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 email@example.com 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.
I’m pleased to announce that one of my short stories has been given a new lease of life by being published for the second time. “The Wrong Coat” appears in Reflections, the newly launched anthology published by Cleckheaton Literature Festival and featuring prose and poetry from writers who have taken part in the festival. My story was originally published in Journeys: a Space for Words (Indigo Dreams Publishing, 2016).
I’m looking forward to a trip to the north-east next weekend to take part in the prestigious Durham Book Festival – my first gig there in nearly twenty years.
I’ll be reading from and discussing my short-story collection, Letters Home, and sharing a stage with Jacqueline Crooks (The Ice Migration) and Colette Snowden (The Secret to Not Drowning) in a panel event chaired by Kevin Duffy, founding editor of Bluemoose Books. The event is organised by the Northern Fiction Alliance, a radical collective of independent publishers based in the north of England, showcasing work from Bluemoose (Hebden Bridge), Peepal Tree Press (Leeds) and my own publishers, Comma Press (Manchester).
Durham Book Festival, which attracts tens of thousands of visitors, is now in its 29th year. The 2018 festival runs from October 6th to October 14th and includes some stellar figures from the world of literature: Pat Barker, Sarah Waters, Carol Ann Duffy, Simon Armitage, Sarah Perry, Kate Mosse, Alan Johnson and Andrew McMillan, to name just a few.
Our session will be in the Burlison Gallery at Durham Town Hall, from 4.00-5.00pm on Saturday October 13th. Tickets, priced £5/£4, can by booked by phone or online – please follow this link to the event’s page on the festival website for more details.