Sunday, 28 November 2010

Grit Lit - My Last Short Story Reading of the Year


Expect nothing less than the grittiest writing in town, from the award-winning Grit Lit duo.

Performance poet diva and writer Akila, published in True Tales of Mixed Heritage Experiences (Penguin), When Black Is Red (Peeple Tree), reads from a new collection of stories, Wherever You Find Us.

John O’Donoghue with an extract from Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (John Murray) which won this year’s Mind Book of the Year award.

Louise Halvardsson, who won the Young Adult Fiction newcomer award in her native Sweden in 2007, reading her surreal shorty story Suicidal Girlfriends.

London based writer, Dan Holloway from underground writers’ collective Year Zero, reading a truly gritty short from his Razorblades anthology.

Erinna Mettler
, up and coming Brighton writer reading Underneath, a short story about relationships and vintage underwear…

Australian writer, Rob Paraman, with a hilarious recollection of the Christmas morning when he got a Batman costume… as did half the kids in his neighbourhood.

And your hosts:

Amy Riley, journalist (Trash Menagerie, K-Mag) and short story writer (Queenspark), reading an extract from her novel in progress.

Tim Lay, award winning novelist whose new book Nibs: A Collection of Short Stories is now available from Callio Press, reading a short story set in the wild west (Devon!) during the free party years of the early 90′s.

Advanced tickets on sale NOW: or 5 pounds on door. Licensed bar, best coffee & hot chocolate in town, cabaret style night.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Storyville - Women Writers Festival

One of the most exciting things I know is to meet published writers that I like. It’s almost like going to a gig, seeing a band you’re into.

If I could have afforded the money and the time I would have gone to all the talks in the Storyville festival at Pavilion Theatre, but going to three was good enough.

First up was the New Voices session with Emma Henderson, Justine Kilkerr and Emily Mackie. I’d only read Justine’s novel Advice for Strays before (a very unusual novel about depression and imaginary friends), but was very impressed with the other writers as well.

So impressed with Emily Mackie’s And this is true that I had to buy it. The story is about a boy who’s spent basically his whole life travelling round with his writer father in a van, but everything changes when one night the boy kisses his father … You’d think that the incestuous theme would be very disturbing, but he way Emily handles the subject, writing from the boy Nevis’s point of view is fantastic.

When asked how they got published all the debut novelists had similar stories: they’d done and MA in creative writing and met their agents thanks to contacts/events through their universities. Although Emma won a short story competition (yes it’s still worth writing short stories!) and was contacted by an agent because of that.

The second talk I went to was The Music of Chance with Catherine O’Flynn and Lois Walden. Catherine won the Costa book award for her debut What was Lost. She is fascinated by the mundane, and as well as losing people she also writes about the loss of certain aspects of a city. In the end she told us about the long way to getting published. She had fifteen agents completely ignoring her (what’s worse is that she lived in Spain at the time and spent a fortune on posting her manuscripts.) In the end she contacted a small local Birmingham publisher and the rest is history.

Lois also had a long route to publishing. She’s got her background in the music business, but finding an agent wasn’t easier because of it. One agency was interested, but held on to her script for eight months, with nothing happening. In the end it was a friend of a friend who introduced her to an agent … What impressed me with Lois’s writing was that she was very aware of rhythm and her language felt very musical thanks to her musical background.

The last talk I went to was the best. I had a seat in the front row, wriggling nervously on my seat, waiting for Ali Smith to enter the stage … She’s one of the best writers I know. Reading her makes me smile, think and be happy to be alive. There’s something magical about her way with language, the flow and the way every single word fits. I asked her about this. She revealed that seldom did a short story come out in one sitting. She edits and edits and then edits some more. First by page, then by paragraph, then my sentence, then word by word.

Ali was very keen to discuss her writing with the audience and I was surprised that she found it so hard to write short stories, so hard that in fact she once wrote a story called Last, promising herself never to write a short story again … But of course she has. It was also very encouraging to hear that whilst Ali is very disciplined, she’s also very lazy, but is okay with that … To do nothing is also part of writing.

If you’ve followed my blog you know that I’m having a writing block/break at the moment … However something clicked in my brain during the first talk on the Saturday. All of a sudden I had this burning urge to get my notepad out of my handbag and put some words down, and so I did … Since Saturday I’ve written quite a lot, nothing finished and nothing sensible, but at least I’ve put words down, words that form sentences, sentences that forms paragraph, that forms pages …

Also. An agent who has read Replacing Angel says that some aspects of my novel works, other aspects don’t. I’m not hoping too much, but at least we’re going to meet up and have a talk about it soon …

I might submit a working aspect of my novel to Sussex Writers Award. They only want 1500 words, plus a 500 words synopsis. Deadline is 1 Dec.

Another competition coming up is The Writer’s Retreat Competition, organised by Myriad Editions and West Dean College.

Monday, 22 November 2010


The Short Story evening at New Venture Theatre Friday went really quickly. You'd think that you'd feel exhausted after hearing nine stories, but I wanted more! Although it was nice to have time to catch up with people in the bar after.

It adds to the entertainment factor that actors are reading out the stories submitted by writers. Gayle Dudley who read my story Clowntown was brilliant and made the story more justice than I could've done myself, putting on a very creepy low clown voice.
I got the inspiration for Clowntown when I was in Ireland and came across a tattoo shop in Ennis called Clowntown. Also James Burt had challenged me to write a story about a clown ... His device is to add a clown to your writing whenever you get stuck ...

This is the beginning of Clowntown:
"Penny didn’t look happy when I turned up at her doorstep after dark. It wasn’t just that I was late and the food had gone cold – I’d brought a clown with me."

Other highlights of the night was the host Sarah Charsley's story Ghost Sex (the title says it all!), and Louise Hume's story about a woman who preferred a house to a man. Needles to say the theme for the evening was Into the Dark.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Short Story Night at New Venture Theatre

Tomorrow, Friday 19 Nov, my short story, CLOWNTOWN
will be read out by an actor at New Venture Theatre
at the Into the Dark Event. 7.45pm

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ace Stories

Ace Stories (former Tight Lip) is one of my favourite literary events in Brighton. Through the years I've seen and heard some great writers read, among others Joolz Denby, Amanda Smyth and Cathi Unsworth. Usually the night is headlined by a big name and supported by two local authors. At the end the audience get treated to musical entertainment. The organiser and curator Jay Clifton is very professional and takes his time to interview the headlining author as well as asking the support acts why they write. (And believe it or not - all writers get paid!) Best of all there's also a book/film raffle included in the ticket price. The venue Hotel Pelirocco is an excellent choice and adds to the atmosphere, especially as there's a two for one deal on cocktails. It was a great honour to be invited to read at the last Ace Stories for this season.

I'm reading my short story The Party is Over about two teenage girls coming home after a party where they met their big rockstar idol. I also promoted by Swedish novel, Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd which was the right thing to do as there was a Swedish woman in the audience who bought it! Later I was approached by people from Kingston University who might set up another reading for me. Very exciting!

Jeff Sheppard is reading a few poems from his audio collection Autism and the Migration of Birds, and to my amazement he also read from a book that he had published when he was sixteen ...

James Miller with his latest novel Sunshine State

Kristin McClement is finishing a great evening off



Saturday, 13 November 2010

Reading at Ace Stories

Come and listen to me read my short story, THE PARTY IS OVER.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Improvised Music & Spoken Word Workshop

Saturday I went to an improvised music & spoken word workshop (organised by poet Tom Cunliffe at the Open House Pub) with an open mind. When I signed up for it a few months ago I thought it sounded cool to improvise words to music. The reality of it was more than cool.

The Safehouse Collective is a group that meets regularly to improvise music and some of the members are also part of a band called 4thirtythree that play live gigs and record albums - all improvised.

Anything can happen and that's what I love about it. The musicians not only use instruments; they pick up brushes, chairs, glasses - anything in the room - to make sound effects. In the workshop the poets were welcome to join in with any words they felt like using. Some used lines from already existing poems, while others made the words up on the spot.

I got a line in my head "I have ice cream in my head, melting in my ears" literally ten seconds before going on stage and later on while I was tuning into the music "my head was falling off." A liberating feeling as I'm a person who normally learn my poems by heart and keep rehearsing ...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

You always have a Choice ...

Today I was in an apathetic mood, feeling a bit emotional and lost.

These were my choices for the evening: (in no particular order)
*go to the Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam
*stay in, being miserable, feeling sorry for myself, thinking too much
*return a missed call from an ex-lover
*edit/re-write a short story on the theme of slugs

I should have a competition and let you guess which option I went for, but as I don't have any good prices to offer, I'll reveal that I went for the slug story option ...

I'm still feeling a bit blocked when it comes to writing, but after venting my misery to a few loving writing friends (you know who you are) I decided that I don't have a block - I'm having a break.

Having a break means that I don't have to write, but I can if I want to. And tonight I felt inspired to re-write my short story THE SNAIL HOUSE that originally was on the theme of Hope&Faith for the next Liar's League Event in London. But at the time of writing I drifted a bit from the theme and started to write about snails, and after feedback from Miriam I changed the snails to slugs ...

I've had a great night. Learning about slugs. Listening to The Smiths ("I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I'm miserable now.") Eating jaffa cakes (the most healthy option when it comes to biscuits apparently*), drinking red wine (good for the heart) and actually writing. I've killed a few darlings. I've added a few new darlings. I will submit the story to Liar's League, even if I've gone off the theme slightly ...

Thanks also to Tim and Chris for feedback. Having someone read your work and making comments about it (positive and negative) is a reason for living.

*don't know if 8 is a good number though ...