Helpless, Helpless, Helpless in Anti-Heroin Chic

An uncomfortable silence, after our fight. Prairie yellow comes the moon while it’s so quiet we can hear the clouds rushing between us and the stars as you drive the rental down the highway to somewhere or another, I’m too worked up to remember now. Prairie yellow moon, and I pick a CD for keeping us together. Your hand on the leather of the wheel, mine on the buttons, clicking through. I want this one, I say, holding Neil Young by my fingertips. Fine by me, you say.

A new, very sad story in Anti-Heroin Chic, a magazine that defines itself in a beautiful ‘About‘ page:

” ‘Anti-Heroin Chic’ meaning that what is beautiful is what is broken, that our imperfections, our exiles, our exclusions, are what define our humanity most, not the polished surface or the Instagram culture which encourages us to dissociate from who and how we truly are. There is a seat for everyone here at the table.”

The story itself is based on the Neil Young song ‘Helpless’, so I recommend a listen before, while, or after reading.

There’s also a beautiful version by one of my favourite artists, Perfume Genius

This is my last piece of the year to be published, my last of the decade. I started the 2010s off in New York City with D, struggling to get by and with a book I’d written that no one wanted and another on the way. Things, as they tend to, have not always gone smoothly, and this, for us, has been a decade marked by loss, frustration, unstable employment situations, and at least ten flats we moved into and out of due to cramped conditions, mould, or rent hikes. All this is to say nothing of the wider world’s veering into political mire and climate catastrophe.

Still, we are here. You are too. I’m now a part-time lecturer in Creative Writing at Glasgow University, with somehow four books published. That one of them was published at the exact, explosive death of its publisher and is now out of print is just one more thing that marks the journey of writing. I’ve travelled to many countries and been lucky enough to do that with help from various literarily-minded funding bodies. I’m grateful to the many magazines and journals who have supported my work, and to all of you for reading, here. I know that all art is made of petals, something faint and frail and not always significant to those who encounter it. It’s a hope for connection, a method of speaking (in petals, yes, in a whisper or a yell). As a reader, I have come across so many books, stories, poems in the last ten years, and they have each of them shaped me, anchored me to this world and its changes. Paintings too, sculpture, film, and music. Whatever we have, or don’t have, we will always have the words and visions of others, and that’s something to keep us, tend to us, through the hardest, leanest of years.

As for the 2020s, who can predict the course of even one single life, among billions? But I have some hopes, as you do, I’m sure. Next year, I am flying out to Kerala, in India, to take part in the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters 2020, thanks to funding provided by Scottish Books International’s Author International Travel Fund. When I return, D and I are moving into our first house together, a semi-detached place on the edge of town, with a garden, and from the street at least a view of the hills. What happens next? It’s enough to say, it’s still happening.

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Three Poems on Empty Mirror

Some poems today, the first two wearing their inspirations like flashy jewels. Here’s a little of the third:

If we go this way, we’ll meet

The ocean oil-painted and black with birds

From the interior

Or this, for holy outcrops, fields

Of luminous breadcrumbs

Or; the city fogged with singing misery

And foot traffic bridges, and kiosks

Selling our own hearts and sugared

Coffee alike. Palm communiqués

Colours might be: gold, brackish, velvet

Read them here, if you like.

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Two Pushcart Nominations!

I’m so delighted that two of my flash pieces have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize!

Thank you so much to Jellyfish Review for publishing and nominating ‘Il Uomo Morto’:

It happens every year, apparently. A friend of ours who has lived here his whole life came up to the house to tell us what had happened. He understood that we would be afraid. He leaned out on the terrace, gesturing with his little cup of coffee at the new plains. The mountains are for the winter season, he said simply, and in spring they have to go. 

Read the full piece here

and thank you to Vestal Review for publishing and nominating ‘Some Day My Prince Will Come and Chew Me in His Giant Maw’:

I was spooning lakewater with my hand when the nostrils broke the surface. I’ll dream of it all my days—horror from unwanted closeness. The bubbling sounds as from below the little-eyed slimy grey head came rushing up, and the wide-slung jaw with juts of teeth the shape and thickness of bananas. The guide kicked the motor, we fell into our seats, and when I could turn to look back, there was only ripple to see of it. Only the soupy lake under the beautiful egrets, noon.

Read the full piece here.

Though competition is very steep for the Pushcart, I am just very grateful to have been nominated. Two of my pieces have been nominated before, way back in 2014: ‘The Mistress of the House on the Machair‘ in Wyvern Lit and ‘To String‘ in Cobalt Review, both stories in my debut collection On the Edges of Vision. The two from this year are both included in the book I’ve just finished- more on that later…

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A Manual for Avoiding Further Harm from [REDACTED]

Here’s a piece that first appeared in a print edition of Paper Darts:

(original art from the site itself)

Dills,-Annie_Manual-for-a-Fallout-(RGB)-(1).png

If at any time during the event you hear a small blast of a horn three times, you should immediately find shelter under a tarpaulin, a door leaning up against a wall, or a farmhouse kitchen table (no other will do), or inside of a terra cotta jar if the jar covers at least sixty (60) percent of your body. Wait in your shelter until the safe signal plays (a small blast of a horn in a higher, upbeat pitch). You may leave the shelter at that time. If the safe signal does not play, do not leave the shelter. Stay in the shelter until a regional warden arrives to help you with your evacuation.

Read the full story here

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TGV roundup and judging the Lunate 500

Some links:

I talked with the lovely and gracious Sam Sanders over at NPR

An excerpt of The Goldblum Variations appeared on The Lit Hub

Reviews of the book on Commonspace, The Quietus and PopMatters

An interview with Indie champ Tobias Carroll on Insider Hook

The book is available here in the UK or here in the US. If you fancy, you can leave a review for it on Goodreads to help other readers make up their mind.

I’m judging the Lunate 500 Flash Fiction competition. Entries are only £2. Send me something strange and filled with awe.

I’m currently reading: Emily Berry’s Dear Boy and listening right now to this collection of Debussy’s music.

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For Hallowe’en: ‘The Difficulty of Writing a Horror Story Set in Maine’ in Hobart

https://www.onlyinyourstate.com/maine/urban-legends-me/

A new story up in Hobart today, fit for Hallowe’en feelings:

You winced, went shuffling out onto the deck in your pyjamas, overcoat, beanie hat, gloves. The plaster over your nose from the scratches. The ones on your arms, you had just washed and left to heal in the air. Leaves from the maple that overhung the long yard lay like damp clawed hands on the boards. The machine was making you coffee inside. Or, you hoped it would be, or else the thrumming was something else. 

Read the full piece here

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The Village in the Stars in Spelk

“Let me down easy into a pit full of stars” she sings, her voice to us a formulation of strain and anguish. Backroom of a meeting hall, us on a semicircular of hardback chairs, fingers weaved over cold knees or other, colder fingers. Spotlight isn’t kind to her face — nor are we, in our hedging thoughts. To pit the stars? We glance at the sheet, turn it over. Vague in dimness. We clap, as required; head down she walks off the light and out the building and into the Dark Sky Park which encompasses our village and a portion of the land surrounding, southerning, where the road becomes rough track skinned with tricksy streams and edges gouged by ditch.

Experimental hybridity here for you, should you have the inclination.

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