Sunday, 22 March 2009

Counting my blessings

It's Mother's Day and my eight year old woke me at 7am with the declaration, 'It's seven o'clock!' Possibly this is what her teacher refers to as her 'concise approach to factual information' which, we are told, probably means she's going to be good at science.

I am giving thanks for the return of my writing vibe. I managed to get down 2,000 words of an entirely new novel on Friday, being the second book in the planned crime series. I've settled on a format that means I can relax and enjoy the process, which is vital at this stage. Thanks also to my support network of writers (you know who you are) who enthuse, inspire, assist and generally lend power to my writing arm when I need it most. A special mention to the wonderful crew at Fiction Workhouse under the tireless stewardship of Vanessa Gebbie, who is never less than generous with her time and talent.

Finally, a sigh of grateful relief for the change of novel I am reading. I have put aside When will there by Good News? by Kate Atkinson (too chick-litty for me, I'm afraid) and taken up the far more robust and rewarding Strangers on a Train by Patricia Highsmith, whose description of a character's smile 'staggering back' to his face made me grin hugely.

Prick of the Spindle

The new issue of Prick of the Spindle is up and I'm proud to be a part of it with my flash, Flood Plain. This was a difficult piece for me to write because my village was one of those affected by recent flooding. I subbed the piece and then withdrew it. I sat and looked at it, wondering what to do about it. I put it in a dump file, but I kept thinking about it, seeing the original image around which the whole piece was constructed. I knew it was subtle in terms of character and tension, that it would miss the mark with some readers for that reason. In the end I sent it back out, to a venue I've never appeared in before. And they liked it enough to publish it without requesting alterations. I'm glad. It speaks to a specific moment and a mood, and deserves to stand on that alone, at least I hope so. The artwork is from the same issue, by Aydasara Ortega.

Wednesday, 11 March 2009


According to Thalassa Cruso, 'March is a month of considerable frustration.' I'll say it is. The sun's out and it's warm behind glass but try sitting out in it for any length of time without getting whipped by the wind or freezing your feet off. March also seems to be a terrible month for receiving rejections, especially from writing contests entered in the blithe optimism of the autumn. One after another they've been blowing in. I feel battered. My writing has slowed to a crawl. I am surrounded by beautiful notebooks bought in the spirit of the new year's resolution that I would fill them. Each is empty, pristine, reproachful. I am still coming upright from the latest novel rejection, lacking the energy or optimism to begin all over again. What began as a mild reluctance has developed into a stubborn avoidance. I need to spring-clean my mental condition, shake myself down and get started. So I am drawing this line in the sand by way of a reminder: it's Spring! The perfect time for fresh starts.

Sunday, 1 March 2009


The editors at Wigleaf emailed to say that a flash of mine, The Rocket Laundry, was 'a big favourite' from their recent submissions and they want to publish it, probably in August. This is a new venue for me, and one that's regarded highly by writers I admire, so I'm happy to have made the grade. The story was first written as part of a flash challenge at the Fiction Workhouse last year, since when I've redrafted it using the useful feedback from my fellow Workhousers.

The story is one of several I'm working on based in or around the internment camp where my grandparents and mother were held during prisoner during the war. So it's a story close to my heart. I'm glad it will be published in a weighty venue.