Viva la Revolution

This is me at the Manchester anti-cuts rally at the end of January. I wish I were at the march down in London today, but my almost-thirty-seven-week waddle is keeping me at home. A year ago, we were all gearing up for the general election and though I'm usually pretty pessimistic about these things, I never thought the outcome would be so shitty that I'd be giving birth to my first child under this catastrophe of a Conservative-led coalition. All our futures - all our kids' futures - have been compromised, and the government needs to see us fighting back. So this is just to say good luck to those of you who've been able to get out on the streets today - I'm with you in spirit.

Joyce Carol Oates review

My review of Joyce Carol Oates' memoir, A Widow's Story, is live at Bookmunch.

game on

So I'm back to the novelling. I've had some great constructive feedback, and I know it was only, like, a fortnight since I put the file away, but I do feel refreshed and ready to tackle it again. Some things need fleshing out, others need making more explicit, there's a few plot tangles to unravel/rethink, but it all feels (kind of) manageable. I've tackled one chapter already, and I'll work my way through as the next month progresses. It's just under five weeks before Operation Reproduction kicks off in a massive way, so the race is on. The word count shall increase in step with my massive girth. Brain versus Belly. Game on.

(Oh, and happy St Patrick's Day to you all. Hope you enjoy your Guinnesses and whatnot. I'm having decaf tea. Screw the lot of you.)

linky links

My friend Socrates Adams has this excellent story, Wide and Deep, up at Metazen. It's really short and very simple and incredibly poignant. I think it fits into the category of 'things I shouldn't be reading while enormously pregnant.' Kind of like watching all the Alien films back-to-back, like I did a couple of weekends ago. But Alien just made me look at my own belly in terror; Socrates' story nearly had me crying. Check it out.

Then there's this brilliant article about police crime reports that explores precision of language and the way that influences how your story is read and interpreted. When you're writing a scene, how does your choice of words subtly imply a position, a moral stance, an opinion, without you being too explicit about it? Here, Ellen Collett talks about the 'alchemy of inflection' - how the tiny accretion of detail through language filters, changes and ultimately makes your story. Good stuff.

And here are Mitchell and Webb tackling ignoramuses. Mwuahaha.

one week later

This novel-break is an edgy business. A week in and I've already thought of enough flaws in the whole manuscript to send me straight to drink (damn pregnancy, thwarting my schemes), and I've found myself ricocheting at terrifying speed between (a) thinking of interesting, if ill-formed and vague, solutions to said problems, (b) despairing and admitting the futility of the entire venture in grand, miserable, wallowing-in-chocolate-until-I-feel-really-ill style, and (c) sticking my fingers in my ears and screaming LALALALALALA NOT LISTENING until the rest of my brain slinks away, deafened and disheartened.

I guess all this is normal.

On the other hand, I've caught up on about half my reviewing backlog and introduced a friend visiting from Belgium to the wonders of Manchester's Retro Rehab and Oklahoma, and (ahem) having your gait analysed by nice running-store men. Yeah, I'm that cool. We also got intensely trailed around the Vivienne Westwood shop by a sales assistant, but disappointed her by not stealing anything. Plus yesterday I finally caught up with Jenn Ashworth's appearance on the Culture Show - go, Jenn!  Today I'm going to try to attach a wicker basket I found in the bin to the front of my bike with cable ties. So I'm not only cool, but classy, too. Go, me.

The world will be a safer pace when I get back to the novel.

a short break

I'm taking a couple of weeks off the novel to get some perspective. Three days into the break, I already want to rip the whole manuscript up and start again. Instead I'll try to relax about it and think of constructive things and catch up on my book-reviewing and reading and calming thoughts.

This weekend, we went to the Lake District, which was actually lovely and relaxing, and I even managed to get quite a few weird looks from elderly hill-walker types who gaped at the nearly-eight-months-pregnant belly, like they'd never seen an incubating lady up on a hill before. I guess I should be flat on my back practicing screaming, like a good girl. I was wearing a pretty maternity dress with my trainers, mind, so I might have looked a tad schizo. Then we went on a boat and got a good look at an actual lake, and on the shore, where people were throwing bits of bread at some very aggressive-looking swans, we saw a dude propose to his girlfriend. Hurray to you guys, whoever you were! 

Anyway, now we're back and I'm sort of tensing up about the novel, but I'm going to eat lots of nice cake and talk to actual people and not just people I've made up, and see what good ideas come to me in the meantime. 

National Short Story Week website

So, it's March already, and I know I said I'd blog more in February, but seriously - where the hell did that month go? I was still getting used to January and now, whoosh - March. Shit. But! March is Good, because this month I'm the guest editor for the National Short Story Week website - click on through to see what I've written. I was really delighted to be asked to contribute to the site, especially seeing as I'm following on from previous guest editors Adam Marek and Sarah Salway.

Other news, other news... my writing colleague John Haggerty has been shortlisted for this year's Scott Prize (the list was announced today) so I'm very psyched for him. Also shortlisted are my fellow Bristol-prize shortlistee Jon Pinnock, who's got a novel coming out soon too; my twitter and facebook pal, Andrea Ashworth; and my other twitter pal, the lovely Julie Mayhew. The Scott Prize is for an unpublished collection of short fiction, and Tom Vowler's winning book from last year, The Method, is brilliant, so I'm really excited to see who'll win this time. Good luck, dudes.

Jenn Ashworth, dynamo that she is, was in the Guardian the other day as one of their twelve debut novelists to watch out for, AND she's going to be on the Culture Show on Saturday.

This is very linky, isn't it? I'm knee-deep in novel right now. Also my tenants have broken my fridge. And I burned some biscuits. I'm still going to eat them, though. Right now.