Saturday 28 November 2009

Aesthetica Contest

Congratulations to the winners of the 2009 Aesthetica Creative Works Competition: Shadric Toop (Artwork), Louise Beech (Fiction) and Sally Spedding (Poetry). They will be published in the Creative Works Annual, available in Borders (and, I hope, elsewhere given the bad news about Borders that broke this week).

I was lucky enough to receive a Commendation for my entry. The editors sent a lovely email: "Your work was highly commended by the judges. This year we have done something new in the Annual, and created a Commendations List. Your name and the title of your piece The Pheasant Feather Hat are listed on this page. There were only 50 commendations per section, so this is a great honour."

Over 2,500 short stories were entered, a tremendous number for any contest. I'm really looking forward to reading the winning story.

Friday 20 November 2009

Count us in moons

This morning I got an acceptance for the last unpublished flash in my folder. Yikes. I'd better write some new ones. I totted up, and this latest will be my 100th flash to be published. Yikes again. Did they all go to good homes? Well, maybe not all. Would I rewrite any if I had the chance (or the time)? Yes, nearly all of them. But there are maybe a dozen of which I am unreservedly proud, ones that connected with the reader. Which is not to say I regret sending any of them out into the world. The process of subbing and being rejected is essential, I think. Writing is a solitary art but we get better by engaging with our readers. I couldn't keep my flashes unread any more than I could keep children in an attic; words need a turn in the real world of reading, a rough and tumble, the chance to have the edges knocked off them. It's how stories grow and get better.

So I'm going to celebrate my 100 as a piece; we've grown up together.

According to the Scoville Scale charting the comparative heat of chillis, at 100 we're a Peperocini, or Cherry Pepper. In Bingo Calls, we're Legs Eleven (11) plus Dirty Gertie (30) and a Brighton Line (59).

In champagne nomenclature, we're half a dozen Balthazars plus a Jeroboam, or simply five Nebuchadnezzars.

As an American banknote, we'd feature the portrait of Benjamin Franklin.

As a Euro, our colour is green. Our Roman numeral is C. Our Dewey Decimal Book Classification is Philosophy. Were we a Poker Hand, we'd be 25 Royal Flushes.

In Canasta, we'd be Going Out. Count us in decibels, and we're Firecrackers. Or, as a Haydn symphony, we're The Military (in key G).

We're equivalent to 10 Greek Aceana in length, and 20 bushels (measured in man loads) in weight.

Count us in moons, and we have 5 times the number of Uranus; 50 times more than Mars. But we're only one tenth the size of the number of sweetbreads aboard the Titanic.

Thursday 5 November 2009

Nothing that meets the eye

The new and excitingly revamped issue of The Short Review is out, which is fantastic news for lovers of great stories, small but beautifully formed. Was it Jaffa who once pointed out, 'The small ones are more juicy'? Well, it's true. Lovely, tasty, tangy selection of colourful tales to choose from, including those by Patricia Highsmith which I was delighted to be able to review. All sorts of exciting developments here, including local publishing ventures and prospects to flash in my city's favourite magazine. A proper update soon, I promise.

Sunday 1 November 2009

Dig the dead

Lovely news to start November! My flash, Dig the Dead, is the inaugural story at Left Hand Waving, a brand new sister site to Right Hand Pointing, who published my story, After a Long Illness, Quietly at Home, last month. The editors, Dale and John, emailed about the new site yesterday. It celebrates 'first person stories of approximate truth'. Dig the Dead is just that, about my experience of losing my father to Motor Neurone Disease and the strange funeral service that followed. It seemed to fit the bill for Left Hand Waving, so I subbed it and received an almost immediate acceptance. The fastest turnaround for publication ever, I think, and a welcome way to start a new month when I shall be trying hard to fit writing into my new working life.

Exciting developments with regard to local publishing connections are afoot, and I hope to be able to update here soon. It's all happening and my feet haven't touched the ground much in the last six weeks, nor have my fingers been at the keyboard. Nevertheless, after a brief spell of feeling utterly overwhelmed and exhausted, I am on a new high energy regime which is paying dividends in terms of my mental stamina as much as anything else.

All those of you desk-bound with a need to energy stimulus, I can recommend Graze, who mail out neat little weekly boxes of delicious healthy snacks, such as Razcherries (dried cherries soaked in raspberry juice) and honeyed nuts. I have an endless supply of promo codes entitling new users to a first box free of charge, if anyone would like to sample one. Just shout if you'd like to get snacking on good brain food.

Drinking lots of water, walking whenever I get the chance, as much fresh air as I can get into my lungs every day - it's all paying off. I'm feeling razzed!