Saturday, 31 March 2012

Feather ~ David Rix

Feather - David RixFeather is an enigmatic, fragmentary, yet linked collection of short stories. Rix intersperses traditional narrative with italicised fragments, bullet point lists, instant messages and illustrations. The stories are linked by the character, Feather. Rix describes her as a 'marvellous innocent, ruthless experimenter and questioner, child of nature, steeped in magic and reality, innocent happiness and complete lost despair at the same time.' He reveals that, 'in Feather, I set out to create my ideal - a person who personifies all that I think is good and all that I believe in - and set her against a world that is imperfect in its entirety.' The opening story 'Yellow Eyes' is set against a landscape that is both familiar and dystopian; the teenage Feather is brutilised by first her father and then a stranger she meets near the mysterious nuclear power station. Rix doesn't explain much, leaving the reader to approach the rest of this collection with an extensive list of unanswered questions.

Read David Rix's blog.
Check out David Rix's website.

Friday, 30 March 2012

And ~ Jim Mullarkey

'Heaven,' the first story in this beautifully written collection, is told from the viewpoint of a recently bereaved little boy. There is something simultaneously experimental and authentic about this piece which is bursting with 'ands' - the story almost reads like a prose poem. Many of the stories in this collection are conveyed via a stream of consciousness, meaning that the reader is 'frequently immersed in the fluid thought and sense-impressions of... various characters.' In 'Mary Up in Donegal' simple Johnny misses nurse Mary and looks for her, 'First Love' details Peter's attempt to 'throw off the burden of responsibility and importance' and  'Kung Fu' captures Jayo's thoughts as he is being caned: the Dean looks at Jayo's hand 'the way you look at a stake when you're about to hit it with a sledge,' but Jayo looks at his hand 'the way you look at a baby.' Mullarkey's characters are always interesting and his stories explore the 'cracks and nooks of the psyche.'

Read a review here.
Read an extract from 'Heaven' here.

Thursday, 29 March 2012

New World Fairy Tales ~ Cassandra Parkin

This collection takes the form of six interviews numbered 4, 9, 15, 17, 27 and 42. Unless the reader has a great memory for numbers, the stories are likely to be remembered as 'The one about...' and this adds to the legendary, apocryphal quality of the collection. Jonathan Pinnock maintains that Parkin's stories 'effortlessly transcend their folk origins' and he is right; the fairy tale allusions don't distract the reader from the excellent writing and the varied landscapes of contemporary America. Interview #4 is with Ella Orlando. In a reversal that fits with the modern family, Ella is a good stepmother whose devotion to stepdaughters Cindy and Beth leads to loneliness. A visit to New Orleans for Mardi Gras and an encounter with a bed-bound seamstress who owns several beautiful costumes changes Ella's life. Interview #9 is a darker, more menacing tale of vigilante justice and racism, while Interview #42 imagines a very different way of life for seven New York dwarfs. Each of the stories is told in the first person and Parkin creates authentic, interesting characters who describe their experiences in varied, entertaining language.

Read Cassandra Parkin's reflections on the writing process here.
Read Cassandra Parkin's blog.
Read 'Shaggy Bear Story' by Cassandra Parkin at Beat Magazine (go on, read this - it's fantastic). 

Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The War Tour ~ Zoe Lambert

This collection of stories about war is restrained and confident. Lambert details the ordinary lives of those who are forced to live in extraordinary circumstances, in both the height of conflict and as refugees in foreign countries. In 'These Words are No More Than a Story About a Woman on a Bus' Elena tells her story to a stranger who finds himself, 'not sure what to do with [it].' The readers of this collection may find themselves in a similarly troubled, yet ultimately helpless position. 'From Kandahar' sees Phil, home on leave, discovering that what the lads say is true: 'As soon as you're home, you want to get straight back out again.' And in 'We'll Meet Again' former mayor, Leon is working in a care home in the UK having fled from the violence in Rwanda. The death of an elderly resident makes Leon think of his own father and, as he leaves work, he is haunted by memories and perhaps by an even darker shadow from the past.

Read reviews of The War Tour here and here.
Read an interview with Lambert here.
Read Lambert's blog.

Tuesday, 27 March 2012

Somewhere Else, or Even Here ~ A.J Ashworth

Somewhere Else, or Even Here is an excellent debut collection. Vanessa Gebbie describes Ashworth's stories as 'shooting stars - brilliant, sparkling scratches against the night,' while Maggie Gee writes that they are, 'Dark, witty, delicious stories with flashes of terror and tenderness.' The collection opens with 'Sometimes Gulls Kill Other Gulls,' a haunting and terrifying story about an encounter between a boy and a girl on a beach (it was longlisted in the 2011 Fish Short Story Prize and the 2011 Short Fiction Competition). The dialogue is authentic and funny, contrasting with the underlying and escalating feeling of menace. 'Sometimes Gulls Kill Other Gulls' is a story that compels the reader to race to the end, only to go back to the beginning to savour the build-up again. I enjoyed every story in this collection, particularly 'Coconut Shy,' a story laced with desire, embarrassment and innuendo, and 'Rings of Saturn' (read it here) in which a journalist visits a couple who are about to celebrate their golden anniversary and the gaps between the rings of Saturn become a metaphor for holes in memory.

Read A.J Ashworth's reflections on the writing process here.
A.J Ashworth's blog.
Read A.J Ashworth's 'Bone Fire' at The Front View.

Monday, 26 March 2012

2012 Edge Hill Prize longlist

The 2012 Edge Hill Prize longlist has just been announced via the Edge Hill website. I am excited to finally discuss what I have been reading during the past 10 weeks and I will be posting reviews of each of collection shortly. 

Longlisted authors and collections are as follows:

  • Nina Allan - The Silver Wind (Eibonvale). Allan is a regular contributor to Interzone and Black Static, and was short-listed for the 2010 British Fantasy Award in the Short Fiction category.
  • Hanan Al-Shaykh - One Thousand and One Nights (Bloomsbury). The Lebanese novelist, short-story writer and playwright, is one of the leading contemporary women writers in the Arab world. Some of her wok has been banned in parts of the Middle East.
  • Gaynor Arnold - Lying Together (Tindal Street Press). The former social worker was long-listed for the Man Booker Prize 2008 and the Orange Prize for Fiction 2009.
  • A.J Ashworth - Somewhere Else, Or Even Here (Salt Publishing). This debut collection of short stories won Salt Publishing's Scott Prize 2011.
  • Neil Campbell - Pictures from Hopper (Salt Publishing). This is Campbell's second full-length collection. He has had numerous short stories and poems published.
  • Charles Christian - This is the Quickest Way Down (Proxima Publishing). Christian is the founding editor of Ink Sweat & Tears.
  • Stanley Donwood - Household Worms (Tangent Books). Donwood is known for his close association with the British rock group Radiohead, having created all their album and poster art.
  • Catherine Eisner - Listen Close To Me (Salt Publishing). Eisner's fictions have appeared regularly in a number of UK literary journals and she is an Associate of the Royal College of Art.
  • Stuart Evers - Ten Stories about Smoking (Picador). A former bookseller and editor, Evers now writes about books for the Guardian, Independent, New Statesman, Time Out and other publications.
  • Orfhlaith Foyle - Somewhere in Minnesota (Arlen House). The writer and poet was born in Nigeria to Irish missionary parents. Living there as well as Kenya and Malawi has had a profound effect upon her writing.
  • Sue Gee - Last Fling (Salt Publishing). Acclaimed novelist and controversial winner of the 1997 Romantic Novel of the Year Award.
  • Tessa Hadley - Married Love (Cape). Hadley reviews regularly for the London Review of Books and the Guardian and was short-listed for The Story Award in the US. She has also been a judge for the IMPAC literary prize 2011 and for the BBC Short Story Award 2011.
  • Sarah Hall - The Beautiful Indifference (Faber). Multi award-winning Hall has been featured in The Times 100 Best Books of the Decade.
  • Beda Higgins - Chameleon (Iron Press). The part-time nurse won first prize in the Mslexia Short Story Competition in 2009 and her work has been included in various anthologies and collections.
  • Nigel Jarret - Funderland (Parthian). The Welsh freelance writer and former newspaper reporter is a winner of the Rhys Davies Prize for short fiction.
  • Dave Jeffery - Campfire Chillers (Dark Continents Publishing). Jeffery is best known for his zombie novel Necropolis Rising, which has gone on to be a UK number one Bestseller.
  • Fred Johnston - Dancing in the Asylum (Parthian). The writer, journalist and musician from Galway is also the founder of the Western Writers Centre.
  • Zoe Lambert - The War Tour (Comma). The Creative Writing lecturer at the University of Bolton is finishing her first novel and is an active campaigner for the rights of asylum seekers.
  • Stuart MacBride - Twelve Days of Winter: Crime at Christmas (Harper Collins). The Scottish writer is most famous for his crime thrillers.
  • Rowena Macdonald - Smoked Meat (Flambard). This first collection is based on Macdonald's experiences waitressing while travelling in Montreal.
  • Felicity McCall - A Pitying of Doves (Guidhall Press). This is the first short-story collection from the Irish journalist and award-winning playwright, screenplay writer and novelist.
  • Alan McCormick - Dogsbodies and Scumsters (Roast Books). A Writer in Residence with InterAct, a charity providing fiction readings for stroke patients, McCormick's stories have been widely published.
  • Erinna Mettler - Starlings (Revenge Ink). After working at the British Film Institute for 13 years Mettler decided to start writing in between raising a family and is now studying for her MA.
  • Robert Minhinnick - The Keys of Babylon (Seren). The Welsh poet, essayist, novelist and translator has also been short-listed for the Sunday Times Short Story Award 2012.
  • Jim Mullarkey - And (Doire Press). The runner-up in the 2003 Galway Cúirt Poetry Festival has recently facilitated creative writing workshops for adults with learning difficulties.
  • Courttia Newland - A Book of Blues (Flambard Publishing). The rapper and music producer is a British writer of Jamaican and Bajan heritage who was short-listed for the 2010 Alfred Fagon Award and long-listed for the 2011 Frank O' Connor Award.
  • Edna O'Brien - Saints and Sinners (Faber). Once banned in Ireland, the Irish author now has a string of awards under her belt and won the country's 2011 Frank O'Connor prize for this short story collection.
  • Cassandra Parkin - New World Fairy Tales (Salt Publishing). An up-and-coming writer and winner of Salt Publishing's 2011 Scott Prize.
  • David Rix - Feather (Eibonvale). A British writer in the areas of Horror and Magical Realism/Speculative Fiction.
  • Robert Shearman - Everyone's Just So, So Special (Big Finish). Shearman is best known as a writer for Doctor Who and has been previously short-listed for the Edge Hill Short Story Prize.
  • Simon Kurt Unsworth - Quiet Houses (Dark Continents Publishing). The British writer of supernatural fiction was nominated for a 2008 World Fantasy Award and his work has been published in a number of anthologies.

Saturday, 17 March 2012

Bed rest

pms 2011Here's a link to one of my stories, Bed Rest which is being showcased on the Poem*Memoir*Story website at the moment.

Friday, 16 March 2012

The long and the short of it...

Here is a link to my guest blog post at Susan Howe's the long and the short of it.

I talk about the Edge Hill Prize and what it's like to read thirty short story collections in 10 weeks.

Here is a link to a blog piece at Writing.IE about the history of the Edge Hill Prize, written by prize founder Dr. Ailsa Cox.

Here is a link to my interview with Salt Publishing following my shortlisting for the Scott Prize.

And here is another piece about it, this time from the Edge Hill website.

Wednesday, 14 March 2012

Jo Powell Prize: Creative Crime, Student Writing Competition

Creative Crime Student Writing Competition: the Jo Powell PrizeFor my students and anyone else studying creative writing in the UK:

The deadline of this writing competition, held in memory of Jo Powell, has been extended until 30th April. BA and MA writing students are eligible to enter. Crime is defined broadly - stories do not have to be who-dunnits or traditional murder mysteries. Stories could be told from the point of view of the perpetrator, they could be about street crime or a heist; there are numerous possibilities. Have a look at some new and classic crime stories at East of the Web to get an idea of the scope of crime fiction. 

Check out the competition details here.

Monday, 12 March 2012

Love: Terms and Conditions

 My story, 'Love: Terms and Conditions' will shortly be published as an ebook by  Goggle Publishing. 

    See the lovely, wintry cover below.

Saturday, 3 March 2012

Swimming in Short Stories

I feel like I'm swimming in short stories at the moment. The Edge Hill Prize longlist will be announced later this month and in the meantime I'm trying to read and briefly review each entry, a significantly bigger task this year due to the increase in entries. As ever, reading the longlist has introduced me to some fabulous new, and new-to-me, writers.

The novel is coming along much more slowly than I would like. It's easiest to write it in the early hours of the morning when everyone is asleep which doesn't do much for my general patience or concentration. I'm approaching it like a series of short stories and perhaps that's why it's taking me so long. Every section is meticulously redrafted and edited and I'm beginning to wonder whether I'm making too much fuss about language and imagery. Hmm.

Although I haven't written any short stories yet this year, I'm still fascinated by their brevity and power. I especially enjoyed this excellent piece about the short story, All Bone and Muscle found at Thresholds.