Wednesday, 21 December 2011

Best Short Stories I have read this year

The sun has finally risen on the shortest day of the year. A really bad metaphor has just popped into my head, along the lines of short stories being like short glimpses of light... anyway... It is also National Short Story Day. So to celebrate this here are some of the best short stories I have read or re-read this year.

- 'How to talk to your mother (notes)' Lyrical and haunting depiction of a mother and daughter. I am a big fan of Lorrie Moore and re-read this after recommending it to a student.

- 'Up the mountain coming down slowly' Dave Eggers' excellent contribution to McSweeney's Mammoth Treasury of Thrilling Tales. Tourists going up Mount Kilimanjaro - how much will they sacrifice to get to the top?

-'Everything is Moving, Everything is Joined' and 'Morphogenesis' in Litmus. It's a brilliant anthology and hard to choose which stories in it I like the best. I could list them all.

'The House of Usher' by Edgar Allen Poe. I looked at some classic short stories with my MA group at Uni of Bolton. I love this story. The sumptuous language and how Poe cranks up the horror notch by notch. We also discussed the classics 'The Dead' so I took time to re-read Dubliners as a whole. I know it's a predictable classic, but its also unsurpassable. We compared this to Carver's 'Cathedral'. One of his more optimistic stories. Years ago it inspired me to write my Ellipsis 2 story, 'The Stop' (though the eventual story has very little in common).

-I recently went to a reading of Comma's Lemistry, an anthology celebrating the work of Stanislav Lem. I found out the Philip K Dick suspected Lem wasn't a person at all, but a committee dishing out Soviet propaganda. Loved Annie Clarkson's 'Toby', a futuristic story of adoption.

-When I'm not at Bolton, I'm dashing to Edge Hill University. My third year seminar and I all loved John Burnside's 'Slut's Hair' in The Best of British Short Stories. Another favourite was Claire Massey's 'Feather Girls'. I feel if I describe these stories I'll ruin them. So I won't.

-I have just read Tom Vowler's The Method and Other Stories. Loved the whole collection. Really liked his dark and disturbing stories about children's propensity for violence: 'Homecoming and 'The Little Man', as well as his satires of writers, 'The Method' and 'One Story'.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

A few little things I've done for my book

I felt a lot more relaxed talking to Heather Stott on BBC Radio Manchester a couple of weeks ago. We had a lovely chat in the brand new studios in Salford Quays. The interview is on my page here. Last week I was interviewed in The Big Issue North. This weekend, Litmus:Stories from Modern Science was chosen as quirky stocking filler in the Observer.

My launch part 2 is at The Castle on Oldham St at 7pm on Thursday 8th December. This will also be the Comma Press christmas party, so if you are in Manchester, please come down. I will be reading with Michelle Green and afterwards we will be mostly drinking and taking the party back to the Comma Press offices at Madlab on Edge St.

If you are in Macclesfield, I'll be reading with Maria Roberts at Picchu on 9th December, where I will be very hungover. But there will be amazing food at the event to keep me going. You can bring your own wine and tickets can be bought from here.

Sunday, 4 December 2011

When Your Book Leaves Home

When your book is published is it similar to when your child leaves home? You're left with mixed feelings. Not sure what to do with yourself. Off the book goes, out into the world in its brand new cover, without a backward glance. You are left to worry and fret about how your book will fare. Everybody says, you must be so excited, but mostly you're just scared. You think, did you bring the book up correctly? Is it strong enough to survive? You tell people what a great book it is. How proud you are. Sometimes you wish the book handn't left home. You want to care for it and edit it forever. Some parents kick their book out when they are too young; they abandon their book when it needs them most (to quote Claire Keegan). Others are that pushy kind of parent, who force their book to compete. As a book-parent, I have to say, I'm now feeling like a spare part, hoping my book will pop home so I can do its washing. I don't know what to do with myself. Perhaps evening classes? Try to enjoy my new-found freedom? But the only solution is to have another book, and hope this one calls me once in a while.

Thursday, 3 November 2011

The War Tour is finally, finally out and in book form. Just in time for the launch at the Manchester Literature Festival event on 15th October. I read with Michelle Green, and I'm eagerly awaiting her forthcoming collection from Comma next year. I coughed through most of the event, or tried not to, with cough suppressant and vocal zone on the table. The disastrously timed cough magically disappeared for the nine minutes Michelle and I spent on Women's Hour the previous day. An absolutely terrifying experience at the studios on Oxford Road - the guests' waiting room was not unlike a dentists. It was the first time I'd had to say why I'd written a book about war. The big why, when I have not experienced a war personally (and why this question misses the point) will be discussed here very soon.

I'm going to chat tomorrow (Friday 4th November) to Heather Stott on BBC Radio Manchester. I almost wish I still had the cough. It's good to have something to focus your nerves on. Link

Wednesday, 27 April 2011

on not writing your blog

I'm not sure how other writers keep up a blog while trying to finish a book. It takes all my energy to just write the book, never mind write about writing it.But then I'm not sure how a lot of people manage to do a lot of things. Like opening beer bottles with a lighter. Or going through doors. Have problems with doors. Opening them, and then there's door etiquette. Who lets who go through. Always tricky. Anyway, back to writing about not writing. I'm in the final edits...well almost final edits, and I have an ace cover, which you could use to get through passport control. What you want in a book is usefulness, I say.

It was an absolute pleasure to read at the 'Between War and Wishful Thinking' event with Larissa Boehning at the Bluecoats a couple of weeks ago. You can read about it here, and some of the stuff we said here.