Sunday, 31 October 2010

Happy Ha'llo'w'een

I like Halloween. It's got atmosphere and calls for half lights and warm drinks and spooky films and snacks. Or it does this year, in our flat. A quieter Halloween than previous years for me and Mario - part of the reason I like Halloween is down to Mario - it's his birthday tomorrow and because he loves horror and pumpkins and the whole thing we embrace it as part of his birthday-ness.

Here's the obligatory pumpkin-looks-like-it's-your-head photo of me from this year:

This is Mario doing the same last year

And from Halloweens past

Me, in the centre, with the luverly Patricia and Kathy

The year I was Regan from Exorcist - complete with pea-soup stained nightie and chewing gum stuck on my face for demonic scratch marks....

Mario went as (deep breath) A drag queen who had been killed by another drag queen while getting ready for a show... easier to make sense of in this photo

please note the stiletto-through-the-heart method of death.

Me and this year's pumpkin wish you a Happy Halloween

Friday, 29 October 2010

Confused it for love

He got her ready to fly, to float up and away from him. When her feet lifted she gasped. He said she’d be okay. He had found the sky for her, lifted her head and showed her the stars. She caught a breeze and billowed a little, afraid at first, then laughed. He cheered; she moved her arms like wings. He imagined the tingle in her insides, thought of her heart filling, expanding, leaving no room for him.

Friday, 22 October 2010

got woken up at 4am

by these words, spoken by my boyfriend (of nearly 9 years), who was propped up on his elbow and looking right at me:

"Hello, who are you? Hi - who are you? Who are you?"

He might as well have shone a torch into my eyes. But he accepted my answer of 'Teresa!' quite quickly, and, as usual when he sleep talks, he went straight back to sleep and has no recollection of it.


Today I'm working on some short stories / characters who are being fuelled by how I'm feeling at the moment - which is a bit unsettled, a bit at sea. (Not because of the interrogation, but it is quite fitting...)

Friday, 15 October 2010

this post is a bit business-like

First - I'd like to recommend a short story, Susan, by Alex Thornber. If you have a few minutes and you'd like to read something hip, but with depth (hard to pull off), click here. It's up at Metazen.

Alex is also the editor of Tomlit, a quarterly lit mag which took a hiatus over the summer. Now it's all open again, and so is the website - take a look here for an interview with Nik Perring, and here for a non-fiction piece by Tania Hershman. At the end of last year and earlier this year I helped out as the fiction advisor, but I'm now the assistant editor (check me, I have 2 new jobs!) and so...

we're looking for an intern of sorts to help out as Tomlit grows. This is a 'virtual' position - something that you'd do in your spare time from your own home, and mostly by email, most likely between yourself and Alex. You need to like reading short fiction and feel confident about giving constructive feedback to writers, even well known ones.

You have to not mind working for free.
Tomlit is totally non-profit, and is concerned only with promoting and celebrating new writing and art. Maybe you're a writer yourself - and you'd like to help generate ideas, maybe even write an article or story for the magazine.

If you're interested, send an email to alex.notebook [@]

And - The Tomlit Magazine is having a relaunch and so is open for submissions again. We'd love some of your fiction - go here for the guidelines and send us your best work.


Here's this month's (ish) round up of prizes and competition closing soon (with some of my thoughts on some of the prizes in italics...)

Dana Awards
Send: 5 poems, the first 50 pages of your novel, or a short story up to 10,000 words
1st prize: $1000 in each category
Entry fee: $15 per 5 poems, $15 per story, $15 per novel
Closes: 31st October

Huge wordcount for a short story. Postal entries only. Interestingly - simultaneous submissions are okay, as long as your work is unpublished at the time of entry. Dana very rarely publish the prize winning stories, so you would still be able to win a monetary award here and have your story published elsewhere, as long as you let the Dana Awards folks know.

Cinnamon Press Writing Awards
Send: up to 10,000 words of a novel/novella; 10 poems of up to 40 lines; 2-4000 words of a short story
1st prize: £400 for novel/novella & publishing contract, £100 & publication for poetry collection and short story
Entry fee: all categories £16
Closes: 30th November

I think £16 is way too steep for the short story category, especially as you can only enter one. It might sound harsh but £100 first prize isn't good enough, in my opinion, to spend £16 to enter. Cinnamon Press are well established, however, so it would be a good competition to be placed in.

The New Writer Prose and Poetry Prizes
Send: short stories up to 4000 words; novellas up to 20,000; single poems of up to 40 lines; poetry collections of 6-10 poems; essays and articles up to 2000 words.
1st prize: various for each category - 1st placed short story wins £300.
Entry fee: again, it varies, but it's £5 per story
Closes: 30th November

Leaf Books Memoir Competition
Actually - Leaf have quite a few competition deadlines coming up - take a look at their website. Here's the info for this one:
Send: an essay about your own life of up to 1000 words
1st prize: £150
Entry fee: £4 per sub or £10 for 3
Closes: 30th November

£10 for 3 entries is interesting in this competition - would that be 3 different lives you've led, 3 versions of the same life, 3 stages of your life..

Fish Short Story Prize
Send: stories up yp 5000 words
Prizes: 1st prize - 3000 euros; 2nd - a week at Anam Cara Artists' and Writers' Retreat + 300 euros travelling expenses; 3rd - 300 euros. The 10 winning stories published in an anthology.
Entry fee: 20 euros per story
Closes: 30th November

Also a high entry fee - BUT - in my opinion, Fish award amazing 1st and 2nd prizes that make it very appealing to enter.


There are a lot of competitions closing at the end of November - and as ever this is not an exhaustive list, just the ones that have caught my eye. Writer Dan Purdue has started to compile a list of competitions and prizes over at his blog - go see.

Wednesday, 13 October 2010

my week

is really divided.

OK - thing is, I have a new routine because I got a new job. I've been doing the new job with the new routine for almost 2 weeks now. This is the 2nd week of the new Divided Week(s).

Previously I'd have a few days off scattered around, and the nature of my bar job would mean I'd sometimes do a day shift and sometimes a night and sometimes an all-day-and-night shift. Each week would vary. Not erratically, but I'd work some days, have a day off, work some more days, have a day off. Etc.

But now - I work for a University as a notetaker (I go to lectures with students who, for whatever reason, can't take their own notes) and all of my sessions are on a Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. I still do my other job, the bar job, Monday daytime and Saturday morning.

I'm free all day Thursday, Friday, most of Saturday and all day Sunday.

So really - all I'm saying is, I'm not actually working any less hours than I was a few weeks ago, but it's split up in this way that should be good - because I can dedicate Thursday, Friday, Sunday to writing. But for whatever reason, the split freaked me out last week and I didn't write a thing.

This is one of those posts that as I write it, I just think - who gives a sh*t? How indulgent is this, telling everyone what my days off are. There are men being hauled up from the ground right now. BBC News 24 is addictive today. Repetitive as always, but I can't help but watch each man come up - thinking about what he might be thinking, seeing the reunions with mothers/wives/children - knowing that somewhere in the world, a script has already been written. Probably been cast too.

It's an amazing story.

Sunday, 10 October 2010


watch tv programmes about the Booker Prize shortlisted novels and then open your latest WIP. All you will hear is Germaine Greer's voice reading your words and saying 'What a load of shit'.

watch this 20 second video.

Saturday, 2 October 2010

Bridport 2010 and the Rejection Section

First up I just want to say for all those writers who are finding be by Googling things like 'Have Bridport announced the winners yet?' and such:

Bridport haven't announced anything but they have contacted at least the shortlisted poets, maybe the short story writers too. I only know this because Jonathan Pinnock has blogged about it.

I know how the need to know can get you - you Google Google Google it, refresh your emails, all that jazz - I do it myself, and it's often frustrating when you just want to know - have the winners been notified so I can move on with that particular piece of work. And maybe feel a little sad at not making it.

I'm in a bit of a Rejection Section (nice) at the moment - check out this list from the back of my notebook where I keep track of where my stories are. This is from May til now:

I haven't had a hit since... 100 Stories for Haiti in January. Wowsers. Okay. It's no biggie. It will be a fine day when the trend is broken (see, optimistic).

I've been working on The Book too, in bits and bobs. I'm a bit of a faddy writer. That makes it sound bad and I don't think it is. I just have different moods, different projects, and it's good - for me anyway - to go to each thing when I want to. I have several short stories at various stages of development right now, and The Book is always lurking. It means it can be more difficult to complete something in a short space of time, but that a story has space to grow (stale?) .

Along with this tendency to leap around I also believe that You Have To Show up and put yourself in front of your notebook, desk, PC, whatever, and Meet The Boat. (On reading over this post I realise these capitilzings look like titles of self-help books...)

So here's the thing I really want to tell you about. A few days ago I sat in my favourite coffee shop for writing. I was actually writing about writing. I'd taken a look at my Rejection Section and I sat thinking about how small my output can be at times, beating myself up a little really - giving myself the 'How do you expect to get a book published if you don't write it?' talk. Fair point.

Then I balanced it out by acknowledging that I do Show Up - I go to the coffee shop with my notebook and pen and no newspaper (mostly) and I sit and think about writing and sometimes I actually write things. Not always, but I go and put myself in that position and mindset and I believe it's useful in my busy working (not writing work) week to give myself that time.

I've mentionned before that I have a 'deal' with my friend Miles that we email each other a chapter of our WIPs at the end of each month. Well, with only 2 days to the end of September I had NOTHING to send to Miles. (Miles, who is actually a film maker primarily, is a bloody annoyingly productive writer who emailed me his chapter around the 20th September. )

There are various reasons why this month my book has taken a backseat but the over riding one is because I have been trying to write this book for ages, and after a certain point I hit a wall because the structure becomes a problem.

I really wanted to send Miles something, 'Even if it's only electronic pissvomit'.

So, back at home after the coffee shop I sat at my desk and forced myself to write up a list of reasons why the various structures and incarnations The Book has taken have worked or not worked.

I should mention, I have done this before - loads of times. BUT. SOMETHING HAPPENED.

It's as close to a 'Eureka' moment as I have ever had: I realised how to structure the book. I shouted some words out like, 'Yes! That's it!'. I felt like I had loads of energy in my belly that I couldn't get out.

I drew this

And really, it feels like it was always there - this idea, this way to do it, just below the surface. An enamel surface; a thin ice surface too.

This is a long post. I try not to do long posts. Really, it's just about how this week I have really felt the ups and downs of writing, but I kept doing the the constant stuff, like going to the coffee shop, like putting myself at the desk.