not exactly true

'A Quick Fiasco' in Fugue, Issue 48


My story, 'A Quick Fiasco', has been published in Issue 48 of Fugue, the literary journal of the University of Idaho. It's part of my PhD manuscript and it's been a long time in the works, so if you read it, I hope you like it! It's got high drama and lots of swearing and I'm told it's pretty funny... It's the last story in the issue, p.85, and you can read it online for zero pounds.

I also have three shorter pieces in the latest issue of Sou'wester, which comes out of Southern Illinois University Edwardsville, and is ace: this journal isn't online but you can buy it from the website for $5 if you're so inclined. The stories are called 'Land Grab', 'Scrap' and 'Consent': 'Scrap' as shortlisted for the Bridport Prize in 2014, and 'Consent' in 2013, so it's great to see them in print.

What news? What news?

So, the PhD continues, and I'll tell you, writing what is effectively two books side-by-side is really a demented task. But if you're at a pub quiz and they toss you a zinger on time and narrative, or the temporality of trauma, or the narrativization of identity, or how one might variously contextualise the short story cycle, well! I'll be your phone-a-friend.

In the meanwhile, I'm really psyched that one of the stories I've been working on for the creative bit of the project is going to be published in a few weeks in the excellent and ever-so-attractive US journal, Fugue. That particular story was the first one I started when I enrolled on the programme so it's especially sweet that it's getting out there. I'll link the crap out of it as and when...

I've got some flash fiction pieces forthcoming later this year in Sou'wester, as well, so more on that when the time is right, too.

Meanwhile in the here and now: Andy (my partner) has got a show opening in Preston's Hanover Project gallery, opening next Tuesday (24th February); he's over there installing it today, and if any of you are in the North West, or fancy travelling, we'd love to see you at the preview:

Reading List 2015

Well, so last year it seems I read substantially fewer books than usual: that's the grim side-effect of the PhD, once again. Who knew research was that time-consuming? But also maybe it's to do with my lessening patience for bad books; I started quite a lot of books that I abandoned after fifty pages - Fay Weldon, Hanif Kureishi, I'm looking at you - which makes for a sizeable amount of 'wasted' time. And my 'project' (cue sheepish expression) of reading all of Proust? Well, I got two books in. That's good, right? I will read the rest, I swear. But, this year? Eh, I want to start clearing off the scary pile of unread books so that I can reclaim some shelf-space upstairs - I made a start at this in November, when I was off sick for a couple of weeks - but that's about it. The plan is to submit my PhD in September, so I don't really need any more resolutions on top of that. I'm still reviewing and I'm still in my local book club, so that accounts for a fair bit of my reading anyway. I've already started the year well, with Skippy Dies, so that's either a good omen of things to come or a very early pinnacle...

72. Congregation of Innocents: Five Curious Tales. Ghost stories! Particularly liked Richard Hirst's contribution.
71. Short Fiction Issue 9: Awful Plumage. Short story journal, art by David Shrigley.
70. The Best Small Fictions 2015, ed. Robert Olen Butler. Anthology, mixed, some stellar pieces.
69. Undermajordomo Minor, Patrick deWitt. Wasn't keen, but still want to read The Sisters Brothers.
68. The Mark and the Void, Paul Murray. Really funny; a banker and a novelist meet in the midst of the Irish financial collapse.
67. We Don't Know What We're Doing, Thomas Morris. Story collection from the editor of The Stinging Fly. Great stuff.

66. The Sixth Extinction, Elizabeth Kolbert. Fascinating, if very depressing, non-fiction read about how humans are making everything extinct...
65. The House of Mirth, Edith Wharton. Fantastic: so sharp, witty and sad.
64. American Gods, Neil Gaiman. I guess this is heresy online, but I was half-hearted. I love Stephen King and Terry Pratchett, etc, but this never really took off for me.
63. The Making of Zombie Wars, Aleksander Hemon. Disappointing.
62. We Have Always Lived in the Castle, Shirley Jackson. Creepy, compelling, brilliant.
61. *Accidents in the Home, Tessa Hadley. PhD reread. Great book.

60. A Kind of Compass, ed. Belinda McKeon. Short stories. Very diverse.
59. The North Water, Ian McGuire. Brutal, haunting, and visceral historical thriller on a whaling boat. Ian's my PhD supervisor, so I'm biased, but this is a fucking brilliant book.
58. The First Bad Man, Miranda July. Oddball, funny, very moving novel.
57. The Girl Missing from the Window, Paul O'Reilly. Short stories. Deceptively powerful.
56. Beatlebone, Kevin Barry. Pretty odd, great prose, not sure about structure.
55. Noonday, Pat Barker. Last book in the Life Class trilogy. Pretty good.

54. Clemency Browne Dreams of Gin, Órfhlaith Foyle. Story collection.
53. This Party's Got To Stop, Rupert Thomson. Another memoir, also great.
52. Giving Up The Ghost, Hilary Mantel. Memoir. Beautiful and sad. There's no beating Mantel, dudes.

51. The Book of Strange New Things, Michel Faber. Weird. A missionary in an alien world.
50. All Over Ireland, ed. Deirdre Madden. Story collection; not a patch on Town & Country, its predecessor from a couple of years back.
49. Bird By Bird, Anne Lamott. I'm not one for inspirational manuals, but this is a bloody excellent book on the frustrations and rewards of writing.
48. Howards End, EM Forster. Much funnier than I expected.
47. Your Fathers, Where Are They? And the Prophets, Do They Live Forever?, Dave Eggers. Interesting/funny portrait of a disenfranchised madman, but something of a one-trick-pony throughout.
46. Only Ever Yours, Louise O'Neill. Gripping dystopian novel that totally dissect male/female sexual power relations.
45. For The Love of a Good Woman, Alice Munro. Brilliant (of course).
44. Indiana Review, 37:1.
43. The Age of Wire and String, Ben Marcus. Completely mental story collection.

42. The Incarnations, Susan Barker. Really gripping story/stories of China thorough the ages.
41. Waiting for the Bullet, Madeleine D'Arcy. Short stories. Terse, funny, sharp.
40. About Grace, Anthony Doerr. Beautiful prose. Family, fate, fear.
39. Unthology 7. Short story anthology - a mix, a couple of great ones.
38. Hope, Laura Hird. Short stories. Pretty grim.
37. Ground Control, Anna Minton. Non-fiction about the control of public/private space in New Labour Britain (and beyond): super-depressing!

36. Nora Webster, Colm Toibin. Very tender. Took me a while to settle into it; worth the effort. Great dialogue.
35. Outline, Rachel Cusk. Though-provoking.
34. Family Life, Akhil Sharma. Good - better than I expected.
33. In Search of Solace, Emily Mackie. Disappointing.
32. All The Light We Cannot See, Anthony Doerr. Amazing. Beautiful, beautiful prose.
31. Pond, Claire-Louise Bennett. Short stories - if you like Lyda David, Jenny Offill, Renata Adler, Nicholson Baker, then you'll like this. Top stuff.
30. In Real Life, Chris Killen. Funny stuff.
29. Lives of Girls and Women, Alice Munro

28. The Wolf Border, Sarah Hall. Good stuff, though not quite my favourite of hers.
27. H is for Hawk, Helen Macdonald. Superb non-fiction account of grief and falconry.
26. The Hennessy Book of Irish Fiction 2015-2015, ed. Dermot Bolger, Ciaran Carty. Some brilliant stories in here.
25. All My Puny Sorrows, Miriam Toews. Tragic and a half. Very good.
24. The Long Falling, Keith Ridgway. A family drama played out against the backdrop of Ireland's X Case in 1992; not my favourite of his books.
23. History of the Rain, Niall Williams. Didn't enjoy it at first, but was captivated by the end. The style is very...exuberant.

22. On the Edge of the Cliff: Selected Short Stories, VS Pritchett. Great stuff.
21. An Evening of Long Goodbyes, Paul Murray. Brilliant - A Confederacy of Dunces meets Brideshead Revisited meets Dan & Becs.
20. The Isle of Youth, Laura van den Berg. Again, fell a bit flat for me.
19. Aquarium, David Vann. Disappointing.
18. The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet, David Mitchell. Kinda dull, then excellent second half.
17. Get in Trouble, Kelly Link. Very good short story collection.

16. The End of Vandalism, Tom Drury. Liked it better as it went along; very dry, low-key wit.
15. The Miniaturist, Jessie Burton. For my book club. Twee. Very book-club-tastic; not my style.
14. Sunstroke, Tessa Hadley. Short stories. Sharp, precise, incisive.
13. Accidents in the Home, Tessa Hadley. Excellent: parenthood, affairs, families, all very non-cliched.
12. Ghost Story, Toby Litt. A couple struggle after they lose a child in late pregnancy. Wasn't keen.
11. The Glorious Heresies, Lisa McInerney. Brilliant début.

10. How to Speak Money, John Lanchester. Excellent non-fiction book on money/economics.
9. Dept. of Speculation, Jenny Offill. Again, interesting: aphoristic novel about a marriage.
8. The Stinging Fly, Issue 27, Vol. 2 (Spring 2014). Interesting selection.
7. To Rise Again at a Decent Hour, Joshua Ferris. Not my favourite of his, but it shows again the breadth of his range - amazing.
6. Twenty Under Thirty-Five, various. Story anthology from 1988 - very, very mixed bag.
5. Drinking Coffee Elsewhere, ZZ Packer. Superb story collection.
4. A Song for Issy Bradley, Carys Bray. Beautifully sad. Reminds me a lot of Ann Patchett.
3. Poor Souls' Light, Curious Tales. Scary Christmas stories. Tom Fletcher's and Richard Hirst's tales were SUPER creepy.
2. SHORT FICTION 7, various authors. Especially liked Frances Gapper's and Jenn Ashworth's pieces.
1. Skippy Dies, Paul Murray. Superb - great plot and characters and fantastic style. High five, Paul!

Best American Poetry

Rather insanely, it's taken me over a week to pimp my latest ware - you'd think I wasn't perpetually hooked to the internet, wouldn't you? But you'd be WRONG. So, last week, Alan Ziegler over at the blog associated with the Best American Poetry site (them of the fancy anthology!) featured one of my flash fiction pieces in a post about short prose forms. This is brilliant for numerous reasons, not least because Erin Morgenstern, of The Night Circus fame, is also on the list: how cool is that? My story originally appeared in PANK online a few years ago, so kudos again to Roxane Gay for accepting it in the first place. Hurrays all around!

How is it Freshers' Week already again?

So, the shortlist emails came out a few weeks ago for this year's Bridport Prize; it turns out I've been listed again for flash fiction, for two separate stories this time, which means I've got four (sub-250 word) stories on my hard drive that have been commended by the Bridport judges. Which, of course, is nice. The shortlisted stories don't go any further - you have to be in the top six to be a contender for the main prizes - so I've got them all out on multiple submission (as usual). Fingers crossed, etc. I've also got a couple of much, much long stories doing the submission rounds. It's a waiting/numbers game to a certain extent - this publication business - so, again, we'll see what happens. In the meantime, I have a pretty nifty online publication coming up very soon - watch this space.

IRL, we went to Paris on holidays back in August, and - drumroll! - got engaged! Don't stay tuned for wedding pics in the near future, mind; I've got a PhD to finish first. On that front, I'm very busy - editing chapters of the critical component of my thesis and drafting/redrafting stories for the creative. One year to go - in fact, my submission date is one year yesterday. Next semester, I'll be running the second-year fiction writing seminar here at the University of Manchester; this semester I'm not teaching, but writing like a maniac. Well! Scheduling alternations mean I am now teaching this semester; fiction writing workshops with the second years in the University's new English & Creative Writing programme. Very much looking forward to getting stuck in, now: roll on Week One!

In November I'll be running a flash fiction workshop for Chorlton Book Festival for 11-16 year-olds; if you (or your kids) are in that age-group, it's on the afternoon of November 17th. There'll be spaces for up to twenty participants. The programme isn't online yet, but I'll stick up a link as and when.

And - non-writing related - I urge you to check out this blog post and consider donating to a very good cause. A dear friend of a very good friend of mine is terminally ill with bowel cancer and is running six marathons in six months to raise awareness and funds for various cancer charities. I don't know Ben myself, though I know people very close to him, and his story is both heartbreaking and inspiring - and while that sounds cliched, I've rarely some across a real-life case that fits that particular description more aptly than Ben's. He's been blogging about his training, his races and his situation for months, now, and this particular entry really sums it all up. It probably will - and probably should - make you cry.