Thursday, 31 December 2009

Goodnight, beautiful

I've been away, on a different planet, in an unexpected and unwanted world. My Mum, my beautiful Mum, died on the 21st December. Leaving me and my 2 brothers in shock, but together, and with the rest of our loving family we are dealing with the loss of such a great woman.

My Mum was a writer, though never published. When I told her I wanted to be a writer, she took me to the library where she asked the librarian for a list of all the publishing houses in the UK so I could send them my book when it was ready. I was 8.

She was so supportive and thrilled with every bit of writing news I told her.

She wrote poetry. She wrote funny stories for me and my brothers when we were little. And when I couldn't sleep, she said, "Put your arms around yourself and tell yourself a story. You can go anywhere you want to go, be anyone you want to be."

I still can't believe I'll never see her again. She should be there, on the end of the phone, in her flat, telling me about the chinese dragon she could see in the trees.

Goodnight, beautiful x

Thursday, 17 December 2009

Tell me how you write - Part 1 - Jo Stanley

I have several modes: business stuff straight onto the machine; journals in 0.7 black gel pens; fiction and poems written on plain A4 with well-sharpened 2B pencils, written in mind-map form, often starting half-way down the page, for some reason.

Place and position matters. The main work is at the computer (too bloody endlessly), and it matters that I had an ergonomist set up the right arrangements for me: kneely chair, flat panel screen at the right height, raked keyboard, gel wrist rest, inspiring mouse mat (Virgina Woolf in sepia, actually). To mitigate the square, hard, plastic, boring insult that the screen is I’ve decorated with3-D objects that insist on my visceralness, my creativity. They round off the machine and give it texture. Mainly they’re the remnants of some art therapeutic work I did after losing a baby in 1993 but quickly rediscovering how much writing and painting are to me about giving birth. I had a vision of myself with spring onion knees, daffodil tits and sunflower shoulder blades, harvests whooshing down from my fanny; I’m the absolute epitome of creativity. These symbols are bluetacked onto the monitor’s border.

Alongside them is my chunk of rose quartz, to remind me that love is what matters in life. A yellow ‘well done’ sticker from my dear writing friend Maggie - to be applied with high-handed aplomb to any task I do, as appropriate - keeps my spirits up when I remember to notice it. The silver screen stands on 79" x 34" smoked green glass IKEA dining table that I keep as empty as possible, because the more space there is around me, the more I can think calmly and widely as I write. The desk is set to look out of a south-facing window, overlooking Soyland Hill in the Pennines. That wooded sweeping slope’s is a fine target for blank gawping.

Duration and intensity of writing is important. Mainly I just slog and slog. So maybe the most important writing tool is my kitchen timer. The current one (they break down) is fat, scarlet, apple-shaped, and from John Lewis in Southampton. It’s set to tell me to take a break from the computer. Which I ignore. I do too little stretching backwards and outwards. And I do a lot of leaning forward, elbows on the wrist-rest, saying ‘errm’ at the screen, gazing as if its blank areas are going to offer useful answers, as crystal balls do - of course.

The best writing (in terms of how it satisfies the deepest me) is in bed, by hand. I like to do it with all the phones unplugged AND turned to silent mode, the door locked, almost naked, and with a sense that I have an absolute right to put the world on hold for a few hours. Doing this sort of writing is almost the same as doing watercolour painting for art therapy. Indeed, often I’ll have the Bijou mini paint box in one hand and the pencil in the other. This sort of writing is absolutely not performative, not done with any audience in mind. It’s about encountering the Truth - the sort with a capital T. The process makes me cry good tears and get up whole. Back to the machine, where I might go on and shape that work if I can spare the time, or back to the dutiful work-writing. But that time-out always brings about the wonderful state of rasa. Right and left brain working together in harmony - the creator and the editor. Wotta luverly couple they make, bless em. How essential their unity is to my sanity.

About Jo:

I’m a writer. No, I’m an explorer of ideas and psyches and histories, who sometimes puts useful words down on paper. With serendipity the marks and ideas make something delightful together. Mainly I write accessible factual history books about off-centre subjects, e.g. women pirates. Really my heart’s in fiction, including plays. But it’s harder to get them published/staged. I’ve been writing since I was 15 - that’s 45 years. About 8 per cent is published, the rest is in filing drawers and inside a retinue of outgrown computers, some dead. Being an ex-journo is useful. It means I’m not precious about Cree- ay- tiv- it-eh; I can do short sentences without literary angst; and I feel absolutely entitled to begin sentences with ‘and’ and ‘but.’

And I want to change the world. And I’m sad. And I love my cat, and my mates. And I truly believe patisseries may be humankind’s best invention. But they should combined with arts cinemas, poetry readings spaces, massage rooms, moors and revolutionary rallies. The photo shows me dressing up as a pirate for a publicity shot, in Taranaki, New Zealand. Yeah, I love playing and showing off. And I like it when those sides of me get together with the writer. I’m very conscious of how constrained my upper body is, on the computer, by comparison to that swashbuckler out on the wide sea. It’s a reminder of what matters - exploration and fun, not niminy-piminy wordsmithing.

Jo's website
Jo's Blog on Gender and the sea

Wednesday, 16 December 2009

darn virus, and a 'coming soon'

Have been a little absent this week - my laptop got a destructive virus that I have - thankfully - managed to get rid of. I'm really bad at remembering to back my work up so had a bit of a panic, but luckily I know people who know more than I do about computers so we managed to save what I needed.

I mentionned a couple of blogs ago that I'm starting a series of guest posts by other writers on the subject of the way they write, particularly what they write with - pens, keys, paint brushes; what they write on; how this affects the work produced; how this satisfies the writer.

Here's the prompt:

Tell me how you write. The instruments you use. What you write with, what you write on. How you feel when your hand is holding a pen, or hovering over keys. Do you have different instruments for your different moods? Or for different 'types' of writing? Tell me about when the connection between your writing self and your hand is the strongest - what do you use to write with then? What kind of writing satisfies you, the deepest you, the most?

The first response will go up tomorrow from Jo Stanley who writes books, plays, articles and everything in between. And she's a female pirate. I'm sure of it.

Alex Thornber, editor of Tomlit, will share his response with us a few later, then we'll have Nik Perring along in the New Year.

If you'd like to participate, send me an email at (I know it's a hideous email address - I got it back in '99 when I was a youngling) and I'll send you some info.

Friday, 11 December 2009

Reminder - Tomlit Comp Closes Monday

If you'd like to enter the Tomlit competition you have a few days left. Alex has forwarded the fiction entries my way but it would be great to have some more to read and consider. I'm waiting until all entries are in before starting the judging process.

Word limit: 500
Theme: Reunion
Winner: Published in the next issue of Tomlit Magazine, in mid-January
Deadline: Monday 14th December

Full terms can be found here.

Good luck!

Monday, 7 December 2009

What's the shape of your novel?

I got this idea from Nik's Blog a couple of weeks ago. He was thinking what the shape of one of his stories would be, and he shared his vision of the story shape on his blog. It got me thinking what shape my novel-in-very-early-embryonic-progress* is.

I've recently bought a plain unruled notebook to scrawl in, just for doodles and sketches and free wheeling thoughts written in pencil. (This is a new thing for me, this writing in pencil thing. Thanks to Tania for the pencil I'm pencilling with - it was part of my pay-it-forward gift.)

Anyway, here's the shape of my *NIVEEP

At least right now, that's the shape of it. It will no doubt change, I might post its changing shape.

Anyone else want to share their shapes, if working on a novel? I know you can't post images in the comments, but you could put it on your blog and leave a link to it in the comments here, maybe, or over on Nik's blog. (Is it even okay to tell people to leave comments on a blog that's not yours??? I realise maybe not, but as it was Nik's blog where the idea started I don't want to hijack it. Hijacking his blog with comments is better..?)

I've also started keeping a note of how much time I spend writing each day. This, I hope, will keep my head in perspective when I think I'm not doing enough, and give me a kick up the bum when I'm actually not doing enough. And it'll help me see how I'm dividing my time between shorts, the novel, research, subbing and the blog, and I can make improvements if I need to.

A series of guest blogs on the way writers write - but in particular what they write with. (Don't say hands.)

Sunday, 6 December 2009

Kreativ Blogger Award

Thank you, Jessica, of Writer's Little Helper fame, for nominating me for this chintzy award:

To honour this award I must do the following 7 things:
-thank Jessica (tick)
-link to her blog (tick)
-copy 'Kreativ Blogger' image to my blog (tick)

-tell you 7 interesting things about me. Oh-kay, this is hard. Just 7? I don't mean that. I mean, aagh, this is a bit painful but here goes:
  • I don't like cheese (you: what??? really??? but why??? and how???)
  • I can play songs on my teeth, just using my teeth, no instruments, just teeth and my mouth opening and closing at various intricate levels to create notes.
  • I like pickled onion sandwiches a lot.
  • I fell down 2 flights of stairs when I was a baby and didn't cry.
  • I would love a kitten. When I lived in Australia they had kittens in pet shops. Many hours were spent staring in pet shop windows.
  • I used to teach English to non-english speakers and on my first day a class of 8 year old Korean children made me cry.
  • I backpacked around Europe on my own when I was 20.

- nominate 7 Kreativ Blogger and link to their blogs:

  • Monda at No Telling - there's something about the way Monda writes, even about the everyday, that pulls me in.
  • Elle is one of my real-life friends. She's an artist whose blog the happy kimono is mostly a place where she showcases the work of other artists and interesting things that have caught her artist's eye. I love Elle's designs - go to her etsy shop to see.
  • Tania Hershman's blog was one of the first writing blogs I found. It's a great mix of useful and interesting. Inspiring too. And Tania, being a very successful short story writer, is a big supporter of the short story form too.
  • Alex writes short stories, makes music, studies for his degree, reads a lot, and gets his work accepted in various places. And he runs Tomlit Magazine.
  • Andrea's blog - a cat of impossible colour - not only the best ever blog name, but an interesting account of someone further along her writing path - Andrea's first novel, The Cry of the Go Away Bird will be published by an imprint of Random House in 2011.
  • Miles - another real life friend - whose commitment to making films and being constantly productive while holding down a non-creative job has been an inspiration to me.

- now go and tell those 7 people that they are Kreativs.

To it!

Monday, 30 November 2009

it's niche comedy

but I love him -

Off to see the versatile singer-songwriter John Shuttleworth from Sheffield South Yorkshire's new film - Southern Softies. AND Graham Fellowes is doing a live Q&A after the screening.

Even better, well what's making it even better for me is that my cousin is coming too, we're the same age and loved John Shuttleworth as teenagers. I don't get to see her much these days but it's ace when I do.

All that's left to say, is 'Oof'.

Sunday, 29 November 2009

opportunity: new competition from Leaf Books

Seems Leaf Books are expanding their competition-setting horizons with a few new categories - the one that's caught my eye is a 'Writing about writing' challenge.

They'd like 750 words on the theme of writing:

You can send us creative writing (a story or poem) or an essay/academic/journalistic piece, or even a stream-of-consciousness writers-block-induced panic, provided it’s on the subject of writing.

Lots of scope, I think, for interesting pieces. There's a handsome £100 first prize, plus publication in a pilot edition of a Leaf Books magazine - if the magazine takes off that'd be a nice addition to your writing CV.

There's a £3.50 submission fee, or £10 for 4 entries.

Closing January 31st 2010.

Since most writers love talking about writing, and writing about writing in their blogs, this could be a popular comp.

Good luck to all who enter. Just make sure you do some 'actual' writing too. (That's a reminder for me more than anything...)

Thursday, 26 November 2009

so that Bridport thing

happened at the weekend. Feels like a world away... it did take us 12 hours to get there and 12 hours to get back - but when you think of some of the other winners coming over from the US I realise I have no cause to mention my journey.

It's hard to know where to start - so I'll just start at the top and see what happens.

I woke up nervous. Really nervous, the kind of nervous where you think of all the times you've been an idiot in public and you're certain you'll be that idiot again. Or someone will ask you a question about writing and you'll answer it badly - thus revealing your actual non-writer status. Or you'll be dull. Bland. And you'll shake. You'll shake when you're reading your story on stage, and your mouth will be full of wool and your tongue is far too fat to be reading out loud anyway...

This lasted about an hour, but luckliy M is very good at bringing me down from such ridiculous heights of insecurity. I dusted myself down and felt better. Think I just needed to purge.

We were due at the Arts Centre at 12noon for champagne and photographs. I think we might have been amongst the first to arrive, but we were greeted warmly and given name our badges. Even M had one, but his did not have a red sticker on it - which meant 'a winner', rather than 'sold'.

We were directed upstairs to an exhibition space where the photographers were. The champagne went down quickly. I had my photo taken holding the anthology, which I hadn't seen yet - but when I started leafing through it the photographer assured me I'd have a copy waiting for me at my place on the table in the town hall where were having lunch. I stopped pawing it.

We made our way downstairs again, and in the time we'd been upstairs, so many more people had arrived, and the place was crowded. Frances, the organiser of the whole Bridport operation, recognised me and after we'd said hello she asked, "Have you met Ali yet?" I hadn't - I didn't know she was there - and Frances, knowing I was nervous, took my hand and led me through the crowd to her.

She is small, as small as me, and lovely, and warm, and her first words to me were, "Teresa - In a seaside cafe," and I felt phew - she did read it then. Which was obvious, she knew everyone's stories. Later, in her speech, she spoke baout how she'd spent the summer reading them and getting to know them. She was genuinely sad for the ones that didn't make it.

We talked for maybe 5 minutes. The first 30 seconds were taken up by me fawning, I won't use any direct quotes - but let's just say she looked a bit embarassed, and a bit stern, and she frowned and then swerved the conversation to me, and my writing, and my story. Which was an odd and brilliant experience. She said she was happy when she saw, that because of the alphabet, my story is the last in the anthology. She thinks it's a good one to end on.

She asked what I'm working on at the moment, and raised her eyebrows when I said I'd started a novel and one of the reasons is because so many people say you must write a novel asap if you want to get published. She didn't go into what she thinks about that, but she asked how I felt, and if I was ready to write a novel. I said I'm finding out, making notes and seeing where it takes me.

There were other people waiting to meet her, and so we ended our chat. I think I touched her arm as I said goodbye... take that not as a stalker move, but as a relaxed one. It felt okay to do that.

I rushed back over to M so I could relay everything to him before it disappeared from my memory and therefore ceased to exist. I felt relieved to have met Ali so early on, and ready to keep celebrating the day. I had another glass of champagne.

Lunch was a lively and informal affair, and we were lucky to be seated next to some lovely people: a fellow short story runner up, Anna Britten, and her husband Peter; and also 2 Bridport readers, Maggie and Liz, who are part of the team of volunteers who read all of the entries. There were approx 6500 short stories entered this year, and Maggie and Liz read 400 each. It felt a real privilege to be able to chat to them about the process, which involves a team of primary readers, secondary readers, and then one man, Jon Wyatt, selects the list which is passed onto the judge.

It really hit home at that point how much chance has played a part in getting me there. If the primary reader who read my story didn't like it, or it didn't hold up against the other pieces they'd read, that would have been it. My story jumped through 3 hoops before it got to Ali Smith. Think of all the stories, as good as and better than, the ones in the anthology. I don't for one second doubt the capabilities of the readers - Maggie's been doing it for 7 years, and was very serious about how she dealt with reading everyone's work, ensuring each entry is given a fair read, and respected.

One of the things that stood out during the whole experience is that the Bridport Prize is this big international prize, but behind it all is this small but dedicated team of people who just love short stories and poetry.

After we'd eaten the prizes were given out. Ali talked about the process of judging, and as I mentionned before, she felt for each story that she couldn't put through. She talked about the short story form, which she did brilliantly and you can read something similar in her Judge's Report. Then she read out the names of the runners up - my name came first. It felt like a long walk to the front to collect my envelope, and it's a bit of a blur but it included her handing it to me, saying well done, and the two of us having our photo taken. The rest of the story prizes were handed out, and then Jackie Kay - a smiling, sparkling lady with real warmth, talked about the poetry entries, and then handed out her prizes.

We were then all invited to an 'after-show event' hosted by the lovely Vanessa Gebbie, who came over and said a friendly hello to me during lunch, back at the Arts Centre. This was where the readings were to take place, and so the nerves reared their heads again, but just a little, just normal-scale nerves.

It was a great experience. My voice held, I didn't have a wooly mouth, my tongue isn't that fat. My legs did shake.

Here's Vanessa introducing me:

(If you look closely you can see my hands clutching the anthology...)

And here I am, reading: (please note how Vanessa's throne takes centre stage. And rightfully so.)

And that was where the day should have ended, after everyone read, and said their goodbyes, and parted. We were on our way out when the photographer came over to me, looking worried. The only photograph that hadn't turned out from the whole day, was the one of me and Ali Smith. BUT, if I didn't mind, I could go with her to Ali's hotel, and see if she was there, we could take it again. I really didn't mind.

Though, when we got there, she wasn't there. We waited a little bit. I should add here that this photo wasn't a souvenir for me, but for the local-to-me press release. It seemed we didn't know when Ali would be coming back, and so the photographer decided we should probably leave it, but she was really sorry. So we got up to leave, and in she walked.

She was first suprised, then worried we'd been waiting for ages, and then very happy to have her photo taken again with me.

Look at my eyes - can they get anymore "OHMYWORDIMHAVINGMYPHOTOTAKENWITHALISMITH!"

And that, really was, that. We said goodbye and I left the hotel feeling thrilled, relieved, tired, excited, and ready for a drink. I found it hard to sleep that night, with so many things swimming in my head - my conversations with Ali, the people I'd met, but most of all the stories I'd read - there are so many wonderful stories and poems in the anthology.

In a way, I wish I'd had chance to read them before the event, just so I could tell the other writers how much I liked their work.

I am left with an inspired feeling, particularly about the short story form. I think I am a fan of fragments coming together to make a whole, which, I guess is what every piece of writing does, but when it happens in short form it's something else.

Friday, 20 November 2009

away I go

Just heading to London now for a brief stop-over to see friends before travelling to Bridport tomorrow - eeeek - prize giving is Sunday, I'll be back home Monday night.

Have decided at last minute to do a reading from my story on Sunday - I was asked a couple of weeks ago but declined, thinking I'd be bad at it/nervous etc - but well, what the hell, it's a great opportunity to push myself a bit into a new territory so I'm going to do it.

Just need to hunt down a hard copy of my story now to take with me - printer's broken - got one somewhere...

Back Monday!

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

a Bridport 2009 winner

I've been sitting on this news for almost 2 months; I couldn't 'make it public' until now. Talking about it here was out of the question, which was tough - this blog being about the writing hike - and this news being the biggest writing thing that's happened to me so far.

On September 23rd I got an email from the organisers of the Bridport Prize to tell me that my story, In a seaside cafe, is one of the 13 winning stories this year.

If you're a writer who's been sending work out you'll know what the Bridport Prize means, and the weight it carries, and you'll understand how my face went numb when I read the email, and how because I was on my own in the house I had to get a large vodka right away to celebrate.

And, if you were around at the start of my blogging life (June) you might remember me talking about getting my Bridport entry ready, and how I felt both inspired and intimidated by this year's judge: my favourite writer, Ali Smith.

It is an odd feeling to know that she's read and chosen my story, and even harder to take in that there were 14,500 entries (including poetry) this year.

On Sunday I'll be attending the prize giving in Bridport, where Ali Smith will be, and I have no idea what the day will be like or if I'll meet her, but I'm excited, nervous, anxious, thrilled, and all the rest.

It's weird because I've known about this for so long I thought I'd got used to the idea - but my stomach is doing flips as I write this blog post.

And now I have to dash out to work. I'll be writing here about what happens next and the prize giving - unless I make a faux pas - which I have a habit of doing when in the company of people I admire (as a teenager I told Tim Wheeler from Ash that he was a 'babe'. I won't say that Ali Smith. Must not say that to Ali Smith).

Nano Week 3

I think it's week 3..?

Just a short post to say things are moving, just slowly. Wordcount is out the window. And irrelevant, because I'm not doing NaNoWriMo like all the people who really are striving and hitting wordcounts all over the place. I'm kind of mooching at my own pace, making notes, deciphering the story.

I've stopped taking my laptop out with me to write, and instead I'm filling a notebook with ideas and scenes and timelines and spidergrams and drawings. It feels impossible, and not right for me right now, to be thinking about wordcounts. I am dusting off my idea and seeing where it's going. I'm enjoying the process.

Tuesday, 17 November 2009

a new competition

has been set up on the all-new Tomlit Blog.

We'd like you to write 500 words (or less) using the theme 'Reunion' as a prompt. Stories and poetry welcome.

The winning piece will be published in the next issue of Tomlit Quarterly.

If you'd like to enter
- become a follower of the Tomlit Blog (though we'd love you to do that anyway)
- email your submission to
- post a comment on the Tomlit Blog to say you've entered

This is our first competition and we'd really appreciate your support in spreading the word. If you'd like to link to us, or write a post about us, that would be wonderful.

Thank you!

Saturday, 14 November 2009

Opportunity - One Story

This week's Interesting Place To Send Your Writing To is a fairly unusual one.

One Story is a magazine that showcases one short story per issue. It's mailed out to subscribers (about 5000 of them) every 3 weeks.

It's small and neat looking. The website is impressive.

I like the feeling of the operation; they're very supportive of their writers.

I like that they'll only ever publish a writer once - so there's less 'in crowd', and more opportunity.

And, they pay - $100 dollars plus 15 copies of the magazine. Getting paid is nice, but what's nicer is that feeling I'm getting about how they feel about the short story - there's a lot of respect and admiration for the form:

We believe that short stories are best read alone. They should not be sandwiched in between a review and an exposé on liposuction, or placed after another work of fiction that is so sad or funny or long that the reader is worn out by the time they turn to it.

And they're thorough - there's a generous interview with the writer in each issue - a nice touch.

So, here's the basic info:
Send: literary fiction
Length: 3000-8000 words (consider that the story will be 'standing alone', so they're looking for a sense of satisfaction and wholeness)
How: online entry, automated system
Turnaround time: 4-12 weeks
Pay: $100 and 15 copies of the magazine

Take a look at the site and let me know what you think.

Thursday, 12 November 2009

Inner critic rears head in Nano Week 2

Though, actually - it's pretty much always there when I'm writing. Just yesterday it was bloody persistent and took the form of a Newsnight Review panelist:

"...and that entire section of 2nd person, I mean - what on earth was that? Why bother? Oh yeah, observations about life, blah blah: meaningless. Nothing to do with the story, or the plot, just a contrived attempt to jazz up a - quite frankly - very dull novel."

Be gone!

Monday, 9 November 2009

Aesthetica results

Just had an email to say that while I'm not a finalist, my stories Blue Raincoat and Waking have been Highly Commended in the Aesthetica Annual Creative Works Competition.

There were 2500 stories: 50 were highly commended and 16 made finalists.

So, a pleasing result :)

an interesting fish

This week's place to send your work to is fairly big and well known. If you've been entering writing contests for a while you've probably heard of Fish Publishing and may even have their annual Short Story Prize on your calendar. It closes at the end of November.

But I actually wanted to alert you to their One Page Story Competition, which I found out about today, and am particularly intrigued about because of the interesting choice of judges, John Hegley (a performance poet) and, the one I'm really excited about: Simon Munnery.

Simon Munnery is a left-field comedian I've liked since I was a teenager (his character Alan Parker - Urban Warrior was much quoted in our classroom) and I've continued to like and appreciate his style as I've got older and seen so much fake and run of the mill stand-up comedy.

I saw him at Edinburgh a couple of years ago in a small but packed out venue and his show was so much more interesting and daring than the more commercial acts I saw. Simon Munnery is an artist of a comedian, and I'm really curious about his involvement in this prize, and what kind of judge he'll be. It will definitely make me consider the story I write for this prize, and push me to be daring too.

Here's the info:
Closes: March 20th 2010 (loadsa time)
Results: April 30th (quick turnaround)
Online entry fee: 12 euros
Max words: 300
First prize: 1000 euros plus publication in the anthology
9 runner up prizes of 50 euros and publication

Sunday, 8 November 2009

Days 6, 7 and 8: ahem

I decided to dedicate days 6 and 7 (Friday and Saturday) as no-Nano-zones. I'm on holiday from work and I planned a few visits to see friends and family at the end of this week, so knowing I'd be away from my laptop, in the company of others and travelling in between various places I thought it safest to give myself a break. Unless a magic inspirational thing happened where I had to write the novel. It didn't. I'm okay with that.

I love train journeys, and I made 6 in 2 days, visiting 2 sets of friends and then heading to Leeds last night to see Mew play- part of M's birthday present and a brilliant gig.

Being small, I'm used to not seeing everything that happens on stage, but Mew project animations created by their lead singer on the wall behind them - odd animations, line drawings, words, a cat playing a violin, an old woman telling us she was shaking... it was an eerie and wonderful effect and I appreciated the extra visuals no end.

The only video I could find one youtube is this one, take a look if you fancy. Go to 2mins 25secs - ish to see the violin playing cat. I just love the way it blinks.

So, okay then - today should have been a Nano-doing-day. It's day 8. I haven't Nano-ed.

Maybe I made a mistake leaving a couple of days out, so it's harder to get back 'in'.

Anyway, I decided to edit a short story instead, but then I got distracted by a new idea - what! I'm not supposed to be having new ideas until December! - but I went with where I was drawn to - grateful for the creative pull - and wrote a new piece of flash fiction. I've even sent it away already - it's gone to Six Sentences - fingers are crossed they'll like it enough to put it on the site.

So, 3 days without working on my novel, just a week in to NaNoWriMo. I'm not worried. I realised early on that I haven't signed up for this to get all angsty about what I'm writing and how much and when. Okay, that's sort of the point of NaNo - to write a definite amount NOW. But, I feel strangely at peace with the way I'm doing it, it's working out okay. I think.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

new piece over at Pygmy Giant

called 'Train starts to move'. I wrote it a couple of years ago, sent it to Pygmy Giant a couple of weeks ago - and here it is.

Published on a day when I'm making 3 train journeys - spooky.

Heading into town now to buy Writers' Forum - my contributor's copy hasn't arrived yet, but I want to see it - especially seeing as I've had a few text messages from my brothers saying they've seen it. I'm impatient.

I spent last night with one of my best friends, drinking wine and watching the film we watched pretty much on repeat as teenagers.

Still awesome! (yeah, I said awesome...)

Thursday, 5 November 2009

Days 4 and 5: voices

So many voices! I've got 6 bloody characters all fighting to tell their story.

So yesterday and today have been about letting them. I'm not being too strict with how I do this, just seeing who I feel like writing as and having a go. I'm not sure if in the final draft they'll all be there, but it's helping me, at this stage, to see how they link together.

I've, very roughly, split the story into sections of time, and arranged them in the order they might work in. So we go something like - present day to 1965 to 1981 to 1992 to 1968 to 2010 present day again.

I'm holding off doing any research on the 60s yet. When I do, I'd like to find a book called 'Everything you need to know about what it was like living in Britain in the 1960s' which will, as it proclaims, tell me everything I need to know. That's how it works, doesn't it? The research thing? One perfect book to enlighten you. Good.

Word count so far - 5000. I'm increasing what's on my laptop by roughly 1000 words a day, and making notes and scribbles in my notebook which sits at the side of it as I go along.

I usually write in a coffee shop in the morning and today I was treated to a low, soft, but fairly husky sing-along of 'Mr Bojangles' from the old man sat at a neighbouring table. He only knew those two words, so it wasn't really a sing-along - the song just went surround-sound every now and again.

Tuesday, 3 November 2009

Day 3: muchos notos

- which means today I have written a lot of notes.

This is good. I've been 'fleshing' today, getting closer to working out what's going on and why and when and to whom and with what and where.

Something that's suprised me about this process is the scope - in terms of time - my idea covers. It's not going back to Ancient Egypt or anythin, but it's gone back several decades further than I imagined in the beginning.

The story spans 40-50 years, but isn't told chronologically, so I'm playing around with the order that will best tell it.

Wordcount-wise, I'm not sure. I probably have 3 thousand words of notes in longhand as well as bits I've written in and around the story on my laptop.

Now, I'm going to go and run somewhere so as to feed that bit of my brain as well.

Monday, 2 November 2009

Day 2. Verdict: better

Yes, better, I was better at NaNoWriMo-ing today.

Still below the word count, but - things took off in an unexpected way, a background character became one of the most, if not the most, important character in the book. I say 'book', I mean 'scribble'.

It's exciting. It felt good. It wouldn't have happened if I wasn't doing NaNo.

And today I reminded myself that however I move forward with this is okay. It doesn't 'fit' at the moment for me to write reams of prose, and I'm probably not ready for it. My novel is still a fossil that I'm dusting off (that's a Stephen King-ism from his writing manual On Writing). So I'm playing around and making notes, often just typing ideas out or questions about where things could go, how characters link together, or scenes I should include.

It's fun! And it should be. I will remember that.

Oh, so wordcount: 2017

All good in the hood.

(yeah, I just said that.)

Sunday, 1 November 2009

NaNoWriMo Day 1

Is harder than I thought. That's a lie, I knew it would be hard. I have serious problems with actually sitting and writing a lot of words all at once.

I'm okay with that, most of the time, considering that we all write differently and I'm not a believer in pushing yourself so much that you lose the energy and thrill of it. And I sort of potter around when I'm having a writing session, going from story to story, laptop to notebook.

Having said that, I do want to get better at writing a lot in a day. So that's why I'm having a go at NaNoWriMo.

Day 1: 824 words. Not even half of what I'm supposed to have written (daily word count should be 1667 to hit the target of 50000 for the whole month).

Procrastination techniques used today: 3 episodes of Coronation Street, polishing the living room furniture, deleting old text messages, biting all my finger nails, reading synopsis of next 2 weeks worth of Coronation Street episodes, pruning basil plant, googling 'how old is Barbara Windsor's boyfriend?' (He's actually her husband. And he's 46.)

Tomorrow, I'll be soooo much better.

Saturday, 31 October 2009

places to send your work to part 4: Six Sentences

(a day late, but ssshhh...)

Because I'm really trying to do NaNoWriMo this year, and be in Full On Birthday Mode for my boyfriend's 30th this weekend, I'm cheating a little with Part 4 of the Places to send your work to series.

It's not really cheating, it just feels like it is because Six Sentences is a place I know fairly well, because I visit it every day, read the stories they publish every day, comment on most, and have been published there twice (Velcro and Ex).

I've also been rejected twice - but rejection comes in an almost-not-really-rejecting-you way, by suggesting you post your story on the Six Sentences Social Network instead. So far, I haven't taken that up.

Okay - I love Six Sentences for these reasons:

-it's friendly and busy: there are a good bunch of people who comment on most if not all stories published

-the work is varied: all different types of stories go up, and because there are 3 new ones each day you'll usually find one that you like, if not love

-it's easy and quick to sub to: email a story made up of six sentences with a short biography of yourself and you'll receive a reply within 6 days. If it's a yes - your story goes up as soon as you get the email telling you it has. That's very fulfilling for a writer, rather than having to wait a couple of weeks or months to see your work in print/online.

That's just 3 reasons. Darn it, if I had time I'd write 6.

Whether you're a reader or a writer I urge you to go and check out Six Sentences, if you haven't already. (I know a lot of you have, because a few of my much appreciated followers found me there.)

Wednesday, 28 October 2009

Nanoo Nanoo

I used to love Mork and Mindy.

Though I forgot about their entire existence until I just went to title this post NaNoWriMo and instead 'Nanoo Nanoo' came from my subconsious and then pushed me towards a Google Image Search where I found them so quickly and easily (I do heart you, Modern Age).

So, allow me to cut out the middle man for you and just paste some magic here:


Oh yeah, so, I'm going to do NaNoWriMo this year, and my name for there is they.fall.back in case anyone wants to 'add me' - if that's how things are done. I sorta tried this this last year and got very close to nowhere with it. But I think I'm ready this year- despite not having much success just typing the word a few minutes ago.

I've joined a group on Andrea-a-cat-of-impossible-colour's blog. Andrew wrote her novel during NaNoWriMo 2008 and now has a book deal with Random House for it... inspiring stuff.

So, anyone reading now going to do Nano? Tell me who you are... say Nanoo Nanoo...

Friday, 23 October 2009

It's Friday so I have something to tell you about

I'm really not sure I should be sharing this with you. I'm not sure I should be alerting anyone else to such a great looking opportunity.

BUT, it's Friday, and I said I'd tell you about some cool or interesting place or competition or something you could get your creative teeth into... So here we go.

El Gouna Writers' Residency are offering three one month-long residencies in 2010 (Feb, May and June) for writers who are working on a specific project and need a tranquil haven of a place to work in. You get to stay, for free, in a beautiful villa in El Gouna, Egypt, by the Red Sea, with 4 - 6 other writers.

You do have to pay to get yourself there, that's the only thing. But you get your accomodation, breakfast and evening meals cooked for you for the whole month, and your own private room to be a writer in.

To apply, you must fill in a downloadable application form and scan and e-mail the following:
  • A biographical sketch including publications, performances and writing credits.
  • A ten page sample of your latest work.
  • A one page description of the work to be undertaken while at the Residency.
  • Two letters of recommendation e-mailed directly to the above mentioned e-mail address
  • In case the writer has a publishing contract for the project in process, he/ she should kindly state this.
Do this by November 30th.

I think it's a pretty nice deal if you can afford the air fare. Hmmm... I can't, but I could apply and if accepted do a jewellery heist when I'm in London next. Are you even allowed to joke about such things?

(Not that the stuff up there is news, really. I just like saying 'in other news'.)

Alex, editor of Tomlit asked me if I'd like to be a reader for all the submissions of poetry and prose he's receiving - and of course I said yeah - cos what a cool opportunity to be involved in a literary mag in the opposite way of my usual subbing. So I have a nice pile of other people's work to read tonight, and I'm pretty excited.

I don't have a plan, or any criteria, I'll just see how I feel about each piece and then feedback to Alex. A criteria could emerge naturally, and it'll be interesting to see how the process will work.

Hope you're all ever-so-well.

Monday, 19 October 2009

new piece over at Metazen

Thrilled, thrilled thrilled to be here.

a Tomlit and a to-do

Tomlit Quarterly Issue 1 came out today, and if this has been a succesful bit of copy and pasting and embedding you should see it thus:

Click on it and peel the pages. I'm muchos happy to have my story I don't know her name, I want it to be Nerissa right there 'pon page 5. 'Blogging World' friends Jessica Patient and Nik Perring also have pieces in there. And check out the photographs of Chicago by Bliss Braoudakis.

Today has been full, in a very good way. It's one of my days off work and, by contrast, I spent last Monday lolling and laying about on the sofa delicately holding my forehead and vowing never to drink again. You see last Monday, I was very annoyed at myself for 'losing' a day off to having one too many Sunday night drinks after a weekend of long shifts. Excessive tiredness + excessive wine = NO, Teresa, NO!

So, this Monday morning, fresh and rested, I wrote a list of things I'd like to/need to do today:

They're in no particular order - a sort of brainstorm - but I've not-on-purpose seperated 'household/boring' into its own category on the left, and 'creative/fun' on the right. But - how did 'run' end up in creative/fun? Odd brain.

So you can see I've ticked quite a few off - and let me add that 'train station - tickets' took a lot of time, a lot of queueing, a lot of giving people who were taking ages to sort their journeys out evil looks as they left. Then I took ages to sort my own journey out. Kept my shamed eyes to the floor as I exited past the long, long queue of people still waiting.

Also, 'casserole' was very time consuming because I've put shallots in it and had to peel each and every one.

Importantly, the 'free-writing/creative' part was done before anything else, and involved me unearthing and taking an old notebook (c2006) to a cafe this morning and reading through to see what amazing gems of writing I've written but forgot about. Ahem. I did find two ideas that I like and am working on turning into something.

So - what's left- I've blogged about Tomlit - check.

I'm not ready to edit after the cat (a short story).

'Reading/mslexia/relax' - hmmm, well I'm relaxing now:

- possibly un-doing any good I did with 'run'.

Friday, 16 October 2009

places to send your work to: part 2 - The Dana Awards

*post edited slightly since I had an email from the Dana Awards organiser*

I've been ferreting around the web and various listings sites looking for something interesting to share with you for Part 2 of my 'Places to send your work to' series.

If you missed it, last week I wrote about Tomlit Magazine. Alex, the editor, tells me he's accepted quite a few pieces sent to him as a result of that post, which is excellent news.

I thought it'd be nice to focus on a competition this week. There are a few big-name and established annual competition deadlines coming up: Fish, Sunday Times, Cinnamon Press. I thought about writing about one of those but they get a fair bit of attention anyway, so instead I'm going with the Dana Awards (listed in Mslexia Magazine).

When I looked them up I found this, not the flashiest of websites, but one where you get the 'feel' of the people who run it quite easily. Mary Elizabeth Parker is a writer herself while her husband Michael Dana (see, she named the award after him) provides the funding. Judging is done in-house at the moment, with a view to getting more outside judges for future prizes.

There are 3 categories in the Dana Awards, each with a prize of $1000.

1. The Novel Award: for the first 50 pages of your novel (completed or in progress). Any genre, except memoir.

2. The Short Fiction Award: for short stories up to 10,000 words in length. Again, no memoirs.

3. The Poetry Award: for the best group of 5 poems. No light verse.

I think $1000 is very generous, especially as it's awarded in each category.

There's no promise of publication - this is purely a 'monetary encouragement' award, supportive of unrecognised talent. You do have to pay to enter, as with most competitions. It's $15 for short stories and groups of poems, $25 for novels.

All entries must be made by post, to
Mary Elizabeth Parker, Chair
Dana Awards
200 Fosseway Drive
North Carolina
USA 27455

Looking at the past winners they are very heavily located in the US. This isn't a bad thing if you're not in the US - since I found the Dana Awards listed in Mslexia Magazine I'm sure they're looking for a more international flavour this year. *I've just had an email from Mary Elizabeth assuring me they do get entries from international writers but they'd love to have more on board this year*

Closing date is soon - entries should be postmarked by Oct 31st.

I'll end with this direct quote from the website about what they're looking for:

Whether fiction or poetry, it must be work that is original yet not merely sensational for the sake of sensation. It must contain clear, well-developed themes and be written in a style that exhibits love of language and mastery of craft.

If fiction, whether literary/mainstream or genre fiction, the characters must be fully drawn, not stereotypes, and must be engaged in conflicts (either internal or external) that are compelling and show forward momentum.

In both poetry and fiction, if it's a universal story (love, death, loss, coming of age, moral responsiveness or failure to respond), it must be told in a fresh way.

Thursday, 15 October 2009

improv rulez

Saw the best film I've seen in ages yesterday - Le Donk and Scor-Zay-Zee. Directed by Shane Meadows and starring Paddy Considine, it's a short (71mins) fake documentary about a roadie with a sideline in managing rap acts, well one rap act - real life Midlands rapper Scor-Zay-Zee.

It was made in 5 days (part of Meadow's '5-day-features' venture) for a tiny amount of money and was mostly (if not all) improvised. It's so very funny, and Paddy Considine is amazing. I wanted to say all this better but I'm in a rush so I just urge you to watch the clip I've linked to up there and here and if you like the look of it go see it if it's playing near you.

Also - very happy to say that Metazen accepted a short I sent them this week, not sure when it's going up yet but I'll link to it when it is.

*post script*
Thanks to Nik Perring: I went to from his blog to his wonderful story on Metazen and decided to sub from there.

Hope you're all having a super day.

Sunday, 11 October 2009

come and get it

Okay, I got this fab idea from Tania Hershman's blog.

Here's the deal:

The first 3 people to reply to this comment will get a lovely thing from me.

But WHY?

It's like one of those 'Random acts of kindness' thingies. No big big reason. Tania did it because she felt like some pretty nice things have happened to her lately and she wanted to give a bit back, or, and this is a painful expression, "Pay it forward". I feel the same. I've had some good bits of writing news lately: some you know, some you will soon.

If you look in Tania's comments box you'll see how I jumped in and yelled "Give me a lovely thing!" or similar. You have to be quick and bold here.


You are agreeing, when you throw your comment in my comment box, that you will do something or give something lovely to 3 other people. I mean it. No self self selishness, please.

You don't have to do it like this, in a blog-way, but you have to do it in some way. Or the world will end. Or be less good. One or the other.


Who wants a lovely thing and will in turn do/give 3 lovely things to/for 3 other people?

Friday, 9 October 2009

places to send your work to: part 1 - Tomlit

I'm going to start a regular thing.

It will happen every, let's say: Friday.

It will happen here.

It will be about how I've found an interesting thing and how I'm sharing it with you.

The interesting thing will always be about a place accepting submissions of short stories.

Sometimes it will be a publication, like a printed thing or an online thing, sometimes it will be a competition or a prize.

This is not a groundbreaking thing. You should know that.

There are websites, good websites, with submission listings as far as your eyes can see. Well, with far more places listed than one per week.

But, I think it's nice to share, and I'm always looking for new places to send work to, or read work at. And I like being pointed in directions by other writers myself. And I'll try to make it meaningful, I won't just copy and paste from somewhere else. I'll, like, really try. I'll email editors and ask them questions. My word, there'll be no stopping me.

Seems fitting to point my finger first at Tomlit. Not because they've been very good to me this week, but because the editor, Alex, and I have been in contact a fair amount and I know he really wants to expand this place for fiction, poetry and artwork. First though, he needs more good quality submissions coming his way, so I offered to give a little shout-out here.

So, as well as showcasing original and interesting work on the website, a free-to-sign-up-for web based magazine is in the pipeline. This will be emailed directly to subscribers' inboxes and will include completely new work as well as features.

In print, the Tomlit Digest is a single sheet of A4 comprised of a few select pieces of poetry and fiction, and is free to anyone who picks one up (it's mainly found in bookshops in Charing Cross Road). This is a tool to 'get stuff out there', generating interest in Tomlit and the writers included.

Each week, Alex reviews a short story he's read online, with a link to the story and the webpage of the writer. I think this is a fab idea, and again is very supportive of writers out there trying to make it and be heard. (And I'm very grateful to have my story Ex reviewed there.)

Send flash fiction up to 1500 words, short stories 1500-4000 words, features up to 5000 words and poems of no more than 80 lines (all attached as word documents). Artwork should be attached as a jpeg.

"Tomlit is a home for writing, art and friends. We set up to give us somewhere to display the work we believe in by people we love. If you're not our friend yet, please get in touch because I'm sure it'd be great to meet you. "

Check the website for more guidelines and to get a feel of the place.

And, if you send something, good luck.

Wednesday, 7 October 2009

new piece over at Tomlit

Something very cool sprang from my story 'Ex' being published at Six Sentences last week.

I had an email from Alex, the editor of a new online literary magazine, who'd seen and liked my story over at Six enough to invite me to contribute a piece of fiction to his magazine, Tomlit.

This was such a wonderful thing - and also a first - to be asked to write something. Someone has read your work and likes what you do. Hard to get your head around, but very very cool.

I felt a little bit of pressure; I wanted to send the right thing for the feel of the magazine and for Alex to not feel awkward if it wasn't right.

He liked it. It's called I don't know her name. I want it to be Nerissa and you can read it here.

Saturday, 3 October 2009

new piece over at Six Sentences

I'm so very pleased to say that the good people at Six Sentences accepted the story I sent them this week. It's called 'Ex' and you can read it, rate it and leave a comment if you want to HERE.

Thursday, 1 October 2009


yeah, I said 'coolio'...

So I got an email today from the editor at Writers' Forum to say they are publishing my short story, Have you met the new guy? in their December issue. £150! Fantastique.

It goes on sale on November 4th and you can buy it in WH Smith's, Borders, all that jazz.

It's a story I didn't know what to do with because it's quite different from my usual writing style. It's a comedy, and I guess it's got a twist ending. I think. I'm too used to it to know if there's an element of suprise or not. I wrote it about 3 or 4 years ago, prompted by a conversation with someone at work, and really I wrote it to amuse myself, initially at least.

So yeah, coolio!

a thing published, a possibility, a regret

It's been in my 'Coming Soon' section for ages - today Fiction at Work have published a very short piece I wrote a while ago called Approaching girls in Dixons in their Short Shorts section and you can read it here.

And other writing news - Writers' Forum have shortlisted a story I sent to them for possible publication. They asked me to resend the story plus a biog and photograph to the editor so we'll see what he thinks, if he thinks it'll fit. If it does, it'll pay either £100, £150 or £300 - which would be, well, ace right now.

I always find writing biographies tough. 'Teresa Stenson is...' ???

You want to sound professional, but not too serious. Interesting, but not try-hard-quirky. My most regretted biography: 'Teresa Stenson is happiest with a cinnamon whirl in one hand a cup of good coffee in the other.' YAK!

Tuesday, 29 September 2009


Just a little one to say I still exist - I'm still writing (but working a lot too) and honestly, I'm not just obessively watching Jason Donovan pop videos...

I'll be along soon with more words and a link to something that's being published online tomorrow.


Friday, 11 September 2009

it's research, okay?

I'm working on a short story and Jason Donovan's in it. So I've had, had, had to watch this video once or twice today.

For inspiration. And to get a vibe. Y'know?

Ha ha. Love it. Can't help it.

Wednesday, 9 September 2009

listening in

Two things that I'd like to add together:

I spend a lot of time in coffee shops writing
I love listening (or, I'm nosy)

a lot of hastily scribbled down overheard conversations/observations in my notebook.

Here's part of a monologue I overheard recently. It came from a mother to her teenage daughter. The daughter (meek, quiet) kept silent throughout.

"I have just said to you, 'Do not eat anymore of that muffin' and you have looked me in the eye and taken a bite. How am I supposed to think that you understand me and are capable of an adult conversation when you deliberately, after I'd told you not to, took a bite of that muffin? We are back to square one. You have failed the test."

They were really discussing something else - the girl has chosen (without consulting her mother!) to change a subject she's studying at school. And didn't the whole cafe know about it.

It was the deliberate-ness of it all: the mother hadn't just found out. She probably thought it'd be a good idea to take her for a hot chocolate and a muffin and then tell her off, under the disguise of having a conversation with her. She just verbally tortured (with a loud voice - I was at the opposite side of the room) her daughter for about 15minutes and even at one point said, "I know you've apologised but it doesn't matter."

The girl just sat there, not even being especially cocky, more just resigned that she had a Head Case for a mother.

Maybe I shouldn't judge, I'm not a mum. But if ever I am...

Not that this is a blog about parenting. But it's good to listen and write down conversations when you're a writer, isn't it? For speech patterns and such. Not just because of nosiness.

*Writing news*
-Got a rejection from Dark Tales
-Subbed to Aesthetica
-Working on a story to sub to Mslexia ('Skin' theme, closes Sept 18th)
-Working on a book idea... hopeful.

Friday, 4 September 2009

Thinking and flaking

A reason or two for not posting much here in the last 2 weeks:

I haven't had any rejections

But let's not get excited - I haven't had any acceptances

'Life' has been a bit bigger

I've been thinking quite a lot (well done, Tree!) about various story and project ideas, sort of mulling over things.

The transistion between summer and autumn is distracting

Hmm, yeah. Definitely in a pondering place. A flaky place.

Friday, 28 August 2009

Distracted by

Can't get this song out my head...

Loving Flight Of The Conchords today.

Back soon with a writing-focused post.

Sunday, 23 August 2009

brevity and opportunity

Really, I could have edited that entire last post to: I should only send work out that I really like. Or just like a bit. Or am interested in.

(I'll shut up now, or another 500 words will spew...)

I've just found a few interesting writing opportunities coming up that I'd like to share:

"exceptional writers from the North who want to write drama for television. If you have a strong individual voice, the ability to create great characters and tell compelling stories, and a real passion for television drama, you could take part in Northern Voices."
More of a scheme than a competition, the 4 selected writers will work on their craft with top Beeb writers and producers.

Closes AUG 28th.

£3 per entry, or £10 for four.
First prize £100.
Closes AUG 31st.

£10 per entry
One winner from each category bags £500
+ publication in the Creative Works annual
+ a year's subscription to Aesthetica Magazine
+ a copy of the annual
Closes AUG 31st

Free to enter
Selected pieces to be performed at their '5 Minute Festival'
The judges then select the best piece to be filmed by a trio of professionals.
Closes SEP 7th

I seem to be writing a lot of dialogue heavy stories at the moment, and it's making me wonder if I should have a go at writing a script. That might be a massively ignorent leap to make: I know there will be much more to scriptwriting and I'd be totally out of my depth if I ventured that way, but, you know, it could be good to try summat new.

Thursday, 20 August 2009


At the start of July, I wrote about subbing to Flashquake, * an online journal who ask for stories of 1000 words or less.

*that's the first time I've linked (lunked?) to a post of my own. Just sayin'. **

** I can’t stop saying ‘Just sayin’’ since I saw this

You can opt to receive 'editorial comments' with your rejection, and, with my rejection email today, I got this feedback:

Editor 1: 'No. A little pat.'

Editor 2: 'Maybe.
A familiar tale enlivened with well-chosen details.'

Thanks, Editor 2. I appreciate that (really, I’m not being sarcastic) but Editor 1 is right. And, in all honesty, I knew when I subbed that story that it wasn’t that hot. This isn’t me being all ‘yeah, I did it on purpose, wanted to be rejected,’ because, of course, that’s not true.

BUT, I knew, deep down, that I didn’t like that story much. It was a bit dull, and, thank you Editor 2, it was a little pat. I didn't really know what 'pat' meant before today. (It's just always been my Mum's name. And she's little.)

As I understand it, and what I think Ed 1 was getting at, my story being 'A little pat' means it’s a little shallow, surface, fake, and dishonest. That last word is the important one.

I wrote ‘With a name like that’ a few years ago, and I can’t even remember where the inspiration came from – which could mean that it didn’t – it might have been a response to a writing exercise, I really don’t know.

But I do know I don’t like it, it doesn’t feel real, or like I’ve written it. And it’s not because the main character is a 20-something bloke in 1994 who falls in love with a girl called Melody, because I’ve written things I feel better about which are totally out of my realm of experience: twins, child killers, obsessive voyeurs… but I got into the writing of those stories and something good came out, blended with the words and felt right. Felt honest.

It’s hard to really love what you write. And if you ever do, it might not last too long, because we evolve, hopefully get better, become interested in different ways of expressing ourselves.

For me, it’s too easy to trawl my ‘Completed work_unpublished’ folder and think it’s full of possibilities, just because the stuff is finished. I'm not sayin' I'll never sub anything old again - I mean often the older stuff has matured (or festered), been allowed to breathe, and I have had a few hits that way - by finding something surprising and seeing life in it.

And, it’s possible I might have liked ‘With a name like that’ when I wrote it a few years ago, but I didn’t when I sent it out last month – and that’s the crux of all this - I’m never subbing a story again which I don’t like, believe in, or find interesting. That doesn’t mean I'd believe the story is perfect, or that I wouldn’t listen to criticism, but it would be starting from a better place, an honest place.

So, I think I should include ‘With a name like that’ in this post, partly because I've been banging on about it for 500 words and also to really seal my new writing commandment: thou shalt only send out work you like, believe in, or find interesting.

Here it is.

the year.

It was music, it was Melody. Capital letter. Because that was her name.

She fell into my life like an almost-angel wearing a t-shirt with the words 'catch me' on it. I grew my hair for her, and picked up a guitar to pose in photographs she said made me look 'debonair'.

We were the couple who moved in together after 3 days. She was the girl who undressed as she walked from room to room. I was the boy who couldn't believe his luck.

She taught me how to argue because she loved to shout. Big, wild, accusations flew around the flat, thrown from her, batted back by me, until she made them too big for me to do anything other than fall under their weight.

I always said sorry. She would nod, in a small way.

The scarf was a gift for her from a stall in Camden. Orange, flimsy, and tasselled around the edges. She used it as a headscarf, a belt, a table cloth, a sarong.

Eventually she used it to wipe her arse with because we were out of toilet paper and I'd forgot to buy some the day before. She left it in the bath for me to find when I came home from work. It was all she left.

She knocked on the door the next day, and stood with her eyes closed.

"I've come for my scarf."

"It's in the bin."

That was an act worse than her using it as toilet paper, and it was the reason why she was leaving. She had already left, of course. I know that now.


was just
a year.

(What if Editor 1 actually meant the narrator is ‘A little prat’?)

A good day. I've toyed with this idea about feeling like my writing is honest as I write it - but it's the first time it's hit home that it applies to subbing work too.