Observing The Square At Night

(The following piece was performed (and not by me – hurrah! no mumble mumble mumble) on Saturday 17th May at The Word On The Street – A Literary Cabaret, part of the 2014 Guernsey Literary Festival)

“If we wait at the window until it gets dark, you’re guaranteed to see something. It sounds like a trick, but it’s not. What I mean is, the things you’re looking for – the people you have expressed an interest in seeing – will only come out once the sun’s gone down.

“Look now, look there. Here’s the first. Can you see what he’s doing? Writing his poetry in the cracks between the cobbles. Yes, he scratches it in. You should go down tomorrow once it’s light, and read it. Or you could get someone to go down there and take some pictures of it instead, of course.

“Have you noticed how slight the moon is tonight? Nearly new, as if it’s barely there at all. No, no, that’s a good sign. Do you see down there? There’s a group congregating around that bench. They’re performing a theatre piece. I could take you down there and we could arrange for them to perform for you? No, of course. We can watch from here.

“What’s that? Yes. Well done. Well spotted! Yes, there is something sinister about the way he stands at the entrance to the alley. But you see what’s coming out of his pipe, don’t you? What he’s producing? Smoke animals. No, no, I don’t think he’d be interested in that. I don’t think it’s for show. I think they’re supposed to be there one minute and gone the next. Well, I wouldn’t say that. I wouldn’t say it’s a waste.

“They’re everywhere now. See up there? Yes, there’s one on that roof as well, scribbling observations down his trouser leg? I don’t know, perhaps their minds are so preoccupied with other things that they just wander. You’re right, it would be fascinating to follow them, to log their movements. Though I wonder what would be the purpose of such an exercise? Well, I’m not sure that having them under control would necessarily be a good thing. The fact that they can wander wherever they please is what gives us such a rich- Well yes, everywhere. We don’t generally lock the doors, I thought you understood that. Well, I could close the door but I think it could ruin the- Ok, ok. I’ll go and- I’m sorry, I thought you understood.

“Hang on though. Shhhh. Did you hear that? On the stairs. No, no, don’t worry. It’s fine, he won’t harm us. We can whisper, yes. Just be careful not to startle him. Can you see how he’s crept in, the door is barely open. See how he keeps close to the walls, stumbles into things, bumps his feet and his knees. He’s working his way round to get to that chair. Don’t worry, it’s fine. He’s just deep in thought, it’s nothing to be scared of.

He’s found the chair. See how he swings in to the seat and hooks his legs over the arm. Quiet, still. He’s looking right at us.

“What’s that? What is he writing about? I’m sorry, I thought you understood.”

Day# 10832

Adventures In Writing And Reading, Part 17 Wool, Part 1P1020698

Seeping ever further into distant corners of the internet, it turns out that I am now being featured on the popular knitting and crochet site Ravelry.

No, I didn’t write a weird story about wool and convince the people at Ravelry to feature it (that trick might have worked with photography but I’d be pushing my luck to try it again).

What actually happened was that Rach made me an ace green hoodie, with fully-functioning sleeves, hood, zip on the front, drawstrings… the works.  All in a very tasteful green waffle pattern.  Yes, waffles!  Mmmmm.

Anyway, the people who made the pattern were so impressed with Rach’s interpretation of it that they have featured the pictures of it on their own page (think you need to be a member of Ravelry to see it unfortunately).  I’m really pleased with my new garment and proud of Rach for finishing such a big project.

Guernsey Litfest 2014

You may have been reading back in September of last year when I volunteered at, and blogged about, the second Guernsey Litfest.  Well, the good news is that the Litfest will return in May 2014 and was in fact launched ten days ago… yes, I know it’s still 2013 but it’s good to get these things started early.

I have just posted my first blog of the new litfest – a brief account of an evening performance by Louis de Bernières which was followed by a workshop the next morning.  There should be plenty more going up on both the blog and the festival site as visiting authors for May 2014 are announced.

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http://guernseyliteraryfestival.wordpress.com/

http://www.arts.gg/index.php/guernsey-literary-festival/

Bristol Short Story Prize

A woman walks into a creperie and says, “So, I found this troll…”

More on that later.

But first – Bristol!  Bristol is really nice.  Rach and I went there to find out more.  We discovered that the buses are awesome and it has good places to eat.  It also has lots of interesting art on the sides of buildings, and a zoological gardens (see below for evidence).

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But the reason we had chosen this weekend to go to Bristol was the fact that I had been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize (hurrah!) and this Saturday was the awards ceremony and book launch, held on the fifth floor of the Arnolfini, an art space by the docks.

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Before the awards ceremony there was lots of time to mill around and meet the other shortlisted writers as well as the organisers, judges and everyone else who turned up – a wonderful group of people, all of whom were very friendly and interesting (I would try to name everyone but I would be sure to forget someone I meant to remember, and that wouldn’t be right).

After speeches from the organiser Joe Melia (who did a fantastic job of keeping us all in the loop throughout the whole process – I think ‘gusto’ was the word Paul used), Vanessa Gebbie (who handed out the prizes and whose wise words on the evening were perfect) and the chair of judges Ali Reynolds (who we should all thank for getting us there in the first place) the winners were announced.

Third place went to Anne Corlett (well done), second to Deepa Anappara (Well Done) and first to Paul McMichael (WELL DONE).  Paul did extremely well to put together an impromptu speech, and then seemed to be in a state of shock for the next two hours.

It was time for the group photo:

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And one of me and Rach:

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Afterwards there was more time in which to mingle and attempt to finish up the last of the free wine.  I was also asked to sign two copies of the book, which was quite thrilling!

We moved en masse to a place down the road called Renato’s for pizza and drinks where we stayed until everyone was good and giddy and / or tipsy – it was quite difficult to tell whether it was the alcohol or the good vibes that seemed to be having their effect on everyone.  Writing is a very solitary activity for much of the time – I certainly go months at a time without meeting anyone who has ever written a short story – so when a group of short story writers / editors / enthusiasts get together there tends to be a lot to talk about – throw in a handful of illustrators / animators / enviromentalists / librarians / investigative journalists and there’s even more to discuss.  It was great to meet and spend time with you all.

We made the short trip back to our hotel and I managed to end a busy day by finding time to read a few pages of the anthology before it was time to turn out the light.

Anyway, back to the story of the troll and the creperie.  Whilst we were walking between the Arnolfini and Renato’s on Saturday night, Rach noticed a troll on the pavement and decided to pick it up.  This is what it had to say for itself:

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So this morning we had a trip to a very small creperie (the world’s smallest, according to the sign) to return the little fella to his rightful place, and we also got a free coffee and decided to have crepes for breakfast.  Thankfully I managed to dissuade Rach from taking a picture of me with half the contents of my nutella crepe smeared across my face, otherwise I would be duty bound to include the photograph here.

Then it was time to make our way home to the wee island, me clutching my copies of Volume 6 of the Bristol Short Story Prize Anthology, which I intend to show to everyone I know, and which I am looking forward to reading.

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http://www.bristolprize.co.uk/

Erraticism @ Oblong Magazine

I have a new short story titled Erraticism which features in Oblong III – the new issue of Oblong Magazine.

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Oblong is a print magazine based in London – copies of Oblong III or any of the other Oblongs can be bought direct from their website for £3.  It is also available to buy in Newcastle and New York, which is excitingly international.  There is a list of stockists on their website, along with some examples of the kind of stories they publish.

Having enjoyed everything I’ve read on their website I feel as though I am in distinguished company and I’m looking forward to reading my contributor copy, which arrived in the post whilst I was away – review to follow (once I’ve read it).

Bristol Short Story Prize

I am ridiculously pleased to announce that my story The Standing Still has been shortlisted for the Bristol Short Story Prize.  The BSSP is an international short story competition which culminates in an anthology and an awards ceremony in late October.

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Thank you to Rach and to Lee for giving me valuable feedback on this story – I doubt it would have got far without their input.

Guernsey Literary Festival

The Second Guernsey Literary Festival will run from 13-16th September, with lots to see and do and appearances from people like Linton Kwesi Johnson, Carol Ann Duffy, Michael Morpurgo.

I have been invited to bring my own brand of rambly analysis to the festival blog, which is already up and running and busy with looking forward to the event.  My first post can be read here, and there will be lots of other stuff posted soon by both myself and the rest of the dedicated blog team.

Links to the blog and to the festival site below:

http://guernseyliteraryfestival.wordpress.com/

http://www.arts.gg/index.php/guernsey-literary-festival/