellow writers has reminded me that we all have our obstacles in the way of sitting down and bashing out words, and that the only person who can do anything about it is me.
I drove back home with a much more determined head on, and I have so far written a couple of new, short pieces that I'm pleased with. So, if your writing could do with a boost, and you know of a few like-minded individuals, then round them up and get yourselves off to somewhere remote. You won't regret it. Unless they turn out to be axe murderers. You should probably check that before sending out the invites, actually.
The thing that really struck me during the critiquing sessions was how stupidly self-deprecating we all were about our work, almost apologising as we handed our stories around for what an appalling burden the others were about to receive. Which was nonsense, because - elbowing group modesty aside for a moment - we're actually reasonably good at what we do. Between the six of us we've got somewhere around 100 stories in print or online, we've notched up placings in highly regarded competitions, and have won hundreds of pounds in competitions. So we can't actually be as crap as we tend to think we are.
I've noticed a kind of contradiction in the world of writing - at least in the realm of online forums and writing classes - in that those who regard themselves as good writers, who feel they have learnt all they need and are simply waiting for the world to wake up and acknowledge their genius ... are, almost without exception, unspeakably awful. On the other hand, those who agonise over their words, who are never satisfied with what they've done, who are embarrassed by the gulf between what they wanted to say and the words they've managed to get down onto the page, are usually pretty good, or at least well on their way there.
It's good to question, to challenge your own work, and to strive for better. But that can be at the expense of looking back once in a while and thinking, "Yeah, actually, I can do this. I'm better than I was yesterday, not as good as I'll be tomorrow. I'm not perfect, but I can write."
Take pride in your achievements, but see them as stepping stones to where you want to be, not badges of honour to wave in people's faces. The inevitable rejections and those stories that sink without trace in competitions are steps on the journey, too. That's all, they're not a judgement on you as a writer or a person. So keep moving and don't beat yourself up about them.
In short, writers, give yourself a break.
Wednesday 8 June 2011
I'm usually quite resistant to this kind of thing, the whole "free writing" idea of exploring a topic as you go often feels unnecessary. I'd much rather spend the time writing up one of the many ideas that seem to form a permanent traffic jam of stories in my head. But, this time, after getting over the initial hurdle of trying to describe something you can barely see, I found myself getting quite into it.
It was interesting to see how different members of the group approached this. Some came up with lists of words that evoked the taste or feel of water, some wrote fragments of prose that were quite poetic, others described it in terms of pouring out a glass and drinking it. There were a few mentions of the relief brought by taking a long, cool sip on a hot day.
I'm not quite sure how I'd describe my take on it. I think I aimed to give a sense of the water as an entity in its own right, to set it in motion and try to give it a sense of personality. I was quite pleased with the way it turned out, and so - as I can't think of anything else to do with it - I thought I'd post it here.
The liquid diamond fills a glass, a bath, a wellington boot, rushing to steal the shape of anything bold enough to contain it. Light bounces off it, bends through it, rides its surface in an ever-changing dance of glittering fragments.
Hold it up, tip it out, let it fall in thick molten strings. Watch its joyous reunion with itself, see it kick up an fleeting crown to mark the occasion.
Take a sip of this fishes’ tipple; chase its cold surge across your tongue. Taste a speck of a distant, peaty field, a grain of a chalk cliff you’ve never seen, a tang of an ancient clay pipe. Swallow its past as a pond, as a sea, as a gentle drifting cloud. Take your place in its eternal cycle.
Thursday 26 May 2011
Wednesday 25 May 2011
Monday 23 May 2011
Okay, so I'm back at home and very much back to reality after my time in Guernsey. Or should that be "on" Guernsey? How big does an island need to be before you are in rather than on it?
Castle Cornet. The castle is one of my favourite "touristy" things to do on the island, and the novelty of visiting it in the evening added an extra level of enjoyment. Particularly in that it meant I could watch the sun set over the town of St Peter Port, which - it has to be said - is a very attractive place (although my phone's camera struggled to do it justice).
Saturday morning kicked off with a very interesting talk and reading from author Tim Binding. Tim has written several novels, both for adults and children, but the talk I went to focused on his Guernsey-set work, Island Madness. I started reading the novel a couple of weeks before I went, and even now I'm only about halfway through it - I'm just not getting enough time to read any more than a few pages at once. It's very good, and conjures up the atmosphere of Guernsey during the Nazi occupation extremely well. Tim talked about his inspiration for writing the book (essentially the photograph that now serves as the book's main cover image), the research involved in putting it together, and some of the perils of writing fiction. The main example he gave was in the opening chapter, where he talks about the damage caused to the Major's lawns by the local moles. Several years after the book came out, a Guernsey girl working at his publishing house calmly informed him that there are no moles on Guernsey. It's risky taking anything for granted, it seems.
Next up was a dash to the cake shop and then back to the Hub to catch a poetry reading from Richard Fleming and Peter Kenny. The two of them go by the name "A Guernsey Double" and offer two different perspectives on island life. Richard is an Ulsterman who moved to Guernsey, and Peter was born and grew up on Guernsey and moved away. Their poetry revolves around themes such as the concepts of home, safety, travel, and many more. They have a book out, a back-to-back anthology of poems called The Boy Who Fell Upwards / The Man Who Landed. From the snippets they read and the reviews the book has garnered, it sounds well worth investigating. I'm hoping to pick up a signed copy next time I'm over, which should be later in the year.
The last engagement of the day was an evening performance in the town church. Here, Olivia Chaney performed a fantastic set, showcasing her beautiful voice and musical talent on the piano, guitar, and harmonium (I think - it was something like an accordion, but more of a box). Olivia plays a variety of styles, from folk to operatic, traditional and more contemporary songs. She writes her own songs, too, and said she was putting an album of her work together. It should be worth tracking down. In addition to Olivia's songs and music, the winning writers from Guernsey's "Poetry on the Buses" competition read their work. I struggle a little with poetry sometimes; it's not a form that always 'clicks' for me, but most of the work was accessible even to a dullard like me, and it was great to hear the poets read their own work in the impressive setting provided by the church.
I've run out of time now, so I'll leave Sunday's details for another day. I'll try not to leave it too much longer.
Monday 16 May 2011
(This post was delayed from Friday due to some sort of problem with Blogger. I'll post an up to date report later.)
So, here I am in the first full day of the literary festival. It's a pretty quiet one for me, most of the events I'm going to are happening tomorrow. I attended the sponsor's reception yesterday evening, which was a new experience for me. One of the first people I met was Annie Barrows, co-author of the massively best-selling The Guernsey Literary & Potato Peel Pie Society, and the top celebrity author here at the festival. She was very friendly and down to earth, and we talked about the strange leap of faith it takes to start calling yourself "a writer". It good to know that even hugely successful authors struggle with that one from time to time.
Today's main task was to deliver a stack of my books to the Luna, an inflatable pod thing in the Market Terrace. It was a slightly surreal experience to see copies of it alongside other books, but hopefully people browsing the stall will be sufficiently intrigued to pick up a copy.
If you're in the neighbourhood, why not go along and take a look?
Wednesday 11 May 2011
But, happily, the end product exceeded all my expectations. The cover image is crisp and clear, and the overall effect is just what I was aiming for. Inside, the text looks great and, in my opinion at least, presents the stories in a very professional-looking way.
It's been great revisiting these stories, and an interesting insight into how my writing has changed over the last couple of years. But, more than that, it's rewarding to see my work in a fresh light, particularly those stories that were published online a while ago and had faded a little from my memory. Here, assembled and lined up together, it's almost as though my stories have gone on parade in full dress uniform, primped and polished and keen to impress new readers (hopefully!).
There is something undeniably special about paper. Although I was excited to find a half-dozen or so e-books pre-installed on my new mobile phone, I'm yet to fully embrace the concept of electronic fiction. I do read short stories online, and appreciate the accessibility and variety the internet provides both readers and writers. But I'm not going to be giving up my coveted bookshelves just yet. The sensory, tactile elements of printed matter are something that I associate so strongly with reading it's hard not to miss them when they're not there.
Perhaps the printed book form is even better suited to short story collections than novels? It's so much easier to pick up a book, flick through it until a title or first line catches your eye, and then settle back with your mug of tea and a biscuit or two for a well-deserved bit of escapism.
I hope people will be inclined to pick up "Somewhere to Start from" when it makes its début appearance on the booksellers' stall at the Guernsey Literary Festival. I'll also have a few copies with me at the Flash Fiction Workshop, just in case anybody fancies a signed copy. I'm looking forward to seeing how new readers respond to these works and I hope people will get in touch to let me know what they think.