Monday, December 17, 2012

Holiday MMWAUP offer

Okay, so, the thing is, I find it much easier to promote and gush about other people's books rather than my own (I'm working on that, I feel another blog post coming on) but if you did fancy buying a copy of My Mother Was An Upright Piano: Fictions for this holiday season, I have a special offer for you: for just the cover price (£9.99) + postage, I will not only sign the book for you, I will handwrite an extra 57th story (not about Heinz beans...) into the book! How does that sound?

If you'd like to take up this time-limited offer (see, I'm getting into the sales lingo), you've got til Twelfth Night, January 5th... All you need to do is email me at and a unique copy will be winging its way to you, your loved one or someone you are taking revenge on through very short fictions... Okay? Right. Job done.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Bookish Gift Ideas...

So, I've been immensely honoured over the past few years to be asked to contribute an endorsement to a range of wonderful books. I take the task of blurbing very seriously, it takes me a long time, for me a blurb is almost a story in itself, and as I've seen from the amazing  blurbs I was lucky enough to get, they can really give a great impression of what is in the book. So, if you're looking for presents to buy this festive season, here are all the books - in no particular order - that I've blurbed, with my blurbs - I highly recommend them all!

Dot Dash by Jon Pinnock
In these wonderful short, very short and very very short stories, Jonathan Pinnock takes aim at all the foibles and vanities we think we succeed in hiding. Not content to just pull back the curtain, Pinnock sets fire to it and chuckles as it blazes. Yet he also executes something of a conjuring trick, making us laugh, but also making us feel, think. Like Nana, whose granddaughter recreates Cairo in her bedroom for her before she dies, we fabricate our own reality: we see and hear what we want and ignore what we don't. Dot Dash is sending us a message, and yes, it may be through yellow plastic ducks, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't listen. 

Beneath the Liquid Skin by Berit Ellingsen
Berit Ellingsen is no ordinary wordsmith but a weaver of silken tapestories, lush and burning with both ancient ache and postmodern playfulness. Mixing myth and astronomy, desire and other appetites, and dancing on the thread that slips between poetry and prose, Ellingsen stitches every word in perfect service to her utterly beautiful and dreamlike stories.
The Baghdad Fixer by Ilene Prusher
A journalist's fixer is a go-between in so many senses: linguistic, cultural. The fixer straddles borders and boundaries, helping each try to communicate with the Other. Ilene Prusher conjurs this so beautifully in her stunning, thrilling debut, as Nabil, an Iraqi English teacher with a poetic soul, is drawn into the unfamiliar, learning as much about his own country and people as about the world in which Samarra, the American journalist who has hired him, moves so easily. A unique novel, The Baghdad Fixer's compelling plot is combined with poignant and difficult insights into the life and tragedies of ordinary Iraqis during the war. This is not just a wonderful read, it is an important book for helping us, too, to begin to understand the Other.
Fakakt: Melissa Morris and The Meaning of Sex by Jasmine Schwartz
I love Melissa Morris. The most unlikely heroine of a murder mystery, she's insecure, worried about her failing love life, her job prospects and her fashion sense. Yet when, on a trip to Rome in pursuit of errant boyfriend Colin, she is wrongfully arrested for murder, does she sit in a cell, weeping? She does not. She promptly escapes to track down the real murderer and clear her name. In a city she's not familiar with and a language she doesn't speak. That's more than plucky, and it makes for the unputdownable story of an amateur detective who could be any one of us, stumbling around atmospheric Italian streets trying to piece the plot together. I dare you not to fall in love with Jasmine Schwartz's Melissa Morris too. She may believe she's "fakakt" but I think she's fabulous!
Enough by Valerie O'Riordan
Valerie O'Riordan puts to shame the puffed-up and the oversized with her beautiful, brief and brutal fictions. Each word is worth a hundredweight, each story a full world. O'Riordan is a true original, fierce and fearless, she will travel anywhere for a great story. I can't wait for more!
Storm Warning by Vanessa Gebbie
Both haunted and haunting, Vanessa Gebbie's protagonists in these unsettling stories move through the present but remain always tethered to the past. No war stories these, but explorations of what it means to “survive” the conflicts and horrors created by humans across centuries and continents. Like Pat Barker, Gebbie gives voice to those who cannot forget, even decades later, who was taken and and what was lost in the blood and mud. Gebbie's strength lies in her poetic and poignant combination of reality and dream, the weaving together of outer experience and inner turbulence, and the small sparks of hope even in the darkest corners.
Hot Kitchen Snow by Susannah Rickards
The stories in this quietly powerful collection are populated by characters you care about from the opening sentence, children and adults whose lives you slip into in the midst of action. For Rickards, action is something as ordinary as a mother wondering whether to leave her children alone for five minutes or a dog-food salesman looking for meaning in his life; as magical as the father who kidnaps the moon for his daughter; or as quirky as the overweight dance administrator persuaded to put on a sari and take an Indian dance class. Whatever the context, Rickards’ stories grip and flow onwards, tiny twists and revelations exposing the undersides of life, both glowing and dark. This book will entertain, provoke, shock and surprise you in all the ways a great short story collection should.
In the Spirit of Phineas McLata by Lauri Kubuitsile
Lauri Kubuitsile's stories are sweet, salty, colourful, hot, and unforgettable. Botswana-flavoured and pregnant with atmosphere, Kubuitsile's writing slips easily between the real and the magical, between death and life, love and sex, humour and darkness, friendship and family. Just as McPhineas Lata wove his seductive spell on the village women, so too will these stories bewitch and enchant.
Housewife With A Half Life by Alison Wells
AB Wells is not only a supremely talented writer but also something of an alchemist. Housewife With a Half Life is wondrously original and imaginative, combining the travails of domesticity with glorious scientific allusions and illusions in a fast-paced and sparkling tale of a wife and mother who discovers she is losing herself, and the stranger from another dimension who turns up as she's cleaning the bathroom to make sure it doesn't happen. A wild ride, this nuclear fusion of a novel is, underneath it all, the story of relationships, of family, of what it means to be a mother, a wife, a woman, and, ultimately, a human being. Move over H.G., A B Wells has written the time-travelling tale for the 21st century!
Veronica Britton by Niall Boyce
I could say that Niall Boyce's fiction is X meets Y meets Z, but that would be doing it a severe injustice because it is a fabulously imaginative and unique combination of elements. Here we have historical fiction meets science fiction meets fantasy with a dash of philosophy and a sprinkling of feminism. I was captivated by chronic detective Veronica Britton and her sidekick, superheroines in every sense of the word, saving the world time and again, in and out of time. I was only sorry when I turned the last page and had to leave their exploits. Am eagerly awaiting the next one!

All the Bananas I've Never Eaten by Tony Williams
Tony Williams has a special talent for assembling the magical out of the mundane - whether that be pub carpets, satnavs, mattresses or bananas. These short short stories often deal in pain, in death, in loss and loneliness, in absence, in anger and in shame, but Williams always makes sure that fragments of hope emerge, like the music of an oboe, that short burst of happiness that lights up the dark.

I hope I haven't forgotten anyone! Right, that's your lot, something there for everyone, I think!

Sunday, December 09, 2012

The Book Stops Here Tomorrow Night!

I am so excited about reading at The Book Stops Here tomorrow night in London - because alongside me (or rather, above me) on the bill is ALI SMITH. Ali Smith, author of many award winning short story collections and novels... and one of the two main reasons I started writing short stories in the first place. Her stories and Roald Dahl's. That was what did it for me. Roald Dahl's stories when I was a child showed me the power of what can be done in a few pages, to shock and surprise. Then, years later, Ali Smith showed me the more intimate side of the short stories, ones that don't need blood, murder and policemen in order to be just as powerful, often as shocking. 

She has also been personally very supportive - I was taught by her and Toby Litt on an Arvon course in 2006 and she basically said what you would imagine in your wildest dreams that one of your gurus would say to you: "You are a writer. You can do this". Talking about permissions in an earlier post - what could be a greater permission than that - not just permission, but instruction!

Anyway, I am blogging about this in advance to try and reduce the chances of me being all fangirl-ish tomorrow night, must remain professional. Ha! Also on the bill are Joe Stretch and Essie Fox, whose writings I am not yet familiar with, I can't wait. Do come! Here are the full details
On Monday, December 10 we’ll be bringing you a very special festive* episode of The Book Stops Here (*readings may or may not actually be festive).
ALI SMITH, whose latest book Artful is part essay, part lecture, part genre-bending fiction and a loving ode to everything from Oliver Twist to Wislawa Szymborska. Daniel Hahn in the Independent on Sunday raved that it’s “Smart, allusive, informal, playful, audacious. (It’s true. I think I am in love with Ali Smith.)” Join the club, Dan. Join the club.
JOE STRETCH, reading from The Adult, which is part hilarious novel, part ode to a 90s childhood – “I knew from the first page that this was going to be a very funny book, but I didn’t realise it would have so much heart and be so beautiful” says TBSH favourite Evie Wyld.
TANIA HERSHMAN, a contributor to the STILL anthology and the latest issue of Five Dials, reading from her new collection, My Mother Was An Upright Piano – praised last week by the TLS for its “quirky, often funny focus on small-scale human oddities, anxieties and misunderstandings.”
And ESSIE FOX, the brains behind the Virtual Victorian blog and author of two Victorian novels, The Somnambulist and her most recent, Elijah’s Mermaid, which the Guardian compares to Wilkie Collins AND early Sarah Waters and says “the glee with which Fox approaches her material is infectious.” So get ready to be infected!
With books and holiday spirit. 7.30pm for drinks, 8pm for the good stuff, on Monday, December 10 at the Alley Cat bar, 4 Denmark Street.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

Jon Pinnock on Writing & Place

I'm delighted to welcome the excellent and talented Jon Pinnock to the blog today. Jon is the author of one of the few books that has ever had me laughing out loud, Mrs Darcy Versus the Aliens, a hilarious (and erudite) mashup of, well, Jane Austen and extraterrestrials! Jon and I chatted about that book here. Today, Jon is here because he has a brand new book, his first short story collection, Dot Dash (Salt Publishing). Congratulations! 

I was honoured that Jon asked me to provide a "blurb" for the book, and here's what I said:

In these wonderful short, very short and very very short stories, Jonathan Pinnock takes aim at all the foibles and vanities we think we succeed in hiding. Not content to just pull back the curtain, Pinnock sets fire to it and chuckles as it blazes. Yet he also executes something of a conjuring trick, making us laugh, but also making us feel, think. Like Nana, whose granddaughter recreates Cairo in her bedroom for her before she dies, we fabricate our own reality: we see and hear what we want and ignore what we don't. Dot Dash is sending us a message, and yes, it may be through yellow plastic ducks, but that doesn't mean we shouldn't listen.
I recommend this collection highly, as you can tell. Very highly. I thought as part of Jon's virtual book tour, I'd ask him my Writing& Place questionnaire, and he could use that to tell us a bit more about his writing. Here goes:

View from Jon's Window
Tania: Where are you? 
Jon: I live in a converted windmill in deepest Somerset. On a good day, I can just about see Glastonbury Tor from my office window. On other days, I just, like, feel the vibes.


T: How long have you been there?
J: We moved here about six months ago after a long and sustained campaign by my wife to get me to realise the merits of living in the country. Having finally made the move, my only regret is that I didn't give in years ago.

T: What do you write? 
J: I mainly write short stories and poems, and my first short story collection, "Dot Dash", was published by Salt in November. A couple of years ago, I did also somehow manage to complete a novel, Mrs Darcy versus the Aliens, and that was published by Proxima in September 2011. I've also recently completed an offbeat non-fiction memoir-type thing that is currently out on submission. As a writer, I'll try my hand at almost anything, mainly just to see if I can. Among the various projects languishing at the back of an old sock drawer are a very strange ultra-short radio play that earned me an interview in Broadcasting House in 1992 (which I completely failed to capitalise on), as well as several failed attempts at kids' books from the same period. One of these days, I'll find one thing to do and give it 100% focus. Although it will almost certainly turn out to be the wrong thing.

T: How do you think where you are affects what you write about and how you write? 
Another view from Jon's window
J: Very good question. Usually I would say that most of my writing process goes on in my head, uninfluenced by my surroundings. However, over the last six months, the fact of having moved house has had a massive effect on my writing, in that I've spent an inordinate time unpacked boxes and sorting out stuff INSTEAD of writing. However, once everything's nice and settled, I'm hoping that the fact that we're surrounded by fields will provide ample opportunities for taking long walks and getting inspired by Mother Nature. Alternatively, it may simply provide ample opportunities for taking long walks instead of writing. Basically, the jury's still out.

Thank you so much, Jon, what a view! Dot Dash, was published by Salt in November - buy the paperback here, find out more on the book's website and more about Jon on his. And if you are of the ebook persuasion, Dot Dash is available for only 0.77p for your Kindle today! And you can read other authors' Writing & Place interviews here.

Tuesday, December 04, 2012

Congratulations, Vanessa!

I can't resist talking about my very talented friend, especially since she is offline right now at a writing retreat... so it's up to me to say


to Vanessa Gebbie, already a prize-winning short story writer and novelist, for winning FIRST PRIZE in the Troubadour Poetry Competition! Is there no end to her talents? I suspect there isn't! I'm so proud of her, she's only been writing poetry for a few years, and this prize comes with a very nice cheque for £2,500, which will buy quite a bit of cake when she and I next meet for a writerly chat! She's a true inspiration, I'm raising a glass! Cheers! Read her winning poem here.

Here's the full list of prizewinners, congratulations to all!

  • First Prize, £2500: ‘Immensi Tremor Oceani’, Vanessa Gebbie, East Sussex
  • Second Prize, £500: The Teenage Existential, Paul Stephenson, London
  • Third Prize, £250: Explaining the Plot of ‘Blade Runner’ to my Mother who has Alzheimer’s: C.J. Allen, Notts
and, with prizes of £20 each:
  • Horse As Accordion, Nicky Arscott, Powys
  • A Tale from the Town Maze, Mike Barlow, Lancaster
  • East 17th Street or How I Met My Husband, Mara Bergman, Tunbridge Wells
  • The Third Umpire, Judy Brown, London
  • The Ledge, Miles Cain, York
  • Brood, Claudia Daventry, St. Andrews
  • The Language of Memory (The Bees), Gerrie Fellows, Glasgow
  • Lost, Rebecca Goss, Liverpool
  • When Jesus Played the Piano, David H.W. Grubb, Henley-on-Thames
  • Woman on a Cliff, Peter Gruffydd, Bristol
  • X-Ray Vision, Alex Josephy, London
  • Woolpit Child, Gillian Laker, Kent
  • October 1962, Shelley McAlister, Yarmouth
  • Burning the Clocks, John McCullough, East Sussex
  • HazMat, Dawn McGuire, Orinda, California
  • A Psalm for the Scaffolders, Kim Moore, Barrow in Furness
  • The Mercedes, Helen Overell, Surrey
  • The Scarlet Lizard, Caroline Smith, Rickmansworth
  • Underworld, Judi Sutherland, Berkshire
  • Peter Doig’s Studio, Betty Thomson, Co. Wexford

Sunday, December 02, 2012

The White Review Launches Short Story Prize

Really good to hear about a new UK short story prize for writers who have yet to secure a publishing deal - it's open for entries now, good luck to all! Here's the announcement:
supported by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation 
We are delighted to announce the inauguration of the annual White Review Short Story Prize, judged by a panel including Booker Prize-shortlisted author Deborah Levy and awarded by Tom McCarthy.

Made possible by the generous support of the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, the prize awards £2,500 to the best piece of short fiction by an unpublished writer resident in Great Britain and Ireland. The competition will open for submissions on 1 December 2012. The deadline is 1 March 2013. The prize will be awarded at a ceremony in March 2013. 
The judges will be looking for short stories that explore and expand the possibilities of the form. We encourage submissions from all literary genres, and there are no restrictions on theme or subject matter. The only emphasis is on ambitious, imaginative and innovative approaches to creative writing. We hope that the award will demonstrate the vitality of a form too often neglected in Great Britain and Ireland.
Novelist Tom McCarthy, author of Men in Space, Remainder and the Man Booker-shortlisted C, will announce the winner at a prize-giving ceremony in London in April 2013. In addition to the £2,500 prize, the winner will be published in a quarterly print issue of The White Review. The winner will also have a chance to meet with Karolina Sutton, Senior Agent at Curtis Brown, to discuss their writing, plans for future work and possible routes to publication. Up to six shortlisted writers will have their work published online and receive feedback from the editors of The White Review.

For more information, please contact editors Jacques Testard and Benjamin Eastham on  

Deborah Levy writes fiction, plays and poetry. Her work has been staged by the Royal Shakespeare Company, and she is the author of highly praised novels including Beautiful Mutants, Swallowing Geography and Billy and Girl. Her latest novel Swimming Home was shortlisted for the 2012 Man Booker Prize.

Alex Bowler is editorial director at Jonathan Cape. He has edited Tom McCarthy, Martin Amis, Ian McEwan, Julian Barnes, Audrey Niffenegger, Kevin Barry and Grant Morrison.

Karolina Sutton is a senior agent at Curtis Brown. She notably represents Siri Hustvedt, Haruki Murakami and D. W. Wilson.

The Jerwood Charitable Foundation is dedicated to imaginative and responsible revenue funding of the arts, supporting artists to develop and grow at formative stages in their careers. They work with artists across art forms, from dance and theatre to literature, music and the visual arts. For more information on the Jerwood Charitable Foundation visit:

The White Review is now a registered charity (Charity Number: 1148690). It is devoted to promoting the arts and literature for the benefit of the public by the publication of an arts and literary journal and the organisation of artistic and literary events specialising in artistically or educationally meritorious works of new or emerging artists and writers.