Thursday, 22 December 2011

National Short Story Day Story

In honour of National Short Story Day, here's a story of mine which first appeared in Transmission magazine in 2007. Hope you enjoy it!

Can you spare a minute?

Daniel stands at the top of Market Street, just down from the corner; JJB Sports behind him, BHS opposite. This is his pitch; his spot. This is the best place.

He clutches the black plastic clipboard close to his chest and watches the groups of people walk towards and past him. Some see him early and cross the width of the pedestrianised area to avoid him. Some don't see him at all and walk close by. Either way, few stop. Undeterred, he offers his call to each one who comes near enough.

"... just a few minutes?..."

"... spare a few minutes?..."

"...can you just?..."

"...a few minutes?...."

"...spare a?..."

"...can you?..."

"...minutes?..."

"...it'll just take a sec."

Some brush past him. They see his shining eager face, his cold fingers creased round the edge of the black plastic clipboard, the other hand reaching out, imploring, and they keep their heads down and walk on.

Some glance at him and then away, quickly, as if he has some kind of disease which could be caught simply by looking at him.

Some look up long enough for him to catch their eye, but then they smile and shake their heads and keep moving, putting distance between them.

Many others, whether they look up at him or not, utter their own mantra in this traditional call and response, with all the rote dullness and precision of catechism.

"...sorry, no time..."

"...I can't spare any..."

"...no time..."

"...have to be somewhere..."

"...maybe on my way back..."

"...five minutes ago..."

"...can't at the moment..."

"... I haven't got the time to spare."

But every once in a while, one stops. He tilts the clipboard away from his chest and explains what he wants. They give Daniel his few minutes and, he likes to think, they go away feeling better and lighter for doing so. He feels he's doing them a service and each one he is able to help makes the whole thing worthwhile.

Daniel stays at his pitch longer than he should. He stays through rush hour and out the other side. The people on the streets now are a mix of those going home after working late and those heading out for the evening. In either case they have no time for him.

With a resigned shrug of his thin shoulders, he turns and starts to walk away from the bright lights and towards the lesser-travelled parts of town. The buildings he passes now are older, more worn, their facades crumbling and stained. Some of them have their windows boarded up but, as he walks down the road, more and more of them are bricked up, revenants of the window tax. Mist gathers and the tarmac becomes broken under his feet, rough cobbles emerging from under. The sound of the city dies at his back and the clump and thud of his boots on the ground becomes more noticeable. The streetlights soften and start to hiss. A horse goes past pulling a coach as Daniel turns into a narrow alley between two warehouses. He walks its length to the small wooden door at the far end. Candle-light glows from the window as he grasps the handle and presses the catch. The door opens with a soft creak and the smoke from the woodstove billows out past his face, carrying with it a smell of watery stew.

Daniel steps into the room and closes the door, he turns and places the wooden board he's carrying onto the worn table. An old woman, his mother, stands at the stove and stirs a large pot. She looks over and smiles at him, pleased to see him home. He smiles back and raises his eyebrows in a question. She shakes her head and goes back to her stirring.

Turning his attention to the room's other occupant, Daniel steps forward to see him better in the firelight. His father's bed, nothing more than a wooden pallet with a rag-stuffed mattress, was moved downstairs when he grew ill, to bring him nearer the warmth of the fire. He lies, propped up in the bed, wearing all the clothes he owns, most of them reduced to rags themselves, merging him with the mattress below. His gaunt face peers out from atop this mass, old and lined, but smiling and expectant.

"Danny, lad. You're back. Did you get me some?"

Daniel nods. "Yes, Dad. I did. "

His father licks his lips and some saliva dribbles down through the cracked flesh of his lips. Daniel feels vaguely disgusted for a moment, but then realises that he can see the wall through the edges of his father's face, ragged edges where he is starting to fade, and the feeling is replaced by one of urgency. He pushes his hands into his pockets and brings them out again, full. He opens them and shimmering jewels fall slowly onto the table top like insubstantial glass snowflakes.

He gestures to them. "It's the usual kind of thing, Dad."

He picks one up and gazes into it. It looks like a large diamond, but compresses between his fingers like jelly. In its heart there is a shimmer, which resolves into images of a man sitting at a desk, waiting.

"A couple of minutes waiting for a computer to boot up."

He drops this one and picks up another containing a woman in a coat. "Just over six minutes waiting for a bus."

A third, a man standing, staring into space. "The photocopier needed to warm up. Nearly a minute."

He drops the three fragments of time and looks back up at his father. "The usual. Nearly six hours in all." He picks up another, this one much larger than the others. "This was a three hour exam."

"Only six?..." His mother has turned from the stove, her face fallen.

"Only?" says his father. "It'll do me, and it doesn't matter what kind of time you've got, son. It's all the same to those of us who need it. And wasted minutes can feel like years." He reaches up to the tabletop and grabs a handful of the jewels. He squeezes them between his fingers and the light in the heart of each bursts and flows over his hand like water from a sponge. Slowly, the light fades as it soaks into his skin; skin which is now a little younger, a little firmer, a little more there.

Daniel looks around the room and sees the candles have been replaced with gas lamps, the window has thick curtains to keep out the cold, and his father's bed now has an iron frame with a proper mattress.

His father takes the second handful and squeezes them. The lamps become electric bulbs, the bed a floral divan on thick plastic legs. The pot his mother is still stirring is sitting on the electric ring of a cooker. She looks around, still trying to keep the disappointment from her face.

"Nineteen sixty or so, I'd say," his father comments. "Not bad at all." He looks up at Daniel. "But we'll still need more tomorrow."

Daniel nods, but then can't hold it anymore and breaks into a smile.

"What?" his father asks.

"Maybe not," Daniel replies. Struggling to hold his excitement he reaches into his inside pocket and brings out a jewel the size of a cricket ball.

His mother, having turned at the sound of Daniel's excited voice, gasps. "That looks like..."

Daniel nods. "It's a whole day."

His father reaches out a hand towards it, but pulls back, almost afraid to touch it. "How...?" he asks.

"A woman gave it to me. It was a day not of wasted time, but a day she no longer wanted. It was a day of sharing, a day of wonder. A day of beauty." Daniel can feel tears catch in the back of his throat. "It was a day of sitting, watching the clouds move over hills, of watching flowers open and turn their heads to follow the sun, a day with a box and a ring. A day of love and laughing and joy." He falters for a moment as he remembers the woman's tale. "But she lost the one she shared it with. She no longer wanted it, and when I told her what it would be used for-"

"You told her the truth?" his father asks.

"Yes. I told her about you and us and -" he gestures round the room, "- all this. And she gave it to us with her blessing. It was such a beautiful day that with her loss, it brings her nothing but pain and suffering. The thought that it could bring us as much joy as it used to bring her, was all she wanted to know. She gave it willingly and left with a smile on her face and a weight removed from her heart."

His father looks up from his bed with tears in the corners of his eyes. "You know what this means, don't you, son?"

"Yes, Dad. I do. It means we can finally go home."

Daniel presses the giant jewel, coloured with the greenest of grasses and the bluest of skies, into his father's hands and together they squeeze it, feeling it burst between them like an overripe peach, its juices surprisingly warm and soft. The bright light crawls over their fingers, growing brighter, up their arms and out, over their bodies and over the room, covering everything; brighter and brighter until all that remains is light.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

Dark in here, isn't it?

Well, I promised you a third post today, on darkness, and here it is.

A little while ago, poet Cathy Bryant kindly commented on one of my stories: 'You do dark better than anyone currently writing, I think' and that got me thinking.

I do venture into the dark side with my writing, it's true, but I still sometimes feel uncomfortable about it. Things like swearing, violence, death and just plain nastiness all feature, but part of me worries that readers will think it's me that's like that and start to steer clear of me.

Of course, this is silly, but it is something I worry about. And yet, I think it's important and something which is missing from my past novel writing.

You see, when I write a flash, I can throw in a little bit of darkness and then walk away from it. When I write a novel, I find it harder to deal with. Last year, for NaNoWriMo I wrote a book with zombies, aliens, vampires and robots in it. There were many deaths and quite a bit of violence. So far, so good. But all the characters in it were nice, and pleasant. Even the guy who I'd set up to be a bit of a player, a bit of a cad, turned out to be nice in the end. The monsters were largely off-stage and always beatable. There were no extremes of light and dark, and no real bad-guy to focus on, and I think that was it's failing.

You see, the good guys in a story can never really be good unless we see how bad the bad guys are. If Star Wars hadn't had Darth Vader then the bad guy would have been the disreputable smuggler, Han Solo, and it would have been pants.

So, I'm aware that I need to put in a bad guy, without which I won't have jeopardy. And I need to make things genuinely threatening, not just kinda, you know, a little bit, whoo, that was close.

And I need to not worry what people will think of me when I write it. I've been reading some dark things recently and I think I've realised when that association with the writer arises. If the darkness is there because the author wants it to be there, and they crowbar it in - if it's gratuitous - then you start to think 'Blimey, Writer X is a twisted weirdo' and that's because the dark doesn't arise naturally from the story. However, when the darkness is part of the plot, and a driving force of the story, then you forget about the writer. It's just what is happening to the characters, as nasty and horrible as it might be.

I like to think that I'm never gratuitous and that the dark in my stories arises purely because the narrative needs it. I think that my slightly oblique, slightly tentative approach to it is the cause of Cathy's comment. The sparing nature of the darkness in my flashes makes it all the darker.

So, my lesson in darkness is that oblique works better than full-on, but that the darkness needs to be there, otherwise no matter how bright the light, it'll only ever be grey.

Moves Like Janus

Okay, this is the entry I planned to write. I think the previous one happened because the list in the previous previous post felt like a bunch of questions that needed answering.

Anyhoo, here I am, being Janus, looking backwards and forwards at the same time. So, what can I see?

Well, just over a year ago I was published in Bugged, and since then my writing life has changed. Jo Bell (editor of Bugged) even commented recently that she had created a monster. I've had publications nearly every month since my October 2010 appearance in Bugged, and I've now written over 270 flash fictions (more than 135,000 words, if you prefer). As I mentioned before one whole month worth of flash365 is currently under consideration with a publisher, and a large section of the current month's stories will be appearing on Radio 4 on Christmas Eve.

In terms of success it's been quite a year. Hell, I even had a poem published in the Best of Manchester Poets Volume 2! But what else? That's what I've been asking myself.

Because if I have been doing all this writing, what has been its purpose? Is it really just a tool to make myself write more and more stories for publications, or is there something deeper? If it's the former, then it's done it's job. If the latter, then what? And what can I learn from the past year as I move forward into the next?

Well, in the past twelve months I've written the 31 collection and, of course, 245 stories under the flash365 banner. In all of those stories I have attempted to write in different genres, different, styles, address different topics, and generally push myself into new areas of writing. It's impossible to do this without learning about yourself as a writer in terms of what you prefer to write, what you're actually good at writing, and the limitations that you place on yourself.

I've realised that I'm quite good at this short-short story malarky. I have the confidence now that I can sit down and write a complete - and sometimes not half-bad - story every day. I know that if I sit down and start, the story will come. However, I also know that I can't just go on writing these for ever. They take me away from the possibility of other things. As long as I do a tiny story every day, I feel I've done enough. I thought they would prime the pump for more, but they have become the end, rather than the means.

So, I'm already starting to think beyond the end of flash365 and towards what might come next. I don't want to simply carry on and change the name to flash730. That's not to say I'm going to stop writing flashes, it's just I feel that the benefit I'm getting as a writer from this particular activity - a flash a day - is starting to lessen.

And I'm starting to think about writing a novel. Now, I've already written four of them, and they all live in my drawer. I don't want to simply create another one to join them, I want to produce something that I think can be published, but also something which I think represents my best work.

The ideas for this novel have emerged from looking back at the year's flash writing. You see, the process has, as I mentioned above, shown me what I'm good at and what I like to do. Surely this is the seam I need to mine for the larger lode of a novel?

Most of my stories could be considered as belonging to a genre like fantasy, horror, sci-fi, or even crime, but none of them fit firmly within any one of those genres. I tend to tell a story about the real world as seen through a distorting lens, rather than embracing a whole 'world-building' kind of thing. So, that would seem to be a good place to start.

What else? Well, it seems that I do funny quite well, so I need to include that. In some of my previous novel attempts I have tried to do 'serious' and while that has its merits, I think I get bored. And if I'm bored, you can bet my readers are. So I need to remember to bring the fun and the funny.

I also, seemingly, do 'dark' well. The constant repetition of deaths, serial killers, and other homicidal impulses in my stories suggests that I need to head in that direction too. I am aware that I sometimes shy away from this, and that I tend to be quite oblique in my darkness, but it still needs to be there. (I have another blog post to write on this whole issue at some point. Maybe later, eh? A three-post day?)

What else? Well, I think I need to bring my flash-writing into it. November's linked stories were very successful with the audience. I managed to create something like a cross between a TV series and Rashomon, where 30 different perspectives of the same event also unfolded a larger story. Why not bring some of that to the novel?

In the past, I have thought of novels as a single large story which needs telling. But why not embrace the complexity that I seem to enjoy so much, and fragment at least some of the narrative?

So, what does that give me? A novel with some element of flash-fictions embedded in it which looks at the world with a skewed eye and sees the humour and the darkness in it. Sounds good to me.

I'm also going to take some of my own advice and actually plan and structure this one a little before I start it. I usually start to see where it goes, and that doesn't seem to have worked for me in the past. This time, let's take a new tack and see what happens. And, again, I think I can learn from flash365. Writing every day seems to work for me, so I shall do that with the novel. But the reason why I've been able to keep it up is due to the structure imposed by the prompts. So, if I plan the novel ahead of time, creating in effect a series of prompts, then I should be able to keep up the momentum.

Anyway, that's it for now, looking back, taking stock, and moving it on into the next thing. Any thoughts on this would be welcome. Me, I'm off to plan a novel.

Did he do well?

December the 20th already?! Must be time to take stock of the year, look forward to the next one, and post one of my sporadic blog entries!

So, what's been happening since I last waffled to you? Well, I had a list in my last entry, let's see how I did:

30 flash365 stories for November - I was planning to write these early to lighten my load. It didn't happen. However, the stories which did emerge were, I think, amongst my best yet. I managed to write a whole series of linked stories which were both stand-alone and a single piece. The whole collection is currently with a fabulous publisher and I hope will come out as a pamphlet sometime next year. So, you know, that's okay.

I then found I had to write all of December's stories early. All 31 were done before the 9th December. This was so they could be passed on to the BBC who are going to broadcast 15 or so of them. So, if you want to hear them, they will be on Radio 4 at 5.30pm on Christmas Eve, read by Rory Kinnear, Emelia Fox, Kenneth Cranham and Diana Rigg! (The podcast will be up after the broadcast at http://www.bbc.co.uk/podcasts/series/ipm)


30 days of NaNoWriMo novel writing (1,667 words a day) - nah, never happened. I decided it was just one too many things to try and do. Next year, maybe. Though I have other novel plans in the pipeline. More on that below.


start work on the rewrites for my York Notes - started, yes, and got good feedback from the editor that I am on the right lines. Then I stopped to do all the other things I had to do. Need to restart soon as they all have to be done by 15th Jan. But, you know, there was this blog to write and - ooh, squirrel!


mark student work which will start arriving soon - this has taken up most of the last 6 weeks. It's quite ridiculous really. Still, there was some really good work in there, including an essay to which I gave one of my highest marks ever. That's always a pleasure.


continue promoting National Flash Fiction Day including building a website and running a competition - This carried on, and the website was finally built. It's up at http://www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/ if you fancy a look. Of course, with something like this, the workload grows, so I currently find myself putting together an Arts Council bid, as you do.


read the entries for the new edition of Word Gumbo and put the issue together - managed this, late but in earnest. And, I have to say, it's a great issue. Why not have a read: http://gumbopress.co.uk/wordgumbo.html


pay a visit to Manchester at the end of the month to read at Bad Language - This was a great event. It was fab to be back in Manchester with all my friends. Being upstaged by David Gaffney and Sarah-Clare Conlon was dispiriting but expected. Still, I think Lucy Burkhampton went down well.


submit stories, as per usual - This also went by the board. However, with November's stories being considered for a pamphlet and December's being broadcast on Radio 4, I don't feel too bad about this. Still, with the Christmas break now upon me, I'm hoping to get a whole bunch sent out.

teach - yep.


and finally, live - this did happen, occasionally, and I need, as ever, to thank Kath for her support, and for making those moments of life so good! And, of course, to Milo, without whom my life would be a dark, dank, stinking hole.


Anyway, that wasn't what I was planning to blog about at all. I was going to do so much more... Ah well, I think I'll drop this coin in the fountain, and write another one. You know, the one I actually planned to write... So, don't go anywhere, I'll be back in a minute.

Sunday, 23 October 2011

The Light at the End of the Tunnel Just Sounded its Horn

I've just been looking ahead to what I have planned for November. It looks like this:

  • 30 flash365 stories
  • 30 days of NaNoWriMo novel writing (1,667 words a day)
  • start work on the rewrites for my York Notes
  • mark student work which will start arriving soon
  • continue promoting National Flash Fiction Day including building a website and running a competition
  • read the entries for the new edition of Word Gumbo and put the issue together
  • pay a visit to Manchester at the end of the month to read at Bad Language
  • submit stories, as per usual
  • teach
  • and finally, live
I'm starting to think I may be attempting to munch more than is possible.

So, I hear you ask, what am I going to do about it?

Well, there is one thing in there which is not November-critical. It's not what you might expect, though. It's my daily flash365 story.

You see, the promise for flash365 is to publish a story every day, not that it has to have been written on that day. And, I will be doing NaNo every day so it's not like I'll be taking a month off.

Also, the plan for November is a series of linked stories all set in the same location at the same time. As such, it would be great to write them all before the first is posted, then there can be forward links as well as backwards ones.

So, there's my plan. I'm going to try and write 38 flash fictions in 8 days. It sounds insane, I know, but if I can do it then November has a chance to become that little more manageable.

Okay, off I go. Wish me luck!


Sunday, 16 October 2011

Another crazy idea...

So, as often happens whenever I have an idle moment, I have had an idea.


A couple of weeks ago was National Poetry Day. In December we will be having National Short Story Day. But what, I wondered, about National Flash-Fiction Day? I searched and looked and it turns out... it doesn't exist.


Well, now, with your help, it just might.


May 16th 2012 sounds like a good day for flash-fiction writers all over the UK to stand up and be counted for what they do. I'm hoping we can organise loads of events - readings, open-mics, workshops, publications, competitions and more. But I can't do this on my own. There is no funding behind this project, no large bodies of administrators, just me with a big idea asking for your help.


I shall be creating a website to promote the day, feature writers and their work (plus online links to buy your books...), promote your events and generally co-ordinate things, but the rest will be up to you.


So, if you're interested in this, want to help make it a day to remember, and perhaps even help out with the organisation, email me at nationalflashfictionday AT gmail DOT com and I shall add you to the mailing list.


Let's make this the best National Flash-Fiction Day there has ever been, whaddya say?!

Tuesday, 11 October 2011

Flash Writers List

I have been gathering a list of people's favourite flash writers and here it is. It'e not exhaustive, I'm sure, so if you want to add people to the list (or volunteer your own name for inclusion) them comment here, tweet me on @flash365tweets, or send me a message through Facebook.


Christopher Allen
Alan Beard
Aimee Bender
Randall Brown
Joanna Cannon
Rachel Carter
Nuala nĂ­ ChonchĂșir
Myfanwy Collins
Sheldon Lee Compton
Sarah-Clare Conlon
Sara Crowley
Lydia Davis
Gay Degani
Berit Ellingsen
Rebecca Emin
Alex Epstein
Kathy Fish
David Gaffney
Roxane Gay
Vanessa Gebbie
Niven Govinden
Bosley Gravel
Amelia Gray
Dave Hartley
Percy Herbert
Tania Hershman
Sarah Hilary
Holly Howitt
‎Emma Lannie
Alex Lockwood
Kirsty Logan
Femi Martin
Kim Mcgowan
Nora Nadjarian
Joyce Carol Oates
Valerie O'Riordan
Grace Paley
Nik Perring
Jonathan Pinnock
Meg Pokrass
Amy Rebecca
Ethel Rohan
Fat Roland
Sarah Salway
Marcus Speh
Robert Swartwood
Laura Tansley
Alison Wells
Martha Williams
Tony Williams
Eunice Yeates
Barry Yourgrau

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Crisis!

I'm having a crisis of faith.

It feels indulgent and self-pitying, but it's a real feeling and being rational isn't helping. If you don't want to read a writer whingeing about writing, then move on, this is not for you.

Now, you may say, if you follow my exploits on Facebook, that in the last few  weeks I've appeared on Radio 4, I've had an article accepted for Writing in Education and a story accepted for Shoestring; I've started back to teaching a full timetable - mostly Creative Writing for the first time in years - and I've continued writing my daily flash-fictions. So, what's to be down about?

It's the things that aren't happening that are getting to me. In the same period as these successes I've had a number of stories rejected, I've had a number of stories - stories I consider to be among my best - not short-listed for competitions in which I felt sure I had a chance. I've had rejections for jobs and other opportunities, and I've had speculative emails disappear into the ether with no response.

Swings and roundabouts, you say? Good and bad? It's all part of the life you've chosen. I know all that, but it doesn't raise the spirits. Instead I find myself questioning what I'm doing. I know that some important people in the business are taking me seriously, and there are likely to be some big breaks just around the temporal corner, but it doesn't stop the feeling that I'm howling into the void.

When I started flash365 I envisaged a crowd of people eager to read my stories. Instead, as time goes on, it seems that people have simply become used to them as a wallpaper to their lives. If they are reading them, they don't tell me. If they like them, they smile to themselves and move on with their day. If they don't, they simply shrug and move on with their day. I'm not asking for adoration, I'm really not, but just the feeling that someone has noticed would be nice. I thought maybe my radio appearence would help, but it seems to have had no effect.

I have a really large project that I'm thinking of starting up, but I'm even starting to wonder if I have the right to do it. Am I suffering from delusions of grandeur? If I do it will anyone care, will anyone join in, or will they just say 'Oh, it's him again. Ignore him and he'll go away.' Rationally I don't think so, but rationality has a hard battle against such negative thoughts.

Am I whingeing? You bet I am. But this is how I'm feeling. Because, when this starts happening, you start to doubt yourself. Yes, I've had things published, but maybe I'm not as good as I think I am. Maybe, in fact, I'm pretty crap, pretty run of the mill, pretty ordinary. And in that case, the big break I'm working towards will never come and I will always be just bumbling along and making a fool of myself.

Being a writer requires dedication. This has been stated over and over again. But it also requires self-belief and confidence because you can never actually assess how good you are. When that gets knocked, it's easy to lose faith, lose hope, lose direction and start to believe that it's all pointless.

So, what am I going to do? Well, I'm going to carry on writing my daily flash-fictions. Are people reading them? Yes, some are. I don't have the huge following I'd hoped for, but I'm certainly not going to let down those people who are following. And, more importantly, I'm not going to let myself down by failing after 160 days of success.

Am I going to undertake my large new project? Yes, I'm going to try. I can fail and fall flat on my face, but that won't kill me. And, if I succeed....

Am I going to keep submitting and sending out stories even though only 1 in 10 make it? Of course, what else can I do. If I don't submit I won't be published and if I'm not published I'm just talking to myself.

So, forgive me for this whining blog entry. Its impossible, I think, to be guns-blazing and gung-ho all the time, and who knows, if you've read this far you might just identify a little.

Friday, 23 September 2011

Looking Back

So, September is here and so is the new teaching year. As ever at this time I start up the engines ready for teaching, sort out the rubbish - both physical and mental - that has collected over the summer and, this year, I'm looking back and taking stock.

It's been one hell of a year.

Reading back to last September, I was happy and optimistic because I had had a couple of stories accepted - one for Bugged and one for the Bad Language anthology, Scattered Reds. I was talking about a new determination to write more and submit more. So, how have I done?

Well, in the last twelve months I have achieved a further 15 or so publications including one competition win and two stories commissioned and read by me on Radio 4. I've also taken up reading at open mics and other events - some as the guest speaker.

I've also, thanks to NaNoWriMo written over 150,000 words of creative work including more than 175 flash fictions (if you add 31 and flash365 together and add in the other incidental stories).

In other areas, York Press have informed me that my York Notes on The Kite Runner is a 'best-selling title' and have asked me to revise it for a completely separate book to come out next year, and I have also had a properly academic article accepted for publication in the coming months.

It has to be said, it has been my most productive and successful year ever.

The only problem now is to carry on so that, when I look back at this post in 12 month's time, I can also crow about what has been achieved. A good year means I need to work even harder.

Things I have not managed to do this year include getting a novel published, nor have I been able to finish a new novel with which I might have more success. These are still on my to-do list. I also need to find a publisher for a collection of short fiction, rather than self-publishing it all. Add that to the list too.Oh, and more reading spots would be nice too.

So, the year has been good, goals have been achieved. But there is still much to do. I'm going to try and come back here and blog more regularly, as well; not just about the successes but about the insights. But for now, I think that'll do. I have this short story to finish, and my daily flash to write, and the hoovering to do, and....

Friday, 22 July 2011

Out of the Wilderness

Okay, so I should come clean and state that I haven't actually been in any wilderness. But it has been over 6 weeks since I blogged here, so you would be forgiven for thinking I had.

Where have I been, you ask? Well, if you follow my other blog at flash365.blogspot.com (and if you don't, why not?! Go and follow it now, and 'like' the Facebook page at www.facebook.com/flash365 while you're at it, too!) then you know that I have, if nothing else, been carrying on with my project to write a new flash fiction every day for a year.

However, considering these are such short stories, they can't account for the whole lost time. So, what else? Well, I've been moving house from Manchester to live with my gf in Southampton. A much bigger and more difficult experience than I had ever anticipated. However, I am now safely ensconsed and getting back to work, hence my return to this blog.

One thing which has been good, however, is that despite the disruptive, tiring and time-consuming nature of the house-move, I have still managed to make time every day to write my new flash365 story. I've talked before, both here and in other places, about how useful I find it to have an external project which is publicly announced as a way of applying pressure to myself to write. This is a prime example of this. Under any other circumstances (and if I was actually sane!) I would have used the house-move as an excuse not to write for a while. Knowing me as well as I do, that excuse would have lasted most of the summer, perhaps even into the next teaching year (when that becomes the next excuse). As it is, I've kept my motor turning over with a few hundred words a day, and now that I am settled I am ready to start up again on the other projects I have in mind, as well as that single flash a day.

So, to all of you who do nothing more than read my stories on a daily basis, thank you for keeping me writing through it all.

Now I'm back I shall blog a bit more often about the other things I'm up to. But for now, I'm off to actually do them!

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Hello again

Well, I can't believe it's been over a month since I last posted an entry on here. That said, it has been one hell of a month.

As per my last post, I did actually start the flash365 project. Not only that but I've been keeping it up. Yesterday I posted my 32nd story, and I'm on course for today's. So that, of course, has been taking up some time.

On top of that, May was Word Gumbo month, in which we read through all the submissions for the first issue of Gumbo Press's online magazine. Once the pieces were sorted, biographies had to be gathered, and the more fearsome task of soliciting editorials from the editors. After that the mere act of type-setting was a walk in the park.

What else? Well, I've done about half a dozen different readings in both the north and the south of the country, promoting 31, which is still selling well and gathering lots of feedback.

Oh, and I've been teaching my classes and doing my marking too.

Busy, enough, you'd think. But I've also been doing other writing - completing one and a half longer short stories (it was meant to be 15 rather than 1.5, but ah well, even I can't do everything!), coming up with a couple of ideas for novels to attempt writing in the summer, planning my conference paper for Great Writing in two weeks, getting a few more stories into print and preparing to move the length of the country.

So, is that a good enough excuse for not blogging? No? Well, I'm sorry and I'll make sure it doesn't happen again!

Now, I'm afraid I have to head off. I have things to do, probably.

Thursday, 28 April 2011

Flash... aha! (again)

I have a new project. When I announced it my Bugged and Gumbo Press colleague, Jo Bell, commented that I obviously wasn't busy enough. It's not true, I'm as busy with writing related activities as I've ever been, but this project just seemed like too good an idea to pass up.

So, last week I announced it, and this Sunday - May 1st - I will start and publish a new flash-fiction every day for a year. The project will appear on a blog at flash365.blogspot.com and you can also follow it on Facebook at www.facebook.com/flash365.

But why, you may be asking, am I taking this on if I'm so busy?

Well, the whole experience of doing 31 left me with a hankering to take on a similar project - partly because I find writing flash-fiction such fun and so satisfying - but also because the forced nature of the daily deadline really helped me get on with my writing.

The other thing I found, however, was that writing flash-fiction worked as a perfect way to get the writing engine turning over. In a previous post I talked about how hard I was finding it getting in to writing longer stories. Writing flash will actually help by getting those muscles up and running. I might also be able to get to my novel rewriting, and starting a new novel idea I've had.

Another reason, of course, is the advice we give to writers that that should write every day. It is the only certain way to improve. What better way to force yourself to do it than announcing it to the world, and publishing the stories online, leaving yourself open to public ridicule if you fail?

Of course, it will also help me to build up a huge bank of stories that can be submitted (to places that accept stories that have been previously published on blogs, of course).

Finally, I need to mention that part of the inspiration was the project started by Max Wallis, Something Every Day, in which he wrote... well... something every day. Not only did he get a great way to practice his craft, but built up a following and got himself noticed at the same time. I would be lying if I said I didn't hope that flash365 would raise my profile, and bring me new readers. It's what every writer wants, after all.

So, please visit the Facebook page and 'like' it, follow the blog, and, if you can, spare me a thought as I head off into the coming year.

Wednesday, 20 April 2011

Win or Lose

I know, I know, my blog posts are like buses: none for ages and then two come along at once. But this one will be brief, I promise.

First, I just want to boast. I won a competition! My story, 'Unquiet', written a couple of years ago, won the March competition at A Very Short Story. It is my first ever competition win, so I'm rather proud. However, my larger reaction to it has been interesting, to me at least.

I've been sending out to the occasional competitions and magazines over the years, but have only really got serious about my submissions in the last year. I'm getting quite used to rejections from magazines, and getting nothing at all - or the occasional short-listing or honourable mention - from competitions. When I was just sending out the odd one or two here and there, these rejections would be tragic events that would set me back, and stop me from submitting for a while. A fairly normal reaction for many writers, I've come to realise.

However, with my increased level of submissions, the rejections have become easier to take, at least in part because of the occasional acceptance (or short-listing, etc.), and in part because if you send more pieces out you have to accept there will be more rejections.

My reaction to these snubs has not been to curl into a ball and wait for the pain to pass, but instead to redouble my efforts and send out even more stories - courting more hurt, but also the possibility of more acceptances.

And then, yesterday, I heard that I had finally won a competition. Not just that, but a competition with a prize! Of money! I'm not sure I ever considered what my reaction would be. Perhaps I thought it would finally be confirmation of something or other, and I could relax and enjoy it.

Nope. My reaction has been the same as it would have been to a rejection. 'They like it? They want it? They think it's worth awarding money? Fine. Time to send out some more then!'

So, my point (and yes, there is one other than basking in the glow of success) is this:

If you get rejected - submit again, submit more, and submit more often.
If you get accepted - submit again, submit more, and submit more often.

The key to success as a writer is persistence. All you can do is keep sending work out, as often as possible, and wait for it to find its home.

Here endeth the lesson...

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Slow, slow, quick, quick, slow...

Well, if you've been keeping up, you know that I've been a busy old bee. Selling the book and working on Gumbo Press have taken up a lot of my time - along with the usual round of teaching/marking/living etc.

It's now fewer than four weeks since its arrival, and the first edition of 31 has all but sold out (2 copies left, if you're interested... Buy online now!). This was at least partly thanks to the interest of the audience at the Bugged reading who bought all the copies I had with me. I have other readings coming up, so have ordered a second edition. The first of these readings is my customary visit to the Bad Language at the end of April, but this will be followed by two guest slots - one for a writing group in Oldham and another for an open-mic evening in Cheshire, and a couple of other possible appearances, about which more as I have it.

As if these weren't enough, Gumbo Press has been taking off. The website has been built, designed and redesigned. Exciting ideas have been formulated and, as of writing, we already have over 40 submissions with 11 days still to go before the deadline. Winning Words asked me to write a blog entry for them about it, which will hopefully help promote the first issue of the magazine.

In the midst of all this, and my return to teaching at Winchester next week, I have taken on another project. Crazy? Me? Possibly.

Following on from the success of CalFlaWriMo, without which 31 wouldn't exist at all, I have decided to do something similar, but with longer stories. So, my latest plan is to write 15 brand new short stories (not flashes) of no less than 1500 words each, before the end of May. It may kill me, but it's got to be worth a go.

I started the first one on Friday, 15th April. It was a story which had been working around in my mind for a while, so I had a pretty fair idea of how it was going to go on the page. I was wrong.

I have obviously got so used to the quick fix that is flash-fiction, that the mental muscles that work on the longer form of the full short story have atrophied. It took me over 4 hours to get the first 1000 words done. I knew the story, but a combination of old-fashioned resistance, being daunted by the task, and just trying to remember how to write one of the damn things, held me back. I realised, as I struggled with it, how much more you can put into a short story, but also how much more you HAVE to put into a short story. In a flash, character, setting, even plot, can be implied rather than described. In a short story, all of these elements have to be there in actuality, but you also have to keep them short, and to the point. Just as with a flash, there is no room for spare words. Every single one has to serve the story, but in a longer story, the job of picking your way through them is so much harder.

Anyway, long story short (no pun intended), I crested the half way point and picked up speed as I came down the other side. The story ended up at around 2700 words, with the last 1700 only taking 1 hour. Job done, one down, fourteen to go.

This morning, I sat down to write the next one. This was based on another idea which I have also been mulling over for a while. I thought it might be easier, but no. The resistance kicked in, and this time I have ground to a halt after little more than 150 words. There was even an hour break as I tried to find the right name for my character, without which I couldn't complete the first sentence.

Maybe I'm trying to hard. Maybe I have too much else on my plate to tackle this at the moment. Maybe the deadline is just too far off and the panicky adrenaline hasn't arrived yet. Whatever, I'm not going to give up. My goal with this project is to make my brain and my spirit bend to my will, so that writing one of these stories starts to feel as easy as writing a flash. And I guess that's why I'm doing it.

So, wish me well. And if you see me at a reading, and I look tired and lost, just leave me, I'll be fine.

Thursday, 7 April 2011

Phew

Well, it's been nearly two weeks since my last blog post, and what a two weeks it has been. My book arrived, as you know, and it's been selling well, but I've also gone ahead with a plan which has been at the back of my mind for a while, and set up a small press. I've also been doing the marking and teaching that comes along at the end of a semester as well as sending stories out etc. etc. It's been a busy couple of weeks but very rewarding.

In my last post I talked about the book, and my reasons for doing it - as well as my fears and hopes. It's been out for two weeks now and I've sold a little over half the print run, and feedback is proving very positive. I was particularly pleased with the comments I received from Cathy Bryant (a poet who's wonderfully titled book, Contains Strong Language and Scenes of a Sexual Nature, came out last year). She said

Such a treat... I was reading it thinking ah, so this is what good flash fiction is like. These should have won prizes and been lauded to the skies... The best and most energetic book of flash I've read for aeons!'

Does it get any better than that? It certainly helped to calm my fears over the audacity of self-publishing to know that I was doing something that others would consider to be good work.

As a result of the feedback, and the speed with which this edition is selling (plus the fact that a number of proof-reading errors have been spotted by eagle-eyed readers which need fixing), I started to think about a second edition. And, I decided, this time it needed to have an ISBN number so that it could be listed on Amazon and ordered from bookshops. It also - I was advised by a colleague - needed to issue from a 'press' rather than just myself.

I can see the need for that. I won't hide behind the press, but it removes my name explicitly from the copyright page and makes the whole thing look a little more professional. However, with the way my mind works, it wasn't enough to simply invent a name and go for it. I started thinking about setting up a real small press.

The thing is, I used to be a publisher. From 1997-2004 I ran CK Publishing. We produced the Writer's Muse magazine (still in existence, and run by my friend and colleague, Jim Palmer) and a number of chapbooks, anthologies, and trade paperbacks. That company moved out of books and into websites and became WebGuild Media, another company that still exists. I left there in 2008 to concentrate full-time on teaching and writing, but ever since CK Publishing's demise, I have been toying with the idea of getting back into the business in some way.

This seemed like the perfect opportunity. Both I and the world are in different places than we were when I set up the last company. With the wonders of blogs and Facebook, it's much easier to spread the word and get people to submit. And with the network of writers I have developed, it's also easier to get supporters for your project.

So, last Sunday, after thinking through some - but by no means all - of the issues, I announced the birth of Gumbo Press, and then started setting it up. Along with my partner, Kath Lloyd, the poet Jo Bell, and my friend and colleague from the Writer's Muse, Mike Somers, we are now putting together how the whole thing is going to work.

Suffice it to say, there will be an e-zine featuring writing in all its forms, and we plan to move into chapbooks and anthologies as time goes on. Competitions, events, and other things we haven't even thought of yet will join the mix. It's a lot of work, but so exciting, and with 76 followers on Facebook in less than a week, hopefully a success.

Tonight I'm back reading with Jo for a Bugged event (with a few copies of 31 floating around too, perhaps) and in a couple of weeks I'm back at Bad Language (who have selected one of the 31 stories for their next anthology) to read and promote the book there as well.

So, anyway, that was my two weeks. What have you been up to?

Saturday, 26 March 2011

Shhhh... Don't tell anyone

Okay, I'm going to come right out and say it: I've published a book.

In January I wrote 31 flash fictions, and when I finished I decided to go ahead and self-publish them as a collection. This was partly because people very kindly asked where they could read them, partly so I could have a permanent record of the project, and partly as a way of promoting myself and maybe, just maybe, having a 'real' publisher pick up the collection (or a collection at least) for their list.

So, it was a low key thing, just a little project to see if I could do it, see if anyone would like it, and it would give me and my friends a little keepsake.

Even during the whole editing, type-setting, cover-design and printing phases I never thought of it as any more than that. That was, right up until the book arrived on Wednesday.

There is something about the reality of the book which changed how I saw it. This was no longer just a little whimsy, it's an actual book. My perspective of what I had done changed in an instant. I held the book in my hands, saw my name on the front, spine, title page; saw all my words covering all of the pages, and realised that this was an actual thing that I should be proud of, rather than slightly embarrassed at my presumption.

You see, it hadn't occurred to me consciously, but up until that point I had been self-conscious about self-publishing my own collection. I thought it might come across as self-aggrandising and arrogant. People would think: Who is this guy who has decided for himself that his work is good enough for a book that we actually have to give money for?

But, once I had the book in my hands, I realised that this was really important to me. It was something I had slaved over and created, and something I was incredibly proud of.

With the book now a reality, I built a page on my website to sell it, and started telling people about it, and some of them came along and bought it. And these weren't all just kind friends, they were also writers who I respect.

So, today I have been finding envelopes and printing postage labels ready to send them out. In total, in the three days since the book arrived, I have sold 10 copies. This will never make it a best seller, but I am so pleased, and so proud. I have made this thing, and whatever people might think of it when they read it, I know that it's a good piece of work. And I'm no longer thinking about another publisher picking it up. It already exists, it is a thing in and of itself, and that's enough for me. The clamouring publishers will have to wait for me to write the next 31. What do you think? May?

The arrival of this book has managed to change how I view myself as a writer, and find a new level of self-confidence. So what if it's self-published. I think it's a good book, worth reading, and I've managed to do all the extra work (with help, I should add) to bring it into being. That should be worth more, not less, don't you think?

If you're interested in a copy of 31, you can find out more at http://www.calumkerr.co.uk/pp014.shtml.

Wednesday, 9 March 2011

Fragile

Over-optimistic? Prideful? Bombastic? Arrogant?
A definite maybe to all of those things, is my response, when looking back over my last few blog entries. I have been guilty of the sin of pride and been dealt the suitable response. I will now exist on nothing more than bread and water for 40 days and 40 nights, and never again presume to tempt the fates...

Too much? Yeah, okay, maybe. But still, that's how it feels when the rejections start rolling in after a period of success.

I have written a number of entries recently about the various things I have been doing and the stories which have been accepted. All was going so well until last week when 9 stories were rejected in one go. They were all to one publication, to be sure, but they couldn't find anything in any of the stories that they wanted to use, despite being a wide spread of different styles, genres, and formats. On the same day I checked in with a competition that I entered back in October - having sent them what I considered to be my strongest piece - to find that not only had I not won, I wasn't even in the shortlist.

It was a dark day.

My response? Well, I whined about it a bit, and then I immediately sent out two of the rejected stories to another magazine. Despite warning of a possible lengthy delay in response, as most magazines do, they managed to assess and reject both of the stories in less than 24 hours.

I was suitably chagrined and chastened.

And, really, that's all it takes to knock a writer's ego. We are only ever as happy as our last success, and one rejection (never mind 13 in two days!) is enough to wipe the slate clean again.

It was pointed out to me by my friend, Elaine, commenting on one of my whinges, that these rejections were actually a sign that I am sending a lot of work out. The more you send, the more you have accepted, yes, but also the more you will have rejected. And this is entirely true. One of the key skills in being a writer is to learn to take the rejections and carry on anyway. The 95% perspiration which contributes to success, is probably composed of at least 50% sheer, damned, dogged persistence.

And so that is what I shall do: persist. Rejections? Smejections! I shall lick my wounds, and get all those stories back out and trotting round the world once again. I know they're good, and for some unsuspecting editor, they will be just the thing.

Another friend - Angi Holden - told me that in this situation her father would have uttered the word 'FIFO!' - 'F**k It, Forge On'. I'm thinking of having it as a tattoo, now I just need to decide where.

Workshop opportunities

Vanessa Gebbie, a writer of excellent short stories and flash fictions, and the person who introduced me to flash fiction in the first place, is running some courses which would be well worth attending.

The first will be at the Anam Cara Retreat in Co. Cork, Ireland, for one week from the 28th May. Entitled 'Short Fiction: So Much More Than It Seems…' it promises to be a wonderful week. More information can be found at http://www.anamcararetreat.com/index.php/workshops/68-short-fiction-so-much-more-than-it-seems.

If you can't make that, then she is also running workshops, masterclasses and one-to-one sessions at this year's Winchester Writing Conference. More details at http://www.writersconference.co.uk/.

Wednesday, 9 February 2011

Stuff and things...

I usually like to write a blog post which focuses on one thing at a time, but there are too many things clouding my brain right now to do that. So here is a grab-bag of things that have happened, are happening or will happen, all in no particular order.

Having finished teaching at MMU before Christmas (and having finished the marking hangover from there just today!) this week I started teaching at Winchester. Having been an Associate Lecturer for years, the process is somewhat simplified in that I know all the things I don't know (thank you, Donald Rumsfeld). So, I was able to get all of the admin sorted either before I got there, or on the first day. That much was simple. It didn't, however, take away from the first day nerves. After years at MMU, and a couple of years at Edge Hill working with people I already knew, I was the new boy again. It all went well - they were, after all, only introductory sessions - and I have no doubt that it will continue to do so, but it never stops the nerves. It's a sign that you're fresh and eager, I suppose.

I'm teaching 2 Creative Writing modules there, which is gratifying as my teaching for the last few years has been heavily biased towards literature and theory. The first is a Year 1 Module in 'Creative Voice' which is an introductory module that aims to tie together all the students' previous first-year modules in writing in various forms. It's rich, varied and exciting, and I can't wait to get my teeth into it. I shall be teaching alongside Carole Burns, who seems to have a good grasp on the course and lots of interesting ideas. More on that as it progresses, no doubt.

The other, while also being called 'Creative Voice' is the third year version of the module. This one aims to bring together everything the students have done in their entire degree and prepare them, if such a thing is possible, for the real world. My section finally allows me to use some of my PhD knowledge as I shall be talking about Electronic Writing and Publishing. This is one for me to write and design, and should be even more fun. Again, more on that as it happens. One thing which makes it even better is that I'm teaching that module alongside my friend, Vanessa, who took me under her wing on my first day and showed me around (thanks, Ness!). So, I'm looking forward to working with her too.

In the meantime teaching of Lit Theory and Life Writing continues at Edge Hill. I have promised my Life Writing students that I shall do a small memoir of my own - partly to put the pressure on myself to write a piece which I have been thinking about for a while - but that is definitely for another blog post.

In other news I heard today that my paper proposal for this year's Great Writing conference has been accepted. It will be on the pros and cons of high-pressure writing projects like NaNoWriMo and CalFlaWriMo, so much of what you have read here will form the basis for it. It's not till June, so I don't have to write it yet, but the brain is already turning it over.

While all this has been going on, I have been sending out stories to magazines and competitions. I haven't heard anything back yet, but fingers crossed. Now that I've finished my marking (for the time being, at least) it's time to send out a load more.

On the subject of stories, I have also started editing and finalising the stories from CalFlaWriMo for the book Just Another Ordinary Day, which I hope will be out at the end of the month. More news on that when I have any.

Also, despite the end of the project, my brain hasn't wanted to let go. I've already written a new story in Feb, and have ideas for 3 more just waiting for me to have the time to get to them. Maybe after I finish this blog post, what do you say?

As if that wasn't enough, I'm also plunging back into the world of Slipstream (my NaNoWriMo novel), familiarising myself with the plot and characters and making notes of where it needs any major rewriting. That needs to be done before the finer job of cleaning and polishing can be done.

I haven't yet got to my other novel, Endless Days, nor to my conference article from last year, 'Stranger than Faction', (which I want to submit by Monday, so I guess that has just moved up the schedule to tomorrow morning.) That said, I have been turning bits and pieces of Endless Days over in my mind, and having read Negotiating with the Dead by Margaret Atwood, for one of my Winchester courses, I now have some idea of how to make the article better, so I guess they're moving on whatever I do.

In amongst all that, I've also found time to do a reading and an open mic night, mark essays, read text-books, teach my classes, and somehow become embroiled in a scheme to set up a new Flash-Fiction Laureate. Possibly. How do I find the time? I have no idea.

Anyway, that's what's on my mind at the moment. A little glimpse into the life of someone who more and more feels he has every right to call himself a professional writer. Any questions?

Sunday, 30 January 2011

Next?

Well, you'll be glad to know that I finished my 31 stories, and with a few days left of the month, too. So, that's another project done. What now? I hear you ask.

I considered starting a new project for February - or maybe even continuing my flash-writing project - but have decided to give my creative brain a rest for a little while and pour the energy which has been created by January's writing sprint into the tasks which have been backing up.

So, as we move forward into February I shall be doing the following:

- re-writing Endless Days. This is the novel which has been hanging around for a while. I started the rewriting last year, but the arrival of NaNoWriMo put it on hold. Time to go back, knock it into shape, and see if I can't find an agent or publisher for it.

- re-writing Slipstream. This is the novel that I wrote for NaNoWriMo in November. It's had a couple of months off, so now time to add, remove, rewrite, tidy etc. and see if that can't be placed somewhere too.

- working on Just Another Ordinary Day. This is the title I have decided to give the collection of stories I wrote in January, which I plan to self-publish as a chapbook. The stories, having been written in a 'hot-house' style now all need cleaning up and editing before I can put the book together. Then I need to type-set it and get it printed. I plan to have the finished thing ready by the end of February, so in a week or so, I'll crack on with that.

- working on 'Stranger than Faction'. This is the paper on life-writing that I wrote for last summer's Great Writing conference. It's doing no good just sitting on my computer, so I shall finish turning it from a conference paper into a journal article and send it out. I have one place in mind already (deadline date 14th Feb) but if they don't want it, I'm sure someone will.

- sending out stories. As well as the 31 stories written in January I have another 21 in my pile ready to send out. So I shall be tidying, editing, and sending as many of these out to magazines and competitions as I can.

- working on Hotel. This is a collaborative hypertext project which I have been meaning to get going for years. Time to crack on with this too.

Oh, and February is also the month when I start teaching at Winchester. So, plenty to be going on with there, don't you think?

I'm not sure I'll get them all done in the month, but if I can get them all started, that will be a good step forward.

And then it will be time to find a new project for March. Any ideas?

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

You read the blog posts, now get the book

As you know, I have been spending January writing regular flash fictions. It is now the 25th and I have written 28. My goal is 31, so only 3 more to go.

As I've been writing them, I've been trying out different things including: 1st, 3rd and even 2rd person narrative perspectives; lots of dialogue, no dialogue, or only dialogue; as many different genres as I could think of; and trying to find many different sources - photos, jokes, lines from books, films, music and TV shows. The result is a real mix of different stories, each of them written with little or no advance planning, in a single sitting, ranging from 85-1093 words.

I have already started sending some of them out to magazines and competitions, seeing if they can go beyond this project, and one of them has already been accepted. But it has occurred to me that, as a project, it is a unique snapshot of a group of stories emerging from a hothouse of invention, and something I would like to see kept together in some way.

As a result, I have decided to self-publish the stories in a single volume. I don't plan any mass sales, I just want to share it with my friends, family and anyone else interested to take a look, and to have a copy for myself to look back on.

So, if you would like a copy, let me know either here, on Facebook, or by email. It should only be a couple of pounds and will be about 80 pages and 31 stories. Look forward to hearing from you.

Tuesday, 18 January 2011

Update

Well, as you know, in a previous post I proposed the idea of CalFlaWrimo - that I would write 31 flash fictions in the 31 days of January. It is now the 18th - just over half way - and I have finally caught up with myself, having only started the project on the 4th. So, 18 down, 13 left to do.

I'm really pleased with the work I've done, not least because one of the stories (entitled 'The Spark of Inspiration') was written on the 6th, submitted to a magazine on the 9th, and accepted on the 16th. More than that, though, it's stretching me and energising me at the same time.

Having to come up with at least one new idea every day has been, at times, taxing. And I'm trying to do as many different things as I can - different styles, perspectives, structures, topics, genres, etc. - which stretches me even more.

However, what I have now found is that, having primed the pump, ideas are starting to come thick and fast. I don't know, come the end of January, if I'm going to be able to stop. And that makes me very happy.

I had one of my long drives yesterday (and you know how productive my long drives can be) and I came up with three new ideas. Today I came up with another two. Those five stories (all written now) are what finally brought me up to parity between date and story-count. But can I keep it to just one a day for the rest of the month? Okay, I could write two and take a day off, but could I even manage that?

I think, between NaNoWriMo and CalFlaWriMo I have finally got the writing engine in my head up to speed, and I don't want to lay off the throttle while it's running so well. So, the question is, what project shall I start in February?

Sunday, 9 January 2011

Like Topsy

In my last post I mentioned the idea of writing 31 flashes in January. Well, it's the 9th and I've done 5. Not wonderful, but not too bad. However, in the meantime, the project has started to grow.

First there was the Facebook group entitled CalFlaWriMo for those wanting to join in, or at least to watch the progress of those of us taking part (search for CalFlaWriMo and feel free to join) and now there is the 95% Inspiration blog set up by myself and Kath Lloyd to post prompts and inspiration for flash writers.

Finally, just to show that this thing is really happening, I'm going to post my latest story (finished about 20 minutes ago!) below. This is a first draft, so be kind, but any feedback is, as ever, welcome.

Enjoy!


Wrong Number

“You just don’t like to admit when you’re wrong, do you?”

“I’m not wrong!”

“Exactly!”

“What do you mean, ‘exactly’? What’s that supposed to mean?”

“It means you’re wrong and here you are, not admitting it. You’re doing exactly what I said!”

“But, I’m not wrong.”

“You so are, you always are, always have been, and you always will be. Don’t you get that yet?”

“Look, my phone was ringing, and I saw who it was, and I decided not to answer it. What’s wrong with that?”

“It’s rude!”

“It was my ex. You hate it when she rings. You hate it when I speak to her. You hate her! Why would it be so wrong to talk to her?”

“Because it’s rude! And anyway, how did you know it was her?”

“It came up saying it was her.”

“You still have her number in your phone? Why do you still have her number in your phone?!”

“So I can tell when it’s her and then not answer it!”

“But that’s rude!”

“Okay, maybe it is, but if I’d answered it and spoken to her, then we’d still be having an argument, but this time it’d be about how I still talk to her and I should have been paying attention to you.”

“Yes. And?”

“So, I can’t win, can I? It didn’t matter what I did. If I’d answered the phone, I’d have been wrong. When I didn’t answer the phone I was wrong. There is no solution to that problem. There is nothing I could do that would make you happy. Whatever I chose to do in that situation would have been wrong. So, tell me, what should I have done? Huh? Tell me. Enlighten me. Just tell me what should I have done!?”

“You should never have gone out with her in the first place!”

“Oh...”