Wednesday, 22 May 2013

Moving House

Hello, I've been focusing more on my day-job writing over the past year or so, but that doesn't mean that I have given up on fiction. My little boy is now a whole 1 year old and has been a wonderful source of inspiration, although he doesn't leave a lot of time for blogging.

My fiction blog is moving to so please come over and follow my writing adventures there. I have been submitting more work recently so hopefully I will have some more writing news to report.

Also, I hope to share lots of news from my writing friends who seem to be doing some wonderful things.

Come on over! There's cake.

Saturday, 20 August 2011

Static Poetry IV and Bye Bye, Mrs Josie Cat

Good news and *sniff* sadder news today.

First, the good news. Three of my poems are in the Static Poetry IV anthology, which you can find on Amazon and various other places.

You may remember my story Fourth Breeding appeared in Static Movement, their fiction e-zine, so it's nice to be back with them.

The sadder news (but it's happy really) is that our foster cat Josie has found a forever home after over a year living with us. I took her down to DC last week to meet her new family, who are utterly lovely (they gave me biscuits and tea in a real tea pot, so they must be nice).

We are still left with our enormous fluffy cat Grant (aka Mr. Fluffy Cat) who has been a bit down since Josie left and in need of extra cuddles, poor thing.

Let's remember Josie and some of the strange places she used to sleep:

'Helping' me write.

Christmas hamper.

In the closet.


Please don't recycle you kitties!

Bye bye, Mrs Josie Cat - may you have a very happy life with your new Forever Family.

Thursday, 21 July 2011

No short story cuts on Radio 4

If you love short stories, and if you are reading this you probably do, you will be concerned to hear that BBC Radio 4, traditionally champions of the short story, are reducing their short story programming from 3 to 1 a week.

Disbelief and bewilderment have quickly spread around the web; the form is currently enjoying a popular renaissance, due in part to its support by the BBC. The Guardian point out that demand for short stories among the listening public is only increasing, and that the decision to reduce output is 'baffling'.

An online petition has already collected 2688 signatures (at time of writing). Please sign it if you haven't already!

As the Guardian say in their article, short stories are a 'perfect fit' for radio:
the ideal marriage of medium and message. Cheap and quick to produce, they come with none of the problems and pitfalls of adaptations: with a short story on the radio, one is privy to much more of an author's intention; far fewer corners cut, hardly any descriptions excised.

Friday, 10 June 2011

EDP: Friday in Islington

I'm in Every Day Poets today with Friday in Islington, which I wrote when I was back in the UK last February. Seeing London again with an outsider's eyes was a strange experience: fashion is so much more important there than where I live now and rich and poor share the same space without being nearly so neatly tucked away.

Wednesday, 1 June 2011

Save the Words

I really just have to point you in the direction of a wonderful website I discovered via WriteWords.

Save the Words is a rescue shelter for almost obsolete words. You can adopt your very own word and even have it made into a t-shirt. I have adopted 'primifluous' - that which flows first. Knowing me I'll take another few home; the kitties will have to squish up and make room.

In other news I have had a poem accepted ('Arthur's Seat', see right) for the Every Day Poets Anthology II and three poems accepted for Static Movement's Static Poetry IV. More on those later!

Tuesday, 19 April 2011

Brave New Worlds: Dystopian Stories

I came across a link to this anthology of 33 dystopian stories edited by John Joseph Adams and had to add it to my little virtual shopping basket.

In their words:
"Brave New Worlds
collects 33 of the best tales of totalitarian menace by some of today’s most visionary writers."
It includes stories by Neil Gaiman, Orson Scott Card, Kim Stanley Robinson, Ray Bradbury, Philip K. Dick and Ursula K. Le Guin.

I'm practically pawing at the letterbox waiting for my parcel now, although to be honest, I'd have bought it for the cover alone.

Thursday, 24 March 2011

Things happening at the end of March

1/ The Brand New Cheltenham Poetry Festival
The good folk of Cheltenham have stabled their Gold Cup horses for another year and turned their minds to more literary pursuits. The first ever Cheltenham Poetry Festival runs from 31st March-3rd April - check the website for details.

2/ Bristol Short Story Prize Deadline
Get your entries for the Bristol Short Story Prize in by midnight on 31st march.

"The 2011 Bristol Short Story Prize is now open and this year's writing competition introduces some exciting new developments.

The prize money has doubled for 2011 - the winning writer will receive £1,000 and all 20 writers whose stories are published in the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology Volume 4 will receive at least £100. The winning story will, also, be published in Bristol Review of Books and Venue magazine. And short story fans can look forward to ShortStoryVille- a day-long festival celebrating short stories, to be held next July. The 2011 BSSP awards ceremony will be the final event of the festival.

The 2011 judging panel is Maia Bristol (former UK Sales Manager at Faber & Faber), award-wining short story writer Tania Hershman (highly commended in the 2009 Orange Prize for her collection 'The White Road and other stories') author, illustrator and cartoonist Joe Berger and writer and publisher Helen Hart. Chair of the judging panel, writer, performer and publisher Bertel Martin, says: “I’m really looking forward to judging this year’s competition. BSSP attracts really strong, diverse and exciting submissions from all over the world.”

3/ Fish Publishing International Poetry Contest Deadline
In less South Westerly-based news, the deadline for the Fish Publishing International Poetry Contest is looming - get your entries in by 30th March 2011.

Monday, 14 February 2011

Inkspill Magazine and 3LBE Reviews

I recently received my Real Paper Format copy of Inkspill Magazine issue 3, which is looking every bit as beautiful as the first two issues. You can download the pdf of Inkspill 3 for free or order your copy through their website.

My poem, Kirkstone Pass Inn, (p.39) is inspired by the wonderful and dramatic inn that sits atop Kirkstone Pass in Cumbria, UK. I have just sent them a copy of the magazine - I hope they like the poem!

I have just been reading a couple of reviews of Three Lobed Burning Eye issue 20 and my story, The Birdstories of Jaywalker.

Rise Reviews says,
Issue #20 begins with the short tale, “The Birdstories of Jaywalker” by Jennifer Stakes, wherein a bird-man by the name of Jay attends a story telling festival in order to collect stories to bring to his masters who use them as a form of currency. Stakes sensory language is well deployed and we get a sense of the festival being a kind of sustenance to those to attend. We are left intrigued by the metaphor of language as currency and what kind of higher level beings are responsible for this system. “Birdstories” is a strong lead off to the issue.

I got a particular kick out of being called 'Stakes', like a Real Writer, or else someone in a boarding school who has just stolen a biscuit from the tuck shop.

Locus Online writes,
Jay, who does not seem to be a bird, is a wandering storyteller. He has a mystery. It is not clear why his stories are bird, or capitalized. Some nice prose. Although the author tells us that “He moved with the rhythmic patience of those who never get to where they are going, and are not sad when they don’t arrive,” in fact he is quite urgent about reaching his final destination in time.

The story was inspired by the Welsh Storytelling Festival, Beyond the Border, which I went to a few years ago, and the old myth that Jays take stories and news down to the underworld. It is still one of my favourites.

Friday, 14 January 2011

100 Stories for Queensland

Greg McQueen and his team have responded to the devastating flooding in Queensland, Australia by doing what they do best - launching an appeal for upbeat stories for 100 Stories for Queensland.

From their website:
100 Stories for Queensland is headed by Brisbane resident and co-owner of eMergent Publishing, Jodi Cleghorn, and UK author, Trevor Belshaw. The management team is made up of Maureen Vincent-Northam, David W Robinson and Nick Daws who all worked on the Haiti and Pakistan anthologies with McQueen. They are assisted by a growing band of 20 volunteer readers and editors from across the globe. McQueen is working behind the scenes, organising the audio book and podcasts in conjunction with UK author and podcaster Em Newman.
100% of the profit from the sale of the anthology will be donated to the Queensland Premier’s Flood Relief Appeal.

Check out the website to find out more about the submissions process. Please follow their guidelines and submissions manager rather than emailing them your story.

Queensland is particularly dear to my heart as I spent around five months there back in 2002 doing conservation work with Conservation Volunteers Australia. I lived out in the bush in a tent during the week and spent my days clearing invasive species from the rainforest, planting trees, mulching and making paths for wheelchair users to access the parks. I fell in love with the stunning scenery and was even filmed by the Australian version of The Really Wild Show teaching children how to plant trees.
If you happened to be watching on Christmas Eve, 2002, that was me in the bright blue CVA t-shirt, looking a bit embarrassed.
I have so many happy, wonderful memories of my time in Australia, especially in Queensland. My thoughts are with all the friends I met there.

I am in the middle of writing a tale set in a cinema to submit to 100 Stories for Queensland. I love being made to write upbeat stories as it doesn't come naturally. I still remember the rush of feeling I had as I wrote the ending to my 50 Stories for Pakistan tale, Lines, and it was so vastly better than any dreary conclusion I would have brought if I hadn't been prompted to finish it on a high note.

You have until midnight (Aussie time) Friday 28th January to submit a story of between 500 and 1000 words. Do it! Do it now!

Wednesday, 22 December 2010

Snow Ho Ho Horror

Airport this week. They also have snowploughs, they assure us. (Photo:

Passengers camped out on the floor, sometimes for 4 days or more. These people look remarkably chipper. (Photo: BBC News)

Because of scenes like this, I am still very much in the USA, where it is cold but sunny. The country has that well-practiced look of hunkering down for weeks of sub-zero temperatures and blizzards. We have all drained our outside pipes and have the snow shovels ready. Many people own their own snow blowers and plough attachments for their all-terrain vehicles. No waiting for the council to come around here.

I may not be at London Heathrow Airport, but at least I am not at London Heathrow Airport, if you see what I mean. It could be worse. We have delayed our trip home to the UK, our first in 18 months, by a week to let the snow chaos die down. There were several frustrating days of sitting on hold to airline companies when flight after flight was cancelled. We are now due back on Christmas Day and I am very much hoping Father Christmas will be coming round the plane with treats for all the good boys and girls.

Good luck with all your travel plans, wherever you may be.

So I am catching up on my duties as Assistant Editor at MicroHorror, reading through submissions. I have been on board for a couple of weeks now and it is very interesting being on the other end of the submissions process. This sort of Horror is preferable to sitting in snow drifts on the M6 motorway for 12 hours.

I get excited about the ones with strong openings, imaginative language or plot devices and good characterisation. I really want them to live up to their promise and end satisfyingly. (We don't get a lot of happy endings in Horror, but I do love a satisfying ending).

Generally I try to write something positive about the ones I send rejections for. Often stories are well written but are let down by their ending. I see a lot of cliched endings. Many have good language but are descriptions rather than stories, or the beginning of a story.

Anyway, I am learning a lot about what makes a good piece of flash fiction.

So Happy Christmas! I'll see you all in the New Year, when I hope to be well fed on mince pies, Yorkshire puddings, Cadburys chocolate, Christmas pudding and all the other seasonal goodies we miss. Not to mention the Doctor Who Christmas Special. I am very excited.

Even the Doctor has problems in the snow.