Thursday, 25 February 2010

Harlan Ellison: Pay the Writer

The wonderfully talented Jonathon Watkins of PhotoGlow fame sent me this link today.
If you would like to watch a writer ranting about being asked to do stuff for free, click below.

(I'm sure he is only talking about people who are profiting from his work.)

Wednesday, 24 February 2010

Flash Fiction Writing Competitions: Help!

I am compiling a list of flash fiction competitions or competitions that have a specific Flash catagory (or short shorts, micro fiction, postcard fiction, however it is called).

Any links hugely welcome, don't worry about duplication, it's better than gaps!

My email address is jenstakes AT hotmail DOT com

Monday, 22 February 2010

'The Legacy of Metropolis' Article

The good people at the English and Media Centre have just put up the details of MediaMagazine Issue 31, The Fantasy Issue, on their website.

If you click on the full contents list you will see a familiar name by an article called 'The Legacy of Metropolis'. Yup, that's me, spouting my knowledge of all things dystopian.

I'm waiting to get my copy in the post; I am very excited to see how it looks as they've apparently peppered the article with fabulous film stills.

It is absurdly timely, as Metropolis (1927) has just been shown for the first time in its restored glory at the Berlin Film Festival. The original film had been severely edited on its release in an attempt to please the critics (it didn't) and the missing footage had been languishing in an Argentinian film archive for 80 years until its re-discovery in July 2008.

Now we can finally see the extent of Fritz Lang's genius. I can't wait to see the full version. (And my article!)


I've joined the world of Twitter and tweeted my first inane chirp. (See new Twitter feed, right.)

Will this just be a further distraction from Actual Work or a useful networking (ugh, horrible word) tool?

So far I am following Stephen Fry (it's obligatory), Neil Gaiman and the rather wonderful TweetTheMeat, who post 140 character horror stories. Believe me, it can be done!

Nearly forgot, it is my 30th birthday today, too. I am mostly spending the day writing poetry. Perfect.

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Why Being A Young British Writer is Good

I try very hard not to wade into healthcare/environment debates out here in AmericaLand. As a tree-hugging lefty who cares about how chickens/cows are kept this means I practically have to staple my mouth shut sometimes (I would consider my own views quite mainstream at home but here I think they may verge on communist...)

So I never thought I'd spout my opinions on this blog but I saw something posted today that made me think about the difference in being a poet starving in your garret in the UK, as opposed to the USA.

Tania Hershman pointed this out: the average earnings of writers in the UK.
The 'average' writer in my age group earns £14,564, although the median, i.e. typical, earning is £5000. That's not a lot. Generally, you'd have to do something else to keep the wolf from the door. However, I could very easily live on £14,564.

And that's because of something called the National Health Service.
Now, like most people I hadn't given the NHS a lot of thought until I became too ill to work for nearly three years. I had to give up my job. I could barely leave the house and couldn't drive. But, because I had paid National Insurance (this is taken out of your wages and is compulsory) I was given Incapacity Benefit. Not a lot, but it helped. I also had exactly the same access to medical care that I'd had when I was working. After all, if you're not working the idea is to get you better so you can, right? It was all entirely free.

I started writing as therapy - you have to do something all day - and loved it. It really helped me and I slowly, gradually, began to feel better.

I started my own business part time, going into small (generally arts-based) offices and working as a project manager/consultant. This sounds more glamorous than it was, but I was able to work my hours around my illness and never tell my employers about it. There is still a terrible taboo around the words 'Mental Health', and even though I don't think it would have mattered, I still didn't want to say anything.

The rest of the time, health allowing, I wrote.

As a self-employed person working part-time, I didn't have to even think about medical costs. I wasn't forced back into a large company with a health plan. Insurance for cars etc is cheaper because you don't have to worry about massive medical bills. Until I could drive again I could rely on (generally expensive but at least it's there) public transport. Where I live now I'd be stuck without a car.

Student loans in the UK are run from one central body and you don't have to pay them off until you're earning a certain amount (possibly £20,000/$30,000 now?). If you never earn that much you never pay it off. It is supposed to be a tax on the successful, giving back what they have got themselves.

I wasn't earning enough to have to repay my student loan, so I didn't have to consider that in my finances. In any case, the amount is small as the fees for my year (in any university in the country, including Oxford/Cambridge) were £1000. (I don't agree with fees; successful people pay enough taxes anyway and it discourages people from poorer backgrounds. I certainly don't agree with the recent increases. All higher education/training courses/apprentiships should be funded from taxes in my opinion. But.)

By the time I came out here to East Coast America I had started to sell my stories and articles. It was a unique opportunity to do what I love pretty much full-time.

One day, I'll earn enough to be entirely self-supporting. (I still pay National Insurance for self-employed folk out here, by the way). I'll pay back my student loan, pay lots of taxes and be a worthwhile member of the community (by 'community' I mean Bristol, my husband and the cat we'll have by then). I'll be doing something I love and hopefully giving something back. I may even make a difference in other people's lives.

I just don't think I'd have got there if I'd had to worry about medical bills, insurance, student loans (I have a Masters, how much would I owe here?) and running a car by myself.

In my opinion, living in the UK makes things a lot easier for young writers/musicians and artists, people starting up businesses and people on a low income, whether in good health or not.

Off to get on with that novel now. I have nothing to lose but my tea going cold.

Tuesday, 16 February 2010

Out of Print

Nik Perring originally blogged about the wonderful Out Of Print T-Shirt collection...
... But now they've added women's sizes and I do believe my birthday is coming up!

I could wear this whilst writing my dystopian novel. Oh, yes, I've gone back to writing it, more on that later. Also, I have an article coming out about dystopian films and Metropolis. More on that later, too. All very exciting.

So, basically, don't you think it would make a rather wonderful work uniform? I could even add an 'employee of the month' badge if I've been good.

ADDED: I just read this on their website: For each shirt we sell, one book is donated to a community in need through our partner Books For Africa.
What lovely people.

Friday, 12 February 2010

Snowed In

Having two epic snowstorms in one week (the second one was quickly named 'Snowzilla') does mean you get a lot of writing done.
However, cabin fever can set in, with the following results:

Yes, that is a snow penguin.

Sunday, 7 February 2010


Not to exaggerate or anything, but we've just had the Biggest Snow Storm Since the Dinosaurs.
Here are some pictures.

1) A line of snow whales... or cars?
2) Jen Shackleton can't find the Pole under all that snow
3) But she has found the car
4) Stop! Stay inside and drink tea
5) Snow shapes on the decks (the bumps are BBQs)
6) When the sun finally comes out there are some beautiful shapes

Wednesday, 3 February 2010


So, the good news is... we've sold some copies of my e-story The Glassy Roll of the Eye!
That's a few more dollars towards the Haiti relief effort by the Red Cross.

I could really do with some more reviews, especially by anyone who'd like to buy a copy but is put off by the out-of-States price. ($1 within USA, more outside because of e-book red tape). Hopefully some favourable reviews (hey, you could even just say you like the photograph of the desert!) will help drum up some support.

Thanks to everyone who has bought it so far.

On a related note, 100 Stories for Haiti have just announced the contents of their book - lots of familiar names in there! They must have been working their socks off to get it all together so quickly. I'll put up another link when it's available to buy.

Monday, 1 February 2010

Kindle for PC

Lots of people have pointed out that they do not own a Kindle, so can't buy my e-book.

Ah, but you can download the Kindle reader for you PC for free! I just tried it on my own computer so I'll try and walk you through it (I'm not the best at technology, as you know I think piskies run the internet).

1) Go to my shiny new e-book page on Amazon
2) Click on 'Available for your PC' on the right, under 'Buy now with 1-Click'
3) Follow the instructions!
4) Once it's registered on your PC you can buy all the Kindle books you like, and even download the free ones. Yeah!

Any more technology questions? Um, I might be able to help!