Friday 31 October 2008


I am going over to Ireland on 11 November, for a week... flying Gatwick Cork, and driving a few hours to the beara, West Cork, staying one week, coming back 18th.

The lovely writer friend I was going with is very sadly unable to come, very suddenly. A - I send my love.

That means there is a spare place...

Please do contact me for any details, or contact Sue Booth Forbes at Anam Cara



This is what makes the world go round. A youngster in the US (helped by Mum) is trying to get a message on her Mum's blog from every country in the world... for a school project.

Wales is needed. Ireland... and loads more. Israel???


Thursday 30 October 2008

Poem on Bridport shortlist

Herewith one object lesson.


Just heard my entry of one ickle poem got to the shortlist at Bridport. No further, but do I mind?


Tuesday 28 October 2008

From the sublime...

I have just reviewed Jhumpa Lahiri's Unaccustomed Earth for The Short Review.

And early tomorrow morning, I board a train for Elstree studios, where I am accompanying a friend who is to be in Who Wants to be a I get to watch two shows being filmed.

please keep your fingers crossed that she gets picked!


Sunday 26 October 2008


Today’s carries an interview with John Updike.


On creativity - “When you sit at your desk, if you're lucky there's a moment when you feel empowered to be someone or something else, to leap into another skin. It's what Keats called negative capability. There has to be some gap between you and the other life, which the creative spark can jump across.”

On politics – “'I'm for Obama, 100 per cent,' said Updike. He has a personal reason for his enthusiasm: his memoir Self-Consciousness is dedicated to his two half-African grandsons and contains a letter to the boys, assuring them that all Americans are 'of mixed blood'. 'Things have moved on since I wrote that. I now have three grandchildren who are Obama's colour: my daughter married a Ghanaian, and my son has a Kenyan wife. The colour brown has come around, as the song says!
'I really think Obama would regenerate this worn-out country. I'm such a believer that I probably won't be able to watch the debate tonight. I get so upset when I think about the alternative. McCain is blameable for choosing Palin as his running mate. She's a bird-brain, she annoys me terribly.”

Full interview HERE


(pic: Moffen Island, and walruses dozing next to an orange marker.)

From the Antarctic to the Arctic, and I read in the paper over breakfast how the Arctic ice cap is melting even in winter...

It reminded me of my visit to Spitzbergen in 2000. In August it was, and one of the highlights was sailing to Moffen Island, north of Spitzbergen, (crossing the 80th parallel), to see the walrusses and also to see the pack ice that ought to be visible easily, before it gathers momentum and spreads to freeze the seas there in winter.

No ice was visible, even from the bridge of the ship, with binoculars.

"First time we've not seen the ice," said the captain.

At the time it just rang as a bit strange. Now, it is poignant.

New Scientist

It was great to see New Scientist, the publication that inspired many of the stories in Tania Hershman's collection The White Road and Other Stories, featuring the book on their website HERE.

As you can see, they were wonderfully generous, and included the whole of the title story in their feature.

It was very interesting to see the reaction of a few readers, those who, one assumes, do not have much contact with fiction. (That may be wrong, but do go and read a few comments... complaining about the lack of grammar in the story, narrated by a woman who runs a cafe in the Antarctic.)

And of course, there have been a few posts in reply gently pointing out that creative writing is creative!

I first met Tania at an event hosted by Lab Lit, an initiative that seeks to bring scientists and writers together. In an extraordinarily generous move, scientists in all disciplines have put themselves on a searchable database and are open to talking with writers who want to explore their particular field of research and use it in some way in their writing. Lab Lit website HERE, including a review of The White Road...

Lab Lit set up this initiative to encourage exploration of science in fiction. To bring together artists and scientists. I suppose it was not improbable that there would be conservative elements (forgive the pun) on both sides, perhaps, who would not see the positive outcomes in the move.

Perhaps the scientific community were expecting realist portrayals, with educated characters only? I doubt it. The scientists we met at that first event were open and interested in what the writers might do...

But it is very interesting to see the clash of art and science, albeit in a small way, acted out on the New Scientist website.

Saturday 25 October 2008

Flash Workshop, The South

Great morning, taking a flash fiction workshop for The South writing association. THE SOUTH WEBSITE HERE

Six buzzy writers included two MA students, a writer who had travelled all the way from Cambridge for the workshop, another from Hastings way who is targetting women's magazines and wants to write coffee break fiction, a local writer whose quirky funny pieces I have heard at Short Fuse, and a lady who said she couldn't write really... then produced some beautiful lyrical work seemingly easily!

I looked at flash writing as a process and as a product.

Under 'process' we did several exercises to loosen up, wrote to prompts, took characters and ideas that had festered in drawers or on hard drives ofr a while and gave them an airing. We looked at generating prompts... poetry, image, music.

We looked at a selection of published and/or prizewinning flashes, including 'Plaits' by Tania Hershman, work by Steve Almond from Smokelong Quarterly, and another piece by Bruce Holland Rogers, also from Smokelong.

We looked at what makes a successful piee of flash fiction and ran through the fiction elements while they used work they had done ea rlier and made notes on how thay might edit to strengthen.

Markets, submissions, strategies to bust writers block, then talk about the two Brighton flash events coming up... Jo Horsman's Sparks and the Short Fuse Slam... all in three hours.


Some ideas for you flashers:

Sparks. Upstairs at Three and Ten, Brighton, 11 November, 20.00 £5.00 entry. Flash subs for Sparks to

Short Fuse Slam, 20 November, Komedia bar, Brighton, 20.30 start. £4.00 entry. No subs, take your work along and cross your fingers. Raucous short story face off, with game show vibe, local author judges, glittering prizes, clap-o-meter and more! Theme - "Fancy!"

Thursday 23 October 2008

A special day

Yesterday was a special day. It was my sister's birthday, among other things.

Among the other things was the fact that we met. And we spent the day mooching round antique shops, junk shops, had lunch, coffee, tea and a lot of talking. And giggling.

I have been trying to put into words what it is like meeting one of your sisters for the first time after a lifetime. I can't. It keeps coming out wrong.

But this is Phillippa. She is number four of five (if you count me as the eldest) and third of four if you don't. And she is just great.

Happy Birthday again, Pill.

Tuesday 21 October 2008

A poem

A poetry acceptance. This time a found poem, to go up on Snow Monkey in January.

Monday 20 October 2008

Crazy World, Innit...

Thanks to Sara Crowley for this wonderful story on her blog. The one about a hard working writer who responds to a call for submissions and sends a decent piece of writing... and it is rejected in the time it take s to cut a toenail.

So decent writer tells a writing mate in passing conversation, and mate goes to a word generator... and chops up random text from said generator, with a few expletives. And submits it to same ezine.

and yes!!! It is edgy, great prose and is accepted. In the time it takes to cut the other toenail.


Sara Crowley's blog, Asalted, is HERE

Friday 17 October 2008

Caradoc Evans

Caradoc Evans was born into the Welsh-speaking farming culture of Carmarthenshire in West Wales.
He moved to London and became a journalist, but never forgot his formative years.
Evans’ first story collection, My People, kicked up a storm when it was published in November 1915, for instead of nostalgic sentiment he sketched a rural Wales riven by greed, class conflict, and family violence, all presided over by repressive and domineering Methodist chapel ministers. His rendering of Welsh rural dialect also annoyed people, who found such quaint phrases as “whisper you me” condescending.
Welsh reviews of My People were scathing. To many it seemed a betrayal for Evans to expose the seamier side of Welsh society, especially when the political rise of Lloyd George was giving many Welsh a long-overdue sense of national pride and respectability. To threaten this newfound and fragile respectability, especially during wartime, seemed to many Welsh an all but unforgivable act.
The stories, set in the fictional village of Manteg were linked not by plot progression, nor principally by including the same characters, but by taking place in one setting, which is very much its own peculiar world. The stories are especially distinguished by the language which Evans invented…

To cut a long 'tail' (!) short, he ignored the criticism, went on to publish several books, and write several plays. But he was never accepted in his home country, despite being admired by Dylan Thomas and many other writers of the day.
Two Welsh galleries refused to hang his portrait. And when it was hung in London, it was slashed across the throat.

Monday 13 October 2008


This is on my windowsill, and she cheers me up when life gets too serious.

Moomalade Cow by Ben Cook.

Sunday 12 October 2008


I did say I needed a hard hat!!

Well, I was informed with no uncertainty that my project will bring down the wrath of the gods.

But my tutor is great, so that's OK. I get the feeling he will support whatever.

I also discovered that the writer who opposed me doing the course whilst she was there, making me wait a year, left ages back. So I could have started a year back after all... eeeeh.

Look, writers - the world is tough enough out there. If you fall out, be big enough to bury hatchets, yes??

More about a fabulous couple of days when I get my head together.

Wednesday 8 October 2008

To Wales

Off to Cardiff today... meeting another MPhil student at Victoria Station, then we're training it to Cardiff.

The air in Wales is different. You need at least 12 hours to get used to the rarified nature of it all. And a dictionary, and a hard hat.

MPhil starts tomorrow lunchtime, and runs until teatime the next day. I hope to report positively.


The lovely people at Fish Publishing are doing a bit of regrouping.

I heard today that they are cancelling the Short Histories competition, the Fish Knife competition, and the criminally short histories competition...

writers with full length stories entered in the se categories are being offered the option of having their work entered into the main Fish International Short Story Competition.

That's me... I entered a story into the History comp that bombed last year, agonised over, edited, put through the wringer and operated on heavily.

Bugger. Now it is tied up until March - but it is lovely at the same time to know that the indefatigable Clem Cairns is back in the saddle. (Do fishing vessels have saddles?)

The main short story competition is being judged this year by Colm McCann

This year the Fish Short Story Prize has increased to €3,000. The cost of entry though remains the same as it has been for the last FIVE years.

First Prize - €3,000 - It is a condition of the competition that the overall winner attends the launch of the Anthology. The First Prize will otherwise be passed to the next in line.

Second Prize - a week at the Anam Cara Writers' & Artists' Retreat in West Cork's Beara Peninsula, with €300 travelling expenses.

Third Prize - €300

Fish Publishing Short Story Comp guidelines HERE

ONE WORLD ANTHOLOGY - Closing stages

I am having a great time co ordinating the last stage of the One World Anthology... liaising with the publisher, receiving the 'finished' stories from them, sending each story in its 'finished' form out to the writers... for proofing and last edits and tweaks.

Its a bit like herding cats!

I can't wait to reveal who the publisher is... but after the usual silly lot on Zoetrope main board did their best to cause trouble when we initially announced the success of the project (why do people not just rejoice at hard work paying off??) we have all agreed not to do so until contracts are well and truly signed.

(another reason to be very wary of Zoetrope, chaps... when serious chips are down, it is not as benign as they would have you believe.)


I am indebted to Normblog for drawing our attentiaon to a fascinating article in the NY Times in which it is made clear that politics has little to do with the outcome of US Presidential Elections.

It is all in the height and weight, apparently. Heavier, taller candidates do far better than their shorter lightweight (sorry, lighter) opponents.


The exception that proves this particular rule looks like George Wubbleyoo Bush.

Tuesday 7 October 2008

Call for Submissions- Tattoo Highway

From the eds:

Greetings, past contributors. TH/17 is online, and the reading period
for TH/18 ("Diners, Dives & Michelin Stars" - the food issue) is open.
Deadline, 15 January '09. We hope you have poems, prose fiction or
creative-non, "new media" and/or interesting graphics for us to look at.

And don't forget our "Picture Worth 500 Words" contest!

Monday 6 October 2008





Poems on Eclectica

Delighted to have a couple of poems published on Eclectica. Two from a growing series inspired by memories of Merthyr Tydfil, the town in south Wales where my grandparents lived, and where I spent great chunks of growing up years.

Merthyr Poems HERE and while you are there, visit the flashes written in August at Bootcamp, especially one by writing friend Chelsey Flood, called So Small and So Far Away HERE

Wednesday 1 October 2008

Family resemblance

Please forgive the indulgence. But when you've waited 56 years to find out who you looked like when younger and sweeter, it is an incredible thing to see faces that you know you looked like. Once.

Top two, me at 30. And my mother's sister.

Berlin calling, money matters,

Off to Berlin. With Chris, who is now officially retired, and relaxed, and not opening letters from the pensions people. Talk about retiring as the financial world collapses! Oh well. Berlin with a couple of friends for the best part of a week will inspire and all sorts. Hopefully!

Before we go, I whizz up to London and spend a very good hour or so with my agent. To bring him up to speed with progress on the novel and all the other things I'm working on. Brilliant natter... exactly right.

Helpful advice on this and that. Mostly that.

Including the good advice that I must say 'no' more often. Concentrate my time on my own writing, and those projects that are really good for my own development as a writer. Editing this fab new writing book is fine and great stuff (of which more as it is firmed up with the publisher.)

So - no more offering to read through new writers' work, or mentoring. Unless it is a proper job. Easy innit. Mentoring is important for new writers, and I hope I've paid back the help I had myself early on, back into the system. But now, someone else can do it far better I'm sure - than me.

I require money from now on peeps! A propos - the three day residency at the school has come through, for late November. Greatly looking forward to that. Year 9s, 20 of them... I hope to have all the right sparks flying!

Berlin calling. I am going to amble about unter den linden.