I have a kind of a companion piece to the personal anthology of flash that went up the other day: an essay on how to read things that we don’t think are for us, including flash fiction (which plenty of people struggle to read, I’ve found, and not wish was something else)
Here it is: You know what you like. You read a particular type of book, but you won’t venture into certain territories, because they are boring, or they are Not For You. You don’t “get” poetry. You only get poetry of a certain type. You only read macros on Instagram. You don’t see the point of flash fiction. Short stories are fine (but you haven’t read any all the way through in a few years). Harry Potter inspired your adoration for reading, but nothing has lived up to that thrill.
It’s basically a love song to the joys and rewards of reading indiscriminately but attentively. Check it out here. If it makes even one person take a breath and read something new and challenging, I shall be happy.
Writer and critic Jonathan Gibbs has created a tinyletter in which he invites other writers to make up a personal anthology of short stories – and he has very kindly asked me to give mine. I chose flash fiction, beloved genre, and found a lot of enjoyment in researching just which stories I wanted for this hypothetical project. In the piece, I’ve linked to a lot of excellent fictions, so I’d encourage you to go over and take a look (brew yourself a big cup of tea or a whole cafetiere) and take this lazy day to read through them all. Especially so if you haven’t read much flash before now, or haven’t heard of it before (welcome, if so, please thing about buying my collection, and some of the books mentioned in the link, may this form delight you). Under each link to excellence, I try to break down what I love about it. A snippet:
This story recently placed third in an online flash fiction contest and to my mind is one of those pieces that shows how much can be packed into a small space – like a suitcase that is not just overflowing, but so full it seems to warp the notion of a suitcase at all.
Read my piece in full here, and subscribe to Gibbs’ weekly tinyletter here (highly recommended).
Let me know if you go on to buy a flash anthology or loved (or did not love) the stories I link to!
A story from the newest collection I’m working on – While We Have the Light – is up on The Wild Hunt:
I have arranged my shoes in their boxes from the smallest size to the largest, around my body, which is only one size, the size it has been since I was thirteen. I am an adult now but a coiled one, waiting in this body yet to spring.
Read the full piece here.
I say it’s a story but there might be some debate over that – is it in fact a prose poem? It has a kind of narrative, but also circles around itself. Read it, and let me know what you think either here or on twitter, I’d love to know where you fall on it.
The second #ScotLitFest is coming up this weekend!
There are lots of things planned for this online book festival (for the full catalogue check out their website) – my event is an online flash fiction workshop, taking place on Facebook on Sunday between 1-2pm (BST). To sign up for a place, tweet ScotLitFest (through this link) and ask to be added. Alternatively, contact them through the ScotLitFest Facebook page. There will be writing prompts, a bit of feedback, tips for revision and a recommended reading list to help you with your writing, and I can’t wait!
In other news, there have been a few thoughtful, generous reviews of Flesh of the Peach recently – including The Writes of Woman, The Bottle Imp, Scots Whay Hae and The F Word. For more, check out my Press tab, recently updated.
Naomi at The Writes of Woman interviewed me when I was down in London, and she had some fantastic questions for me. Make yourself a cup of tea and have a listen. The real star may be my hands, which are animated by a force I do not understand.
Squint and you can see my name on the cover
The new issue of Gutter is out now, and features one of my stories from Mayhem & Death – as well as a wonderful review of On the Edges of Vision. My book turns one year old on the 18th of this month. It was launched at Waterstones Argyle Street, right before I headed out on the American book tour. Hard to believe that it’s been a year already! I’m still not over the book winning the Saltire First Book of the Year award either.
A year, a year – and what have I been up to lately. I know I’ve been quiet here. Much of that is to do with the fact I’ve been working away on line edits for Flesh of the Peach, coming out next spring. It’s been a wonderful process, neither too invasive nor not rigorous enough – edits from an excellent editor are so important for tweaking bits into focus and letting the heart of the novel shine through. Now the book is off to the proofreader, and I’m anticipating the next phases: the cover and blurbs. Still floating ahead of me in the dusk. While that happens, I’ve work to do on the witchy novel I’ve spoken about here. Drafting and redrafting. Circling in on what is important there. The bones and the flesh of the thing refined. It’s easy to get discouraged at this – so far from the finish line that it seems to be an impossible distance away. It’s been almost two years since I completed the novella version of the book, and by optimistic calculations perhaps another year before it’s finished. I think come the autumn it will be easier. It’s an autumnal book, a little eerie, a little surreal. Littleg at all in kinship with Flesh of the Peach, which is, as my editor said, a ‘dark star’ of a novel. But part of me now, having read the earlier book, wants to bring something in line with the latter. I might have to dig down for texture, something a bit brutal – but trying to do so without crushing the sweet, folktale feel I want it to have. Hmm. Work to be done. I’d better get started.
If you’d like to buy Gutter no 15, here’s the link. You’ll be supporting writing from Scotland and elsewhere. Lots to read and much to discover, and only £6.99.
A new story from the in-progress collection Mayhem and Death is in Southword Journal:
They had bought the automaton town from a strange man in small offices in the city. They had bought the automaton town, and had it wrapped in soft cloth and transported by barge so as not to risk damage. When the barge came to the closest point to their home, they sent men with a specially constructed pallet to lift the automaton town and walk it across the lawns and into the ballroom, where it filled nearly a quarter of the floor space. There may never be dancing again, thought the daughter of the house.