2019 - an intermission

A form rejection this morning reminded me how few stories I’ve submitted this year.

And the big fat zero number of publications.

Ah so.

I’m still crawling along with the novel and writing more words than is humanly reasonable for Writers’ HQ, so the subs will just have to wait. That said, I DID unearth a draft of a poem about Vagina Dentata and started a flash about hugs the other day, so perhaps not all hope is lost for this year.

I’m also pretty happy with the stories I sent out into the world last year. It was a good year.

  • My first 10-minute play, Flying Ant Day was produced by Broken Silence Theatre to some really positive reviews (like this and this).

  • I won the Bath Flash Fiction Award and attempted to read it aloud at the awards ceremony having completely lost my voice. I wrote a bit about the writing of it here, and the guys at Book. Record. Beer. compared me to Hemingway, so - y’know, that’s pretty cool.

  • Another flash, Second Skin, was highly commended in the TSS Flash Fiction 400 competition (accompanying interview here).

  • And another, The Back of Your Hand was longlisted for the Reflex Fiction flash fiction competition.

  • Excellent person Paul Macauley sat me in his kitchen and talked about creativity, determination, and all the wafty bollocks about calling yourself a ‘writer’ for his podcast: Creative Loving Spirit.

That’s plenty, I think. There were also seventeen rejections, a continuously unfinished novel, and an ever-expanding business that never ceases to blow my mind with the sheer possibility that comes from saying “yeah, fuck it, let’s just do it”, the best fucking writing community on the planet, and the most incredible band of humans i could ever hope to work with.

Most of my energy is there right now. But there will more words. In time. I will finish this book. I will write about vaginas with teeth. And hugs. And maybe there will be a list for 2019.

We’ll see.

Posted on September 12, 2019 and filed under Short Stories.

Creative Loving Spirit - Podcast with Paul Macauley

Ughhhhhhhhhh that's my face.

Ughhhhhhhhhh that's my face.

Paul Macauley - playwright, long-time Brighton Writers' Retreater, general all round good egg and brilliant conversationist - has started a podcast. It's called Creative Loving Spirit and is all about, well, exactly that. Paul interviews people from all walks of creative life about their processes, their inspiration, their challenges, and asks what compels us to 'do' art, in whatever form that might be. 

A few weeks ago he asked me to talk about my writing, about Writers' HQ, about giving yourself permission to do the creative thing you wanna do, whether one is ever ready to call oneself an 'artiste' (snarf), and a whole bunch of interesting stuff as we spent a few hours giggling and rambling in his kitchen.

Anywho, you can listen to it HERE, along with the many other fascinating (did I just call myself fascinating?) people Paul has interviewed for his show. YES, PAUL, YOU HAVE A 'SHOW' NOW. 

Posted on July 14, 2018 and filed under interview, Interviews, writing.

Winner of the Bath Flash Fiction Award - Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road

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Chuffed beyond words to have won the February 2018 Bath Flash Fiction Award with my piece of flash fiction, Things Left and Found by the Side of the Road

It was written (in my head) driving home from my friend's house in a stream of listicle consciousness and took shape at home later, constrained by the modest 300 word limit. It was going to be a poem but I am not a poet and I have a soft spot for one-paragraph stories. 

Fun fact: The errant imaginary friend was real (at least to me), and his name was Tan Tan. And one fateful day he was flung from an open window somewhere on the A23, never to be seen (or unseen) again.

Celebrating with pizza and ice cream (even though it's snowing here right now) because that is how we roll. 

Thank you to judge Tara L. Masih and the Bath Flash Fiction Award team. I won't traumatise you with video evidence but just imagine the happy dancing going on in my house at this very moment. 

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Read 100 Books in 2017 - SEPTEMBER-DECEMBER

Ok I'm backdating furiously because it's now 2018 and I've started a whole new reading challenge, so it's time to wrap this one up before we all die of old age. Ready for a whistle stop round up? Let's go. 

SEPTEMBER

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Favourite: It would be massively pretentious to say Moby Dick but... I'm gonna say Moby Dick. This is my twelvetieth attempt at reading the damn fishy brick and I finally made it. And it's not because it's boring or particularly difficult to read, but it can be... dense. And tangential in parts. It's also so full of detail that your brain sort of explodes trying to process everything. But such a joy. Fucking hilarious, too. And unexpectedly beautiful. Love a bit of Dick. Ahem. 

Least Favourite: This was a really good month of reading, despite the comparatively low book count, so least favourite is pretty relative, although I struggled a bit with the Pinter collection. His treatment of women is... questionable at times. 

Also Worth Mentioning: I can't remember who recommended Sofia Khan is Not Obliged (by Ayisha Malik) to me but THANK YOU. It was a fucking delight, and I immediately bought its sequel and spent about 4 hours I should have been working tearing through them both. 

OCTOBER

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Favourite: So I had a slight meltdown this month and couldn't find ANY fiction that could hold my attention, hence the dabbling in graphic novels (Deadpool FTW) and non-fiction (I'm researching 18th century smuggling for a story) and plays (I went to see Dido at the RSC donchaknow). So in between all that I decided to embark on a marathon re-read of the Terry Pratchett back catalogue because GNU. Couldn't give you a favourite as such but I do love Rincewind with every fibre of my being. 

Least Favourite: I have been trying to read If, Then since the beginning of the year. It's now October. It was one of the first books I started and... it's beautifully written. It really is. It has a fascinating premise and engaging characters and a mindboggling plot (plus, its author lives in my hometown, where the story is also set) BUT I felt like it didn't quite know what it wanted to be. It's trying to be many different things but I think in doing so it sacrifices its plot - or reader connection - or something. Anyway. I enjoyed it, and was realllllllly happy to finish it eventually but I couldn't help feeling like I was missing something.  

NOVEMBER

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No favourites or least favourites for November. This was a Pratchett-heavy month which is always a good thing. I think I got through one every 1.5 days. Not sure I can choose a fave from those, though Granny Weatherwax is possibly my favourite character in the world ever, followed very closely by Samuel Vimes, so Wyrd Sisters and Guards! Guards! are up there. Whole lotta love for Ms Marvel, too, which I'm reading with my 9-year-old and who is now his favourite superhero. Oh, and my first time reading Jane Eyre which utterly surprised me, as I had fully expected to hate it. And last but not least, Carrie Fisher's Princess Diaries, which are unspeakably sad at times, but also full of poetic philosophies. Good month. One more to go.

DECEMBER

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Favourite: Reaper Man made me cry. Witches Abroad is, well, almost perfect. And having always eschewed reading Pride and Prejudice I was really quite shocked at how much I enjoyed it. Laugh out loud moments throughout. 

Least Favourite: I had some issues with The Ship because I kinda wanted to throw the protagonist overboard for half the book. But I know a lotta people who love it so I'll leave this review there. 

Also Worth Mentioning: Finished The Goblet of Fire with my son after an epic few months of bedtime reading. We both had to stop and have a little cry/hug when Cedric died, but then quickly recovered when Voldemort stepped out of the cauldron butt naked, which my kid thought was the funniest thing ever. 

DRUMROLL PLEASE...

And we're done. Made it to the end of 2017 with a grand total of... 102!

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And I'm so glad I did it. It's more than I've read in the last three years combined, I think. And it's got me out of some shitty social media/TV bingeing habits and made reading just another daily pleasure.

I tend to have two or three books on the go these days - one downstairs for reading-while-cooking or cramming in a few chapters in the witching hour between dinner and the kids' bedtime (massively assisted by our brand new wood burner - perfect reading environment). I also have another book or two upstairs, usually on my kindle, and read for at least an hour while I'm putting the kids to bed and then another good hour or so before I eventually pass out with my glasses askew. 

I've already jumped on the 2018 challenge but you can see a full list of my 2017 books on Goodreads HERE if you so wish... You can also join the #Read100Booksin2018 Facebook group here!

One final note: 

So... uh... we never finished Sarah's #ClassicReads challenge. We both gave up on Gulliver's Travels because ughhhhhhhh. Life is too fucking short. But if you have any recommendations for 2018 shout at me on Twitter or leave a comment. 

Happy reading/New Year!

Posted on December 31, 2017 and filed under Life, Projects, Reading.

Read 100 Books in 2017 - AUGUST

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New Personal Best: 28 frickin' books in August! I'm now on on a grand total of 73... Helped enormously by a week away in France where I basically ate cheese, drank wine, sat in the sun and read. I'm also taking part in the Writers' HQ #sarahreads challenge in which I'm forcing my WHQ co-director Sarah conquer 10 classics she's never read. I'm only slightly better - I've only read 5 of 'em and a long time ago in my English Lit A-level days, so I'm reading along with her. We're currently 2 in and will be updating with (ever so slightly drunk) vlogs about our progress, like this somewhat scathing review of Gatsby - check out the list below if you wanna join in.

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Right, back to my August reads. 

Favourite: Gnnnaaaauughh don't make me choose. So many good ones this month. In non-fiction I absolutely LOVED Cleopatra by Stacey Schiff, closely followed by the puntastic Away With Words (Joe Berkowitz), the whistle stop tour of A Million years in a Day (Greg Jenner), and the dramatic philosophy of Impro (Keith Johnstone). In fiction, I'd highly recommend The History of Love (Nicole Krauss) and The Coward's Tale (Vanessa Gebbie) if you want to cry over beautiful words and uplifting-yet-tragic stories. It was also veerrrrry interesting (and also depressing and infuriating) to read The Hate U Give (Angie Thomas), The Color Purple (Alice Walker), and To Kill a Mockingbird (Harper Lee) back to back, which demonstrated that racial issues in America are still (obviously) very much fucking shit. 

Least Favourite: I gotta say I had very little time for The North Water, even though it was sort of a warm up for attempting yet again to read Moby Dick. I'm on a bit of a roll with not enjoying Man Booker longlisters and this did not buck the trend. See also The Many, on the nautical theme. Both books were very well written - amazing imagery and wonderful words, but I just couldn't ENGAGE and was left feeling kinda mehh. Oh, I also fucking hate The Great Gatsby (see video link above) but that's nothing new. 

Also Worth Mentioning: In desperate anticipation for Patrick Rothfuss' next instalment of the Kingkiller series, I ripped through The Slow Regard of Silent Things which made me uncommonly emotional about inanimate objects.

Next up: For the #sarahreads challenge, Frankenstein, and for my own pleasure, Brutus and Other Heroines by Harriet Walter.

Join the #Read100Booksin2017 Facebook group here, check out our Writers' HQ video updates here, and stalk me on Goodreads here.  

Posted on September 1, 2017 and filed under Projects, Reading, Writers' HQ.