Tuesday, June 19, 2007

magazines that make me happy

Ok, so I can't write right now. I haven't really been able to write anything since the news about my collection. V says that's normal. I don't call it writer's block. I'm not fighting it. I left the house a few hours ago with my laptop, thinking that I might try something. But then I found my letterbox full of goodies... and that was the end of that!

Here's what I got (not in order of preference):

Bravissimo's latest catalogue: bras, bras and more! This is heaven for the, err, more well-endowed of us who were fed up of heavy-duty scaffolding underwear. Lovely colours, all sorts of styles, tops with built in bras - even a raincoat customized to your bra size. Ahhhhhh, makes me very happy.

Bomb magazine: I entered this mag's short story comp and for my entry fee got a year's subscription. My first issue - Issue 100 - landed in the post box today, and what a beautiful looking mag it is. Lots of stunning artwork, articles about artists interviewed by artists, and a literary supplement with short stories and poems. I read a short short, very quirky, not at all what I would call "typical American short fiction", which thrills me! I am saving the rest of it for the 'plane ride on Monday to NY.

Seed magazine: So, if the first two speak to my shopping and literary sides, Seed talks to the scientist in me. But it's no ordinary science magazine, it's attempting hip & cool science and I think it's doing very well. Features on Roboethics, the meaning of life ( no less) and a review of the Museum of Time in France. Will be saving this for the plane, too.

Thursday, June 14, 2007

dream comes true

I can't quite even believe I am writing these words but here goes (deep breath): my first short story collection is going to be published in 2008.

There it is.

The amazing short-story-loving folk at Salt Publishing have been so astonishingly kind as to add me to their Authors' list. I found out last week and went into shock. How do you react when something you've wanted for 30 years, almost since you learned to write, is suddenly offered to you? Numbness. That's the first reaction. Then a grin which takes over your face for hours. A line that keeps going round and round in your head "My first short story collection..." "My first book..."

On the 'plane back from England on Monday, I watched the film Miss Potter, and when Beatrix Potter sees her first book in the bookshop, a little display of just her book, I cried. I guess I am a little emotional right now. But that's ok. This is an emotional event. I am telling people slowly. How to say it? "I have news..." and they'll think I'm pregnant. Well this is definitely a sort of birth.

In writing terms, it seems to have changed everything for me. I feel as though I have been shown the ladder and allowed to step onto the first rung. I stopped working as a journalist about 8 months ago, and I started telling people that I am a writer. I took myself seriously, so others, it seem, are taking me seriously. And what does a writer do? A writer writes. And a writer publishes. I'm going to have a book! I'M GOING TO HAVE A BOOK!

Ok, back to earth. This also seems to have removed an enormous weight from my shoulders that I didn't realise was there. I am breathing out. I can do this thing. I think that was the weight. Can I? Can't I? And now that's gone. I can do it. I am doing it.

This also allows me to put a whole pile of stories (around 25 short and extremely short stories) into one collection and mark them as "done", so I can move forward to my next work. Next work?? Hmmm. I already have a few stories that I am working on. I guess I will just carry on. I have some ideas, have two films scripts to be tackling, and my short play. So I'll be getting on with it.

That's all for now. I'm still grinning. OK, back to work.

Monday, June 04, 2007

commended in 6 minute play comp

Well, I'd written this one off as a failure ages ago - but never speak too soon! I just discovered that I have been commended in a Six-Minute Play Competition! I adapted a short story of mine, The White Road, into a play just as an exercise, requiring me to change it quite a lot to fit into the demands of theatre. It was a really eye-opening thing to do, teaching me about structure, characters and story. I am so glad I did it. And being commended just shows me that some of what I did actually worked. Might send it somewhere else now. Ahhh, a good day.

Saturday, June 02, 2007

reflections on Hay

Well, a few days after leaving the Hay Festival I have calmed down somewhat. Being there made me so agitated that I couldn't wait to leave.I was bitterly disappointed. Having read the program, I had worked myself up into great excitement about what I thought would be a truly literary event - a place for and by book-lovers, with publishers and books surrounding us and writers new and more experienced chatting with eager audiences. I imagined that in between the sessions I had booked for, I would find a quite corner to sit with my laptop and work on my own fiction, interrupted only by some friendly fellow book-lovers who wanted to chat about what we'd just seen and heard.

Wrong, wrong, WRONG.

What I found was a hideous artificial "city" of tents with barely a book in sight. Instead of stalls manned by small presses showing their wares, I found fudge, Penguin tea towels, and very expensive organic crisps. Books? Only in one tent and only those written by authors actually appearing at the Festival. The tents were draughty, seats uncomfortable, and much time was spent queuing (as the British love to do) to get in to the bloody events. As for the people, 80,000 people were attending over 10 days. That should have been warning enough. And they seemed to all be middle-class Londoners concerned more with celeb-spotting than with literature. Everyone was rather snooty, no-one talked to you or even looked you in the eye. The session I went to with three young novelists was embarassingly poorly-attending; people flocked to see celeb historian Simon Schama, but were uninterested in today's fresh new voices.

While I applaud the "green" focus on much of the festival, with a stall given over to SolarAid, a worthy environmental charity, it seemed at odds with the enormous pressure to "head over to the bookshop after the event, buy the latest hardback book by the author you've just heard, and get it signed". Recycled paper? Nope.

And what of the delightful little town of Hay-on-Wye with its 40 second-hand bookshops? Swamped by invading hordes, covering every inch of the little pavements, queuing outside cafes. But not buying books, it seems, according to the locals. Our hostess in the B&B we stayed in (the higlight of the trip - check it out - Ty Mynydd) said that the Festival used to be held in the local school and there was a lovely atmosphere. Now it's a separate "festival tent city" on the outskirts, bringing in its own traffic lights and using surrounding fields for parking (for a fee).

Ah well. High expectations, and they were all dashed. I was dying to leave. I'd had a lovely time at other Lit Fests such as Cheltenham and Bath, and assumed this would be the same, but alas, no. No more Hay for me. Next year, perhaps the Port Eliot Lit Fest or Small Wonder, the short story festival in Sussex. Or maybe I'll just stay home and read a book. Or, better still, write one.