Wednesday, 20 June 2012


I'm packing my shorts for a week in Mallorca, but they're not the shorts that I mean. It's International Short Story Day and I've had a couple of short pieces accepted recently, which is always nice after a run of rejections.

My story 'Neighbours' was on 330 Words last week - a Manchester-based site which wants stories of around that length inspired by a picture. Anyone who was reading my blog a year or so ago won't be surprised at the picture or the content of the story, which I promise is only true up to a certain point!

Even more excitingly, I have two short pieces - a poem and a nano story in the latest issue of Short, Fast and Deadly - Body wRites. SF&D is  a US-based "eLit Mag where brevity reigns and the loquacious are sent to contemplate their sins in the rejection bin."  (These are the same people behind textual mash-up project  rIgor mort.US where they invite people to submit previously published works they retain the rights to, and other people to come along and reinvent them as startling new artwork, poetry and short prose.)

(Incidentally, looking for an image to go with a piece about tiny stories, I came across this lovely miniature book of tiny stories on hitRECord - where I got the image above from. Spookily, this also turns out to be a collaborative project of art and words... and music and film... hosted by Joseph Gordon-Levitt who we loved  in Third Rock From the Sun.  I may have a play with all of this - watch this space!)

Meanwhile... you can read my pieces, and the rest of SF&D below. I'm on pages 8 & 12 (although, oddly, vi and x in numerals)

Open publication - Free publishing - More and deadly

Also, I'm reading poem and short stories as part of Midsummer Night's Read at Wallasey Village Library (i.e not my branch, the diddy one on St Georges Road) this very night at 6pm -come along!

Sunday, 17 June 2012

Burning the books

I was reading Ray Bradbury's obituary yesterday when I came across this fascinating fact:

His classic novel on a dystopian future 'Farenheit 451' was written in a library. Specifically UCLS's Powell Library in 1953. Their own obituary in the UCLA Magazine includes a video on him writing the book.

In the days before public access computers, the library had coin-operated type-writers and he bashed out this sci-fi masterpiece in just nine days at a total cost of less than ten dollars.*

So there he was tippety tappety spelling out the destruction of the world's books whilst surrounded by them:

"Imagine what it was like to be writing a book about book burning and doing it in a library where the passions of all those authors, living and dead, surrounded me."
Ray Bradbury 2002

Worryingly, I just found this quote on the intriguing literary blog Page Pulp:

“To learn to read is to light a fire; every syllable that is spelled out is a spark.”
Victor Hugo 

This raises several questions:
  1. What would Bradbury - a famous techno-phobe who wouldn't use a lift and thought electric toothbrushes were the work of the devil - make of his books being available as eBooks now?
  2. Are there any other books written from the point of view of a fireman?
  3. What are my library users up to and should I be watching them more carefully?
* One of the things I love about writing is that it's a really cheap hobby. So much less costly than wind surfing, collecting Steiff bears, or playing the harp.

Friday, 15 June 2012

Do what you please

I just read something very inspiring that Alabaster dePlume said at the launch of his recent album.

Who? You say. Whom?

I have touched on the odd poet names before - check out this post on the late great Hovis Presley and Elvis McGonagall (also great, but rarely late). But I don't think I mentioned Alabaster with his groovy hat and his gutter mouth and his gentle soul. I may not have mentioned Gordon Zola either (I was entertained the possibility of a double act with him... I was going to be Wendy Dale...but that's beside the point. Any ideas what MY whacky poetry name should be?

Here's some of what Alabaster said when he launched his new album recently:

“No-one will ever ask you for yourself... And if we wait to be invited, we will find ourselves forgotten.
“We don’t do this work because we’re good at it...We don’t do this work because we need the money. We don’t do this work because of culture… We don’t do this work because we are friends of the arts! No…
“There are greater, simpler, more human forces that drive us to perform all this nonsense, and compared to these things, the work itself is a puddle on the floor."  
Keyhole Observations

What I read into this is that artistically we should do what pleases us, what we want to do, push on with what inspires us without too much thought into acclaim, commercial value, fashion and 'fitting in'.

That makes me feel better about the novel I've written - which I have enjoyed writing and still makes me laugh to myself. And the play - which was interesting to research. And the weird little stories which are coming thicker and faster now.

The album - Copernicus (or The Good Book of No) is most intriguing, by the way. I associate him with the sort of beat poetry I've seem him do at slams years ago, so the gentle, rather eastern melodies were a surprising counterpoint. Like the PR says: '...immensely personal and yet deliciously enigmatic, flitting as it does between caustic spoken word and beautiful instrumental lullabies.'  The digital version is 'name your price' and well worth downloading.

Here's a gorgeous stop-motion film for the opening track... I love the way the leaves follow her around!:

Sunday, 10 June 2012

Enola Gay

Pilot, Paul Tibbets, waves from
the cockpit of the Enola Gay
I promised to tell you more about the play I'm working on, but hesitated because of a couple of false starts.

1945. An American B29 bomber approaches Japan bearing a new kind of weapon. In Hiroshima people awake from a night of false alarms.

Remember the 80's song 'Enola Gay' by Orchestral Maneuvers in the Dark (OMD)? You get an extra point for knowing it's about the dropping of the first atomic bomb and ten more points if you knew they came from Wirral... the band, silly, not the bombs!

So when John Gorman from the Scaffold (and the Wirral) met Andy McClusky from Orchestral Manoeuvres in the Dark (OMD) (and the Wirral) in Shanghai - China (not the Wirral) they discussed the idea of an anti-war play incorporating the song being written and premiered in Hoylake (in the Wirral). John approached me to write the perspective of the crew of the B29 that dropped  the atom bomb - the Enola Gay and a Japanese writer, performer and storyteller to tell the story from a Japanese perspective.

Interior of the B29, Enola Gay
The project, as far as we know, is unique, being originally written by authors 6000 miles apart with occasional contact via Skype, although for various logistical reasons it is being completed by a locally-based Japanese director Naomi Green and performer Kana Nagashima.

The research has been fascinating but it's a tricky subject - my views on it shifted during the course of writing it and I've resisted, as far as possible, calls for me to wield my 'poetic license' and gone for a drama documentary approach. It'll be especially difficult to portray the horror of the A-bomb and futility of war when in all likelihood the only props we'll have are three chairs and a torch!

And the most exciting part? It is being premiered in just four weeks time at Wirral Festival of Firsts!!! More anon.

Tuesday, 5 June 2012


I have been too distracted by many things to blog recently. Here's just 5 good reasons...

1. Got very giddy and did some typing in Chorlton - more in this post

2. Got slightly giddy and met, fantasy writer Mike Carey (X-Men, Lucifer) in Liverpool whilst coming second in the WOW Flash Fiction contest

3. Got beaten by convicts in Liverpool - I don't mean physically beaten, I mean in the Pulp Idol competition - two of the heat winners from Walton Prison ended up in the top three because they had 'raw talent' - not what I thought a competition for novelists to get published was about, but there you go. Although, on the plus side, whilst jesting on Twitter with a fellow finalist, I inadvertently started #fightingwriters 'trending'... now if we could just harness the power

4. Got 'down, down' in the mud with Status Quo at (or rather, near) Speke Hall, Liverpool

5. Got an iPad!!  Woo hoo!  More on this, inevitably, in future posts.