A Summer of Festivals


Early summer is the time for festivals in South London, and this year I am reading/ speaking at several

Hither Green Festival Saturday May 18th 7pm at one of my favourite venues,

Manor House Library, on  Old Road SE13 5SY

I will be reading from my novel in progress, The Bog Mermaid

alongside Joan Taylor-Rowan,  Rebecca Skipwith, Katy Darby, Kate Foley and Math Jones

FREE Readings of stories and poems based in the past – from the 17th to the 20th Century – life stories and imagined lives, followed by a fairly short discussion about writing from history – what inspired the piece, what research was needed, how was the story shaped by the facts and which got in the way – that sort of thing.

 

 

With my writing cronies WOOA we are at  BrockleyMAX Festival again this year, with stories at the Talbot pub, corner of Lewisham Way and Tyrwhitt Road, taking as our theme Hidden Corners.

We haven’t finalised who is reading, but probably Bartle Sawbridge, Neil Lawrence, Catriona Jarvis, Carolyn Robertson. And you can join in a very silly game after the break.

 

 

 

10am on Saturday 15th June (Flash Fiction Day) I am at Greenwich Book Festival for the first time, when I join my fellow editors Rosamund Davies and Kam Rehal for a pre-publication panel discussion on Story Cities at Room KW003 King William Court Greenwich University Old Naval College Park Row Greenwich SE10 9LS.

FREE, but we are assuming you will need at ticket, but they aren’t on the festival website yet.

As well as editing the book I have a tiny story in it, Foundation Myth, alongside 41 other writers. In the shops 13th June, you can buy it here now

STOP PRESS ! I just had a flash fiction accepted for Flash Flood Journal. Rising Dawn will feature on the journal at around 8.45 on 15th June (national flash-fiction day) not long before we talk about forthcoming Story Cities book of flash at Greenwich Book Fest at 10am!

This is a third outing for Rising Dawn, previously on Spelk and Story Friday

Learn from me at Summer School


After the success of last year’s An Approach to Creative Writing summer school, at City, University of London where instead of ten weeks of 2 hours in an evening, we did one week of 2 x 2 hour sessions, during the day, we have tweaked it slightly.

This is aimed at people who like to concentrate their learning, but it turns out I am completely out of the habit of talking all day and need a major lie down.

The format is now Wednesday-Friday, and then the following Monday and Tuesday, so that I get a rest and students get a chance to put their learning into practice and do some writing over the weekend. If evenings are not for you, this is a possible alternative.

2018-05-06 12.53.15

So from Wednesday 24th July for 5 days you can immerse yourself in everything to do with writing fiction at An Approach to Creative Writing Summer School.  Booking open now.

We have already booked half the places, so get your skates on.

We will work mainly on short stories (including flash), exploring inspirations, characters, plots, themes, narrative voice, point of view, dialogue and so on, but with some exploration of how to approach longer work, including planning and structure and looking after yourself. Depending on the interests of the group we will cover writing for performance, specific genres and possibly life writing – You will get the course tailored to the people who attend, as far as humanly possible!

There is room for 20 people, and if the weather is good, the university, which is on Northampton Square, between Clerkenwell and Islington, has little gardens dotted about that we can sit out in for lunch.

We kick of at 10.30, take a lunch hour at 12:30 and finish at 15.30 to avoid the rush hour as far as possible, so that you arrive relaxed and go home energised to write something for your homework (entirely optional).

If you have been thinking about doing a creative writing course, and you like your learning in focussed bursts, this might be right up your alley.

 

 

Shortlisted! WHQ FLASH QUARTERLY 2019: ROUND 1


Knock me down with a feather, I got shortlisted with a bit of flash. Thanks to Writers’ HQ and congrats to the other shortlistees and the winners.

Demonstrating Change

This was an unintentionally topical story, written a while back. For those of us of a certain age, demonstrating, even on the streets of London was not always the comfortable, sunny,  polite, almost-police-free day out it has been recently. The last 3 marches I’ve been on it has hardly felt worthwhile to start a chant, everyone is having such a lovely time. It was not always like this and I have been on marches like the one in the story when it got quite scary and there were snipers on the roofs.

And I have heard Flamenco rhythms cut right through everything else, so that people knew who is being applauded and why.

So, none of it is true, and all of it is true.

Interview on Wombwell Rainbow


Read my interview on Wombwell Rainbow, where I talk about early writing, inspirations , writing routine (pause for hollow laughter) and that sort of thing.

Paul is interviewing writers of poetry and flash, and is always happy to talk to new people. get in touch with him via the website.

Fish supper at Liars’ League


On 12th February, my story Fish-fish will be read by the lovely Math Jones at Liars’ League London at their Love & Lust evening.

Set in the 1920’s in a fish restaurant and the beach of a small coastal town, it was inspired by this picture

Mr. and Mrs. Chester Dale Dining Out. Guy Pene du Bois. 1924. Thanks to @78Derngate for tweeting it. I’d never have found it otherwise.

Mr and Mrs Chester Dale are not who they seem, and waiter, Joel, is on to them.

Plotting the course of a novel – on a defunct railway


I recently put together a mind map for my writing students about world building. this is a phrase usually used in conjunction with fantasy and science fiction, but part way through, I realised it applied just as much to stories set in unfamiliar real worlds – whether they be unknown because of distance, or time.

I’m currently working on a novel (or it might be a long novella, we’ll see), set in the same house in two different historical years, 1926 and 1976.

Now, I’m old enough to remember 1976, I was 15 that blisteringly hot summer, but weirdly I am more confident about what was going on and how things were in 1926! But that’s a digression.

I have been in a quandary about where the house is, it started as an exercise at the magnificent WOOA writing group, and fell fully formed into my head, notionally part of a village, on the very edge with no immediate neighbour. Slightly isolated, it is low and white with a heavy-set roof, and set back and down hill from a lane with a stone wall. There is a bog at the back doorstep, a bit of a stream/river beyond that,  a wood the far side of the walled lane, and a mountain in view. It feels as though it should be near the sea but it isn’t. I feel like I have been there, but I know it is a construct.

I want a real landscape to fit it into, so as I was putting together my mind map, and listing out resources, I typed in maps (oh, I love a map, real or imaginary) and then off from maps – site visits/ field study.

The story(ies) that set this novel off are all true, and I have the permission of those who told me to make use and exaggerate to my heart’s content, but they both originate in Ireland, and I’m not planning to set the story there, although, possibly that might make my life simpler.

A lot of googly stuff later, I had a list of places which have the right kind of bog, and a narrower list of places where the story is geographically possible. I have no intention of naming the local town in the book and I won’t here, either. A railway was crucial to the plot, a Methodist chapel (which type to be determined) and, it turned out, a quarry, which narrowed it down more. And then I remembered year ago trespassing on a disused railway, that ran beside a river through the most exquisite woodland, and there had been a chapel the far end of the walk.

Maps came out, the railway was identified, and A. talked into a  holiday close enough to check out whether memory matched reality. I’m too old and prim these days for trespassing, so we weren’t going to walk the railway.

Oh look! Quarries – lots of them!

So one wet afternoon we drove from one station to the next by the closest possible route, A. driving, me taking pictures, videos and frantically trying to take in what was going on, and navigate when the satnav threw a wobbly. We approached places we had been many times but on roads we had never noticed, and trundled through now obscure villages that had once had thriving industries. In some places you’d not know the railway had ever been there, in others gates, that are clearly level crossings, give away the game. Only one station survives complete.

But it wasn’t anything like enough. Expensively printed to order period maps have arrived, while I chase the perfect combination of quarry/river/railway/chapel/mountain/bog… ordinarily this would be procrastination, but not this time, I keep writing, and each new map, or railway timetable (NO trains on Sunday, right, ok…) finesses the detail, and plots the course of the next wet Wednesday in a week away, following the ghost of the railway.

Meanwhile I rack my brains for details of the mid 70s, the first stirrings of punk and it being so hot I didn’t leave the house after 10 in the morning for fear of melting, because those clichés of chopper bikes and tank tops? That’s not how I remember it!