I was delighted today to receive my contributor copies of Tiny Nightmares: Very Short Tales of Horror, edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto and published by Catapult.
My story, ‘Gabriel Metsu, Man Writing a Letter, c.1664-66’ – inspired by an eerie, Vermeer-like painting that caught my attention a few years ago in a gallery in Washington DC – lodges next to many other strange tales in sections such as ‘Heads’, ‘Hearts’, ‘Limbs’ and ‘Viscera’, all of them under 1500 words. Illustrations by Daehyun Kim are a wonderfully twisted accompaniment.
You can pre-order a copy of the anthology here from the US – it launches on the 13th of October, and will be an unnerving present to your future self, clambering in through your letterbox in a few weeks time, just as the days are getting darker and colder, at least in this hemisphere. I’m keen to get stuck in for some seasonally-appropriate reading (though first on my shuddery pile is the poetry collection Witch by Rebecca Tamás).
If you’d like to read more of my fiction from the newest collection I’ve been working on, you can find links to published pieces over in the fiction section. The collection plays with the idea of what a novel is, and about blank space, fragmentation and the half-said. I’m very much hoping in the next year that it finds its way to an interested publisher, so watch this space. Void? Internet shadow, stretching behind your cursor…
Make yourself a pot of tea or coffee, and check out the other stories on the list. See how the short form can be stretched, switched, exalted and set alight.
For fellow writers, I’ve started a thread of places that are open for submission right now- September brings back-to-school feelings (even if we are for the most part, held at a distance from classrooms and writing cafes this year). If you have pieces you have been working on and are looking for a home – or simply wanting to find new journals to follow and read, have a look at my thread here. I’ll be adding to it throughout the day.
I will be a visiting speaker at Strathclyde University, talking with Rodge Glass about my 2018 collection Mayhem & Death, and you are all cordially invited – it’s free and I anticipate some thorny & interesting questions will be tackled.
The bluebells are wet outside the window and in the dark we make coffee and stand looking over our plans, and talk to each other without moving our lips, or touching, or seeing one another. You disrobe and pull on old-fashioned trousers, shirt, braces. Wool, linen, nylon, metal. We have to finish something larger than ourselves. I disrobe and attire myself in an old-fashioned pair of trousers, shirt, braces, jumper. Wool, linen, nylon, metal, and wool again. I light seven candles in the library and carefully put them out one by one by blowing on them. You go out to the coop and call softly to the animals sleeping inside.
The story/prose poem piece of mine is from the collection I just finished – the third one. The most experimental, I think, in that it has short stories, poetry, prose poems, mini essays and the like in it – and ‘Tenebrae’ is probably a good indicator of tone, but not of form. I’m hopeful the collection will be taken up somewhere, given that the individual pieces of it have been published well in literary magazines (and best of lists!) but given its wild unruliness I know it needs to find the right editor, the right home. I’ll wait with it. That’s all writers can do; make and wait. And live and read. I’ve just finished reading Proofs and Theories, a collection of essays by Louise Glück – one of my favourite poets – and am sitting in the depths of its alacrity and its referential coils. But at last the sunshine is out here in Scotland, so I might go off and do that other thing. The living part.
Yesterday, I was delighted to receive a copy of the first book of mine to be translated into another language – On the Edges of Vision has been rendered in Italian as Fotogrammi di un Film Horror Perduto, published and translated by Stefania Perosin of Il Saggiatore.
It looks incredible. Here for example is one very short piece, The Island Beyond This, side by side with the original in English:
I am so so chuffed to see my work in another language, and the whole experience was deeply rewarding – Il Saggiatore and Perosin took great care with the text, asking lots of questions and typesetting it to perfection. Feedback from bilingual readers of Italian and English have also been really complimentary, saying the book lingered with them, and that the translation captures the spirit of the original. What more could a writer hope for? Well, I was supposed to be in Rome for the launch, but the plague has made that impossible. I am hopeful for a return to Italy soon – in any case one of my favourite countries in the world, when it’s safe to travel anywhere.
More news is forthcoming about other translations – and my novel Bitterhall, due out early next year. It all seems so far away in this strange, drifting year. I hope wherever you are reading this, that you are well, and reading that spirits you away or shores you up against these strange, heartbreaking days of ours.
My story, ‘Il Uomo Morto‘, first published in Jellyfish Review, has been selected as one of the stories for the Wigleaf Top 50 Very Short Fictions. This list comes out every year, and always has a bounty of fantastic pieces in it to peruse, so I’m so thrilled (and honoured) to have my work included. A massive thank you to all the readers who put this list together. You can read the full list, along with an intro by Matt Bell, here.
Both of these stories come from my newest collection, which is currently out on submission. But in these strange, violent, terrible times, I expect it’ll be a long while before I hear back. Such things seem natural enough to me. We are experiencing huge upheaval. I myself can’t write at all, too busy haunted by what’s happening, by the brutality in the US and protest in the streets there, by the incompetence of the UK government, and the deaths of thousands. My writing, a quiet thing. All writing is, and reading I suppose, something we do in the unlit spaces of our minds. I’m reading instead, when I can tear myself from the scrolling news. Trying to let that little space sit within, while still being a citizen in the world.
‘A Manual..’ is a story that advises people to stay inside, which feels…odd at this particular time. A lot of stories from the newest book I’ve just completed have a kind of apocalyptic element to them. Last year my story ‘The Farm at the World’s End‘ was selected for the BOBF2018, and was similarly on a plague that had spun through the world.
Now, I’ve begun work on a new project – at an early stage yet, but also, at the moment, involving plague airs. Next year however my novel Bitterhall will come out with Polygon, and it has if not a completely optimistic outlook on the world, at least contains the search for unity, a communion with others.
All I can hope now as I sign off, is that you are all well, that your families are well, and that this strange year progresses with the least amount of harm it can.
I was looking for a place to sit down when I saw a woman dressed in black tearing a page out of the book she was reading and putting it into her mouth. The café was dark, with rain trickling down the windows and the gothic city behind it painted broadly, though the woman was lit up in the golden beam from a downturned pendulum light, also black, giving an appearance as if the whole thing was a deliberate set up for such a performance.
A little while ago, I was asked to judge the Lunate 500 Competition, and duly read through the shortlist of entries. There were many brilliant pieces, but I fell in love with the one I chose as winner, ‘The First Man on the Moon’, which turned out to be by Rosie Garland You can now read it on the Lunate site, and I encourage you to do so.
Here’s a snippet of her work:
Upon landing, Johannes Kepler looks back at Earth, a blue-green ball tossed high in lunar sky. He makes the grunt of satisfaction known to his most intimate friends, dips quill and writes: it is only possible to experience such homesick affection when one admires a beloved object from afar.
At the end of last month and the beginning of this, I had the very good fortune of being able to attend the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters in Thiruvananthapuram, Kerala. It was made possible by funding from the festival and from the Author International Travel Fund via Scottish Books International.
I couldn’t possibly sum up my whole experience in a blog post – I met and listened to so many amazing authors, from fellow panelists Hannah Vincent and Amanthi Harris, as well as Elaine Chiew, Chandrahas Choudhury, Gowhar Geelani and loads more. The number of books I picked up pushed my luggage right up to the limit (alongside a lovely silk rug, picked up in the beach town of Kovalam). My mind is still buzzing with new ideas and voices. I lost track of the number of people I took selfies with, including with random festival goers and people in the street while I was out sightseeing.
The festival treats its authors very well – providing all meals, and having off-site evening dinners with live music and dancers to pick-up and transportation through the city. At one point, a group of us were invited round to the palace where the royal family of the Travancores, once rulers of the area, still live – for an audience with the princess. Not what I expected when I found out I was going to India.
Thank you so much to everyone involved in running the festival, from the organisers like Sabin Iqbal and Renjini Menon who set everyone on the correct trajectory, right down to the very helpful runners providing all the much needed water, tea, and snacks on campus. Hospitality was first rate, and made my first ever visit to Kerala one to remember.