Copies of the new print run of my book arrived on my doorstep today. If you would like to buy a copy please click the link on ‘The Sun Bathers’ page above.
In other news, I’m pleased to have been invited to read with Liz Berry, Geraldine Monk and Les Malheureux at the John Rylands Library in Manchester next month. If you read my review of Liz’s ‘Black Country ‘ on here a while back you’ll know high highly I rate her work and the venue is lovely so I’m looking forward to it. You can find details on the Poets and Players website.
Like a lot of people, I’m not at my best at this time of year, so it was good to hear that my short story ‘Late’ has been highly commended in the Bare Fiction short story competition. Bare Fiction is a relatively new and very well produced print magazine that has already established itself with its good looks and excellent production values, website and launches. I understand that the short story competition attracted 571 entries, with similar numbers entering poetry and flash fiction categories.
I’m rather pleased about the commendation for my story. Its been a while since I wrote my last one. In fact I think I was eleven years old. It received an A plus from Mrs Taylor. I couldn’t spell very well and my presentation wasn’t great, but the enlightened Mrs Taylor looked beyond these details. My next English teacher (Mr Big) also liked my writing. He liked one story so much he asked me to copy it out so he could print it in the school magazine. I didn’t copy out the story. I don’t think I could be bothered. I missed the deadline.
Decades passed. I wrote one or two poems that I never showed to anyone. I wrote some songs. A very talented musician friend, Pete Aves recorded one of my songs on an album. I also wrote some sleeve notes for Pete’s albums. But no short stories.
I studied nursing at university and for I while the only writing I did was essays. In the mid noughties I started writing poems again, many of which went into my pamphlet and full collection. I wrote a couple of poetry reviews for magazines, and a few articles on subjects that interest me for the blog you are reading now.
In 2012 I won an award which enabled me to start a part-time MA in writing. But it was now 2014 and I had not written one single word of a short story for about thirty years.
I signed up for the short story module on the MA thinking it would be the nearest thing to poetry. I was fortunate in that the lecturer, Felicity Skelton, was funny, brilliant, organized, knowledgeable and absolutely passionate about the form. In my experience of education people like this are rare and can rescue you from the despair, disaffection and confusion that educational establishments can sometimes foster.
I didn’t read everything Felicity asked us to read, or complete every exercise; but I did read things I wouldn’t have normally read. I’d read almost nothing but poetry and autobiography for years. And I had to produce some work and so I wrote. I wrote before and after going to work, I wrote between poems, before and after the school run, before cooking, after eating, late into the night and very early in the morning. I wrote whenever I could.
To my amazement, I wrote three stories in quick succession. I followed ideas not knowing where they would go.
I avoided distraction. I researched where I needed to add detail. I finished the things I started to write. I felt liberated by the form, not having to re-consider and weigh every word in quite the same obsessive way that I do when writing poetry whilst still enjoying the constraints that short story imposes. I was disciplined enough to write when I didn’t feel like writing, and this loosened me up. I was pleased when my work received good feedback. And this time, I even wrote my stories up in neat.