I’m delighted and honoured that one of the pieces from my new (in-progress) book has been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. The piece (I hesitate to fully say ‘story’ – once you read it, you’ll see why), ‘Tenebrae‘, was published in The Wild Hunt. Huge thanks to editor/founder Ariell Cacciola for putting it forward.
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 flash horror anthology Tiny Nightmares, edited by Lincoln Michel and Nadxieli Nieto has been favourably reviewed in the New York Times – and my story was singled out with a number of others –
Some of my favorites were the eerie “Parakeets,” by Kevin Brockmeier, in which a cage of birds begin to speak in voices not their own, and the creepy “We’ve Been in Enough Places to Know,” by Corey Farrenkopf, which mixes social inequity with cryptozoology when a group of squatters encounters a “creature living in the basement … gurgling at all hours.” Helen McClory’s spooky “Gabriel Metsu, Man Writing a Letter, c. 1664-66” is a tale of a museum docent who sees ghosts in paintings, the eponymous Gabriel Metsu in particular. Like Oscar Wilde’s “The Picture of Dorian Gray,” the story captures the terror of replication — the frightening possibility that a copy might prove as powerful as the original. Or even more so.
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.
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.
The brand new Italian translation of On the Edges of Vision is due out in May this year from Il Sagiattore, translated by Stefania Perosin.
As you can see, it has a different title, one I’m very happy with. It comes from the title of a shorter piece, in English called ‘Frame from a Horror Film Now Lost’. I love the playful weirdness of the cover. So many birds, so many words, in a tiny space, flittering and chirruping.
I’ve just come back from the Mathrubhumi International Festival of Letters, which took place in Kerala. Photos and insights into the festival to come, but suffice to say for now it was an incredible experience, and I met and listened to so many new voices. Right now the jet lag is digging its claws in – it’ll soon wear off, I’m sure.
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.
” ‘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.
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.
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.
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…