Tuesday, September 28, 2010

My September


September started as it meant to go on, with a reading at Bristol's Thunderbolt pub on Sept 1st, sharing the bill with musician Richard Burley, as part of the monthly Word of Mouth event run by the inimitable Bertel Martin - thanks Bertel for the fantastic (and perhaps fantastical!) introduction! That was my first event in our new home town, which felt great. No pics of that event, but news to report is that it was divided into two sets, and in the first set I read some pieces from my book. In the interval I realised that I didn't really want to do that any more, after 2 years it's hard to read those stories fresh - fresh for me and for an audience. So in the 2nd half I read newer stories and a few I'd never read out before, and that really gave me an energy boost, showed me that I need to read something different each time I read, take risks, walk that short story writer's tightrope!

Event No 2 was ShedFest, on Sept 11th, in this glorious structure above! Bristol's - and perhaps the UK's - first lit fest in a shed, we all had 5 minutes to read, which for me meant reading 3 flash stories including Drizzling, my shed story, which is fairly unfathomable on paper so who knows how it went down?! Thank you to Mike Manson for a wonderful evening, not just of great writing but of great food and socializing in between.

Then I headed out of the city to Birmingham on September 15th for the "There's Science in My Fiction... and Poetry" open mic night I'd organised at the British Science Festival, with my co-judges, science-loving writers and bloggers Sue Guiney and Brian Clegg. The event was free, no tickets needed, and held at the amazingly-gorgeous Old Joint Stock Pub function room, so we really had no idea who would show up. We had prizes at the ready:

(photo credit: B. Clegg)
and we waited... 

Wonderful to meet Alan Beard and get a copy of his brand-new short story collection, You Don't Have to Say, from Tindal Street Press, being launched this Thursday (more about Alan soon). And then the science-inspired writers flocked in! Well, ok, it was a small and intimate crowd, but that lend itself really well to discussions about using science in different ways, and to great readings. All those who came read poems - from the tale of the first forensic scientist to a quark love story, and poetry explaining the origins of the moon. They were all wonderful, many were magical, such a variety, we were delighted! I was a little sad that there were no other short story writers, so next time we'll get you out of the woodwork! Congrats to our winner, Heather Wastie, and to everyone who came, readers and audience, and my esteemed fellow judges, it was a really fun event!


The White Road and Other Stories in the Frank O'Connor Fest window display in the wonderful Cork Waterstone's, who were so welcoming when I went in and signed a couple.
 The next day I flew to Cork to one of the biggest annual treats for a short story writer: The Frank O'Connor Festival. I had last been here 2 years ago, the week after The White Road and Other Stories was published, so had been in a state of mild hysteria the whole time. It was like short story summer camp that year, I met so many writers who have become great friends, from Alison McLeod and Adam Marek to Wena Poon and Nuala Ní Chonchúir. This year, it was the American contingent, as 5 of the 6 shortlistees for the 35,000 euro Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award were Americans: Belle Boggs, Robin Black, Laura van den Berg, Ron Rash and TC Boyle (who didn't come due to injury), alongside David Constantine from the UK. 

Robin Black and I had been online friends, it was lovely to finally meet her, and to meet Laura van den Berg, whose collection we'd recently reviewed on the Short Review. I read on the Thursday night with Belle Boggs, whose stories I hadn't read and whose writing enchanted me! She read the first half of her story, Jonas, from her collection, Mattaponi Queen. Here we both are, relieved, after the reading.


(Photo: C Hershman)

As well as that event, I took part in a flash fiction reading in downtown Cork in support of Irish support of the arts, and in a panel discussion about the short story and new media, which both excited and terrified me! I have no pictures from the rest of the 4-day extravaganza, but the festival's photographer, the legendary John Minihan, will have done a far better job anyway, will link to those when they're online. Suffice it to say, it was non-stop readings, so many excellent writers, including Karen Russell, author of St Lucy's School for Girls Raised by Wolves, and Nyk de Vries, a writer from Holland whose ultra-short stories and prose poems and ultra-dry delivery just delighted us all. Every night the festivities moved to the local tapas bar where writers and readers mingled, ate and listened to more readings. Read Nuala's blog post about Tess Gallagher and Belle Boggs' blog here.Madeline D'Arcy reading her short story with props was a wonderful experience!


The highlight for me was listening to Nikita Nelin read his story, Eddie, I had chosen from 849 stories as the winner of 2010 Sean O'Faolain short story prize (full list of winners here). His story has a unique rhythm and poetry and I wanted to hear him read it. It brought tears to my eyes again and I heard things I'd never heard before, the mark of a great story. It will be published in Southword shortly, and Nikita wrote about his festival experiences on the Electric Literature blog. And huge congratulations to Ron Rash, winner of the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award! 

Bleary-eyed and exhausted, I flew back to Bristol on Monday (was that just over a week ago? Really?) to rest up for the last few events. Then on Thursday, heavily medicated to decongest, I ran a workshop on research-inspired fiction at Bristol University's Engage conference on public engagement. I was pretty nervous, I'd never done anything like this before, but it was just talking about what I am passionate about so I hoped it would be ok. 13 of us - mostly scientists - discussed examples of fiction which uses science in different ways (see my web page here for examples) and then, after a tea break, we picked prompts from a recent copy of New Scientist and did some writing ourselves. The energy in the room was palpable, a flash-writing session always creates a wonderful buzz, and then most people read out what they'd written, a great variety of short shorts! I will write more about this in a guest blog post I've been asked to write for the Wellcome Collection blog shortly. 


If you're feeling exhausted by all this then perhaps stop here and don't read about how the next morning, sneezing and coughing, I headed off to Lewes, Sussex, to the Small Wonder festival! It's held in Charleston, the glorious house that was home to Virginia Woolf's sister, Vanessa Bell, and Duncan Grant:

(photo: Axel Hesslenberg)

If you are anywhere near, you must go and visit, it's as if they just stepped out and might be back any minute, a house whose air is filled with creativity and experimentation.
After attending the Small Wonder short story festival for several years as an audience member, I felt incredibly lucky to be invited to do a session on Flash Fiction, with my great friend and writing colleague Vanessa Gebbie. V and I met through flash fiction in 2006 and so it was lovely to be up there on stage with her, talking about what flash fiction is and might be and reading 10 short short stories between us. Here we are in full flow:

(photo: Axel Hesslenberg)


We did a book signing afterwards and then repaired back to the very special Authors' "Green Room", which is the main house's kitchen, for dinner before the Short Story Slam. What a fantastic evening it was, and the whole weekend's events were a continuation of the literary delights from Cork, more talk of short stories and writing, more amazing writers... Here are Adam Marek and David Vann talking about their Sunday Times EFG Short Story Award shortlisted stories:


It was wonderful to see Robin Black, Karen Russell and David Constantine again, as well as so many other familiar faces. Enormous thanks to Small Wonder artistic director Diana Reich and her fantastic team, and to Colin McKenzie, Charleston Trust Director, for a wonderful introduction and summing up, running with my metaphor about flash fiction and very short flights ("the Easyjet of the short story world")!


I'm sure I've missed some people out here, my brain still isn't working properly, apologies if I've made any omissions. I came back home on Sunday night, missing my train in London due to appalling traffic, but even that couldn't diminish my elation at the weekend's events. Yes, I'm still sneezing and coughing, but would I have missed any of it? Most certainly not! Vanessa and I already have another invite to do our Flash Double Act next year, more on that nearer the time... I'm going to eat a load of oranges now and wend my way back to doing some writing, slowly slowly.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Catching up

This is a blog post to tell you I'm planning a blog post... Crazy September is over now, am recovering from the whirlwind, all went really well, no falling off any stages or completely losing my voice (almost...), I'll do a full report soon. Hard to know where to start. I just want to say: It's October this week? What?! Blimey.

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Sean O'Faolain Results - Winners, Shortlist, Longlist


I am delighted to finally be able to announce the full set of results of the 2010 Sean O'Faolain prize, which I awarded to the winner tonight in Cork - and unveil the longlist, which, as I said in an earlier post, really is a great achievement! (please excuse the odd layout, wanted to get this up quickly and the line breaks went haywire!)

The results are:
1st prize, Eddie by Nikita Nelin
2nd No Angel by Bernie McGill

Runners up
Ramon Shannon Cain
Big Bitchin' Cow Dave Wilson
The capital of Thailand Serge Shea
Sidetrack Judy Crozier

Highly Commended
Advice and Sandwiches P.G. O’Connor
Advice re Elephants Johathan Pinnock
Boa constrictor Analisa Raya-Flores
Ex-Boyfriend in Prison James Armour Young

Falling Elizabeth Baines
La Cumparsita at Paris Charles de Gaulle Claire King

Mamma Julia Gwynne

Man is Born to Trouble As the Sparks Fly Upwards Terese Svoboda

On the Night South Africa is Effectively Eliminated from the World Cup Liesl Jobson

Sleeping with the Brothers Karamazov Terre Ryan

Sparrow Nora Nadjarian

Afterlife Wes Lee

The Opposite of Fog Sara Kay Rupnik

The Tale End Susan Kim Campbell

We Call This Living; or, Ghosts Mac Barrett

You Would Feel Your Heart Fall Over Sarah Frost Mellor

 Shortlist (in order of story submission):


Advice and sandwiches P.G. O’Connor

No Angel Bernie McGill

Seeing Things Deena Linett

You would feel your heart fall over Sarah Frost Mellor

Red Flyer Tom Bryan

We Call This Living; or, Ghosts Mac Barrett

I Want You to Say It Alin Fenn

The opposite of fog Sara Kay Rupnik

Man is Born to Trouble as the sparks Fly Upwards Terese Svoboda

Falling Elizabeth Baines

Afterlife Wes Lee

Ex-Boyfriend in prison James Armour Young

Sparrow Nora Nadjarian

The Tale End Susan Kim Campbell

Eddie Nikita Nelin

Advice re elephants Johathan Pinnock

Sleeping with the Brothers Karamazov Terre Ryan

Sidetrack Judy Crozier

Big Bitchin' Cow Dave Wilson

Tarts Paul O’ Reilly

Mamma Julia Gwynne

The Capital of Thailand Serge Shea

Ramon Shannon Cain

On the Night South Africa is Effectively Eliminated from the World
Cup Liesl Jobson

La Cumparsita at Paris Charles de Gaulle Claire King

Boa Constrictor Analisa Raya-Flores


Longlist (in order of story submission)


Sunday Afternoon Drop-Off Sarah Shepherd
One of These Days Rachel J. Fenton
Advice and Sandwiches P.G. O’Connor
No Angel Bernie McGill
Tom, Aged 18 Annemarie Neary
Confessional Gail Francis
Wings David Hayden
The Aviary Chaiti Sen
Seeing Things Deena Linett
You would feel your heart fall over Sarah Frost Mellor
Three walnuts Frances Gapper
Night D. Shanahan
All that thinking Alison Wells
Who You love Owen Goodwyne
The X-ray Vision of Augustus Fletcher Christina Joyce Hauser
Red Flyer Tom Bryan
We Call This Living; or, Ghosts Mac Barrett
Filch Alison Wells
I want you to say it Alin Fenn
The Opposite of Fog Sara Kay Rupnik
MAN IS BORN TO TROUBLE AS THE SPARKS FLY UPWARD Terese Svoboda
SWEET HEALER, GUIDE MY FOOTSTEPS Brian George
The girl and the house bear Kip Robisch
Falling Elizabeth Baines
Afterlife Wes Lee
Living Doll Pauline Masurel
Ex-boyfriend in Prison James Armour Young
Sparrow Nora Nadjarian
The tale end Susan Kim Campbell
Sitting ducks Kathleen Murray
Eddie Nikita Nelin
Advice re elephants Johathan Pinnock
Sleeping with the Brothers Karamazov Terre Ryan
One Way Out Mariad Whisker
Canyon Mary Volmer
Sidetrack Judy Crozier
Big Bitchin' Cow Dave Wilson
Tarts Paul O’ Reilly
Mamma Julia Gwynne
The last songs Benjamin Judge
The capital of thailand Serge Shea
A passage from imagination to reality Anna Delany
Old ma wichello Nicholas Rawlinson
Ramon Shannon Cain
Orchard Véronique Hyland
On the Night South Africa is Effectively Eliminated From the World Cup Liesl Jobson
La Cumparsita at Paris Charles de Gaulle Claire King
Boa constrictor Analisa Raya-Flores

Huge congratulations to everyone who entered, whether or not your name is here!

Wednesday, September 15, 2010

PANK magazine and Science in My Fiction

I have a story in this month's issue of PANK magazine, Vegetable, Mineral, which was a finalist in their 1,001 Awesome Words competition last year (this year's is still open). (The same story was joint winner of the 2008 Biscuit Flash fiction comp, publication wasn't a condition of winning the comp.) I'm looking forward to reading the rest of the September issue, PANK is one of my favourite magazines, just stunning! And... you'll be able to hear me reading the story on the new audio mag 4'33 shortly.

I'm off to Birmingham today, to adjudicate, along with my science-loving writer friends Sue Guiney and Brian Clegg, the first "There's Science in My Fiction and Poetry" Open Mic night at the British Science festival. This is what it's all about:

There's Science in My Fiction... And Poetry
 7-10pm, Wed 15th Sept, The Old Joint Stock Function Room
"What if..?" ask both scientists and fiction writers. What if a gene mutates? What if she never married him? Science is fabulous inspiration for fiction - come read out your science-inspired stories and poems to win great prizes, including a Focus magazine subscription and champagne. Science-inspired authors Tania Hershman, Sue Guiney and Brian Clegg will judge. Put some science in your fiction!
More details here.
If you're in Birmingham, come along to read or just to listen! Hope to see you there.

Thursday, September 09, 2010

A tale of how I got published

It's The White Road and Other Stories' 2nd birthday of  this week, time really has flown by. And to commemorate, How Publishing Really Works has posted my "tale" of how I got published. I thought I'd tell it a little differently this time (I wrote it a few months ago...):
1. The girl reads everything. She reads books through every meal. She finishes the entire section in the library for 8 year olds and moves on. One day, she thinks, she will hold a book with her name on it.
2. The girl doesn’t find her English classes very inspiring, but she loves maths. She gets steered by her teachers towards science and away from literature, and ends up studying maths and physics and University. But words are her medium, not bunsen burners. She writes for the University newspaper and then discovers there is such a thing as a science journalist. Ah, she thinks.
3. She studies philosophy of science, then a diploma in journalism, and moves to Israel, where she interviews excited inventors and scientists for American and British magazines for over a decade. But a little voice in her head is saying “You’re reporting on their creativity. Where’s yours? Where’s yours?”
....

I am very very lucky that, two years later, my book - which has just had its 15th print run -  is still getting reviews, not something I ever dreamed of when I dreamt of having a book. There are so many amazing things that have happened over the past 24 months that I would never have dreamed of!  Alison Wells and Jim Murdoch have shared their thoughts on their blogs recently, Jim's is almost an essay rather than a review, with footnotes. I am very grateful to them both for taking the time to think about and then write about my stories. A writer cannot ask for more!

I have just finished reading Kasia Boddy's excellent The American Short Story Since 1950, and will write more abuot that on the Short Review blog soon. There's so much in there, I felt like I learned an enormous amount about the history of the short story, and it is filled with wonderful quotes from many writers about the form. I met Kasia when she interviewed Lydia Davis at the London Review Bookshop a few weeks ago - a thrilling night it was! I am delighted that Lydia agreed to be interviewed for the Short Review and sent me her answers to my questions yesterday. Now I need to review her 250-story Collected Stories, a mammoth task! I've read it through once already, there is so much in there to delight and provoke. Highly recommended!

Wednesday, September 08, 2010

Guest blog post on Tomlit

First, just to let you know, I will be publishing the Sean O'Faolain prize longlist here on my blog after the winner has been announced, in 2 weeks.

Second, I am delighted to be a guest on the Tomlit blog today, talking about trust between a writer and a reader. I wrote this post, "It's All About Trust", a few months ago, it was interesting for me to re-read it given the 849 entries I just read for the S O'F! Here's a snippet:
I don't read to relax, not in that same way. I don't read to be entertained, to watch the story unfold. I read to become engaged with the story, to have it enter me, grip me and twist my insides. I want to be changed by what I have read. If it is all there for me, laid out in front of my eyes, where is my place inside this story or novel? What is the role of my imagination if everything is handed to me on a plate?

 Read the rest of the blog post.

Monday, September 06, 2010

Stories for Pakistan - Submit Yours Now

That amazing man, Greg McQueen, who, when the rest of us were sitting and watching, horrified, at pictures of the earthquake in Haiti, got up out of his chair and actually did something, raising £4000 for the Red Cross with 100 Stories for Haiti, is at it again. In his own words:
Once again I find myself unable to keep ignoring the need to do something. This time it is Pakistan … The United Nations estimates that twenty million people have lost their homes as a result of the flooding that started last July. Add to this the thousands who have already lost their lives, and the thousands who will lose their lives because of famine and disease … And well, it is once again time to do something!
100 Stories for Haiti has raised about £4000 for the Red Cross Haiti Earthquake Appeal. I am honoured and proud of the effort put in by writers and readers in supporting the project … So, let’s do it again!

Stories for Pakistan.

Let’s put together a book of 50 stories, each no more than 500 words in length. Any subject or genre is acceptable, however, no stories with any violence, death, or mass destruction.
Let me repeat that and add some extra rules just to be clear … Blimey! Anyone would think I’d done this before!
  • 500 WORDS MAXIMUM.
  • ANY SUBJECT OR GENRE.
  • NO STORIES WITH ANY VIOLENCE, DEATH, OR DESTRUCTION.
  • NO MULTIPLE SUBMISSIONS.
  • NO EMAIL ATTACHMENTS!
Please cut & paste your story into the body of an email, include your name, postal address, email address, and (if you have one) website. Include a short bio if you have one. Short, as in, one or two paragraphs.
ANY SUBMISSIONS FAILING TO FOLLOW THESE SIMPLE RULES WILL BE INSTANTLY REJECTED.

Please send your stories to storiesforpakistan@gmail.com
Stories for Pakistan will go out as an ebook and paperback published by Big Bad Media. We will also look to producing an audiobook version, as well as a version packaged as an iPhone app.
Proceeds will go to the Red Cross Pakistan Floods Appeal.
I am just about to send something in, why don't you do that too? Thank you, Greg, for once again rousing us to action!

Wednesday, September 01, 2010