Pleased to see Eclipsed published. Originally published by Cinnamon Press in their winners' anthology 2015, I am very fond of this story, which I wrote while on a cruise of the North Atlantic to view the eclipse earlier in 2015.
Gill James Punctuating my novel-writing with shorter pieces
It takes me about three months to write the first draft of a novel. I typically spend about another eighteen months on editing so a lot of writing time actually becomes editing time. To keep the creative juices flowing, I’ll kick-start my writing day by creating a piece of flash fiction.Then also at the end of each edit, I’ll “rest” the script and spend a few days on writing a short story.Ideas for these short stories are:· Something that resonates with the novel – it might be a back story of one of the minor characters, for instance, or a very similar story to the novel but condensed· Something that has just popped into my head, triggered by what is happening around me and examined via a “what if” question· The story of a minor character or the baddie from a well-known fairy tale, the Bible or another religious book, or from Shakespeare. Usually, I bring these into the 21st century or even into the future. I do like speculative and near-future fiction. I’m currently working my way through the Bible and I’ve got as far as Noah.Happy reading and writing everyone
In the days before the advent of mobile phones, I got dropped off somewhere near Stoke, by a somnolent driver who had kept himself awake, and me on the edge of his passenger seat, by driving on the cats' eyes all the way up the motorway from London. Thirty years later the recollection formed the basis of the story Dawn Chorus. http://www.cutalongstory.com/stories/dawn-chorus/10773.html
As Neil says in his introduction to the site, Cut a Long Story Short offers short bursts of self-contained fiction that are ideal to read when you only have a short amount of time. This may be when you’re commuting, waiting at the dentist’s or killing a little time whilst waiting for a taxi or a lift.Short fiction and very short fiction also have the advantage that they stay with you long after you have finished reading the page. Sites like these are also useful to the writer for showcasing to your readers how you write. If someone reads a short story here, they may be attracted to your longer fiction.I visit Cut also as a reader from time to time and am gradually accumulating some excellent short stories to help me while away some waiting times. They’re making me think as well.
I had my car serviced today. I kind of enjoy that. I set off straight after breakfast, drop the car off and take the short walk into town. I carry my laptop in my fabulous bright purple satchel.The library isn’t open yet so I grab a coffee at Nero’s. I get the first half hour of writing in.I head over to the library. Apparently there is an aquarium in the basement. Really? When did that happen? I resist the urge to go and look. I’ll do it another time. There is work to be done. I go up to the study area. There are places with power sockets. It’s rather nice up there. You’re on a sort of balcony and you can look down on the body of the library.I steam ahead with the latest edit of my work in progress. With the half hour in Nero’s and almost two hours in the library I get about two thirds of it done.My phone buzzes. It’s a video of the inside of my engine. All is well. I’m due to pick up the car at 4.00. Lots of time yet, then. I look forward to my lunch at the Octagon Theatre. My husband and I are season ticket holders so we get a discount in the restaurant. It’s a good little place. I finish another chapter. I look at my watch. 12.15. Maybe I’ll get just one more chapter finished. The phone then rings, though. My car is ready. Oh.As I leave the library I hear someone shout “Gill.” It is one of my former students who is now working there. He is on our Masters course. We chat. He loves working at the library. It’s another connection with literature for him. I then collect my car and head off home. Lunch at home, after all.Why do I enjoy this experience so much? I guess it’s similar to writing in cafes, and as I also like, writing on Virgin trains between Manchester and London. You are in the world at the same time as being still in your own world. You feel less isolated.Ah, well. Another twelve months until I need another car service.
I’m interested in connecting with other people who write fiction about World War II and the 1930s and 1940s generally. My own work unusually gives a partial German point of view. I have a whole web site about my Schellberg Cycle. I’m keen to list other publications and also conduct author interviews. I’ll happily also provide links to short stories on this site.If you’re interested, contact me at gill dot james at btinternet dot com. I look forward to hearing from you.
I visited this book shop / café in Manchester today. It really is my sort of place. A great space for writing and reading in and they have some lovely books and cakes. I noticed several people networking. Someone else was working away on their laptop. The constant tinkling of a water feature keeps you calm. It’s just a short walk from Piccadilly Station, Piccadilly Gardens or Market Street – 19 Lever Street, M1 1BY Well worth a visit if you’re in Manchester. http://www.creativecafeproject.org/2016/07/chapter-one-books-manchester-uk.html
Let's hope this year is a good one and people value the short e-story.
Gill James Short story collections, online sites and multi-author collections
I’m privileged at the moment to be editing some single-author collections of short stories. These are great and are in fact better for individual authors who can thus showcase their short story work alongside their novels. Fans are more willing to buy a complete collection by an author they know than a mixture including a lot of people they haven’t heard of.Nevertheless, online sites like this and multi-author collections are still useful. They become like a sample box so that readers may discover new authors.I like to cherry-pick a little when I come to this site: I look at the latest releases. Do I recognise an author there on the landing page? Is it one I know and like? If not is there a story that appeals? I do try to buy one each time I pass by.I’m a little behind with my reading but so far I’ve enjoyed every single one.
When my first collection of short stories, Staying Afloat, was published four years ago I compared it to giving birth in that it's very easy to get caught up in the anticipation and planning of the event itself ( making the story selection, approving the cover and deciding on a title just as once I chose baby equipment and picked names) without fully appreciating the long term commitment. The book and the child are there to be admired and scrutinised and just as babies are always called beautiful, even when s/he resembles a rat, in some ways it can be difficult to get an honest opinion of your work. At any rate, Raw Material published by Valley Press, has been delivered into the world and awaits reviews. I have four children but whether I can produce another two books remains to be seen!
It’s that time of the year again. We absorb more story and I see this almost as a form of human hibernation.The darker days mean we might read more as we commute in the dark. We can’t see anything through the windows.Then there are the snow-bound and cold-bound days. The days off work. The gifts, maybe including a new Kindle, already loaded up with interesting content.We encounter the Christmas story in many different versions. Yes, what’s not to love? Bring it on. And I hope Cut does well out of this.
We’re beset by political problems at the moment and I don’t feel particularly equipped to change what is happening. I’ll be entirely honest here: I’m anti-Brexit, appalled by what has just happened in the States, am currently writing a cycle of novels mainly set in Nazi Germany and have just read a book on Jung and the collective consciousness which may explain what is happening now and what happened in the 1930s / 1940s.So, my publishing partner and I are putting together a collection of fiction that best expresses a view that is contrary to what our current political leaders are putting forward. We’re actually commissioning rather than putting out a call for submissions and hoping our writers will be brave enough to write stories that give hope for a better world. We’ll be inviting some Cut writers.I remember with some humility that my first piece of published fiction appeared in Lines in the Sand, edited by Mary Hoffman and Rhiannon Lassiter. This was a book for children put together by writers and artists who objected to the war in Iraq.My books could get burnt. Bring it on. I hope they’re good enough to make it to the bonfire.And may the pen win.
I’m pretty busy at the moment, now that I’ve retired, giving myself a four hour a day writing regime. As a publisher I’m also getting out two anthologies of short stories, three collections of flash fiction and a series of picture books.I’m at the stage with two of the books that the hard copies are ready and we’re rolling them out and promoting them. That is always an exciting time and also a little bit stressful. Will the authors like what we’ve done? Is there some glaring typo we’ve missed? What will the reviewers say? We’re holding a launch / celebration in London on 3 December. We’re “sold” out. It’s a free but ticketed event. I hope this bodes well for sales.Now, back to the writing.
I love it more than Christmas - when the nights draw in, when the brown leaves crinkle under your feet and there's a chill in the air. A chill from the cold, and a chill as those unspoken fears that usually lurk in the corners of your mind creep up to the surface. Halloween will always be my favourite time of year. Creepy clowns, frightening ghouls, the bogeyman, and strangers with curled up lips. Lock your doors and keep your windows closed, you never what may be slinking up from your drain, clawing out to that open bedroom window. Halloween is here, and the dead come out to play.
It’s that time of year again. The days are getting shorter and colder. Christmas holidays, half term and Thanksgiving are coming soon. As the weather worsens and the light dims we may like to go out less in the evenings and at the weekend. Just the right time of course for getting comfy with a good story. It’s almost a time of human hibernation. We stock up our bodies and our souls against the cold. Short stories are the food for the soul.Bring them on!
I have three favourite times:Straight after breakfast – I find my mind is fresh and I’m alert. If I don’t make writing my first activity of the day I may find time later but I’ll often not find brain space. This is my most important activity. I’ll get to everything else in the afternoon. Occasionally I can write in the evenings if I’m behind on a deadline. This has to be after the demands of the day have been settled – this normally means reading all of my emails and reacting to them, plus meeting other deadlines that are not to do with writing first. A clean break to have a bit of supper makes a good buffer. On a trip to London I can get four hours writing done. I write extremely well on a Virgin train. In fact, if I’m not writing the journey can become very boring. Even reading doesn’t occupy me well enough. There is something very satisfying about working in an anonymous bubble but still feeling that one is part of the world. It’s a bit like writing in a café, I suppose, but you don’t have to feel so guilty about occupying a table for such a long time.It’s important that we all find the best time for our writing and turn up at the page regularly at that time. Waiting for inspiration just doesn’t work.
He describes himself on Twitter as a ‘Music Maker and collector of those round plastic things that play music,’ but I wasn’t sure if this was my son’s Twitter Profile at all to be honest. Until I saw the photograph. No ordinary photograph, it was a picture of a torn out page from one of my notebooks with my very own shorthand outlines displayed for all the world to see.Not that I was checking up on him or anything of course. At least I know if he’s tweeting, he's still alive. You see, he went to Berlin with his record label collaborators on Tuesday to perform a gig at a nightclub (sounds very grand) doesn’t it? Cong Burn Waves was created by himself and school friends who then attended University together. The title is derived from the stream or burn which flows into the River Wear in their home town, being Chester-le-Street, Tyne & Wear. Before he travelled he said, ‘You do know I won’t be texting you much when I’m away?' I then received several texts including, ‘I’m at the bus stop.’'I’m on the Mega bus to Manchester.' 'I’m at Manchester airport.'Then nothing. Absolutely nothing at all.I can only presume that once he arrived in Berlin he was having far too good a time to think about home. Which is all fine of course. Although his brother has just revealed that he did ring him late the previous evening to say he was very happy and enjoying the currywurst sausages and beer. As a writer, I've always found shorthand an easy way to jot down my thoughts if I can’t get to my laptop quick enough. At first I was astonished to see my renderings sprawled all over Twitter. What if he had revealed to all the biosphere, a Top Secret plot for my new novel? Then I realised of course, as reflected in the tweet, no-one of their generation would have a clue what it meant. I, of course, a veteran of a bygone era, can reveal the true meaning of my hieroglyphics.Before I do so, I must say that it is interesting to think that this ‘Music Maker and collector of those round plastic things that play music,’ found the remnants of my training in Pitman New Era shorthand fascinating enough to tweet about it. I can now exclusively reveal what I had written:-'I'm so excited, my first novella, Where the Four Winds Meet, has just been accepted for publication on CUT.’
I recently read a short review of the Raymond Carver story, A Small, Good Thing, in which the reviewer opined that the writing was 'bland', the story simple and poorly-executed.Reviews of this kind make me sad.Although not nearly as emptily sad as I felt the first time I read that particular story.Of the reviewers remarks I can agree upon one point: it is a simple story. It's this simplicity which, as is the case with all of Carver's extraordinary catalogue, gives it its power. A boy is hit by a car and taken to hospital. A baker, who has made a birthday cake for the boy, is trying to call the parents to say it's ready for collection - growing increasingly disgruntled that he cannot reach them.From the opening sentence you are given the sense, through each carefully chosen word, that things are not going to end well. The supposed happy event of a child's birthday, the excitement a young parent would feel when ordering a cake is tempered both by the impersonal attitude of the baker and the painstaking patience of a writer who trusts his reader; a narrative devoid of expostion, each act offering more insight - delivering greater unease.The writing is not bland.It's a writing masterclass from one of the greatest short story writers of the past century. One of the purest examples of the 'show, don't tell' mantra that underpins great fiction. An opening passage that, on the surface, is nothing more than an interaction in a shop (between mother and baker) - an everyday 'bland' moment into which Carver tells us nothing, but reveals almost all that is to follow. Creating a sense of foreboding the remains with us throughout, the feeling of inevitable tragedy.Too often we're offered the idea that a great story requires a good twist in the tail, to throw us off kilter, pull the rug from beneath our feet. There's nothing wrong with a good twist, of course. I'm partial to them myself, have used the device in my own fiction from time to time. But great storytelling shouldn't have to always rely on a twist, a tale of the unexpected - as it were. Offering the reader insight into what lies ahead can drive the emotion of a story with equal, oftentimes, more power. The Usual Suspects or The Sting might have us all reeling at their sleight of hand finales; but can they offer the same devastating impact delivered by Paul Greengrass' simply told 9/11 dramatisation United 93? The sense of drama and characterisation, the tension built-up on board and at air-traffic control, serving only to create a near unbearable sense of inevitability.And this is the simple, understated genius at play in A Small, Good Thing.A short tale of a family drama, the pivotal moment in the lives of a very small number of people, their own tragedy unaffecting to the wider world. Which somehows encapsulates the frailty of the human condition and the fragility of life in one 10,000 word work of utterly compelling fiction.Not twisty, not flashy, certainly not bland.Just a brilliant, small, good thing.
CUT writer WENDY GILL’S “THAT MAN” MUSICAL http://www.thatmanmusical.com Starring TV’s Jonny Labey, 20th September at the HippodromeCUT writer Wendy Gill’s THAT MAN, a new musical about love, lust, loyalty and deceit in 1950s London featuring hit songs That Man, Liquid Lunch, A Night Like This and others made famous by Caro Emerald is set to preview in two special staged concert performances at London's Hippodrome Casino on Tuesday, 20th September. Starring Jonny Labey (Eastenders) as That Man, Rick, the director is award winning director Paul Boyd (“Molly Wobbly”) musical direction by Iain Vince-Gatt, and choreography by multi-award nominated Anthony Whiteman.The cast is completed by Sabrina Aloueche (We Will Rock You), Christoper Howell (Wicked), Treyc Cohen (Lion King), Rhiannon Chesterman (Mrs. Henderson Presents) and Kate England (To Kill a Mockingbird)It's 1957, and Chas puts his best friend Rick to the test when he suggests a wager, based upon winning the favours of Rosa, the singing star at London's famous cabaret club, The Flamingo. When the wager backfires, Rick faces a dilemma. His pride and his position among his peer group forces him to take a course of action in total conflict with his desires ...Performances are at 4pm and 8pm with prices from £20. The 4pm matinee will have guests from theatre and music industries and will be followed by a Q&A session chaired by theatre guru Terri Paddock. Tickets are available from The Hippodrome website:http://www.hippodromecasino.com/events/2016/september/For more about the show please visit thatmanmusical.com and on Twitter @thatmanmusical.THAT MAN is proud to be supported by funding from the ARTS COUNCIL ENGLAND.
I have eight more working days left at the University of Salford where I work as a senior lecturer in English and Creative Writing and as a programme leader for Drama and Creative Writing and English and Drama. Currently I try to write for two hours a day Monday to Friday. In theory 20% of my working time should be for research and half of that might be for creative practice. In fact, though, it rarely works out that way. I try to catch up evenings, weekends and whilst on holiday.It’s not just about the time. It’s also about head space. It’s been a difficult year and it’s actually been quite hard to find that head space. I’m just about getting back into routine now. On 30 September 2016 I retire. I have twenty days leave between now and then. I intend to write for four hours a day. Go to the gym. Work on my marketing and my own publishing concerns.I have a day’s leave today and I’m practising. I’ve almost completed the first two hours. This post counts as writing.Eight more days. We’ll see.
Gill James There are short stories and there are short stories
Just how long is a short story?I keep an opportunities list for my university students. Three categories overlap to some extent: flash fiction, novella, short story. Flash fiction goes from six to 1,000 words, short fiction from 1,000 to 8,000 words and novellas form 8,000 to 25,000 words.I guess it doesn’t matter what we actually call it. What we mean by a short story can also actually vary though. Some characteristics include: a single plot without subplots, limited number of characters, something that stays with you for hours / days afterwards, something that makes you think.Different publishers welcome different types of story. I’m currently published here, by Alfie Dog, Bridge House, CaféLit, Cracked Eye, Ether Books, Flash, Paragraph Planet and The Best of CaféLit. I send different types of story to the different imprints. CUT gets my futuristic, near future, speculative fiction. Alfie Dog is for those stories that are almost like the ones that appear in women’s magazines. Cracked Eye and Ether Books are for glimpses of modern life. Flash and Paragraph Planet are for my shortest fiction. CaféLit are for stories than can be consumed in a café. But never mind all that. I’m absolutely clear that I really enjoy reading and writing short stories. There is certainly something very satisfying about them. So, I’m just off to buy another from CUT.
Neil Randall The inspiration behind The Tower Block by Neil Randall
My long short story The Tower Block was made available to download from the Cut a Long Story site yesterday. It's a multi-generational tale set on a south London housing estate; documenting the lives of three families, from the hopeful post-war sixties boom and the far harsher, confrontational seventies slump years, all the way through to the bleak Thatcherite eighties. The idea for the story came to me a couple of summers ago when I looked after a friend's flat in Lewisham. I wanted a quiet place to finish editing the novel I’d just written. He wanted someone to look after his cat while he went on holiday. This seemed like the perfect solution for us both. He failed to mention that the adjoining housing estate, empty and awaiting demolition, would be torn down during my stay. Two days after he left, I was awoken by the ominous rumble of heavy vehicles, rattling engines, the grind of caterpillar tracks over rough waste-ground. Within an hour, what I can only describe as a huge mechanical T-Rex started to bash into the old tower block, tearing it down from top floor to bottom, ripping out old bedrooms and bathrooms, smashing entire floors, walls and ceilings, the very bricks and mortar that had once encased the lives of so many south London families. Every so often, a concrete crusher would move in, levelling piles of debris, compacting everything into dust. It was as if the tower had never been there in the first place, as if all those people's lives, the hours spent watching television, eating meals, sleeping, running baths, brushing teeth, going to work, coming home from work had never taken place. This struck a chord with me; something I carried around in my head for months before I finally sat down and wrote the story that would become The Tower Block, a testament to the transitory nature of modern urban existence.
Gill James Reading stories at the end of an academic year
This year I've read 300,000 or so words made up mainly of stories though about 25% would be in reflective statements. I’ve certainly read 50 + short stories and 50+ 2,500 word extracts from novels. So what do I do on a Saturday? I meet up with my SCBWI critique and look at another five 2,000 extracts from YA novels.“I actually enjoy marking,” I say to one colleague. He looks at me a little curiously. Then he has a lightbulb moment. “Ah, I suppose you get to read stories all day.”Well, yes, he has a point. 103 in fifteen working days is a bit of a challenge, though. That’s not including the SCBWI scripts, of course. Yet it is actually extremely helpful for my own writing. I can often see something working or not working that I’ve overlooked in my own texts. Editing and commenting on other people’s work sharpens the critical muscle. I’m extremely privileged in my day job, I think.
J.N. PAQUET A thought for the victims of the Orlando mass-shooting.
For each candle we light...For the loved ones we cry...For each one of their beautiful hearts...There is a light somewhere that belongs to them now for they are stardusts that will forever shine.Our world needs:Love, not hate.Togetherness, not division.Acceptance, not rejection.
F. Linday New Adult Novel seeking publisher- Extract from DisGrace read at Covert Garden Waterstones
This was a free showcasing opportunity I was kindly given by Safeena at Novel London. Reading froma new adult manuscript it gave chance for me to reach a wider audience with this empowering story. Look into reading there as long as you have a complete first chapter then you can pitch.The video is useful for pitching to agents/ publishers posted on YouTube here-http://bit.ly/1Td6a9aThanks!
I am delighted to have another story accepted by Liars' League for the 'Stage and Screen' event on 10 May. Liars' League - www.liarsleague.com - is a regular spoken word night held in London, where short stories are read by professional actors. 'One Beautiful Day' was beautifully read by Carrie Cohen, a well-known character actress - http://carriecohen.co.uk/. Here is a link to the You Tube recording: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=jy71kcxKZ8Q
“This manuscript of yours that has just come back from another editor is a precious package. Don’t consider it rejected. Consider that you’ve addressed it ‘to the editor who can appreciate my work’ and it has simply come back stamped ‘Not at this address’. Just keep looking for the right address.” – Barbara Kingsolver
It's been a while in the making but this anthology, which uniquely allows simultaneous access to sound files of authors reading their work direct from the page, is out now. It has two aims, one is to demonstrate the model to show that anyone can do it, the other is to offer reading support to people who find that difficult for whatever reason. Ultimately, I'd like to see the technique applied to public information leaflets to enhance privacy, but for now I'm just happy to say that even a poetry numpty like me might have a chance of 'getting it' if they can hear the poet while they follow along on the page! The book is on sale here and there's more information about the background on the host site, Readalongreads if you're interested.
When I recently attended a Society of Authors North event I travelled up to Darlington the night before and stayed in a hotel. After I checked out the receptionist said “We have a parcel for you.” She handed me a large padded envelop.I worried a little at first that it might be a letter bomb but then I figured I was probably not important enough to be blown up. I sat outside in the sun and opened it. It contained a tiny note-book and a bigger A5 one, both with an attractive ivory hard cover, a set of four fine-liner pens, - blue, green black and orange and a soft cloth pencil case that I only weeks later realised was covered in skulls. This came from the Late Rooms Magic Maker department. Was it perhaps because I’d written a good review for the room I stayed at when I’d been to the Hay festival some months earlier. Was it because that was a piece of creative non-fiction that they knew I was a writer? Anyway, it’s been a delightful present. The pens are a joy to use. I’ll shortly be using the A5 note-book and the small one sits in the pencil case and is ideal for jotting down those crazy ideas writers get when they’re in the middle of doing something else. Is this a way of me making my living? Or is it just a bit of plain old karma?
On Tuesday, I received a very exciting email informing me that I am a Finalist in the Christian Fiction category of the 2016 Next Generation Indie Awards for my novel, Lydia's Song. Lydia's Song was published in 2014 and I decided to submit it to the awards this year as the Indie Awards accept books published within the past two years, which is unusual for book awards. It's an incredible feeling being an award winner, even though as an Indie writer, I wonder what difference it will actually make to sales unless I invest lots of time and effort into promoting my win. Lydia's Song is about child sex-trafficking in Cambodia and is a topical issue, what with the Jimmy Saville case and the Rotherham and Oxford scandals all making headlines in recent years. However, I started writing it long before these news stories came to light. It is a novel that was 8 years in the making and it was only the strength of the storyline and the conviction that it was a story worth telling that enabled me to keep coming back to it amidst the busyness of a life teaching, marrying cross-culturally and having two children. Ok, it's not the Booker Prize or the Costa Book Prize, but for a first time 'nobody' novelist, it's a big deal!
The Best Laid Plans is my first short story. After a dozen cookbooks, a biography and seven novels, it's about time! More suitable to what I hopefully think of my "semi-retirement". But then, when did a writer ever retire? Let me know what you think. Of course I'd prefer bouquets to brickbats, but all comments gratefully received: better to be looked over than overlooked!
Tears in the Fence magazine - https://tearsinthefence.com/ - was established in 1984, and has a reputation for high quality poetry, fiction, translations, reviews and essays. I am delighted to have a short story in Issue 63, out now. A subscription to this magazine is a bargain. Do check it out.
Opportunities for live readings of prose fiction are uncommon, but the short story lends itself to this experience. Alongside eight other Cumbria-based writers, I was delighted to take part in readings of stories and poetry at a special Cumbria floods fundraising event at the Words by the Water festival in Keswick in March. I have recorded the story on Sound Cloud on the following link: https://elizabethstott.wordpress.com/2016/03/09/the-fool/ and you can read it direct from the blog, under the post 'The Fool'.You'll find more of my fiction, and poetry, on the blog - some of it recorded. There is also a link to a story selected by Liar's League, which is a live ficition event that takes place in a London pub with professional actors. See my 'News and Publications' page for more information. Podcasts are available on-line. Go direct to Liar's League here: http://www.liarsleague.com/liars_league/
J.N. PAQUET Bad Literacy Directly Affects People's Health And The Society As A Whole.
As the end of school year is looming, there is no better time to think about the scandalous fact that, in modern Britain, i.e. one of the richest country on the planet, more than a fifth of 11-year-olds will still be leaving primary school without reaching the basic level in reading. Before the last General election, former Deputy PM Nick Clegg had called the figure "a national scandal" (1).What is the problem with literacy, and why does it matter anyway? Illiteracy always lead "to limited opportunities for employment or income generation, propensity towards crime or dependence on social welfare or charity," according to the World Literacy Fund (2).The impact of bad literacy can be traced back to decades ago when failing children were not deemed worth the effort by either teachers, school authorities or governments. About 8 million adults (Up to 40% of the adult population in the UK's most deprived areas, according to the National Literacy Trust) (3), who are now struggling in their daily life because they have not been given a proper chance to learn how to read at a young age and now lack the literacy skills expected of an 11-year-old, are indeed the direct consequence of such a blank mentality. They are today the victims of a heartless and archaic Victorian society that did not want to bother understanding IT was actually failing THEM.A new report by the National Literacy Trust released today, "Understanding the role of literacy in public health" (4), shows that these people with low literacy are "up to 18 times more likely to take their prescriptions incorrectly, are significantly less likely to understand the symptoms of a medical condition such as diabetes or asthma and are more likely to rate their health as 'very poor' than people with better literacy skills."The impact of bad literacy skills has been proven to have an impact on the whole of the society through health inequality and it now puts direct pressure on public services across the country, because people don't understand the general guidelines and information about health, which eventually prevents them from treating their health effectively and ultimately causes them to catch diseases.Whereas people with good literacy skills "are more likely to have higher self-esteem, better health, better jobs and higher wages than those with poor literacy skills. They are more able to take advantage of the opportunities that life may offer them," the report continues.Today, we live in a more mature society, in which we want to believe - foolishly, maybe - that we care sensibly more for the weaker and the poorer than ever before in history, without patronising them or being over-idealistic about it. This modern society we live in indeed needs to realise all individuals are interconnected, and that what happens to the poorer will eventually affect the wealthier.Public health strategies in the UK should now definitely include improving families' literacy to make them healthier. An essential part of these strategies should be about the promotion of a daily family routine including home learning and home reading. Promoting the importance of bedtime stories and library visits for children, for instance, is paramount. (According to the National Literacy Trust's "State of the Nation and Impact Report", only half of children look at print-based stories every day with their parents. And only 67.1% of children aged five to 10 had visited a library in the last year.) (3)The National Literacy Trust generally defines literacy as being "the ability to read, write, speak and listen well," and adds that "a literate person is able to communicate effectively with others and to understand written information."Shouldn't the government make eliminating child illiteracy one of its priorities in order to achieve just that and to create a fairer modern society for all?-------Further reading:1. No child illiteracy by 2025, Nick Clegg pledges (BBC News, 18 January 2015)2. Illiteracy Statistics, Information Sheet (World Literacy Fund, 2015)3. State of the Nation and Impact Report 2013/2014 (National Literacy Trust, 2014)4. Understanding the role of literacy in public health (National Literacy Trust, July 2015)5. National Literacy Trust
Well, I've just read and annotated 60 short storeis. As final comments on several of them I've written "Tidy it up and send it out". On others I've written "This story has potential. I hope you will continue to work on it." Either way they may be tempted to submit them soon.These are from my undergradaute students, some of whom have never written a short story before. Sadly, even some of the really good ones will be rejected and my students will have to start growing their thick skin. The stories are well written and well shaped but they won't be to everyone's taste or there might not be enough room where they're sending them. None of these writers apart perhaps from a couple of mature students have done their 10,000 hours on the craft yet. I've completed mine and I'm pretty sure I've also completed my 10,000 hours of editing as I'm a publisher as well and my job at the univeristy inlcudes a lot of editing. I have 46 short stories published and another twenty or so doing the rounds. Oddly, the two I feel are my strongest keep failing to get published. There you go.The healthy attitude is "Ah, here comes a rewrite." And how do we get to know more about what is going to be successful? Again, my students have some wisdom there. Read, read read. CUT is a good place to read, I guess.So I'll finish now and go and buy me a short story.
Just posted my first short story on CUT and hope it will not be my last! I am in the middle of marketing the first book in my Food of Love Trilogy (family saga of people in the food business – farming, restaurants, catering – starting in the war and ending about now), editing the second one and writing the third. Remembering who has blue eyes and when Granny was born is driving me mad. Which is one reason why I want to get into short stories – less taking for my old brain.
With the rise of the number of children reading on tablets, especially after Christmas, many parents are wondering whether there is any harm leaving their little ones use such technology. Another worrying topic for many is whether the most disadvantaged children in our Society will be left behind because of reading technologies.A study recently conducted by the charity Tablets for Schools actually shows that tablets are used by 68% of primary and 69% of secondary schools in the UK, with about 9% of schools having a tablet for every pupil.Another survey by the National Literacy Trust (NLT) also recently indicated that tablets may help children from disadvantaged backgrounds read.According to Jonathan Douglas, director of the NLT, the survey "throws up very interesting evidence on the positive impact of combining technology with books on pre-school children's vocabulary. Our research confirms that technology is playing a central role in young children's vocabulary development. Nearly all children have access to a touch-screen device at home and as technology advances and digital skills become increasingly important, we need to harness these developments to encourage children to become avid readers, whatever format they choose."Some encouraging results from the survey indeed show that children from lower socio-economic backgrounds spend more time reading on devices than their wealthier peers.More encouraging results: print books are actually more popular with three to five-year-olds than reading on devices!Thus, print books are far from dying, i.e. as long as young children are taught to read them, play with them and find them fun to handle and use. While there is no harm reading eBooks on tablets rather than print books, parents should, however, always encourage their little ones to read print books first and be, themselves, an example they can learn from and copy.Visiting a local library costs nothing than a bit of one's time and there is certainly no better place for connecting children with books, especially because access to books THERE, like so many other things (but the ticketed fireworks display in London on New Year's Eve...), is absolutely FREE!
Nowadays, libraries are unfortunately losing their appeal to the new generations. How can a visit to the library compete with playing Minecraft on an iPad?I love libraries! I indeed lived literally next-door to one for 17 years of my life, in my hometown, in Brittany. I clearly remember the day when, aged six, my classmates and I were taken to that brand new local library by our teacher. The scent of new books. The crowded shelves. The smiley librarian. Everything participated to what would quickly become my daily visits to that library.How sad to see that children in my neighbourhood don't bother going to the library anymore. For them, it seems to have somehow become some kind of painful chore rather than a pleasure.A few weeks ago, a five-year-old friend of my children, meeting us in the street, asked me: "Where did you go?" "We went to the library," I answered. "Where?" "The library. To read books and take some home too," I insisted, before asking him: "Don't you go to the library sometimes?" "Oh no! Not there! I prefer my tablet!"What a sad answer!How can we get children to want to go to their local library again? How can we make it interesting for them? Is there a problem with the unanimated device that does not need charging every now and again? Uncool object? Boring thing that requires turning pages and reading words on it?Well, literacy certainly begins at home with parents showing some interest in books, reading bedtime stories and going to the library or buying books. Acting as role models will only positively influence their little ones to follow the example given at home. Parents who read are more likely to make little readers.Another step is for libraries to step up their efforts to attract the children at their youngest age, using such playgroup and events as play-and-learn or bookstart, where babies and toddlers can already engage with books through rhymetimes and storytimes. Once hooked, they will later simply see visits to the library as another routine in their weekly life besides going to school on weekdays and playing football on weekends. In many libraries already, with their FREE library card, children (and adults!) can borrow books, language courses, CDs, DVDs and even Wii or Playstation games.As a children's author, I also have a responsibility and I am fully supportive of local libraries. In the past two years, my publishing company has donated hundreds of my books to libraries in and around London. I try my very best to accommodate some of my time to organise storytelling events for children of all ages in libraries too. It is important for children to meet with authors, so that they see that there is someone behind the books they read. The book is not just some words on a piece of paper. There is someone like them. Someone they can speak to. Someone they can ask questions to. Someone who might inspire them to write and (who knows?) become the next great writers of the 21st century. Author visits in libraries are essential to us too, as they provide us with direct feedback from children who might have never heard of our books before, contrary to Author visits in schools where everything is organised and planned by the teachers for the class.Last, but not least, politics must protect libraries. I find it totally unacceptable and outrageous that, in the 21st century, more and more libraries are being closed, more and more hard-working passionate librarians are being relocated or losing their job, because of the lack of funding or budgets cuts in the culture department of city councils. Culture, education and health. The constant and familiar victims of weak governmental leadership, both at local and national levels, whether a country is in recession or not.We, parents, libraries, librarians, authors and politics, must protect the new generations from a lost world where libraries would become rare, archaic and has-been. They represent a public service that should never disappear for the sake of our Society.Alike there is no Culture without Education, there can be no Education without Culture. Every library that closes is one more bridge between Culture and Education that collapses.
I am absolutely delighted that my novella has been accepted and published on the CUT a long story website. It’s taken a lot of time and research to write this multi- generational family drama and to finally see it in print is wonderful. I am very grateful for all the feedback and support received from the CUT team. If you do decide to buy the story, I really hope that you enjoy it and a review would be greatly appreciated.
One of my longer short stories is being made into a screenplay. This year hopefully it will be completed and may even be made into a movie. Such fun.
Gill James How writing short stories helps me to write novels – and visa versa
I’m currently editing a novel. I’m actually on the last edit. Just to keep my hand in at actually writing, I kick-start my day with writing a bit of flash fiction. Then between major edits, I’ll write a short story. Sometimes that is to do with an idea I’ve had kicking around for a while. I’m particularly interested in stories of the near future and I have a few posted on this site. Sometimes it will be another version of a sub-plot in my novel. For example, in my fictionalised biography of Clara Lehrs, I’ve made a standalone story of her son’s reaction to seeing a life-sized crucifix in a church. I’ve also written a piece of flash about Clara giving up coffee parties with her friends. Sometimes a short story will tell the same story as a novel. The Gift Child in Lines in the Sand, at a mere 1,000 words, tells the same story as my Peace Child trilogy, getting on for 300,000 words. That’s definitely cutting a long story short!
Many years ago I read an article about the Battle of Marathon and the varying accounts of the messenger's run to Athens that later inspired the organisers of the Modern Olympic Games to establish a special commemorative race. As you might expect of an event that it is claimed took place two-and-a-half thousand years ago, there is a great deal of uncertainty about the details. Even the name of the runner (reputed to have died at the moment he delivered his message) has never truly been established, and some commentators even doubt that the journey ever happened at all. The fact that some days before the battle a courier had also been sent to Sparta to request help seems to have added to the confusion. All this happened against the backdrop of a long-standing enmity between the Greeks and the Persians, and at a time when Athens was struggling to establish its dominance among the Hellenic city-states, long before the empire associated with Alexander the Great. The battle was a turning point in Athens' fortunes. These elements, plus the amazing hardiness of the Greek runners, and the fact that no one could have predicted the popularity of duplicating a run that was originally a military necessity rather than a leisure pursuit, were ingredients enough, I felt, for a short story. And that is how I came to write 'No One Ever'.
For me, innocent things that have twisted into something 'not right'. In Stephen King's horror classic, 'It', the clown is a children's favourite character at a party. At McDonald's, Ronald McDonald was a fun personality that invited children to play and eat at his famous restaurants. As a child I never saw him as creepy or dangerous, he was a clown! As an adult, perhaps because of the lasting damage life has on us as we grow up, I find him deceitful, a stranger that offers you sweets to climb into his van. 'It' took the idea of something seemingly innocent and fun, and twisted it into dangerous and psychopathic. I love the idea of the balloons drifting up from a grate in the pavement, and the huge sharp teeth in a painted smile. American Horror Story: Freak Show used the same idea. Twisty the clown was my favourite character, a demented mask hiding a terrifying mouth, and how he tried to make the children laugh by 'putting on a show' that would horrify all ages. Fairy tales were something that we were told as young children at bedtime, and they always ended happily. 'Legend' was a film I loved as a child, my favourite character in that was the Devil (Tim Curry has the best parts!), and the scene in which he dances with the woman he tried relentlessly to capture was my favourite. I loved the monster in the swamp too, reminded me of the high witch in The Witches originally woven by Roald Dahl. Guillermo Del Toro's 'Pan's Labyrinth' was everything I loved, a dark fairytale full of monsters, and not all of them were the type that lurk under your bed. The monster in the food scene is probably my favourite, but the whole film is just a wonder, a film that gives you the shivers but also a story you embrace in awe. Talking about monsters that are too human, the girl's stepfather in 'Pan's Labyrinth' is just as scary as the fictional monsters. His lack of emotion and the violence he thrashes on other people is too real, it makes you fear for the real people out there unleashing this terror on innocent people. Stephen King's 'Pet Semetery' is probably the only film that still keeps me up at night and I haven't even seen it in about ten years, the character Zelda who has barely four minutes of screen time is absolutely terrifying. I actually had a nightmare last year where I had to look after her. She sat in a wheelchair moaning all day, shut in a room downstairs alone in front of the television, and at night she would be hooked, in the wheelchair, above my bed just to moan and glare down at me with that hollow face and gnarled spine. Absolutely petrifying. I studied film at college the last couple of years and my final project was to make a short film, (obviously I was doing horror) and I researched extensively. The original short film titled 'Mama' (which Del Toro took to make the film which I actually found very disappointing), is nail-biting. There are no cuts, so no point in the film can you take a breath, and it follows two girls in their home being terrorised by a ghost. It'll make you grip the side of your chair and want to turn it off, but you can't because you need to know how it ends! Although this isn't something that fits into this post, I thought it was worth a mention. The short film that really made the hair on the back of my neck stand up is a film about a guy walking home and being followed by a dancing man, a very creepy dancing man. It's based on a creepypasta post somebody sent in, and I would recommend you finding that post and reading it, because that is pretty horrifying in itself. It's called 2AM: The Smiling Man, and pretty much sums up what I mean about something so normal and tame being twisted into something dangerous and unknown. I swear when you watch it, you'll start feeling paranoid every time you walk home alone after dark. What makes your hair crawl? What keeps you awake at night?
I'm delighted to have a children's story published on Culalong! Naz and the Djinn is a new twist on Aladdin and the magic lamp. In Naz's case, the Djinn he lets out of a bottle is a grumpy tyrant and all the magical things he offers are no use to a boy in the 21st century. Naz agrees to find a way of smashing the bottle to set the Djinn free from the spell that binds him there, if only to stop the Djin causing him 'more bother than I've been in my whole life up to now'. When he finally succeeds, after a series of mishaps and mad adventures, Naz thinks his troubles are over - but are they?
Unexpected events disrupt the grand life of a ceratin family of fluffy bunnies that live below a crooked, old shop. Can the head of the family outwit a befriended animal in the woods? And how on earth are they going to take back control of their food supply? A wonderful and adventurous tale of the inhabitants that live below the creaky old floorboards of the odd little sweet shop in the heart of Devon.
It's taken me ages to get something up on the CUT website ( that's a long story and definitley not one worth telling ) but I'm glad I have. I'm particularly looking forward to devising the front cover images for other stories ( I'm not creative in that sense so I'm not sure why - probably a displacement activity!) Over time The Summerhouse' has suffered several identity crises but in its current form, a seriously, long story or a wannabe novella, I think it's 'found itself' (ironic - always wary of sounding pretentious) 99ps aside, it would be great if people read it, even better if they enjoyed it....
Delighted to have a new story accepted by CUT. 'Water Off a Duck's Back' is a new foray into humour and just the antidote to the chaos that was Christmas! I'd love you to tell me how I'm doing and if you want more. Drop in to tweet me @Sarahsarie and say hello.
Just when are we allowed to say that? When we’re published? When we earn enough from writing to live on? What does the latter mean anyway? Do we mean we earn enough from writing alone to cover all of our bills or do we mean we earn enough from all of our writing activities? I actually think it’s far simpler than that. If you write, you are a writer. If you are serious about it and keep at it you’ll carry on improving as well. However, it’s a big “if”. It’s easy to give up. Don’t. The fact that you’re looking here is a good indication that you’re thinking on the right lines.
I'm over the moon that my new story has been accepted today and is available to download for 99p. The story of how the camel came to have a hump is told by a mother antelope to her young son in fable style.Please have a peek at it, and if you do decide to buy the story, a review would be greatly apreciated. Enjoy!
The Liars' League Kith and Kin Christmas event on 8 December, was a hoot, as predicted. If you love a short story with a bit of an edge, and enjoy hearing them read, I recommend that you head over to www.liarsleague.com for some brilliant entertainment. A short story of mine - A Time of Gifts - was read by the actor, Clive Greenwood. To have a listen, check out: www.youtube.com/watch?v=gb31bhHShIk&feature=youtu.be and follow links to other stories from Kith and Kin, and also other events. In the meantime, there are other stories on my blog: elizabethstott.wordpress.com, and one on CUT - The Emancipation of Margot Feather.
At my school, new boys were called 'Novi'. It was the kind of school that felt that the easiest way to welcome you was with a Latin collective noun. A nerve-wracking experience, from the ill-fitting uniforms, which never quite looked like those of the older boys, to the requirement to learn the significance of differently striped ties and the baffling geography of the campus. Now, I find myself as a 'Novus' to Cutalongstory, and delighted to be so. Obviously, there is still a sense of fear that comes from hatching ones work into the world, but it is mitigated by the knowledge that one is sharing an experience undertaken by other writers of the calibre of those on this website. The Non-Adventures of Mr Sproutface and Mr Wibbleton is my first work of fiction. It came into being because my daughter complained of being bored by the stories of princesses, magical creatures and heroism, which I was charged with inventing at bedtime. By way of revenge for this critical hammering, I told her that the alternative was a story about two little men who worked in a cheese shop and who worried about the colours of their socks and which jumper they would wear to go to a museum. With the kind of inevitability that only children can deliver, it was the stories about these characters that were requested the following night. And the one after that. Soon, the characters became more clearly defined: Mr Sproutface is fastidious, cautious and fond of a list, whereas Mr Wibbleton is more impulsive, more creative, but also clumsy and foolish. They have 'Non-Adventures', because any peril in which they find themselves is of the mildest kind - lost hamsters are found, criminal masterminds disguised as bakers are really just bakers - but I hope that readers share my love of these funny little men, and particularly the support and friendship that they provide to one another. I have grown to love them very much. I hope that you enjoy the book!Nick
I've been writer-in-residence at Edinburgh's 'Sick Kids' hospital since July 2012. Although very part time, it's been a great privelige to be part of a surprisingly joyful community and to develop a relationship with patients, families and staff over that time. I am observer, listener, co-collaborator with them, both prompting them to write and writing for and about the hospital. I've also worked closely with the illustrator Cate James and together we've produced a series of books about characters in the hospital - the Whatsits - including Sam the SATS monitor, Cathy the Cannula etc. Each Christmas I've written a short story for adults and 'Do They Know it's Christmas?' was the one for 2014. Born out of my interest in the work of the hospital cleaners, so vital, and carried out with so much care for the patients, it chimed with last year's news coverage of the Ebola crisis in west Africa. You can read more about the residency here: http://allwritekreativkids.blogspot.co.uk/
I’m attending a critique group tomorrow. It’s one where we send each other work in advance. I somehow missed the invite to submit. But I asked to see the other work anyway. Now I have about 8,000 words to read and comment on. I have two classes that form part of the day job who also send creative writing work in advance of the class. A bit of a strange one here, I hear my students thinking. She does at the weekend the same as she does for her day job. Not a bad day job then? The point is, I learn so much from looking at other people’s work. I like spending time with writers. I find it difficult to switch off the inner critic. And it all helps me become a better writer.
BHD's ten new flash fictions Final Accounts on themes of Last Words, Last Actions and Last Loves is up and available on CUT, and his alter ego from BHDandME (Bhdandme.wordpress.com) - otherwise known as Mike Smith has a new essay on the English short story writer A.E.Coppard currently on the Thresholds site...
Elizabeth Stott Kith and Kin - Liar's League Christmas Event - 8 December 2015
Liars’ League is a themed monthly fiction night, where professional actors read short stories by writers from around the world. I am delighted to say that a story of mine, A Time of Gifts, will be included in the Christmas show - Kith and Kin - on 8 December, at the Albany Pub, 240 Great Portland Street, London W1W 5QU. Follow the link for more information. The premise of the name – Liar’s League – is that all fiction is a lie – as is acting. The notion of combining a story with a reading by a professional actor intrigues me as a writer – I’ll come face to face with my reader. After all – the reader makes his or her own story oout of the words I offer. The reader is always right! So what is the truth? Or are we all liars?
Head Over Wheels is a positive space for wheelchair users to share their stories and discuss relevant news stories. For the first time ever, the organisation is launching a national creative writing competition and invites YOU to submit a poem that paints physical disability (particularly using a wheelchair) in a more positive light. If you'd like your poetry to be considered, have a look at the submission guidelines on our website: http://www.thestudentwordsmith.com/?p=4820
So, you’ve agonisingly proofread every line at least a hundred times and finally, there it is: your meticulously-honed manuscript. The hard work is done, right? Wrong. Read more at: http://www.in2collision.co.uk/?p=1062
The Literary Leicester Festival (2015) celebrated its eighth year last week, promising to bring the best of literature to the city in a series of free events. Read more at: http://www.thestudentwordsmith.com/?p=4782
I spent most of my childhood in Nepal, some of it in a village where we had no electricity or running water but did have glorious views of the mountains. We also had the only kerosene primus lantern, so people came to visit every evening to chat, sing and look at our National Geographic magazines. I have returned to Nepal throughout my life for both work and visits and it remains my beloved country. My story "Untouchable" is set in a remote and challenging region and reflects the realities of life for many Nepalis, especially the low caste. First published in The Edinburgh Review in 2007, it is my first story on the CUT site and my first for sale on the internet. All of my profits will go directly to aid work in Nepal, including on-going earthquake relief.
That’s what they used to say and I used to believe it. I also added that “Those who can’t teach, inspect.” This was a little dig at Ofsted inspectors. Fortunately one had the grace to say that she didn’t know how I managed it when she gave me an “excellent” for a class. I was teaching some bright but difficult children.However, now that I’ve moved on and I no longer teach modern languages in a secondary school but Creative Writing in Higher Education. I think there is an obligation on those that “can” to teach, to pass on their gathered wisdom to the next generation. There is this concept anyway in Higher Education that one researches and passes on that research to students through one’s teaching. There are bench marks but no curriculum as such. Each institution runs its own set of modules based on the expertise of its staff. This can all happen outside the academy as well in various forms: critique groups, beta-reading, mentoring, other courses, school visits Naturally writers shouldn’t be doing this for free. There can be a payment in kind – tit for tat in critique groups and in beta- reading circles. Mainly, though this work shroud be paid for with real money. That works quite neatly in Higher Education. I see my salary as a type of retainer. Most of my work is self-directed with a few bits of demanding admin and sometimes tricky problems to solve at which point I remind myself how much they’re paying me. We’re concerned about the impact of our research. However, as one of my colleagues pointed out, students in classes show impact. I’m not doing too badly. My two specialist option modules have as many students on them as some of the cores. Does this mean I “can” write and my students recognise this? So maybe those who “can” “must” teach.
Limitation means leanness. A lean dialogue is brevity's main achievment. When a writer gives a character their dialogue they must feel that every time it reads and sounds authentic, and when the writer reads it back to check, it comes across like the character is re-enacting it.
A date from hell; a camping trip with freshly-caught meat on the menu; a Spanish lesson concerning the futility of life; an alcohol-fuelled dream or was it reality?; a secret assignation at a graveyard; the nosy neighbour who found more than he expected; the hair of the dog that wasn't a cure; the effects of the moon on a near-empty beach; exploring an alien landscape - a new collection of nine stories with a theme of horror running through them.
I’m going to write a bit more about this on my blog. However, here’s the short version: • Don’t worry about rejection – most people have many before they’re accepted, Think of them as re-writes. One day you’ll be glad your early material was rejected • If you write, you’re a writer. You’ve either done your 10,000 hours, you’re working towards them or you’ve completed them and you’re carrying on improving. • 1* review? They can still push sales.• Hold on to the dream.
One of the issues that all the ink spilled over my last blog post has drawn attention to is that of the relationship between readers and writers. The two we are told, are inextricably linked. That may be true, but it does not mean that they are activities akin to looking down the opposite ends of a telescope. I could confidently say that not all, and possibly not most, readers will be writers too, But I would be far less confident in the assertion that even a few writers were not also readers! Yet, when a reader reads I doubt very much that they do so with a raised awareness of how the writer has written. When a writer reads, and does so ‘as a writer’ however, he does so with a much more heightened awareness of the writing. I have read, and heard several comments by writers who find that reading has changed, as a result of them being writers. It’s very like the situation of the film buff, after he has read McKee’s screenwriter’s scripture, Story. Which leads me to wonder if being a writer is far more likely to improve your performance as a reader, than being a reader is likely to improve your performance as a writer. I wonder too, if there are other such parallels: drivers and mechanics? Chefs and food lovers? Music lovers and instrumentalists? In fact there must be many situations where the awareness of the ‘user’ as regards the maker, is less deeply affected, than that of the maker in regard to the user! (blogged on Sunday 21st September at http://www.Bhdandme.wordpress.com )
Very pleased that Mrs Moretti's Memoirs is now oublished on the CUT website! It won a prize in the Nottingham Writers Club national short story competition last year. It's a comedy but with dark undertones. I hope the grisly cover sets the tone!
Had a really interesting day taking photographs in a local graveyard for the front cover of my story Sexton Way. Old Victorian graves - angels, obilalixs and lots of memorials to people who were buried elsewhere in the Empire. One family had two sons buried in Canada and one in New Zealand. Also a small grave, among much granduer of a person from Lahore who was buried in Glasgow in 1924. There must be a story there.
I recently attended a Society of Authors North event and had to stay overnight. “We have a parcel for you,” the receptionist said as I checked out. They did indeed. I was intrigued by the large padded envelop. I just had to open it before I got into my taxi. It contained two note-books, some rather nice pens and a useful pencil-case. The smaller of the two note-books fits neatly inside the pencil case. The other one is just the size and shape I like for my writer’s journal. Why did I get this gift? I’m not entirely sure, though I suspect it may be because I wrote a rather good review of a room I’d booked through Late Rooms. Their Magic Maker’s department had supplied the gift. What an apt gift for a writer! The small notebook is great for jotting down ideas for short stories. There are all those what ifs? And whys? Why are those two women sneaking into that house with so many plastic carriers? Why is that young man so cold towards his girlfriend? What if something bizarre happens to me because I forgot to check out my travel-pass at the Metrolink stop?Ah, we writers. As we collect stories, we steal moments. And thanks to that little note book I now remember my ideas. Thank you Late Rooms
‘Sealed With a Kiss’ is a collection of ten crime-based short stories covering topics including a social media reunion that doesn’t end as expected; a chance meeting in a bar with tragic consequences; wife-swapping with a difference; a teapot that delivers a cocktail of death; the heightened senses of a young sergeant sniff out the criminal; somebody at the library has something other than reading on their mind; a volcanic eruption scuppers best-laid plans; a gamble to replace misappropriated funds that doesn’t pay off; an old lady who mistakes people and doesn’t appear to know what she’s doing; and a flash of light for an over-bearing partner.
If I don’t get a chunk of writing completed first thing in the morning it gets more and more difficult. I try to work for two hours and produce 1500 words. I try to do this every day except Christmas Day and maybe my birthday. Naturally it’s not always possible: the day job, family commitments and day to day life get in the way. Some days I have to write later and it’s never as good: what’s happened just before tends to chunter away in my mind. On the other hand, I hardly noticed the two hour delay at an airport recently because I just got on with my writing. I can actually write more or less anywhere. I also find if I go beyond the two hours I slow right down and the work becomes less good. Again, sometimes one has to – if for example a deadline is looming. I’m intending to retire from the day job soon and will up my commitment to four hours a day and 3000 words. I’ve practised this a little when I’ve had a few days leave. It’s okay, but I’m still slowing down the second two hours. I hope this will change as I become more used to it. I said I can write anywhere. More or less yes. I particularly like writing on trains and in cafes, though at home I have my own writing room. If the door’s shut, my other half knows he mustn’t come in.
I'm very pleased that yet again CUT has published one of my near future stories. I really enjoy writing these. In this one I speculate about whether smart phones might enable time travel - and what might be the consequnces if they do.
Any short story is a survivor of a much larger and hidden narrative known only to the writer, who has to decide how much to tell and how best to tell it from all possible ones. The objectivity of the writer's defining narrative is such that he or she tells of an ordered experience for the reader to participate in. Nothing exists until it gets told. As for time and space, the furthest reach of a back-story is always the nodal point, regardless of its position in the text.
I'm very pleased to have had this new story accepted. It's another of my "near future mild dystopias". I enjoy creating thei type of material and I see stories all around. As with all storeis the question is "what if" - in this case "what if we carry on this way". I realy like the CUT site and stories I've downloaded myself have been great.
A second collection of stories has been uploaded this week, entitled Inglorious Sunset and Other Stories. The collection consists of a dozen tales with a romantic theme, although the romance is often far from straightforward. The subject matter covers wedding anniversary surprises, prom night, an anticipated proposal, double-crossing and backstabbing, love overcoming time and mortality, mistaken identity, someone who is not as sweet as appears at first glance and a harsh payback for an innocent misdemeanour of youth.
Gill James What I like about writing short stories
There has to be a certain economy. Characters must be established quickly. The plot must move forward without difficulty. There are rarely any subplots and only a few characters. Every word counts.Actually, though, the latter is also true of novels. In fact it is true of any form of prose. It is equally important for any from of writing. It's just that in writing short stories one is practising all of this in shorter bursts. I'm taking great delight at the moment in writing my "near future" shorts. They're actually a way of examining our current society. For me too they're a way of writing for adults and getting away from the young adult adult for a while.I enter each one for a competition. Just in case one day I win. I haven't yet but one day I might yet. I've managed to get most of them published, several of them on this site. I hope one day I can put together a collection. It also comes, as I described in an earlier post as "punctuation" from editing my novel.
My first collection of short stories, "What If and Other Stories" is now available on the site. There are ten stories, each with a loose sci-fi background, dealing with concepts such as time travel, alternate realities, prescience, alien landscapes and the man in the moon. I hope you enjoy reading them as much as I enjoyed writing them.
As a writer, the one question I am always asked is: where do you get your ideas from? It’s my view that ideas are everywhere – but it takes practice to be aware of them and to recognise the ones that are meaningful to you. I believe a great deal of the process of writing is about looking and listening; training your eyes and ears for that single phrase, the elusive snapshot that becomes the spark to ignite a whole narrative. Ideas don’t come by sitting around waiting for them to happen; we have to discover how to open up space in our hearts and minds to recognise them and welcome them in.
I'm currently going through stages of editing of a novel. This in effect means I’m doing a lot more writing that editing. So, each day I’ll kick start my writing by composing a piece of flash fiction. Then, as I complete a full edit I’ll write a short story.
I find this a really good way of keeping my writing muscles active.
Often the short story will explore a minor theme in the novel.
In so many ways this routine keeps the creative juices flowing.
I've been reading Elizabeth Bowen's Collected Short Stories recently, in a battered Penguin paperback edition. The link above will take you to the first of a series of short articles I've been writing about my experience of reading the stories. The tack I always take with these articles is, how does this writer's work help me to go about mine!
It's a busy time of year for those of us who work in HE. I'm just coming to the end of a big stint of marking. That means I've read at least 49 short stories. I'm marking first years' attempts at 1000 word short fiction. Some students on another module are submitting short fiction. Some of it has been touchingly good. I amaze my colleagues by saying that I actually enjoy marking.
The penny dropped for one colleague recently. " I guess you get to read stories all day." Yep. That's it. Sure some of them a re a little raw. Some of them aren't there technically yet. But the ideas ... and the bits about them that are good. Wow. They sure stop with me and get me thinking.
I'm in between edits on my latest novel at the moment, so that means I'm writing a short story at the moment. Really enjoying it and getting to love the characters.
And so it goes.
I wonder how writers on this site approach the planning process? Do you plot your storyline in meticulous detail, or do you let your characters direct the events, perhaps in ways you hadn't anticipated? I'd suggest that most of us are somewhere in between: I always need to know what the final outcome of my story will be, but don't always know the journey I will take to get there. And for me, this is the most exciting part!
In my day job, as a Senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Salford, I get to read a lot of short stories written by students.
I’m employed in that role as not only do I have academic qualifications but also I’m a published writer. In other words, a practising creative practitioner. So sitting in my office, tapping away at my novel or my own short story is legitimate use of my employer’s time.
What day job, eh?
It all gives me a lot connection with the short story. I’ve become very aware that short stories have a different effect on us form the novel. When we’ve finished the latter, we have the whole story. A short story contains a nugget of truth that we have to unwrap carefully. It stays with us for quite a while after we’ve finished reading.
In flash fiction the total story may be even bigger but presented even smaller. The back story and forward story extend beyond both ends. We may even almost learn the text off by heart and deconstruct it later. These shorts actually become bigger toys to play with than the complete novel.
Tuesday 19th May, Bank St. Arts. 7.30. £4 on the door. Come and see/hear me and Denise perform our show 'Before I Met You'. 30 mins of pure poetry pleasure. Bethany Pope headlines. see you there.
Gill James Glad of the opportunity to write short stories
I’m primarily a novelist and write mainly for young people though I’m slipping over into adult.
I’ve been writing long enough to know that writing is mainly rewriting and I do about 18 edits on my work. The current work in progress is going to be at least 19. It’s a tricky one.
So, on a day that’s going to be all editing – and that’s really most of them if you do the maths, I’ll kick off with a bit of flash fiction.
I’ll also write a short story between each edit. One or two of them have ended up here.
Of course, they too have their editing process.
So, one novel = 18 or more short stories and goodness knows how many pieces of flash fiction.
It all helps to build the craft.
Visiting this site is like going into an old-fashioned sweetshop. There are jars of enticing sweets, all looking fabulopus yet tasting completely different from one another and collectively making the shelves groan.
Of course, not all of the stories here are sweet or brightly coloured. Some of them, including the ones I've posted, are darker. Some of them aren't on the shelves at all. You have to look through the stock cupboard.
What is so similar is the difficulty the shopper might have in deciding. Do you go with the tried and tested? The genre you like or the writer you know? Or do you try soemthing new?
I've developed a strategy; if I don't see a writer I know on the front page, I'll go by the most intriguing title. If several titles intrigue, I'll go by the most pleasing picture amongst them. If some still come out equal, I'll select the newest form those.
Then comes the reading and possibly reviewing.
All interesting work for a writer.
Hello Suzanne and Roger
Many thanks for your input.
We are reviewing the genres structure currently, and will take your comments into account. Some changes and additions have been made already. More to follow soon.
Thanks again for your feedback.
I agree with Suzanne Conboy-Hill. I submitted a ghost story which isn't a horror story but on this site ghost stories are a sub division of horror. Many of these could stand as genres in themselves. Not all ghost stories are horror stories. Perhaps it depends if readers find ghosts horrifying. Sometimes the ghost appears to point out an injustice as in Hamlet. Food for thought?
I'm wondering, at the risk of starting the ball rolling down an interminable list of possibilities, if spec fic, noir, and farce could be added. Predictably, some of my work falls into those categories and humour/ horror don't quite hit the mark.
Is it just me? Just me just now? I love short stories this spring, but the drive of a novel, even by a writer I admire, putters out after about fifty or sixty pages. I hope that changes. I have a pile of birthday novels waiting. But for now, short stories are The Ones.
Gill James Punctuation via short stories annd flash fiction
I write short stories between edits of my novels. I write piece of flash every day I'm mainly editing. That way, even when in a period of heavy editing I'll always write something new. Like many writers I probably spend more time editing than writing. I also find I learn a lot by writing these shorter pieces. They're teaching me to write much more tightly.
J.N. PAQUET It’s Not All White And Gold, Or Black And Blue, Out There…
Sad world the one where there is not a week without hearing that more public libraries are about to close or have just closed. Yet, of course, this type of news doesn’t appear on TV and doesn’t make the headlines of the papers.
The media are far too busy with the buzz around the colour of a certain dress or discussing whether Kanye West could have been a greater artist than Picasso (sic). It just happens. Nobody cares. It has somewhat become the norm.
The hearts of these much-loved libraries are still beating though. Slowly. Very slowly. A slow pace that only does mean one thing: it is the end. It is the end, yet we still want to believe. We still want to believe that the councils will change their mind, at the last minute, and that everything will be back to what it was. It is not just a building that closes, not just books that won’t be read, not just children and adults who won’t be able to access Culture free of charge, but also people who lose a job that they love, from librarians to customer service staff, from educators to cleaners and other volunteers.
Somerset has for instance already approved plans to slash its mobile library service by more than half. Staffordshire county Council is also considering cutting its six mobile libraries and closing 24 of its 43 static libraries. Councils in Southampton and Buckinghamshire are also carrying out consultations on library cuts, with Southampton considering closing five libraries and its mobile service (meaning a loss of 18 jobs) and Buckinghamshire County Council intending to cut library hours at 11 libraries, equivalent to a full day per week. Yesterday night, Birmingham City Council confirmed the cut of the library hours of the city’s landmark library, the Library of Birmingham that opened in 2013, by almost half (meaning a loss of 100 of its 188 staff), not without a fight. The only “good news” (sic) came last week from Rotherham, where it was announced that only one of the city’s 16 libraries will go, after a number of changes in the council’s original plans.
Bigger cities and capitals like London aren’t spared with, for example, the Lambeth Borough Council planning massive cuts to its library service, including closing two libraries, ceasing the funding of three libraries, reducing one library to a few bookshelves, reducing hours at three other libraries and reducing the council’s Home Visit Service.
Where does the nightmare stop? When all public libraries will be closed, or when selfless responsible politics will finally recognise the importance of the public service carried out by libraries in our communities and take sensible decisions about them?
Cherry Potts Celebrate LGBT History Month with Cherry Potts at Richmond Library
An evening with writer and publisher Cherry Potts at Richmond Lending Library
Join writer and publisher Cherry Potts for an evening of readings and informal discussion of Lesbian and Gay writing with a whirl through anything from myth to science fiction. Cherry will read from her own work and others published by her award-winning publishing house, Arachne Press. Tickets £2.00 including refreshments.
Richmond Lending Library, Little Green, Richmond, TW9 1QL
You can book online for the Richmond Library event at http://www2.richmond.gov.uk/Richmondbookings/BookingStep2.aspx?id=56139
You Must Remember This
An expression I used at the end of last week's blog post was 're-imagining the story'.it came up at a recent Facets of Fiction workshop during which we were discussing a first draft of a novel chapter.
It was an exciting chapter in which two of the good guys found their way to the hideout of two of the bad ones! Once there, a confrontation took place in which the good guys had to impose their will upon the bad by force. The sequence of events was plausible, the action convincing, and the chapter broke down into several internal sequences, each a stepping stone in the story's path: getting to the hideout; confronting the bad guys; push turning to shove; the lesser bad guy repenting; the greater taking a stand. In fact, to my way of thinking, it was a three-chapter chapter!
But then, I'm a putter-in, rather than a taker out. And here was a chapter, it seemed, crying out for more to be put in. what was already there worked well, on a sentence to sentence basis. The writing had clarity, and sharp imagery, and good dialogue. It was well written, but what was missing from the story offered a whole lot more grist for the reader's imagination.
Each discernible section could have been filled out. The journey could have been made an epic journey, an adventure in itself, and not only in the physical sense. What about the doubts and certainties that would help, or hinder, the protagonists over each obstacle they encountered, and which would reveal the differences, in commitment, in understanding, in motive, between them? What about the hopes and fears that drove them on?
What about the hopes and fears of the bad guys? Did they expect to be discovered? If they were going to divide under pressure, would the cracks already be showing? And what about the hideout itself? Was it a fortress or a rat trap? How did the actuality compare, for all those involved, with their expectations?
When there are so many questions to be answered, and answered as part of the told story rather than as part of that untold story – which Hemingway has warned us that writers must know, even if they don't reveal it, if the story is not to appear full of holes – it might not be enough to be merely a putter in, however telling the additions.
This is the situation that calls for that 're-imaging of the story': to play it again (temptation resisted), as if remembering past events, and to tell it more fully in the light of that remembering.
As a reader I'm getting a real taste for short stories. You read them and they stay with you for so long. A long time ago, when I was an undergrad, I remember one of my French lecturers saying he only ever read poetry. Novels took too long. Short stories then were longer than they are today. If there was flash fiction it was labelled "poetry". So I'm now tending to agree with him though I do read novels as well.
I also enjoy writing short fiction and am delighted to have a few stories published here. I now feel encouraged to write more.
I'm recommending CUT a long story to all the students on my creative writing courses. It's a fantastic way to discover so many different ways of writing. I'm hoping it will even inspire some of them to join the list of authors in the near future.
The Bit of Everything Dog, It's what I want and Once in a Blue Moon were first published in WOW! 366 Anthology in aid of Childline. Guess what? They had to be 366 words long. The Dolphin Bracelet, for older children, first appeared in Like Mother, Like Daughter, edited by Bel Mooney. Enjoy!
Writing about the lives of ordinary people is a regular subject of interest in the creative writing classes I run. I'm reading a fantastic life story, or memoir, called I Could Read the Sky. It's by Steve Pyke and Tim O'Grady and it is written in the voice of an Irishman in London who is looking back over what has mattered to him. The book is in my thoughts in the day when I'm at work and I've used parts of it to prompt writing. It is deceptively simple and quite profound. It has inspired me to write about myself which is something I seldom do in an obvious way. I intend to use its example to encourage others to write about themselves. I hope you get time to seek it out and enjoy the beautiful words and thoughtful photographs. I might add that like another cutalong writer I am indoors with my hat scarf and gloves on. Dumpling weather.
My God, how hard is it to write in a cold house? Fingertips and knuckles constantly need rubbing and blowing, concentration just doesn't hang around for long. Saying that, the deslolate bare countryside and winter skies are somehow much more inspiring to pin your imagination on.
Here's to the summer, raise a glass like Aunt Mabel of 'Sloe Gin' and dream of those warm breezes...
If you aren't a writer, WIP means 'work in progress'. I'm currently working on a novella that involves crime and love, quite a bit of hate and a dollop of thriller. It is odd but the story has evolved from a short short I did about an abused woman who comes home to find her husband lying dead on the kitchen floor. She thinks the son has done it and cleans up after him.
From that start there has bloomed a story set in one day, in one house, about a woman who finds that not only is she strong, but that she is filled with love..., and hate.
Anyway, I think I'm on the last leg of the first draft and it is flowing well.
Should be ready in a month or so...
Don't worry I'll upload a short story before then. :-)
Here in Wales the cold snap has really taken hold. I work in a large-ish workshop at the bottom of the garden and I currently have three jumpers on and a pair of trousers made out of a blancket. The heater is on and everything is slowly thawing, including me.
Working on my WIP - a novel with crime and horror at its heart.
Now if I can just defrost my fingers enough to type faster...
I've taken to reading short stories everyday with my afternoon cup of tea. Gosh. This is "work". I'm a writer and a lecurer in creative writing, so yes, it's work. Fabulous job, or what? Story is important ot all of us. It comes next after our basice human needs are met. So, as there are some great ones here ....
It has been a fascinating exercise to devise a 'cover' illustration for my hope-to-be-published stories and I now find myself roaming about locally with the camera. Getting an escalator shot for 'Up The Downstairs' was interesting as I thought it unwise to include recognisable faces.
We will be looking at these areas as potential developments during the next few months.
They have not been priorities so far, because one of CUT's unique features was always intended to be that each story would be published as its own e-book, so allowing many stories to see the light of day, which otherwise might not.
At the moment, we are not geared up to handle them, but don't let this prevent you from loading them as individual pieces for now, especially if you could indicate in the titles, the order in which they are intended to be read. You could then replace them at a later date when we are able to handle compilations.
I hope this helps.
I'm really enjoying submitting to Cut a Long Story Short. I do submit o oterh places too, and have decided to send mainly on type of story here. My "mildly dystopian near-future". Would there at any point be plans to put together collections as authors upload multiple stories?
Having great fun with the system, and very much enjoying the experience of coming to terms with e-readers. As a 'trial-run' I even managed to load a story onto my wife's Kindle and was grateful for CUT's easy-to-follow guide
So pleased to be allowed the opportunity to post my stories on the site. CUT is looking great! It's so exciting to see such a range of genres and to see so many great authors already taking part. The story outlines are already tempting me into making some purchases!