Friday, November 18, 2011

Vanessa Gebbie

I'm so excited that Vanessa Gebbie will be signing copies of her debut novel "The Coward's tale" tomorrow at Waterstones, Brighton from 11 a.m. Not only that but she will also be writing personalised tiny fictions for anyone who buys it. She'll add your name, or any name you choose, and a few other unique details. A wonderful idea, and a really different Christmas gift. 

More details here.

Looky looky at all the gorgeous...

A few snapshots from Waterstones Brighton last Saturday:

Pretty darn enticing, right?

Tuesday, November 08, 2011

Flash fiction at The Irish Times

It's lovely to hear that The Irish Times will regularly be featuring flash fiction, I think it's an ideal form for newspapers. I'm extremely chuffed that my tiny story "Blown Away" was published in this weekend's edition, especially as my Irish dad is proper proud of me now.

Lumb Bank

In October I finally went on the Arvon course that I won as part of my Waterstones Bookseller Bursary. I meant to blog about it much sooner but as time has gone on I've realised that I really don't know what to say. It was an extraordinary five days. I feel I was picked up from my usual life and set down in an alternate reality. There were workshops, readings, discussions, and plenty of opportunities to talk with tutors Patrick Neate and Mark Illis. There were communal meals and lots of chatter. There was incredible scenery and lots of weather. There were bizarre moments, and hilarious ones. The strangest thing was how little reading and writing I did. I had imagined hour after hour of quietly sitting alone and pondering. Nope. It was a far more sociable experience than expected, and better for that. There were a few vital key points that I took away with me that have revealed themselves to be pretty darn important. I'm sure what resonated for me isn't necessarily what did for others and these things may seem obvious, but sometimes one needs exactly that. For the last year or so I have pretty much been a full time carer and my writing has had to wait. I wrote some flash fiction, maybe even a short story or two, but I left my novel untouched. It is too important to me, and I couldn't give it the attention I feel it requires. I am no longer a full time carer and the how to write a novel course was hopefully going to help me find my way back to Salted. We all know the saying writers write and I was told I simply have to write 500 words a day. Easy, huh? 500 words is incredibly manageable, I can't be scared by that. I was also told that until I have 30,000 words I'm not allowed to think about quality or start worrying about where it's all going. I'm obedient, sometimes, so I have come home and every weekday I have written at least 500 words. Last night I dreamt I was writing my novel which I'm guessing means my novel writing has seeped into my subconscious. Oh yeah, I am doing this thing. 

Oh! And I got to visit Sylvia Plath's grave. I am a massive Plath fan but would never have made a special visit to the cemetery, however, I was invited out for an afternoon stroll with two of my fellow Arvoners (waves virtually at lovely Paul and Lisa) and we found ourselves RIGHT THERE. I can't quite grasp why people would leave plastic pens in a pot on her grave, I mean, I know she was a writer, but ... 

So, pictures:

I look back affectionately, gratefully, on my time at Lumb Bank, and know that I will want to do more Arvon courses in the future. Thank you Waterstones and thank you to all the other writers for making it so memorable.

Tuesday, November 01, 2011

Ayiti by Roxane Gay

Ayiti, published by Artistically Declined Press, is the debut story collection from Roxane Gay, each story concerning Haiti and its people.

The first story you arrive at announces itself with the block capitals of MOTHERFUCKERS. And wow can this small story carry a great weight. Wonderful opener.

In "Things I Know About Fairytales" the narrator says "At a dinner party once, with some of my colleagues and some of Michael's and lots of wine and music and excellent food and pretentious but engaging conversation, talk turned to Haiti. Everyone leaned forwards in their seats, earnest in their desire to be genuine in their understanding of the world. One of my colleagues mentioned a magazine article he read about how Haiti had surpassed Colombia as the kidnapping capital of the world. Another colleague told us about a recent feature in a national magazine. Soon everyone was offering up their own desperate piece of information, conjuring a place that does not exist."

I wonder if this is non-fiction as it reads so true, and I suppose I recognise that earnest desire to be genuine, and the failure of real understanding that so often accompanies it.

In "In the Manner of Water or Light" the narrator says "We are the keepers of secrets. We are secrets ourselves."

Roxane Gay may well have secrets, but she is also a fearless truth teller. Her stories work beautifully in showing us truths without screaming them. Sometimes it is that which remains unsaid that resonates strongest. Her writing is beautifully empathetic, powerful, and often painful.

In "Cheap, Fast, Filling" she makes me sympathise, despise, and then care about her character in just 3 pages. Yeah, that skilled.

And she's funny too (see "Voodoo Child" and the Primer in "There is No "E" in Zombi Which Means There Can Be No You or We" - in which she slides from amusing to disturbing ever so smoothly.)

She has an utterly distinctive voice of her own. There are many examples of her words online as she blogs, writes articles, and fictions (you can find her at I Have Become Accustomed To Rejection) and whatever she writes carries that assured, intelligent, calm, witty voice.


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