Monday 31 December 2007


It’s been a very good year. Since December 27th 2006, I have kept track of all submissions, acceptances and rejections, on another blog. (

The exercise was to show how hard work pays off. How you don’t get any acceptances if you don’t send your work out. How rejections DO come in, and writers who pretend they don’t are fibbing!

My stats are this:

75 Submissions. (33 competitions, 42 open)

36 hits ( 3 anthology publication, 2 non-fiction article, 1 anthology, 7 print mags, 8 ezine, 4 reading invites, 1 recording invite, 3 shortlistings, 1 longlist, 2 First Prizes, (Paddon Award Exeter Uni, Daily Telegraph Novel Comp), 3 Second Prizes [Bridport prize, Fish short story and Flashquake flash, ...]) 1 Third (normblog flash)

63 rejects (16 ezines, 11 anthology subs, 5 print mags, 8 flash comps, 1 non fic comp, 3 monologue, 15 story comp subs, 5 radio)

(of course, the maths won’t add up. The timelag between submissions and responses can be months and months. The above reflects some responses from submissions sent out in 2006, and there are still some results to come back in the New Year from 2007 subs.)

Acceptance breakdown is as follows:

Anthology publications: See You Next Tuesday (Better Non Sequitur), scheduled April 2008), New Short Stories 1,

Non-fiction articles: Per Contra (scheduled 2008 March), New Writer

Anthology: My own collection of short fiction accepted by Salt Publishing, publishing date: March 1st 2008)

First Prizes: Paddon Award, Exeter University, Daily Telegraph Novel Competition (First 1000 wds, plus synopsis)

Second Prizes: Bridport prize 2007, Fish Short Story prize 2007, Flashquake ‘Less is More’ flash fiction competition.

Third Prize Normblog flash

Shortlistings: Willesden Herald Competition, Philip Good memorial,

Longlisting: Happenstance

Print Journals: Riptide, Birmingham Arts Journal (2), Thema, Steel City, GUD, Penumbra,

Ezines: Café Irreal (2), Tien Ve (Vietnam) Burn (Italy) work taken from Café Irreal and translated), Onepagestories, Night Train,

Reading Invites: Short Fuse (2), Tales of the Decongested, West Cork Literary Festival (July ’08)

Recording Invite: Talking Newspapers

Rejection Breakdown:

Short Story Competitions: Herts University, Cotswold, Blinking Eye, 2 subs at Fish, Phillip Good memorial, V S Pritchett, Kid’s story comp, New Writer, Lichfield, Yeovil 3, 1 Bridport sub, Glass Woman, Fish Histories, Times ghost story,

Flash Competitions: Some European mag (cant remember!), drabble comp, 1 Flashquake, Ascent Aspirations, Guardian nano, BBC drabble, Fish history v short, 1 normblog sub,

Monologue comp: SWWJ (3)

Anthology subs: Comma Press (5, modern horror 2, new writers 3), Honno, Clockwork Phoenix, Apis (3)

Radio: 5

Print Journals:


Smokelong (2)
Cezanne’s Carrot
Tattoo Highway (2)
East of the Web 5
Vestal Review
Everyday Fiction
Strange Horizons
Summerset Review
Six Little Things

Handout: Broadsided

Subs Withdrawn: Shortalk (nothing seems to be happening after an interesting start)

I cant get it all to add up, but then I’m a writer not a mathematician!

However: early in the year I apologised that this was going to be a thin year for submissions as I am writing a novel, or trying to! And relative to the last three years it was thin. But the hit rate was far higher. I am not scribbling so much flash work, and have not been zapping pieces out there unless I reckoned there was a good chance of hitting. Also, I have learned the market, to a certain extent. I know where my stuff might hit.

What is surprising is the consistent rejects from the ezines… But then, I look at the acceptances and have to shrug.

Its been a interesting year. I’m doing more interesting things… readings, invites to contribute to this and that.

And f course the collection coming out soon from Salt… fabulous.

I started this writing lark in 2003. had first acceptance in early 2004. I’m pleased, overall, with progress. I guess I don’t have to prove anything any more. And that is great, on the one hand.

But it also takes away a spur, on the other…next year will be very very different. Lots of teaching scheduled already. The Workhouse continuing to buzz along, with regular flash blasts, consistent high quality critiquing. Working hard on promoting the book. And getting a flash collection ready….


Thursday 27 December 2007


I'm delighted to have a story in the latest issue of cult magazine GUD.

From the website: (links below)

Issue 2 celebrates Heaven, Earth, and Space in-between; it is touched by religion, grounded in technology and comfortable with the occult.
Including a language-stretching piece triggered by the Talmud from the legendary Hugh Fox, poems by haiku heavy-hitter Jim Kacian, the surprisingly touching “By Zombies; Eaten” from Christopher William Buecheler, and an alien perspective on human spirituality by Tina Connolly in the remarkable “The Salivary Reflex”
— all part of a drool-worthy two-hundred page selection of over twenty authors and artists.

What is GUD?
GUD (pronounced “good”) is Greatest Uncommon Denominator, a print/pdf magazine with two hundred pages of literary and genre fiction, poetry, art, and articles. Fiction ranges between 75 and 15,000 words.
The hardcopy is 5"x8", slightly narrower than a mainstream paperback but solid in the hands, easy to read with one hand while drinking your coffee or munching your sandwich. Or perfect for curling up with in your favorite lounge chair, sipping tea. The paper is "natural" 60-weight; a little rough to the touch, off-white so that the contrast of type's not hard on the eyes when reading outside or under fluorescents…

For listings and tasters of all the work in this collection CLICK HERE!

Including V’s offering, Jamie Hawkins’ Muse: READ THE TASTER HERE!

Then go to the website and buy the magazine. NOW.

A Writing-Free Christmas

A belated Merry Christmas to everyone who pops in here.

I managed to have a completely writing-free Christmas, apart from loads of congratulations about the book. (see right).

I heard from Salt that a few orders have been placed already, complete with cheques! I I get roughly £1.00 per copy in royalties, and a donating all that to Cancer Research.
Aiming at donating £1000...

well... you have to have a goal, don't you!

Saturday 15 December 2007



I know we live in a throwaway society. This however, goes too far.

It is reported today that a Dutch diplomat and his wife have ‘returned’ their adopted daughter because she did not fit in.

The child is of South Korean origin, and was adopted at the age of a few months when the diplomat was stationed in Indionesia. She is now seven years old.

Raymond and Meta Poeteray, it appears, already has their own son when they adopted the child, whose name is Jade. They subsequently had another son of their own. The family moved from Indonesia to Hong Kong three years ago, when Jade, was, one assumes, four years old.

Three years later, Jade is being sent back for readoption in Hong Kong. The reasons given include claims that she was not adapting to Dutch food, and culture. And yet this little girl had been their daughter for nearly seven years.

It also appears that she was looked after by indigenous babysitters and nannies. One babysitter has said she seemed a normal if quiet little girl. “I took care of her in the evenings, while an Indonesian woman was with her in the daytime.”

The Poeterays now also have another son, their own, born in the last few years.

Now, let’s get this straight. You fancy having a second child. So you go and get one. You don’t spend much time with the child, but hand it over to nannies and babysitters, who talk to the child in its own language, and make the child their own food.

You never apply for Dutch citizenship for the child…

And SIX YEAR later, you complain about bonding issues, about a failure to assimilate your culture?

And you give the child back, as though it is faulty goods, covered by a guarantee?

I find these people beyond the pale. Children are not fashion accessories. They are not covered by guarantees. And just as these ‘parents’ are deeply, deeply morally flawed, so the child will have been damaged by her early childhood, and will now be doubly, trebly damaged, thanks to this couple.

I quote Law Chi-kwong, Professor at the Department of Social Work at Hong Kong University. “They adopted her when she was a baby. They are responsible for shaping the child’s mind and culture. How can you say that the child cannot adapt to the culture in which she was raised?”

But isn’t that the point? She was never considered their daughter. She was a thing. Like a dog of a fashionable breed, who falls out of favour because the owners do not follow the correct diet and care instructions?

I suppose Jade should be grateful.

We put dogs down.



I was at The Foundling Museum in London recently, firming up the arrangements for the launch of my book.

On the ground floor is an intensely moving, fascinating exhibition explaining the history of Thomas Coram's vision, The Foundling Hospital.

Among the exhibits is a small display case containing tokens left by the mothers who originally left their babies in baskets outside the gates, as otherwise, their only option was to abandon them.

I will explain more in later posts. But suffice it here to know that when left there, babies were then sent to Kent for their infancy, and brought up in the countryside. They were then returned to London at the age of five, often without warning.

But here, I'd like to draw your attention to three benches where you can sit to listen to recordings made by three people who were brought up within Coram's vision, as the Foundling Hospital only closed in the 1950s.

I find it impossible to listen to these recordings without wanting to weep. At their gratitude, their sense of otherness, their sadness, the fondness with which they recall the Kent families who cared for them until four or five. The tough regime they experienced once separated from their foster-families, for that was how things were done back then. The education, the music (Handel was a great supporter, founded the choir, I believe..)

I could go on.

I was reading something in a display case near these benches, and was vaguely aware of two women sitting down to listen to one of the recordings. An elderly man who recalls his foster parents with such love...and who says he has had a good life, but still wishes he had hugs at bedtime when he came to the big school. He describes in sharp detail the everyday routines, and although he is grateful for his chance in life, you can sense he really ached for warmth as a child. And that ache remained in the old man, telling his story.

One woman to another. "I say! He awfully articulate, isn't he."

Other. "I know. Amazing, isn't it,"


No, madam. It's your attitude that is, frankly, amazing.

Friday 14 December 2007


'Young Turks' have the ascendancy in today's writing world, thanks to the image-conscious publishers and marketeers. I was wondering what the female equivalent of the Young Turk might be... this band of young writers who are meant to be the future of literature.

Then I got it!! They are 'Turkish Delight'. (See above)

Sweet. very sweet. Instantly satisfying. Not worth analyzing the ingredients... none are good for you. Only to be consumed sparingly, or it becomes cloying. And if left for too long, becomes hard and crusty.

Just like the rest of us....


Wednesday 12 December 2007


It’s a pleasure to announce here that two writing colleagues I work with in a flash forum on Zoetrope are taking over The Write Side Up ezine and print magazine.

I have agreed to join the team as a submissions editor for future issues, together with a few great writers. I am looking forward to this

There’s some fascinating writing in the first issue under the new management.

And a flash from me: The Wig Maker. CLICK HERE TO READ

Monday 10 December 2007


Brilliant Noise: Semiconductor Films

A sparky few days for writing. On The Fiction Workhouse we are in the middle of a Blastette ( a little blast...) of writing to prompts, posted my Mel. This one started Saturday evening at 8.00 pm and finishes tomorrow evening, same time.

This is the fourth event like this, the idea being that whatever you are doing between those times, and can grab a spare ten minutes or maybe a bit longer, you leap to the computer, open a prompt and just write, then post for feedback.

Theres no obligation to try to produce perfectly formed pieces, although sometimes they do appear. Mainly, it's a way of opening things up, finding new voices, characters, connections... sometimes it is a few lines, sometimes a complete 'story'.

In the middle of all this I escaped to Brighton, to FABRICA, where The South had organised a fascinating writing workshop.

Led by poet Jackie Wills (see below for bio) we watched a film (Brilliant Noise, by Semiconductor Films)in black and white (see above) of sunspots, solar flares... accompanied by an extraordinary soundtrack. natural radio sounds from space, enhanced and mixed. The sights and sounds fed off each other. We made notes of the connections in our heads as we watched.

First, we wrote free, from the most surprising connections. Circus and holocaust... a dissonant mix, powerful images. I'll go back to that.

Then, something I found really hard (that's good!!) creating a soundtrack in words for an inanimate object with no inherent sound of its own.

We discussed the concept of the magnetic poles shifting, and wrote from that... mine was an extremely silly but creative monologue. Sometimes its lovely to just let go and be daft.

A very good, thought-provoking few hours.


Jackie Wills' fourth collection of poetry, Commandments, is published this autumn. Her first, Powder Tower, was shortlisted for the 1995 TS Eliot Prize and in 2004 she was one of Mslexia magazine's top 10 new women poets. Her work has appeared in anthologies, BBC News Online, national newspapers and BBC Radio Four.

Saturday 8 December 2007



The Times reports today that
teenagers could soon be able to pass an English exam at GCSE level without having to read a single novel poem or play.

Read article HERE in Times Online

How does making kids plough through novel-length set texts when they don’t read, of their own volition, anything other than comics, leave them with anything other than a deeper abhorrence of reading?

Rather than just pull the plug, why don’t they try a few years of English GCSE based on set short stories?

You could argue that, in many novels, the prose is not as good as in a well-written short. So why…..


Essays to be handed in by next Friday.

Friday 7 December 2007

The Short Review

Issue 2 of The Short Review is now up. Thanks to Tania Hershman, the world of good short fiction has a new champion!

I am reviewing two collections for the next issue.


from this issue:

The Collected Short Stories by Katherine Mansfield...stories that purposefully belie the perception of a whole class and generation of writers (and women) as closeted, white-gloved, garden party-goers.

Come Together, Fall Apart by Cristina Henriquez.. paints a lush portrait of everyday people craving connection in these beautiful stories set in modern Panama.

Fifteen Modern Tales of Attraction by Alison MacLeod... a fearless writer, pushing at the shape of short stories.

The Loudest Sound and Nothing by Clare Wigfall ....A dark, disturbing and quite beautiful collection

Magic for Beginners by Kelly Link... weaves realistic character portrayals with noir fairy tales and new monster stories to create wondrous-yet-familiar worlds.

Self Help by Lorrie Moore... sharply clever collection ... satirizing the self-help genre, through an edgy, sometimes painful humour.

The Sky is a Well and Other Shorts by Claudia Smith... One flash from this collection packs the narrative/descriptive density of a novel.

Sleepers Almanac: The Family Affair anthology by Various .. stories by ..Australia’s hottest new writers.

Tales of Galicia by Andzrej Stasiuk... a kaleidoscope view of post-Communist Poland haunted by the past.

You Are Here anthology by Various... ridiculous, heartbreaking, provocative and bleak tales

Monday 3 December 2007


Well. What a great occasion. I used to be in a terrific reading group in Brighton, and stopped three years ago, when I was focusing hard on sussing out short stories, and didn't want to be sidetracked by novels.

Tonight, I was the guest at their Christmas meeting, and they discussed two prizewinning stories, Words from a Glass Bubble, and Dodie's Gift., both of which will be included in the forthcoming collection from Salt Publishing.

A fabulous occasion, and the first time I have been on the writer side of the equation, at a reading group, answering intelligent questions from intelligent readers, who had all pored over my work.

Actually, it was intensely moving, and if it wasn't for the fortification of a glass or two of red wine, I'd have come over all wobbly.

Glass Bubble was discussed for almost an hour. The main character, Eva Duffy, made a deep impression on the readers - all women, all mothers of sons. We discussed the Don Camillo books which were such an inspiration for the relationship between Eva and the little statuette of the Virgin Mary (dubbed The VM, by Eva. They drew the requisite parallels between Eva and her son, and the VM and hers... and saw them as just two women coming to terms with loss.

It was fabulous! Exactly as I hoped...

Dodie's Gift made a different impression. The character of Dodie they loved, found her warm, vulnerable, real. Chimed with the theme, that of the evils we do to each other being meaningless, ultimately... but the human spirit being strong enough to turn tragedy into something positive.

Interestingly, they really loved the ending, and found it resonated long after the story finished... and even more interesting, for the writer, several wanted to know more... they felt it could be a novel length piece. What was the backstory, they asked. How did Dodie come to be there. Certainly something to think about.

I have made promo flyers, incorporating the endorsement quotes for Words from a Glass Bubble. Reading groups are a great place to visit... and it strikes me that for each group there are members who know friends in others... circles within circles.

So here we go...

Weddings, funerals, Bar mitzvahs. Vanessa's your early while stocks last...

Saturday 1 December 2007

Salt Party at Foyles

Jen from Salt chatting to poet Vincent Da Souza with Jay Merrill in the background, and Callum listening in.

Wow, what a party. And what a lucky person I am to be part of this publishing house.
I went up to London with Tania Hershman and her partner James. (They were staying for a few days with us in Sussex. Chris joined us later.

Salt Publishing had organised the party in the Gallery space at Foyles, on Charing Cross Road in London. There were short readings from twenty or so writers published this year, both poets and fiction writers.

It was a delight to meet up with Carys Davies again, who I last saw at Bantry at the Fish prizegiving. What a talented writer she is... her collection 'Some New Ambush' is just fantastic... I really chime with her writing.

Carys Davies reading from Some New Ambush

And David Grubb. (I begin to see how small this world of writing is...) I sat next to him a fortnight ago at the Bridport event, where he too won a prize for a short story. Today however, he was reading from his most recent poetry collection "It Comes With A Bit Of Song".

David Grubb reading from It Comes With A Bit Of Song

I met Chrissie Gittins, Matthew Licht (wow, what a powerhouse!), saw Jay Merrill but didn't have a chance to say hello...and last but not least... Elizabeth Baines.

Elizabeth Baines chatting to Tania Hershman

I have long been an avid reader of her Fictionbitch blog... wonderful to finally meet up.

As I am trying to write poetry, I bought David Grubb's book and Peter Jaeger's. All really thought provoking work... very different styles, and I was drawn to them both.
I look forward to studying them, seeing where they take me.

I also bought Matthew Licht's book. I loved the rawness of his writing, and its honesty.

After the do, some of us repaired to a nearby pub. I had a long and lovely natter with Elizabeth Baines.... I liked her directness and spark enormously. Chris nattered to Carys... the pub was so crowded, we were all shouting over other people's noise. Not easy!

A wonderful event, and I am keeping my fingers crossed that it will be repeated. It was really memorable, quality stuff. I left that party (and the pub!) feeling very proud indeed to be part of the Salt team.