I’m chuffed to announce that the actor Christopher Eccleston will be reading one of my short stories at a special online event in February. Eccleston – Emmy Award-winning actor (and the ninth Doctor) – has selected my story, “Withen”, to read at a live Zoom event organised by Housmans Bookshop in London to promote an anthology of protest fiction and essays published by Comma Press.
Protest: Stories of Resistance explores and commemorates key moments of British defiance and people power as part of Comma’s history-into-fiction project, featuring contributions from writers such as Kit de Waal, David Constantine, Courttia Newland, Kate Clanchy, Jacob Ross, Sara Maitland and Alexei Sayle, alongside essays by historians, sociologists and eyewitnesses.
My story focuses on the so-called Battle of Orgreave during the 1984-85 miners’ strike and was written in consultation with Prof. David Waddington, of Sheffield Hallam University, who attended the Orgreave mass-picket as an academic observer and is a leading authority on the policing of political unrest. As well as appearing in the Protest anthology, for which it was commissioned, “Withen” has also been published in my solo collection of short stories, Letters Home (Comma Press, 2017). It tells the tale of Orgreave through the eyes of a young man whose father is injured during the violence and whose family is bitterly divided by the strike.
After the reading, Eccleston will be joined by me and Prof. Waddington to discuss the events at Orgreave and its inspiration for our collaboration on this story and an accompanying essay. This will be one of two live events on consecutive evenings hosted by Housmans, an independent bookshop, in Kings Cross, London, specialising in books, magazines and periodicals of radical interest and progressive politics. The second event features the actor Maxine Peake reading Maggie Gee’s story about a strike by night cleaners in the 1970s.
My event takes place via Zoom on Tuesday February 9th from 7.00-8.30pm. Tickets, which must be pre-booked, are priced at £1 (concessions), £3 standard, or £12.99 to include a copy of the book.
For more information and to sign up to one or both events, follow this link to the Housmans website.
Smashing news this week with the announcement that my short-story collection, Letters Home, has been selected for a reading promotion across the libraries of north-west England.
The New Words project, supported by Arts Council England, will see new books from five independent publishers displayed by the 22 public library authorities serving Cumbria, Lancashire, Cheshire, Greater Manchester and Merseyside.
The project, organised by the Time to Read North-West Reader Development Partnership and supported by Manchester City Council, is a collaboration which aims to encourage reading and independent publishing throughout the region.
Time to Read has partnered with Comma Press (Manchester), Carcanet (Manchester), Dead Ink (Liverpool), Saraband (Salford) and Knives, Forks and Spoons (Newton Le Willows). The five publishers supplied a longlist of books featuring fiction, non-fiction and poetry, from which librarians selected ten books which have been bought for every participating library authority.
I’m delighted to hear that Letters Home, published by Comma Press in 2017, is one of the selected titles…and a second Comma book chosen for the scheme – the anthology Protest: Stories of Resistance – includes my story “Withen”, about the Battle of Orgreave. I’m looking forward to taking part in one or more of the 22 events, readings and workshops being held across the north-west between March and September to promote the scheme.
To find out more about New Words and to see a full list of the selected books, please follow this link to the project’s website.
I’m pleased to announce that one of my short stories is to be performed on stage at a special charity event in London later this month. “The Interaction”, which was commissioned by the A Thousand Word Photos project, is to be read by an actor as part of two nights of storytelling and photography at the Arcola Theatre, Dalston, on February 19th and 20th.
A Thousand Word Photos is a creative project in which photographers and writers collaborate to create original fiction. The stories – each of which must be exactly 1000 words long – are shared with Interact Stroke Support, a charity that engages actors to read to patients who are recovering from strokes. Profits from the two-night event will be donated to the charity. On each evening, six stories will be read by actors against the backdrops of the images which inspired them.
Those whose work will be featured are: (Photographers) Chloe Dewe Matthews, Kate Stanworth, Phil Fisk, Tim Smyth, Dan Sully, Sara Naomi Lewkowicz, Morteza Nikoubazl, Lyle Hart, Phil Sharp, and Marika Kochiashvili; (Writers) Toby Litt, James Young, Nicci Cloke, Martyn Bedford, Max Sydney Smith, Phil Whitaker, Amanda Huggins, Helen Bridgett & Julian Edge, Will White, Kate Hardie, and Jasmine Ward. My story, inspired by this photograph (above) by Chloe Dewe Matthews, can be read here.
To book tickets for the readings click on this Eventbrite link.
My latest short story is released this month, nicely wrapped up inside the covers of Mystery, a new anthology of prose and poetry issued by Devon-based independent press Indigo Dreams Publishing.
The book, published under the Wordspace imprint of Leeds Trinity University‘s creative writing programme, includes work by new and established writers from the staff and student cohort as well as the wider regional writing community. It has been edited by two current students on the MA in Creative Writing – Rosi Gemmell and Jasmin Williams – working alongside my colleague at LTU, the poet Oz Hardwick. As the title suggests, the stories and poems offer a range of interpretations of the “mystery” theme – my contribution, The Misreading of Madame Marika, centres on a care-home resident grappling with the mysteries of her ailing memory.
To buy the anthology direct from the publisher please click on this link to the Indigo Dreams website.
I’m pleased to announce that I have been appointed by the Royal Literary Fund to run a reading group in Ilkley as part of the nationwide Reading Round scheme. I’ll be taking over from another Ilkley-based author, Mary Colson, at the end of her two-year stint.
Reading Round is different to a typical reading group in that the focus is on short stories and poems, not full-length novels, and there’s no advance reading required as photocopies of the texts are circulated at the start of each session. The other distinguishing feature is that the leader reads the story and poem aloud, while members have the copies in front of them, then the group share and discuss their responses to each piece.
My group will meet from 10.30-12.00 every Monday morning for 30 sessions in total, from September to June, with breaks over Christmas and Easter. There’s no charge to join (the RLF funding covers room-hire as well as my fee) and, of course, no requirement on members to attend every session if they’re not always able to come along. The sessions will be held at the Dales Room, Christchurch, The Grove, Ilkley, starting from September 23rd.
Although it’s free to join, numbers are limited. To book a place please email me via the contact page on this website.
As someone who loves reading and writing short stories, I’m pleased and honoured to have been invited to join the judging panel for the 2020 Dinesh Allirajah Prize for short fiction.
The prize, in its third year, is named in memory of the renowned writer and creative-writing tutor who died in 2014 and is run by two organisations Dinesh Allirajah was closely involved with over many years: the Manchester-based independent publisher, Comma Press, and the University of Central Lancashire. Open to published and unpublished writers, the theme for the 2020 prize is Artificial Intelligence.
Creative writing students from the university will whittle the entries down to a shortlist of ten stories, to be judged by me and the other panellists: Northern Soul‘s Literary Editor Emma Yates-Badley; UCLan lecturer Robert Duggan; and Julie Fergusson from The North Literary Agency.
Stories of between 2000-6000 words should be submitted to firstname.lastname@example.org before 25th October 2019 to be in with a chance of winning £500 and publication in Northern Soul. All of the shortlisted stories will be published in an e-book anthology by Comma and showcased at a special event as part of the 2020 Northern Short Story Festival in Leeds next summer, when the winner will be announced.
For full details of the prize and the terms and conditions of entry, click on this link to Comma’s website.
One of the UK’s newer literary agencies has launched a scheme to help aspiring writers develop their work and I’m delighted to have joined their team of mentors.
The Ruppin Agency, founded by former bookseller Jonathan Ruppin in 2017, has set up The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio, offering mentoring and editing packages to writers of fiction, non-fiction and young adult. Full packages will involve one-to-one mentoring sessions, a developmental edit and a session of literary agent advice. Mentoring-only packages, including agent feedback, are offered for fixed periods as well as one-off sessions and bespoke options.
Each writer will be matched with one of nearly 30 mentors across the UK, experienced in the relevant genre and providing both face-to-face feedback and video consultations. I’m one of 11 based in the north of England and am offering meetings in Leeds and Bradford. Other mentors include Women’s Prize-shortlisted novelist Emma Henderson, Royal Society of Literature fellow Irenosen Okojie, and author and critic Jonathan Taylor, director of the MA in Creative Writing at the University of Leicester . . . as well as two of my former students, now both successful writers: Susan Barker and Rachel Connor.
The Ruppin Agency Writers’ Studio is run in association with The Book Edit, led by Emily Pedder, Course Director at City, University of London, who has 15 years’ experience as a developmental editor and creative writing tutor.
For full details of the scheme click on this link to the agency’s website.
My interactive story, “The Virtual Disappearance of Miriam”, is to be discussed in Postdigital Storytelling: Poetics, Praxis, Research, an academic book written by Dr Spencer Jordan, Assistant Professor of Creative Writing at the University of Nottingham, and due to be published by Routledge later this year.
The story – a collaboration between me and designer Andy Campbell – was originally commissioned and published online in 2000 by the Ilkley Literature Festival, in conjunction with Route Publishing, and is regarded as a key hypertext in the early development of digital, interactive narrative fiction in the UK.
It’s smashing to think that the story is still being read and studied nearly 20 years after it was written!
Miriam is now hosted by Dreaming Methods and can be viewed via this link: https://dreamingmethods.com/miriam/
It was prize night at Leeds Writers’ Circle last week, when I was honoured to hand out the awards in my capacity as judge of the group’s annual short-story competition. LWC is a long-established and thriving writing group with more than 60 members and it was a difficult task to whittle down the many very good entries and select the best ones – and even more daunting to be asked to provide verbal feedback on their work in front of everyone at the awards event!
As it happens, the evening – held at LWC’s regular venue, The Carriageworks, in Millennium Square – couldn’t have been more enjoyable or convivial. Here I am (centre), pictured with the winners and runners-up. Photograph courtesy of Bob Hamilton.
My latest short story is newly published online as part of an innovative project that pairs writers and photographers to produce pieces of fiction and accompanying images for use in hospitals working with stroke patients.
A Thousand Word Photos has been conceived and set up by Ben Lambert (creator and editor) alongside Alexia Singh (photographic editor), with the idea of commissioning 1000-word short stories inspired by photographs – in my case, an intriguing and atmospheric shot of a basement storeroom, taken by the internationally renowned, award-winning photographic artist, Chloe Dewe Matthews. Using this as my starting point, I wrote The Interaction, a Pinteresque piece in which an unnamed protagonist is subjected to interrogation.
Here’s the opening to give you a flavour:
The procedure is the same as always. I am escorted to the Interaction Room and made to sit at the desk, facing the glass screen that divides both desk and room. My escorts retreat but do not leave. After the customary wait, my Interactor lets himself into the other half of the room, briefcase in hand. He sits opposite me, shaved head gleaming beneath the spotlights that enclose us in white haze. His suit shimmers like a seal’s pelt. The screen holograms my reflection over his face, as if we are one entity. This thought hasn’t struck me before but I daren’t let it distract me: it might be months until my next Interaction – assuming this one ends in failure, as the others have done. I shut that thought down, too.
In addition to being published online, the stories selected for the project are read aloud to stroke patients at hospitals by professionally trained actors working with the charity InterAct Stroke Support to aid recovery through creative stimulation.