Tuesday, 30 April 2013

Just Keep Walking

The treadmill desk arrived on Friday evening. It's pretty big and we had to rearrange the lounge in order to fit it in. We decided to put it in the window so I've got something to look at when I'm not looking at the screen.

Minor Issues:

When I first tried to work on the treadmill on Friday evening, the desk was a little wobbly. Neil packed the bracket with a piece of thin card and it stopped (thanks for the hint below, Brant - we tightened the nuts with a socket wrench and it's great).

I think I probably need to adjust the desk to make it a little higher, but it's quite heavy and I need to get someone to do it with me (Neil did this last night - I think it will probably need to go a bit higher so I'm not looking down all day).

I don't have Bluetooth on my phone or laptop so I can't access the online stuff which sounds great (stats, exercise plans etc.). I'm not too bothered about this at the moment as I can write down how far I've walked and how much time I've spent walking at the end of each day.

Things I've learned:

It's very easy to walk while typing/marking essays/messing about on the internet/talking on the phone.

Different tasks seem to work with different walking speeds. 1 mph is about right for editing and typing.  

Good stuff:

The desk itself is pretty big so there's loads of room for piles of marking and/or books and files etc. 

It's much easier to walk than it is to stand still, so even if I'm just checking my emails or messing about on Facebook for 10 minutes, I switch the treadmill on.

I've walked more than 20 miles since Friday evening and my calves are zinging (in a good way).

I can see that if I just stop eating so much chocolate it's going to be a great way to lose weight. Plus, while it's easy to walk and type, it's actually quite hard to walk and eat and/or drink (yes, I've tried both).

The treadmill goes up to 4 mph which, if you've got legs as short as mine, is a jog, so there's scope to go a bit faster at times.

Monday, 29 April 2013

Shortly Speaking

There is a lovely, detailed review of Sweet Home at Shortly Speaking, a blog about contemporary short fiction. The review concludes with the following paragraph:
Whether she turns her unflinching gaze to the obscure realities of parenthood or experiments with lighter and more playful modes, Carys Bray comes across as a very exciting new voice in fiction. Sweet Home is not only a successful promising debut, it is a funny, dark and poetic exploration of domestic life that bears the mark of a skilled storyteller. In these stories, Bray finds a fine balance between plot, character and language, with none being sacrificed to the others.  
This is me as I read the review on my phone →

Even though it's a Monday, I sang in my car all the way to work - at the top of my voice. And when people stared, I smiled at them.

Monday, 22 April 2013

Ebb & Flo Bookshop

This morning my friend Claire Massey (who has a gorgeous new website) posted this picture on Facebook. She took in a beautiful, just-opened indie bookshop in Chorley called Ebb & Flo

Sweet Home is right there next to Nicholas Royle's First novel and below Jenn Ashworth's The Friday Gospels - yipee!

A group of us are hoping to get together to explore Ebb & Flo, buy books and eat cake - all my favourite things at once, I can't wait. 

You can follow Ebb & Flo on Twitter.

Friday, 19 April 2013

I will walk 500 miles

I haven't exercised for ages. I know I should get up earlier; I should take a break in the middle of the day and go for a walk; I should go out running once the kids are in bed - I should do lots of things, but I don't. In recent years my backside has developed into a sort of portable, writer's cushion. 

Neil tries to be helpful and encouraging. He reminds me that exercise has been shown to help low back pain and that walking is good for heart health. He sometimes shows me things like this Telegraph article which discusses the benefits of walking for an hour a day for elderly people or the American Heart Association study which has found walking to be as effective as running (if one expends the same amount of energy). 'Look at this research that shows walking 10,000 steps a day will significantly improve health, build stamina, burn calories and benefit the heart,' he says and I reply, 'that's nice,' and carry on typing and eating Maltesers while sitting on my cushiony behind.

Neil likes to try things. For example, he recently did some research about bare foot running and decided to try it. I went with him (I wore trainers, he went bare foot). I didn't realise people run differently without trainers. If I had to describe it, I'd say they run like Thunderbirds: it was the first time I didn't feel embarrassed for myself on a run, in fact I ran extra fast to try to get away from my scary, puppet-like running partner.  

Neil's latest interest is the treadmill desk. He's been researching them and he's keen to see if they can improve fitness and concentration (via increased oxygen to the brain). 

Can you see where this is going? 

He needed to find someone who sits at a desk all day and doesn't do any exercise at all. And he didn't have to look far.

Guess who's trialing the treadmill desk? 

Neil and I went to Gym World in Oldham this week and had a look at a desk. He was impressed (I was too - it turns out I can type AND walk at the same time) and we're taking delivery of a one next week. I will be blogging about the desk here and over at Neil's blog where I will try to sound sensible and discuss things like statistics and fitness (I probably won't mention my backside). 

In other news I had a lovely review of Sweet Home from writer Dan Powell and I'm really pleased to be on the Thresholds feature writing longlist. 

I'm off now, until next time, when I will be righteously exercising while typing, rather than sitting on the sofa, trying not to drop the hundreds and thousands from my Nobbly Bobbly between the laptop keys. 

Saturday, 13 April 2013

The Frank O'Connor Award

I was four years old when I saw a child playing the violin on television. Afterwards, I pestered my parents for lessons. I don't remember the television programme or the pestering, but I do remember playing the violin. I spent thousands of hours practising, taking exams and playing in various orchestras throughout my childhood and adolescence.

When I was seven my violin teacher decided I was ready to play in my first music festival. My mother made me wear my best dress, something I did every time I performed or took a music exam (even in the very last music exam I took aged 17 - grade 8 piano: me, my sheet music and my best dress). I think my mother hoped that, in the event of a terrible musical cock up, I might at least get some marks for making an effort to look nice (a few years ago I had an MA interview at Oxford University and her advice remained the same, wear a nice dress: I didn't, and I wasn't offered a place - nothing to do with the way I was dressed, sadly).

When we got to the music festival my name wasn't in the programme. There'd been a mistake and I hadn't been entered. I was the youngest person present (and I was wearing my best dress) so they let me play and I was subsequently disqualified.

There were other festivals - I even got to play my violin in the Albert Hall on one, heady occasion. I probably learned some good, early lessons as a result of my disqualification: rules are rules, mistakes happen and best dresses aren't a panacea.


The Frank O'Connor longlist was released a week ago. The Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award is the single biggest prize in the world for a collection of short stories in English. Every eligible, entered collection is longlisted and that makes the longlist a showcase for short story collections from around the world in any given year. The Frank O'Connor is a huge prize and big names win (as you'd expect: big names are big because they're brilliant) so for writers like me the exciting thing is to be longlisted alongside the best practitioners of the craft.

Sweet Home should be on the longlist, but there was an administrative mix up with the publisher's distributors and it wasn't entered. I feel extremely *______* (insert grumpy words here) about this, but I'm still really interested in this year's Frank O'Connor Award.

I've read a little over 10% of the longlisted collections, something I'll attempt to rectify during the summer, after I've finished redrafting my novel. I've enjoyed every collection I've read, but I'm particularly fond of Hitting Trees With Sticks by Jane Rogers and Adam Marek's The Stone ThrowerI'd be delighted to see either on the shortlist.

Of the books I haven't read, I'm especially looking forward to The Tenth of December by George Saunders, Emma Donoghue's Astray, The Peacock Cloak by previous Edge Hill Prize winner, Chris Beckett, The Pre-War House and Other Stories by Booker shortlistee Alison Moore and Hassan Blasim's The Iraqi Christ.

To get an idea of the variety of the 2013 longlist take a look at this gorgeous book cover quilt graphic. Don't the books look beautiful? The shortlist will be decided in late May and the winner will announced in July.

Check out Robaroundbooks for coverage of the Frank O'Connor Award, the Edge Hill Prize and general, lovely, short story goodness. 

Tuesday, 9 April 2013

Matt Haig's The Humans

To celebrate the up-coming release of Matt Haig's new novel The Humans he asked a group of humans to read their favourite line from a chapter of the book.

My daughter and I had a lot of fun recording her segment which begins at 2:35.

Matt has been writing some excellent blogs for Booktrust, including this blog about his journey as a writer which is funny and extremely moving.

Sunday, 7 April 2013

Tuesday, 2 April 2013


I have pinched the title of this blog post from my colleague Rodge Glass who frequently signs off emails with 'onwards!' It always makes me smile and it also makes me feel strangely optimistic and cheery (I say strangely because I am not the most optimistic or cheery person in the universe).

One of the best things about knowing other writers is that you occasionally get to read their books before they are available in book shops. I was lucky enough to be given a copy of Rodge's new book Love Sex Travel Musick several weeks ago and I'm very much enjoying it. There's a particularly beautiful story called 'Do All Things With Love' and there's a line from the brilliantly titled 'The Monogamy Optician' that's been dancing around in my head for days: 'Seems to me the world is full of women who don't like their men very much, and men who don't know how to cope with that.'

I believe Love Sex Travel Musick is going to be available in WH Smith, just in time for the summer holidays - short stories make excellent holiday reading and these are excellent stories.

In other news, I've had a kind review from Our Book Reviews and Sweet Home has been longlisted for the Edge Hill Prize. It's an incredible longlist this year and it's lovely to squeeze on to it alongside some of the UK's best short story writers. I've also had an individual short story longlisted for something quite exciting which I may write more about in the not too distant future - fingers crossed.

I'm slowly redrafting my novel (I'm finding it hard to resist the impulse to completely rewrite it). I'm really lucky to be going on an Arvon course in June, courtesy of Edge Hill and I hope that a week away and some fresh eyes will give me the impetus to finally wrap it up.

I'm very excited to be participating in my first academic conference next week. I'll be reading at the University of Roehampton's Practice, Process and Paradox: Creativity and the Academy on 11th April.