recovering now

I've just submitted a last-minute entry to the City of Derby comp. It was quite a struggle to get the story polished up because I was watching Police Academy 4 at the same time. Mine's the story with the Citizens on Patrol. I think.

I also just won a competition - not a writing one, but a random selection name-out-of-a-hat one - but, you know, whatever, maybe my name has magnetic powers or somesuch. I'll probably try to capitalise on that, in these job-less times. Anyway, I won a copy of the Writer's Handbook, courtesy of the ever-informative and fabulously-booted Nicola Morgan. Score!

On Friday I went down to London to attend Tales of the Decongested in Foyles on the Charing Cross Road. This month's night was being run by two friends and writing colleagues of mine, Pauline Mason and Martin Reed. They promised spandex and sadly didn't deliver, but they did deliver a massively entertaining evening of readings from a great bunch of writers, some new to the game and some more experienced readers. I was especially chuffed to meet Adam Marek, whose first collection I've been meaning to buy for quite a while now. I bought a copy from the author himself after the event, and the stories I've read so far have been ace. And I got to meet several more writing friends in the flesh for the first time - hi again to Jac and Jacky and Claudia! So all in all, a great night, and a round of applause to Martin and Pauline. Also a big wave to Martin's family who housed me for the night, and I think we can all shuffle up on the writing bench to make room for his talented daughter Chloe, who's well on her way to writing the socks off the rest of us. Go, Chloe!

I spent Saturday wandering around London in the glorious sunshine with an old friend, eating spaghetti, drinking mocha frappuccinos (not Orange Mocha Frappuccinos though, and there were no petrol fights) and following them up with good old beer.

Then I slept most of today.

Top weekend!

small boy

Utterly non-writing related post, but look at my new nephew. He's very distracting.

I'm totally his favourite aunt.


The Salt 'Just One Book' campaign has gone mainstream - Vanessa Gebbie's just posted that Chris Hamilton Emery is going to be interviewed on Newsnight Review this Friday - a weekly arts round-up TV show, for non-UK folk - so check it out on BBC 1, 11 pm, Friday 29th May. I doubt I'll see this myself - I'll be down in London at Tales of the Decongested, a live lit event dedicated to the short story, which is being hosted this week by two friends of mine, Pauline and Martin, and here's an enthusiastic YO to those dudes - but I'll record it and catch it later. So will this mean a burst of publicity for the short story? I hope so - Salt certainly stands to gain, but maybe the exposure will help other independent publishers too, and perhaps it'll spread the word to the viewers (and this is a high-profile show) that the short story isn't an obscure or difficult or otherwise dodgy genre, but one that's immensely enjoyable and accessible and worthwhile. Go Team Short Fiction! (And poetry too, yo.)

I Remember

I just finished reading I Remember, by Joe Brainard. I'd never heard of this until recently - I found a reference to it somewhere online, and it's been sitting unread on my living room floor for a while. It's a really short collection of the author's memories, all strung together in a loose stream-of-consciousness list, and it's beautiful. There - a Monday recommendation.

Also, check out Ravi Mangla's Recommended Reading - a great new site where he interviews authors about their reading habits.


So Salt's 'Just One Book' campaign is doing really well - several of their collections have shot onto the Amazon Short Stories bestseller list! I'm away for a few days and I'm looking forward to reading Tania Hershman's collection when I get back. I love getting post. Normally the post I get isn't even for me, but for the previous owner of my apartment, a retired policewoman, who seems to enjoy going on trains and visiting naturist camps. She gets very glossy brochures for these, and we throw them into the recycling. If I ever met the men who collect the recycling, I wouldn't be able to look them in the eye. Damn, I need more literary recycling.


Word's been spreading over the past couple of days that Salt Publishing are really struggling right now. They've put out a plea for support, asking people to buy just one book from them to avert the crisis. Salt publish fantastic titles, especially short story collections - Tania Hershman's book, The White Road, is getting excellent reviews at the moment, for instance. Anyway, save a publisher by buying just one book - pretty straightforward - and it doesn't matter if you buy direct from them, or from Amazon or The Book Depository or Waterstone's, or wherever. Go! Here's what they say:

As many of you will know, Jen and I have been struggling to keep Salt moving since June last year when the economic downturn began to affect our press. Our three year funding ends this year: we've £4,000 due from Arts Council England in a final payment, but cannot apply through Grants for the Arts for further funding for Salt's operations. Spring sales were down nearly 80% on the previous year, and despite April's much improved trading, the past twelve months has left us with a budget deficit of over £55,000. It's proving to be a very big hole and we're having to take some drastic measures to save our business.

Here's how you can help us to save Salt and all our work with hundreds of authors around the world.


1. Please buy just one book, right now. We don't mind from where, you can buy it from us or from Amazon, your local shop or megastore, online or offline. If you buy just one book now, you'll help to save Salt. Timing is absolutely everything here. We need cash now to stay afloat. If you love literature, help keep it alive. All it takes is just one book sale. Go to our online store and help us keep going.

2. Share this. Tell your friends. If we can spread the word about our cash crisis, we can hopefully find more sales and save our literary publishing. Remember it's just one book, that's all it takes to save us. Please do it now.

With my best wishes to everyone
Salt Publishing


So, one week of freedom down and I have:

Painted many doors and skirting boards.
Broken my wardrobe.
Left the house maybe five times.
Gotten incredibly drunk at my work 'leaving do'.
Cleaned part of the floor.
Watched old episodes of The IT Crowd.
Contemplated getting a new phone contract so get a free PlayStation 3.

This last one is an ongoing dilemma. My phone has started to go funny and it'd be nice to get a new one, but if I do, it will come with either a wii or a PS3 and I really shouldn't be buying games and BluRay discs when I'm not earning anything. Decision - postponed. Although I have fond memories of playing endless computer games the last time I was unemployed, I should be moving onwards - right?

Writing-wise, I've had several rejections, an acceptance (woo-hoo!) and a rejection that suggested I send them on other work. So I've worked on a story to send the editor and now I'm hesitating before sending it, worried that she'll hate it and it'll be really embarrassing and I won't want to leave the house ever again. Except, of course, I've barely left the house all week anyway, so, whatever.

I was given several books by my old colleagues when I left, as a 'get out and leave us the hell alone' gift, including 1001 Books You Must Read before You Die. Way to make a girl feel inadequate. It turns out that all the books I've wasted my time reading over the past years are utterly insignificant. I immediately plunged at my 'to read' pile to grab the only one in there that was on the list, The Good Soldier, which, of course, turned out to be excellent, so now I'll end up obsessively referring to the List when I buy things. And means that the books that have been languishing at the bottom of that pile for months (or years) may never see the light of day. They'll have to be my 'pity reads.'

Back to the IT Crowd; as you were.


I've been unemployed for 25 hours now; contradictory to the prevailing panic out there, this is, for me, definitely a good thing. I've got freelance work lined up, but it doesn't start until mid-June, so I'm going to spend this next month getting my apartment sorted, visiting family and friends, reading and writing. I've got a stack of books chest-high next to the sofa and I want to get through them over the next couple of months. This might also stop me spending my non-income on Amazon and the Book Depository. I have a bunch of stories that need editing or deleting, and a few projects that I haven't had a solid crack at yet, so if I can make a decent dent in these things before my next job starts, I'll feel pretty satisfied entering into the summer.

But so far - today - I've been painting the bathroom, ripping out shitty building work courtesy of 2008's Hell Builder B*$%*@£, and going mad with PolyFilla and silicone sealant. The house smells funny and my skin feels weird. Beats work though, suckas!

Orange Prize Readers' Day

I just got back from this event in town today. My main incentive in turning up was the goody bag that they said you'd get, but free stuff aside, it was a good afternoon. They had eight authors on their panel, interviewed in pairs by Kate Mosse, and there was free tea and coffee, so combined with the goody bag (free Harpers, two free books, a variety of fliers, a little pack with two Haribo sweets in it, and the bag itself) I was pretty pleased.

The best bit, though, was the clock they had up on the wall. The talks were to wrap up at four twenty, so Kate Mosse announced that at four o'clock all the authors would come on stage at once for a final blast of questions from the audience. So coming up to four, people were staring to glance up at the clock on the wall. And at the stroke of four, the clock completely lost the run of itself and started going round and round and round in crazy fast forward. Kate Mosse did a massive double-take, and hundreds of people were gaping up at the little hands as they whizzed around, poking each other and giggling, or looking extremely freaked out. The girl beside me, who seemed to be a student at the Conservatoire, which was hosting the event, had her head in her hands and kept muttering, it does this every day at four, it'll stop at three minutes past. So the hands twirled and twirled through a whole twelve hours, and jerked to a halt at exactly three minutes past four. It was brilliant. Best clock ever.