Friday, 3 December 2010

All Things Short Story

Utterly delighted to hear the David Constantine has won the BBC National Short Story Prize, with his story 'Tea at The Midland'. A truly great writer, who has published two collections of stories with Comma Press. You can buy Under The Dam and The Shieling, as well as the anthology of the National Short Story Prize shortlist here.

There's lots of great things with short stories at the moments. We are building up to the shortest day in the year and National Short Story Day on 21st December, which is a UK wide celebration of the short story form. It includes the participation of a number of independent presses with live and online events on the 21st. See more about the day here. Reading in Manchester is Sarah Holman, Michelle Green and Dave Gaffney. Can't wait!

Tuesday, 30 November 2010

Hidden Gem and The Resurgence in Independent Publishing

It seems to be a vibrant time for independent publishing in the North West, and the UK in general. I'm not sure whether it's because of or despite the recession and the cuts to the Arts. IN any case we don't seem to be suffering from the winter blues where the prospects of publishing are concerned. In fact there seems to be a feeling of Spring and renewal; a resurgence in independent publishing.

This feeling was certainly felt at the launch of Manchester's newest independent artisan publisher, The Hidden Gem, which Claire Massey and I were honoured to read at last Thursday in support of Emma Jane Unsworth. Her novel Hungry, The Stars and Everything is to be published by The Hidden Gem in June.

It was a wonderful event; there was a celebratory atmosphere and the audience was left wanting more of Hungry. Read more about Emma Unsworth at her blog here. And check out The Hidden Gem here for more details about the press and a few pics of the launch.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

The Land Between Us

There is an amazing exhibition at the moment at The Whitworth Art Gallery called The Land Between Us. It takes a radical look at landscape art by placing traditional or older artwork next to contemporary pieces. With the exhibition is a booklet containing responses to the artwork. I was asked to respond to one of Donovan Wylie's photographs of the British Watchtowers in South Armagh, which was hung next to a watercolour by Turner of Conway Castle. Two striking images of British imperealism from two different centuries. Before I wrote the piece I went to The Whitworth and the curator Mary Griffiths took my down into the vault where they store the artwork. The Wylie photo had not yet arrived, so I had a private viewing of Turner's watercolour. This was very exciting. I would have liked to have written something about the Turner painting, but I was drawn to the more contemporary setting of Wylie's work.

My response, called 'My Sangar' was written from the viewpoint of a woman under surveillance. It begins: 'It was a while ago now, when it was anchored on the hilltop; that green-plated scaffold. I tell you, it hurts my eyes.'

For more on the exhibition go to:

Nearly There...and in the meantime some events

Three months since my last post? Please award me the laziest blogger award. I'm working on the last few stories and Comma Press are being very patient with me. More about the stories later, but in between frowning at my little netbook (how I write on it I don't know) and stressing about the letters on my netbook's screen, I've been involved in a few literary events and things. Tomorrow I'm reading at wordsoup in Preston. I unfortunately couldn't read there last December, when it was run by Jenn Ashworth because I slipped on the ice (I fall over a lot) and twisted my ankle. So hopefully I will make it there tomorrow without any mishaps.

I read my story 'Beautiful Results', which will appear in The War Tour and in Comma's new anthology Bio-Fiction at the Manchester Literature Festival alongside Stella Duffy. That was last month I think, so it's a bit late to blog about it. Anyway, it was a great event at the Godlee Observatory. Unfortunately, there were too many people to fit into the observatory, so we had to reconvene in a seminar room down the corridor. Stella Duffy's story was amazing, but I read out the part with all the equations in it. The following week Annie Clarkson and Emma Unsworth read their stories about Pavlov's dogs and the periodic table. Both powerful and vivid depictions of these scientific moments in history.

Wednesday, 4 August 2010

I spent years not having finished my PhD, and now it seems this 'not quite finished' status has transferred to my book. When I do finish it I imagine I will have to find something else to not quite finish for as long as possible. I don't like endings. Though I love short stories and some say short stories are all about endings. For me they are the hardest part to write (after titles). In the remaining 'not ended yet' stories, I am, as my editor suggested, attempting to write about the victors of war and not the bystanders or victims. I'll say more about this when the end of these stories is in sight.

I'm also writing a story about Lise Meitner and the discovery of nuclear fission. This afternoon, as I sit in Electric, I keep staring at my photocopy of the periodic table and thinking in a banal way, 'wow, isn't it amazing how all the elements fit together'. An interesting table in Meitner's story is the table in the Deutsches Museum, which housed the apparatus that Otto Hahn, Fritz Strassman and Lise Meitner used to do their irradiations and chemical separations (it was a composite as the various experiments were done in different rooms). It is now my desktop image (all the photographs on this blog have served their time on my desktop). This table is now infamous because for many years it was labelled 'Work table of Otto Hahn', and became emblematic of how Meitner was 'written out' of the history of the discovery (he alone was awarded the Nobel prize for it). Ruth Sime and other historians of science have done a lot to write her back into the history. Meitner appears on the periodic table as Meitnerium (Mt). So after talking to a historian of science and helping to edit my brother's CV (he is a scientist working on quantum mechanics) I'm feeling extremely scientific (I'm sure it will pass).

Wednesday, 14 July 2010

Sometimes when researching for stories, you find gems. While doing background reading for my story about Rosa Luxemburg, I'd read that during the Sparticist Uprising, the workers took over the publishing district of Berlin. Then I found this photograph. They are using newspapers and paper as barricades.
Photos are the inspiration for a new vignette I'm writing, which is commissioned as a response to an exhibition at the Whitworth. One of Turner's paintings of Conway Castle and one of Donovan Wylie's photographs of the British Watchtowers that were erected in South Armagh. I shall upload them very soon...

Tuesday, 25 May 2010

I have offically jumped out of the middle ages and landed in the world of blogging. It seems to be a very nice world, and has opened up endless opportunities for procrastination and public bad spelling.

Principally, I am going to write about the final stages of editing my collection of short stories The War Tour, to be published soonish with Comma Press. I imagine my blog will be extremely dull and read like an academic critical commentary. This is because I have spent many years in academia and I don't know how to do anything else.

Anyway, after some insightful and encouraging feedback from a workshop this weekend with five wonderful writers, I'm trying to develop my story about Rosa Luxemburg. Up to now, the story is very much about her as a public figure and revolutionary. It focuses on the last few months of her life (the structure is influenced by Alice Munro's story 'Too Much Happiness'), but hasn't quite brought out her inner life. And indeed, what am I trying to say about Rosa Luxumburg? What is the crux of the story?