It’s been quite a week. I could see that I was getting towards the deadline for raising funds for my short story collection In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes. It felt like I was stalled at the 40% mark and that I would never get enough support for the project to go ahead. I couldn’t really see what to do but I knew that I didn’t want this opportunity to slip away. In the last few weeks I have done events, sent out emails and press releases, written blog posts and had stories from the book published in journals and still there were only a handful of responses. I was very grateful to each and everyone of those new pledgers but I needed more. I decided it was time to change tactics. Over the last few days I have spent 6 hours a day solidly marketing. I have contacted every journal and short story organisation I could find and asked for their help. To my surprise the answer has almost always been yes. One editor replied within minutes with the opening line, ‘Hi Erinna – you’ve come to the right place!’ I was so grateful I could have cried. In the next few weeks I have articles coming out on Women Writers, The Short Story, Thresholds and Short Stops as well as guest posts on the blogs of friends and colleagues. The first of these is out today on Laura Wilkinson’s blog and she has cleverly called it In The Future Will Everyone Be Crowdfunding?
Last Friday morning I’d just got in from the school run when I took a phone call from Latest TV , in response to a press release I’d sent out a couple of weeks ago, could they come around in an hour to film me? I looked around my extremely messy house in horror but obviously I agreed. Creatives aren’t meant to be tidy, right? The film was posted on their Youtube channel on Tuesday and it has been an absolute godsend. It really represents what the book is about, how celebrity culture is everywhere and that this is not necessarily a good thing, and that one of the aims of the crowdfunding project is to draw attention to the lack of support given to the short story by UK agents and publishers. (When I write this in any article the editors always tell me I have to say ‘most UK agents and publishers’ but you know what, fuck it, this is my blog, and I want to go on the record as saying that this is true of 99.9999% of all UK agents and publishers!) I have set the film up to post on a loop on Twitter and Facebook with the buy-line ‘I’m trying to prove the popularity of the short story,’ and it’s getting quite a lot of attention as well as bringing me new pledgers. I am going to use the film as the basis for the campaign over the next couple of weeks. As of today I am at 58% and it really feels like I’m going to make it. I still need people to pledge so if you love short stories and think that they should get more attention from publishers please pledge to this collection.
Beach Hut Writers, Brighton, Brighton Fringe, crowdfunding, Exeter Street Hall, John Lennon, publishing, short stories, short story collections, Sourdough, spoken word, The Beach Hut Writing Academy, Unbound, writers
I’m nearly 9 weeks in to my crowdfunding project for my book of short stories on fame, In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes. I’m going to be doing a few spoken word events in the next few days and. as a director of one (Rattle Tales), I thought I might give a few pointers about how to read to an audience. If you are a writer, at some point, you will have to do this in order to get your work seen. Even when you are a seasoned Booker Prize-winning author you still have to read your work to audiences. It may seem like the antithesis of everything else you do (ie, sitting at a desk writing down weird scenes from your imagination) but it’s just the way it is.
Practice. I use reading aloud as part of the editing process anyway. After I have finished a section of work, I will read it out to myself. I will often stand up to do this or even walk about. This exercise is invaluable for locating the dead pieces of writing, the weasel words, unnecessary punctuation, missed punctation and for providing a flow to your words. I urge you to add this to your writing method. If you are reading a piece at an event always read it out to yourself several times first. Make alterations to the piece that arise from this exercise then read it again. If you can bear it, read it to a couple of people you trust. If you do this enough times you will almost know the piece off by heart.
Eye Contact. If you know the piece off by heart you will be able to make more eye contact with the audience. Look up from you paper occassionally, pause for dramatic effect, address your words to them. I don’t mean stare creepily at one person, in fact if you look at a point just at the top of their heads the audience will get the impression you are looking at them without feeling uncomfortable about it. Smiling helps too and don’t forget to introduce yourself or at least say hello.
The Shakes. All authors get the shakes from time to time. Nobody notices. I have spoken to many first time readers who thought the audience was distracted by their shaking hands or legs. My right leg used to shake uncontrollably when I read. No one ever mentioned it; in fact people said I didn’t seem nervous at all. I have also seen famous authors at big festivals trembling so much their papers rustle. No one minds, they just want to hear the famous author read. If you are uncomfortable with your shaking hands put your pages in a lever file or on a clip-board. Rattle Tales provides a music stand. Sometimes nerves help the piece, I’ve cried at the end of a story and had loads of people come up to me and say what an impact it had because it was heartfelt. Try and keep it together til the last sentence though!
Slow Down. Most people read too fast. Nerves make you speed up, make you want to get it over with. My advice is read it to yourself at your normal pace and then slow it down a notch for the event, relish in the pauses, emphasise the important sentences, take your time over the dialogue. You might want it to be over quickly but the audience want to take it all in. Most spoken word events asks for no more than 2,000 words. This is because after about ten minutes an audiences’ attention wanders no matter how good the tale or the reader. If you are reading an extract bear this in mind, don’t rush to fit longer pieces in.
Acting is for Actors. You are not an actor, well, you might be, but in this case you are a writer. To listen to your story the audience doesn’t need the full Meryl Streep. They don’t want a cast of characters with different accents all competing for attention like a multiple personality disorder. Do appropriate accents by all means but don’t shout as if you are projecting at the Theatre Royal and keep the showing off to a minimum.
I will be putting all this into practice at Exeter Street Hall on Friday May 13th with nine other fabulous Brighton writers who are all members of The Beach Hut Writers. We will be talking about everything from how to get published to how to cope at spoken word events. The genres include, crime, noir, literary fiction, women’s fiction, self help, cookery and diet books and childrens fiction, so there is literally something for everyone.
May 26th is the date of Rattle Tales Brighton Fringe show hosted by the fabulous Lonny Pop. We have just finalized the programme and there are some amazing stories on the bill from a huge variety of authors. I will be reading a short story (Sourdough)from In The Future which was the story I read at the first Rattle Tales show five years ago. I don’t expect to be as nervous as I was then. Tickets are available at Brighton Fringe Box Office and they usually go fast!
If you think that short stories deserve a bit more attention from publishers please plegde to my collection because that’s what I’m trying to prove. In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes will only be published by Unbound if I get enough pledges. You don’t have to be from the UK and you don’t have to have a Kindle. There are just 3 weeks left to show your support.
Beach Hut Writers, Brighton, crowdfunding, crusades, dreams, Exeter Street Hall, medieval, Myriad, Myriad Editions, publishing, Rattle Tales, reading aloud, short stories, spoken word, Umi Sinha, Unbound, writing
As I write I am 44% funded. This means that well over a hundred of you have supported my book. To my new supporters I want to say a massive thank you, you are making this happen. I have until the end of May to reach 198 pledges, it’s time to take it up a notch.
Regular readers will know that I am a Director of the spoken word group Rattle Tales. We have a show coming up at Brighton Fringe Festival and we’re selecting stories for it now. Last night I had a dream that only five people turned up to our show. Our previous Fringe shows have all been sold out, sometimes we’ve had to turn people away, and the show has been a Pick of the Fringe by The Independent newspaper. It’s extremely unlikely that no one will turn up. In my dream not only did no turn up but I forgot my story and when I tried to phone home to get someone to bring it to me my i-phone snapped in two, the venue staff were busy jousting in the back garden and the only person in the bar was a medieval knight dressed in crusader armour – he didn’t know what an i-phone was.
I’ve been trying to analyze this dream all day. I think it’s to do with the event I did recently to an audience of seven. It’s definitely to do with asking people to pledge to my collection and most of them resembling a medieval knight with no knowledge of i-phones when asked. Lots of people have said they are happy to help and will definitely pledge but then don’t. Some people have been very affronted to be asked. In response to a recent mail-out through Rattle Tales one person accused us of begging and hoped the project failed. You can just ignore the request you know, or just say no. I’m not begging. I’m asking you to choose to buy a book in advance, in much the same way as you would choose to buy a book in a book shop – you don’t have to but you might want to. The same mail-out brought me ten new pledgers and for that I am very grateful
I have a few events coming up and I really hope that a. people will come and b. some will pledge to the book. I will be appearing at Exeter Street Hall on May 13th with lots of other Beach Hut Writers, ten in fact, all talking about the when, why and what of writing for a living. I’m also going to talk at Brighton University on May 10th with the author of Belonging, Umi Sinha, and Vicky Blunden from Myriad Editions and then I will be reading Sourdough (recently published by New London Writers) from In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes at the Rattle Tales show on May 26th. Please come along to any or all – don’t leave me alone with the medieval knight.
For the rest of the week I will be sending out press releases, pitching articles and generally trying to get my book notice in the hope of attracting more pledges. Thanks again to my new supporters – you really are making a difference!
Amanda Palmer, BBC Radio Sussex, Brighton, City Reads, crowdfunding, digital publishing, James Ellis, literature, Lonny Pop, Pierre Hollins, Rachael de Moravia, Rattle Tales, Sarah Gorrell, short stories, spoken word, Stephanie Lam, Stephen McGowan, TED, The Brighton Prize, The Nightingale Room, Unbound, writers
I am half way through! And it’s not been easy I can tell you. I feel like I’ve had to coax each pledge into being. My short story collection In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes is so close to 30% funded. Obviously, I need a lot more pledges to reach 100% in the next 6 weeks. I am banking on momentum. Word of mouth, people wearing down in the face of constant bombarment. I would hate me right now if I wasn’t me. Once again thank you to everyone who has already pledged; I am in awe of you because you are making this book seem possible and when it is funded you will have helped create something new.
I have just started on an all out email campaign. Emailing everyone I know either directly or through Facebook. It’s a bit soul destroying. I can’t shake the feeling that I am begging but my friend and fellow writer Stephanie Lam directed me to Amanda Palmer’s TED Talk on crowdfunding (The Art of Asking) and that made me feel a whole lot better. I’m not begging, I am offering people the opportunity to co-create a book that wouldn’t otherwise exist, to be a part of the art.
It’s interesting who pledges and who doesn’t. It’s not what you expect. People you haven’t seen for years reply immediately and say they’ve pledged and ask how you are. People you’d expect to be onboard from the off flat out tell you it’s not their thing. I wonder if the digital aspect is putting some people off. The book will initially be available in digital format only. This isn’t to say you need an e-reader to read it, when the book is published you will get a copy emailed to download onto whatever, laptop, PC or phone you prefer. There will be paper copies I am told, for events and signings and if the book gets enough pledgers it might even get a full press – but that is a long way off. Right now I need to meet my target of 253 more pledges.
One thing which hasn’t surprised me is the community around the Unbound crowdfunding process. There is a Facebook group for shell-shocked Unbound authors to swap tips and give each other encouragement. Most authors are lovely supportive people – and I’ve met a lot of them in the last ten years! I put a post up about doing an event in Brighton and several writers replied and after a few email exchanges it’s going ahead in Brighton on the 18th April. If you are in the area please come along – entry is free. So is the venue, thanks to a tip from City Read’s Sarah Hutchings I managed to book the wonderful Nightingale Room in side the Grand Central Pub right next door to Brighton Station. Unbound authors James Ellis, Stephen McGowan, Rachael de Moravia, Pierre Hollins and me will be reading from our books. My fellow Rattle Taler Lonny Pop will be hosting and there may even be someone from Unbound editorial to answer questions about crowdfunding. I will be on BBC Radio Sussex tonight at 5.50 to talk about The Brighton Prize but always on the look out for new supporters I will be mentioning this event too!
agents, Araminta Hall, Beach Hut Writers, Bridget Whelan, Brighton, Brighton Gin, crowdfunding, Kate Harrison, Laura Wilkinson, literary agents, publishing, Sarah Rayner, short stories, Sue Teddern, The Beach Hut Writing Academy, Unbound, Write by the Beach, writing
Week three already! This week I reached 11% funded thanks to some lovely friends and one or two people I’ve never met who are taken with the idea of In The Future Everyone Will Be World Famous For Fifteen Minutes. I got some promotional postcards made and started carefully compiling the blanket email I’m going to send out to everyone in my adress book. I gave some of the postcards out on the school run, swallowing the embarassment of approaching people, and got three more pledges.
On Saturday, I was one of the organisers of Write by the Beach, a writers conference in Brighton at the truly gorgeous Angel House. We had 56 delegates and lots of speakers from the industry. It was a great success and I’ve been on a high ever since. In my duties as a co-organiser over the last few months, I have come to realise that if you ask people nicely for something they are almost always happy to oblige, and if they can’t, or don’t want to, the worst that can happen is that they say no. We had authors and agents, literary consultants and publishers all delighted to be a part of our little conference. We even finished off with a tasting event organised by Brighton Gin (it was a brilliant and delicious way to end the day!) I put one of my promotional postcards in each of the goodie bags in the hope that some of the delegates might be cajoled into pledging. I spoke to anyone who would listen about crowdfunding my book. There was a lot of interest. Perhaps with an eye on their own projects, a lot of people wanted to know how to go about crowdfunding and why it was different from vanity publishing. (The difference is that you have to submit to Unbound for consideration and then when you are fully funded your book is given the editorial attention of a traditional publisher.) Not that there is anything wrong with self-publishing. In one of the panel sessions sucessful authors Kate Harrison and Sarah Rayner talked about wanting to publish self help books but having to go it alone when they couldn’t find anyone to publish them. Kate’s book was about the 5:2 Diet (when no-one else had written anything about it) and Sarah’s was about Making Friends With Anxiety. Over-eating and anxiety are common author ailments, all that sitting alone typing all day long, fear, rejection, thoughts of inadequacy. Both books were incredibly sucessful and not just with writers! I was greatly inspired by the go for it attitude of both writers and the incredible success they achieved.
At the end of the day I also felt that I may have been a little harsh about agents and publishers in this diary. Those that attended Write by the Beach as speakers were helpful and approachable, all committed to their love of books and the search for great writing. The trouble is they have to make money or go bust and to do that in this climate you have to publish books that have more chance of selling ie. crime and celebrity endorsements. I do still think that there is some room for other forms, that the future of the publishing industry actually depends on there being some room for other forms, otherwise it is in danger of becoming very homogenized and boring. I didn’t speak to one person at the conference who didn’t like short stories. In fact, since I have been writing them, I’ve only met a couple of people who have turned their nose up, yet short stories are still considered unpopular. Please help me prove that this isn’t the case, pledge to my new collection on Unbound. I will be very grateful – did I mention there will be a launch party?
Araminta Hall, Bridget Whelan, Brighton, Catherine Quinn, competitions, Cornerstones Literary Agency New Writing South, David Headley, Emlyn Rees, Jo Rees, Kate Harrision, Laura Wilkinson, literature, Lizzie Enfield, Myriad Editions Julia Crouch, publishers, Rattle Tales, Rilke, Sharon Bowers, short stories, Simon Toyne, Simon Trewin, Small Batch, spoken word, starlings, Sue Teddern, The Angel House, The Beach Hut Writing Academy, The Short review, William Shaw, Write by the Beach, writing
And now we welcome the New Year. Full of things that have never been.
Rainer Maria Rilke
Isn’t that a glorious quote for the new year? January is a difficult month, everyone is full of lethargy and Christmas excess. This year it seems like all our heroes are dying. The weather is awful. The nights are long and dark. It’s hard to get motivated. For a writer it can be the most depressing time of year. I have often found it hard to get started. If I haven’t written for a couple of weeks, getting back into stride can feel like climbing a mountain. It’s all a matter of perspective of course, as Rilke’s quote illustrates. This year I am determined to see the new year not in terms of the past but in terms of what’s to come.
Rilke was himself was a wanderer, a traveller of no fixed location, he sought lovers and patronage and never truly settled. He moved from one possibilty to another, across Europe into the Middle East and Russia, back to Paris and then, fatefully,Switzerland where he died at 51 of leukemia. A short and packed life of longing and regret that produced breathtaking poetry. Read some.
This year my resolution isn’t to lose weight or drink less! I probably will, but under no pressure to do so, 2016 will instead be a year of action. I have plans. I have words to write and opportunities to exploit. I have a fully finished short story collection and a half finished novel. This year I will find an agent and a publisher and move things on and if I don’t find either I will move things on anyway. There is always a way. There are always things that have never been.
The first Rattle Tales show of 2016 takes place on Feb 16th at The Brunswick in Hove. We had an amazing response to our call for submissions and we are reading through them all now to come up with a programme as varied, entertaining and thought provoking as all our shows. Do come along and see what we are all about.
I am involved in two very exciting projects this year. Firstly, The Brighton Prize (of which I am a co-director) enters its third year and we are in a position to expand. The competition will go international for the first time and we are adding categories for flash fiction and local writers. I will have more information on this very soon but we recently asked for volunteers to help us develop the prize, and Rattle Tales in general, and were literally overwhelmed by the response. I’m really looking forward to the group taking this project forward and to working with new, talented and enthusiastic people.
I am also involved in The Beach Hut Writing Academy, a new writing school established by professional writers in Brighton. I did my first course for them last year, co-teaching on short story practice with Bridget Whelan, and it was a very enjoyable success. The new courses begin on Jan 21st with a Fiction Writing course run by best-selling author Aramanita Hall and then a TV and Radio course taught by Sue Teddern and Hannah Vincent. Our most ambitious plan for early 2016 is a writers conference in Brighton on March 12th. Write by the Sea will feature, best-selling authors, publishers and agents taking part in panel discussions, workshops and one to one pitches, all at the beautiful sea front venue The Angel House. We have agents Simon Trewin, David Headley and Sharon Bowers, Cornerstones Literary Agency, local publishers Myriad Editions, The Writer’s Guild of Great Britain, authors Simon Toyne, Julia Crouch, Lizzie Enfield, Laura Wilkinson, Araminta Hall, Catherine Quinn, Kate Harrison, Sarah Rayner, Sue Teddern, Bridget Whelan, Jo and Emlyn Rees, William Shaw and me. There will also be one to ones where you can pitch or discuss your current project. The full programme is available on our website and the early bird rate is in place until Jan 24th.
Before I had a publisher for Starlings I attended a similar event at The Jubilee Library run by New Writing South. I met other writers, agents and publishers and came away with a wealth of advice and contacts that really helped me get my book published. Rattle Tales is sponsoring a session on Writing A Prize-winning Short Story and so two worlds collide. You’d be crazy to miss it.
There will be a very exciting announcement about this year’s Brighton Prize soon. It is an event that I am extremely proud to be involved in. With a longer submission period and a later awards show we are hoping to read even more excellent submissions this year. Last year’s prize-winners, and many of the stories featured at Rattle Tales shows from 2014, are about to be published in the third Rattle Tales anthology. We are delighted to have so many wonderful stories and flash fictions gathered together in one place.
As an afterword for the anthology, I wrote a short piece about how we choose The Brighton Prize shortlist and winners, aided by our excellent judges Bethan Roberts and Laura H. Lockington. I have republished the article below, in case you were thinking of entering The Brighton Prize this year and wondered what we were looking for. Remember to follow us on Facebook and Twitter @BrightonPrize @RattleTales and sign up to our mailing list for information about our prizes and events.
The Brighton Prize – How We Decided by Erinna Mettler
The inaugural Brighton Prize was presented on Wednesday May 14th at a sell-out show at Brighton Fringe. Our winner was Linda McVeigh with her story Ordinary Man In Suit and our two runners up were Allie Rogers and Melanie Whipman.
When the show was over, a few members of the audience asked us about the judging process and how we managed to narrow it down to the short list of ten, and ultimately, the three winners. This was the first time we had run a short story prize. We opened submissions in February and closed them a just six weeks later so we would have enough reading time to present the winners at our Brighton Fringe show. In that time we received 350 entries, nearly all of which fitted the entry criteria (here’s a tip though, if it says ‘Short Story Competition’ don’t send an extract from your novel or a narrative poem.) There are ten key Rattle Tales members and, from that pool of experienced readers, one had to ensure that the entries were anonymised and a couple of the others couldn’t commit to extensive reading. We had seven readers, each being randomly allocated fifty stories. Each story had to be given our full attention. We decided on a selection criteria based on technical ability, structure, language, characterisation, dialogue, originality and suitability for performance. Rattle Tales is very much concerned with the performance; to win the story would have to work live.
The first thing we learned was that it would be easier to have a shared spreadsheet to organise the voting. Each reader’s first fifty were allocated yes/no/maybe votes. All the yes and maybe votes were put through to the next round. It may seem harsh to reject a story on the opinion of one person but we are all experienced writers who have taken part in the selection process for our regular shows and anthologies. We know what works live and what constitutes good story-telling. The stories going through had to tick the majority of the boxes on our list of criteria. If a reader didn’t like a story because the subject didn’t appeal to them personally but they could see it was well-written and original, the story would be forwarded for a second opinion. The commitment of our readers is without question, all gave up their time to ensure the competition was run fairly.
Eight of us read in the second round. We divided the stories into two groups and each story was read by four people, who then voted yes or no. In the end it was simply a matter of counting the votes, and the stories with three, or more, made it into our top ten. The top ten was originally a top eleven but we considered one of the stories potentially libellous and, as an organisation low on funding, we really couldn’t risk it. (Tip number two, if you are using real people as characters at least change their names!) These ten were checked for legal issues, plagiarism and previous competition wins/publication history. They were then forwarded to our judges, Bethan Roberts and Laura H. Lockington.
This felt a bit like sending your child off to the first day of school. Would our favourites be their favourites? We met with Laura and Bethan a week later to come up with the top three. It was interesting because Linda McVeigh’s story was the first one both of them mentioned. It was always the winning story with our judges and with most of the readers. The runners up were a little harder to come by; some of the stories were loved by one judge but not the other. We discussed each one and then narrowed it down to a top two. It was quite easy in the end. Any one of the ten could have got through and it is a shame that all of them couldn’t be read at the show, but at least you can read them all now in this fine publication. Which one will be your favourite? The judge’s reports on each of the shortlisted stories are as follows.
Ordinary Man In Suit by Linda McVeigh
Linda’s story has a structural expertise that made it stand out. The story is simple, girl meets man, falls in love, finds out man is married but there are many layers in the telling of the tale. It has a Dorian Grey quality to it as the narrator’s talent develops through her relationship with the man and the portrait she paints of him at the end reflects the way she comes to see him, as an ordinary man in a suit. Subtle, beautiful, heart-breaking.
Not Coming In Again by Allie Rogers
Funny, poignant and more than a little creepy. Allie’s story has a sense of menace that could have easily descended into melodrama but is instead handled gently, creating sympathy for a pretty strange lead character.
The Real Thing by Melanie Whipman
A great teenage voice. This story took us into the world of young women in bars with authentic and funny dialogue. It has an uncomfortable undercurrent as the girls’ conversation presents different views of a possibly abusive parent.
Deep Dark and Dangerous is highly original with a great voice and folkloric atmosphere. White Light has an infectious energy and brilliant dialogue. A Long Walk is carefully plotted and full of fresh descriptions. The Fifty Fifty Room draws you in immediately with a strong and intriguing opening. The Strand At Lahinch is a refreshing take on the surfer love story with well-handled descriptions of youthful male beauty. Tracks is a deftly structured exploration of another world and political pre-conceptions. A Short Lie In The Long Grass shows atmospheric skill and mastery of suspense.
Bath Short Story Prize, Bethan Roberts, Brighton, competitions, Laura H. Lockington, Radio Reverb, Rattle Tales, short stories, spoken word, storytelling, The Bridport Prize, The Brighton Fringe, The Brighton Prize, The Bristol Prize, Threshold's Short Story Forum
If you have visited this blog before you will know that I am one of the founders of the spoken word group Rattle Tales. We are a group of writers who met on the MA at Sussex University and, when we left, continued to meet to workshop our writing. After a while, we decided to set up a regular literature night to showcase our own stories and give emerging authors the chance to read their work to an audience. Our nights have proved extremely popular. We ask the audience to get involved by discussing the stories they have just heard with the author.
The core Rattle Tales members are all practising authors. Just like you, we enter writing contests and send our work to journals and spoken word events. We like to read our writing aloud. Since we put on our first show we’ve run over ten events (including one at Green Man, one at Small Wonder, one in France and several at Brighton Fringe) and published two anthologies. The stories published are the ones read at our nights and for many authors it is the first time their work has been published. We are a true co-operative; the eleven Rattle Tales members have equal say in everything. We share the work, we argue over the decisions and any modest profit we make goes straight back into venue and publishing costs. Many of our readers go on to success in competitions, or have their work published in journals or performed on the radio. Reading your writing aloud to an appreciative audience instils a confidence in you that you don’t get from having it appear in print. I speak from experience here; the first public outing for my writing was in print but nothing compares to taking a deep breath and reading your work to an audience who listen to your words, applaud and even congratulate you in person afterwards. It makes you feel invincible. It makes you want to approach agents and editors and shout ‘publish me!’ from the rooftops. Rattle Tales wants to give every writer the chance to feel this way.
At one of our meetings we discussed the possibility of setting up a short story prize. We were surprised that there wasn’t a regular prize in Brighton, there are prizes in so many other cities and Brighton is stuffed full of writers. We were also aware that there isn’t a prize which is tailored to the spoken word. Rattle Tales stories have to work being read aloud to an audience and we wanted to celebrate this particular under-appreciated writing skill.
When we booked the theatre for our first spoken word event there was a feeling that it didn’t matter if no one turned up because between us it was only the cost of a good night out. It was a similar feeling with The Brighton Prize. But on a much bigger scale. We all sat down together and discussed how much we could afford to stump up for the prize-money if only a couple of people entered. We agreed to keep the entry cost down, both to ensure more entries and to make the prize more accessible. Between us we set the prize fund at £500, the maximum we could afford with only a few submissions.
We are lucky, there are a lot of us and we have people with different skills. Between us we can cover the writing of the contracts, the marketing, the admin, the website, the posters, editing, spreadsheets the list is endless. It takes up a lot of time but we all felt it was something we should do, something that you writers out there would want us to do.
We decided that the optimum time for the prize-giving would be at our sell-out Brighton Fringe show. This show is a real event with a great atmosphere and reading at it is a fantastic experience for any writer. Aiming for May though did mean we were a bit rushed, with a short 2 month submission period.
We needed judges and we were unbelievably lucky because the first local authors we asked said yes straight away. Bethan Roberts (author of Brighton City Reads book My Policeman and the upcoming, Mother Island) and Laura H. Lockington (author of The Cornish Affair, Stargazy Pie and literary journalist) were on board and suddenly we had a real competition.
The Brighton Prize has been a learning curve, we bit our nails waiting for the first entries to come in, we tweeted and posted, sent out newsletters and contacted the press, begged listings in writing magazines and airtime on local radio. And just like the baseball fans in the movie Field of Dreams the entries began to come in, a trickle at first, then a torrent and by midnight on the last day we had enough entry fees to cover the cost of the prize fund, our Fringe show and an anthology. That’s it though, we’re not going to get rich, and we’re not in it for the money. Your entry fee goes into giving more writers the opportunity to perform at and be published by Rattle Tales.
Right now we are reading like crazy to make the deadlines set for the long-list and the short-list and then to narrow those down to the ten stories we’ll send to Laura and Bethan. So far we have been struck by the quality and originality of the stories submitted. It’s going to be very hard to choose which ones make it through.
We have also struck by the generosity of the other short story competitions out there, particularly the B’s, Bath, Bristol and Bridport. We are the new kid on the block but everyone has been generous in their retweets and encouragement. The people who run these competitions really care about writers and it shows.
For more information about the Brighton Prize and Rattle Tales click here.
The West Pier is dying. Last Wednesday a huge chunk of her fell into the sea, dislodged by heavy winds and swelling tides. Now there is a gap on the Eastern side of her and the middle hangs precariously over pirana waves. Brighton’s residents gasped collectively and wailed about her not lasting the next twenty-four hours, many braved the wind to gaze on her last moments. The wind raged through the night but the Pier stood defiant. She won’t last the weekend, they said. Tomorrow a week will have passed but tomorrow the weather forecast is gales and high swells.
The West Pier features in the first proper short story I ever wrote, a story which went on to form the first ‘chapter’ of my episodic novel, Starlings. For me the landmark is the most beautiful place in the city. She is definitely female and also old. I don’t mean in terms of actual years, I mean anthropomorphically. She is, to me, an old lady. She was once a great beauty, immaculately dressed, popular at parties, blessed of many lovers but then she aged and she couldn’t afford the fine clothes and shiny jewellery the younger girls had and her looks began to fade, people didn’t come calling anymore. She still paddled in the sea, as she had in her youth, but she grew thin through lack of sustenance and good company and her legs withered, the bones showing through. Then there was the fire.
I remember visiting Brighton in the 1980s and 90s and seeing her listing downwards, her paint peeling and windows broken and I remember thinking how romantic it was that she wasn’t a naff bells and whistles fun-fare like the Palace Pier. Every seaside town had a pier. I’m from the North, you couldn’t really beat Blackpool for seaside attractions, but Brighton had the West Pier, decaying, abandoned, loved only by the birds. It was special. The white picket fence brigade hated her then, she was an eyesore, a blight on their beautiful city, someone should do something about her. But whenever I came here she was the thing I wanted to see the most. She was Miss Havisham. She appealed to my introverted younger self. I wore black then, even in the sun, Wuthering Heights was my favourite book, the Mary Chain played in a loop in my head and I wouldn’t have been caught dead swimming in the sea. What better than a pier you weren’t allowed on because it wasn’t safe! I didn’t want a kiss-me-quick hat and a stick of rock; I wanted to gaze on decay.
I’ve changed, I hope, I like nothing better than a sea swim these days, but I’m still drawn to the desolate beauty of West Pier. I thought she was at her most beautiful after the fire. I didn’t move to Brighton until 2003 so I wasn’t here for the fire but afterwards she seemed elevated into a new art form, something truly unique. Her burnt out wreck has inspired me in so much of my writing, even when the work isn’t actually about her, the image of her guides my hand, churning up thoughts of lost beauty and aged stoicism. She is memory personified. She is death. She is anything you want her to be.
Brighton will be a much less interesting place without her. There won’t be the collective thrill of walking around her ruin at extremely low tide or watching the waves crash over her prow in stormy seas. I won’t be able to hear the peculiar metallic ting of the wind shaking her strutts or see clouds of starlings crowd her at sunset. If I’m honest though I’m really looking forward to seeing her fall. To me she is a reminder of our mortality, that technology is meaningless and that all things eventually come to an end. How much sweeter it is to be here when she goes? To be able to say ‘I was there when…’ This is selfish of me I know, but I don’t want her rebuilt like she was, because then she’d just be another pier and in the end she’s so much more than that.
If you are not as selfish as me and you would like to see a life size sculpture of the West Pier on the front when she goes then please sign this petition (anything is better than a stupid tower).