January Round Up
In his guise as writer in residence at the University of Nottingham, one of my favourite authors Jon McGregor has launched The Letters Page, an occasional journal comprising hand-written correspondence. It’s on to its second issue now, but I was especially pleased to see another favourite of mine, Magnus Mills, pop up in the first with a note explaining how he didn’t have time to write a letter.
The quality of missives is high, with some that directly address the reader and others that weave strange fictions. So far, a lot of the letters have referred to letter-writing. My favourite in the first issue was one that spent the whole of itself ruminating on the fact that it was replying to an ‘urgent’ query – a query, it surmised, that could not have been so urgent if it were conducted by post. For the answer to the query, it eventually referred the reader to the back of the piece of paper, yet this turned out to have been left blank. Submissions for Issue 3 are open til 15th January.
One of my own favourite postal correspondents, my friend Suzanna, will be driving from the East coast of America to the West, and back again. Along the way she is taking her Pop Up Play project on the road. To sponsor this trip she is selling advertising space on her car, so of course I plan to get Digestive Press written somewhere on it – coast to coast exposure (x 2!) – and am hoping to scratch up some form of short fiction that she might allow me to attach to the car via the magic of QR codes. Technological! Hypothetical! Better-get-on-with-it-ical!
If you too would like to appear on the side of Suzanna’s car, you have until Sunday 12th January to get on it.
The Bristol Short Story Prize (my favourite short story prize last year… can’t think why) is open for submissions for 2014 and I noticed the other day that there is now an interview with Paul, the winner from last year, up on the website.
And may I bring to your attention a great new resource for short story readers and short story writers called Short Stops. Excellent array of links to print and online literary journals to be both absorbed and potentially contributed to.
And during the recent Christmas I took delivery of a new selection of ace-looking short story collections. Rach got me Safe As Houses by Marie-Helene Bertino, a collection that I found, in places, a little too clever-clever, yet there were enough stories sufficiently clever that the cleverness wasn’t noticeable and didn’t get in the way of the actually very clever, brilliantly written fiction.
From Lee and Dave I got False Memory by Mani Obhrai, who twists everyday events to present them as strange happenings (I was also intrigued by the fact that he seems to be impossible to locate on the internet). The brilliantly-titled Adam Robots by science fiction author Adam Roberts was also from Rach, and sits on my growing TBR pile.
It’s not all about short stories. About a year ago I was asked to take part in a meme called The Next Big Thing, in which I answered various questions about the next project I was hoping to complete. I chose to write about The Octave Generation, a project I had been idly batting at for some time, but I didn’t answer the questions very interestingly and neither did I make much progress on it over the ensuing year.
In the last few weeks I have been working on a new novel-shaped project, the details of which I plan to keep under wraps for now but will describe for the moment as a science fiction period drama (that’s actually a terrible summary… but the only one I have). I’m about 12,000 words in and have been sending Rach a chapter a week, treating it a bit like a serialisation.
I’ve always struggled to find a good pace for writing long pieces of work. I tried doing NaNoWriMo and found that the word count demanded over a short space of time meant sacrificing quality control, on the other hand giving myself a deadline of 12 months to slowly meander towards the end of a first draft left me with no direction or impetus. Handing across one 1500-2000 word chapter every week won’t get my novel written particularly quickly, but it seems like an achievable target.