Monday, 20 February 2012

Scott Prize Shortlist

The Scott Prize shortlist was announced today and I'm really excited to say that I'm on it.

Julia Bohanna (England) – Ink Eyes
Carys Bray (England) – Sweet Home
Madeleine D’Arcy (Ireland) – Waiting for the Bullet and Other Stories
Rusty Dolleman (US) – Other People’s Kids
Sarah Faulkner (US) – American Heartbreaker
Maurice Gartshore (Scotland) – Mother Icarus
Otis Heschemeyer (US) – The Fantome of Fatma
Julie Mayhew (England) – End Of
Alison Moore (England) – A Small Window
Rob Roensch (US) – The Wild Flowers of Baltimore
Chris Smith (England) – Between the Toes of the Cloven Hoof
(It has been very hard to stop myself from adding exclamation mark(s), a picture of balloons, a celebration cake, one of those party blower things and a chain of smiley faces to this post. I can't promise that I won't come back later and add them all).

Sunday, 19 February 2012

Chris Beckett's Liverpool Reading

Chris Beckett will be reading from his novel Dark Eden on Friday 2nd March at Waterstones, Liverpool One, 6 pm.

Chris's short story collection The Turing Test won the 2009 Edge Hill Prize. Dark Eden has had excellent reviews: The Guardian, Sunday Telegraph, Daily Mail and another here that is part interview, part review and written by a journalist who 'devoured the whole thing in a few greedy sittings' - sounds like my kind of novel.

Book coverFive hundred people live in in single community in an enclosed valley on the sunless planet Eden where, over a century ago, their two ancestors were marooned. 
Calling themselves Family, they still cling to the hope that one day someone will come and bring them back to Earth, where light and heat does not come from trees, but from a bright star in the sky. 
John Redlantern defies Family’s most sacred traditions and leads a small group of followers out of the valley and across mountains that are not only covered in snow and ice, but are completely dark,  in search of wider lands.   It had to happen but it comes at a terrible price, for it brings bloodshed and division into the world. 
A novel about how people relate to the past and how they move forward into the future.


Thursday, 9 February 2012

Paraxis 03


Paraxis 03 is now online. We've got fabulous short stories, illustrations, interviews and essays all on the theme of transformation. Here's a quick peak at the fiction side of things from our editors' letter:
The stories we have selected for this volume of Paraxis contain transformations that range from the personal to the public; sometimes troubling, occasionally violent, at times optimistic and often amusing, these stories are beautifully written and memorable: Ailsa Cox’s witty and incisive tale of frustration and atonement plays out against a frozen, New Year landscape; Nicola Belte’s disquieting and compelling story explores the transformative power of pain; Max Dunbar’s humorous and tender tale is written with a touch so light, it seems to float; Katie Gooch’s irresistibly warm story explores redemption, new beginnings and the joy of beds that are got on to, not in to. Finally, there’s Ruth Jenkins’s beautifully woven tale of obsession, imprisonment and escape.
The five stories we selected are excellent; it was a pleasure to read and reread them during the editing process.

We are now open to proposals for Paraxis 04 and submissions to Paraxis 05. Further information is available here.

Tuesday, 7 February 2012

More Research

I've spent an interesting morning doing some research for my novel. I've been reading transcripts from emergency calls (you can find some here) to see what people sound like when they call 999, something I've done a couple of times in my life, although on each occasion I can't remember what was said because I failed to utilise the 'splinter of ice' in my heart:
'There is a splinter of ice in the heart of a writer. I watched and listened. There was something which one day I might need: the woman speaking, uttering the banalities she must have remembered from some woman's magazine, a genuine grief that could communicate only in cliches.' Graham Greene
I've just started writing the second section of my novel; this is the sad section, part of it has already been published - I blogged about it here. At the moment, I'm marking out the sections of the novel by naming them after hymns.

I miss hymns. I spent my formative years steeped in religion and learned hymns like nursery rhymes. This morning I've been playing the Sabre Rattlers' gospel/blues/folk arrangements of Mormon hymns as I write. I'm practically drowning in nostalgia; sometimes I wish I'd had the determination to do what Joanna Brooks has done and wedge my agnostic, skeptical self back into the faith community I grew up in; other times I think I'm a better fit for Alain de Botton's category of people that 'can't believe, but love Christmas carols.. and old churches.'

On days like today, I wonder if this novel is too close to home, the writerly equivalent of picking at a scab... time will tell - I'm not sure that I'll know until it's all down on paper and I can get some perspective on it as a whole. Until then, I'm going to keep writing and, for the moment, I'll be tapping my laptop keys along to the song below.

Friday, 3 February 2012

Edge Hill Prize: 'Doesn't have the reach or the backing...'

Stuart Evers's piece on the Guardian Books Blog, 'The Costa short story prize is not enough' did the rounds on facebook earlier this week. Several of my writing friends shared the piece. I thought it was great. I agree with almost everything Evers said - you might think you can hear a 'however' coming, but it's going to be more of an 'and'...

Evers writes:
'There is only one UK prize dedicated to the short story collection, the Edge Hill Short Story Prize. And while that is a fantastic initiative, it simply doesn't have the reach, or the backing (or the money) of the BBC or the Times.'
I don't take issue with the above quotation, but I would like to respond to it:

Fiction writer and critic Dr. Ailsa Cox founded the Edge Hill Short Story Prize; she also runs it when she's not teaching, marking, supervising PhD students, writing a novel, writing short stories, and editing Short Fiction in Theory and Practice.

I helped Ailsa with the 2011 prize and I'm also working on the 2012 prize, although 'working' is a bit of a misnomer - what we are really doing is volunteering because Evers is right, we don't have the money of the BBC or the Times.

The BBC has millions of pounds worth of air time - all free - to cross-promote its prize. The Sunday Times, a massive, high profile media platform, is bankrolled by city financiers desperate for respectability. Whereas Edge Hill, a small northern university, has generously underwritten its own prize to the tune of several thousand pounds a year for the last five years with no agenda except to recognise and encourage the short story form.

Ailsa and I squeeze the prize into the gaps in our lives - it sneaks between daily tasks like sand in a jar of marbles. I answer emails from publishers while I cook dinner for my 4 children, I notice a short story writer on facebook whose collection hasn't been entered and I send him a message while I'm having a break from writing my novel. I do this because I love short stories and I believe in the ethos of the prize. I don't want to download a single by a favourite artist when I can get the album; it's the same with short stories.

Despite our countless hours of work, the prize doesn't have the reach we would like. Why? Well, for starters, the broadsheets ignored us in 2011. Stuart Evers writes that Costa passed up on an opportunity to 'show the varied breadth of stories in this country' - so did the Guardian and every other broadsheet newspaper that didn't so much as mention the 2011 Edge Hill Prize.

Let me tell you what the broadsheets missed in 2011. They missed a shortlist that included Helen Simpson, compared in this Guardian review to Flannery O'Connor and Alice Munro; Michele Roberts, whose collection was described in a Financial Times review as 'exhilarating' and 'lustrous'; Polly Samson whose story 'The Egg' from shortlisted collection Perfect Lives was featured on Radio Four's Book at Bedtime; exciting newcomer Tom Vowler whose first novel will be published by Headline in 2013; and eventual winner of the 2011 Edge Hill Prize, Graham Mort, poet and short story writer par excellence.

The broadsheets also missed a longlist of exciting writers such as Vanessa Gebbie whose debut novel The Coward's Tale was published last year and is reviewed in The Independent here; Roshi Fernando whose Guardian reviewed collection Homesick will be re-released by Bloomsbury in 2012; David Gaffney whose work has been reviewed by both the Guardian and The Independent; and fantastic debut collections by Susannah Rickards, Jo Canon and Nik Perring among others.

My blog has a negligible reach. Still, maybe someone from the Guardian, or the Times, or the BBC might read this and see an opportunity to support the only UK prize dedicated to the short story collection. Of course, it would be nice if there was an all-singing, all-dancing, cash rich prize that would 'take a risk' on short story collections. But there isn't. There's us. We're working really, really hard, and if newspapers like the Guardian are serious about short story collections, they can demonstrate it by reporting on the 2012 Edge Hill Prize.

Wednesday, 1 February 2012

Ether App and Edge Hill Prize

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Two more of my stories will be available on the Ether App in the coming weeks.

In other news, I am busy reading the short story collections that have so far been entered for the 2012 Edge Hill Prize. The closing date is March 1st, after which each of the collections will be making a brief, review appearance here, as they did last year