Alice Cunninghame, Brighton Digital Festival, Bristol, Charleston, ghost stories, Green Man, Halloween, Katherine Doggrell, Lonny Pop, MR James, performing, Rattle Tales, reading, Small WOnder, spoken word, Tania Hershman, The Bristol Prize, The Creative Writing Coach, What The Dicken's Magazine
My resolution about blogging once a month hasn’t quite worked out. I just don’t seem to have the time and as a result I’ve got lots to tell. October was a pretty good month this year, of course I had a few rejection emails and failed to list in a couple of comps, but this is usual for me and mostly I don’t let it get to me. I did get a rejection from a big name journal that bothered me slightly but this was because I submitted to them nearly two years ago. What’s the point, seriously, after two years? I’d forgotten I’d even submitted so the rejection was a real ‘you think we’d be interested in you?’ slap in the face on a Monday morning. Submission managers – if it’s been over eighteen months, don’t bother with the reply.
One story I am very proud of was over-looked and rejected by almost everyone I sent it to. The thing is I knew it was worth something because the two times I read it to an audience complete strangers came up to me and told me how good it was. It is a bit of a hybrid though, not quite literary fiction and not quite science fiction, so I can see how it might not appeal. I entered it into The Bristol Prize at the last minute when I read that they didn’t dismiss genre fiction and lo, I heard it had been short-listed in July!
The prize giving was held at the Arnolfini in Bristol on Oct 19th. My Rattle Tales buddy Katherine Doggrell came with me and sixteen of the twenty short-listed authors were in attendance. It was a great evening and it was lovely to meet everyone. It reminded me of how supportive writers are of their fellow scribes. Gathered in the gorgeous gallery space with free flowing wine we all chatted about our stories and how to pull our Oscar face when the winner was announced. First prize went to Paul McMichael with The House On St John’s Avenue, and well-deserved it is too, the story is funny, moving and a little bit out there. After the event we all headed off for pizza and more chat in a local tavern. The Bristol Prize is brilliantly run by Joe Melia who realises that it is the writers and the stories that are important but other prizes take note, there was much talk in the room about how badly some prizes are run, the very least that is required is an email telling us that the long-list is up, I think we all know which ones we’re talking about here. I will post a review of the anthology when I have read all the stories.
Another high-light of the evening was finally getting to meet Tania Hershman. Tania is the editor of The Short Review and an award winning short story writer. When Starlings was released and couldn’t get a review for love nor money The Short Review stepped up and not only reviewed it but gave it the best review ever given to anything anywhere. In times of artistic crisis I read this review (written by author AJ Kirby) because it makes me realise that I can do this thing after all. I got to thank Tania personally and I hope our paths cross again.
The other big event of October was the Autumn Rattle Tales show. We’d had a busy Summer what with Green Man and Brighton Digital Festivals and helping our very own Lonny Pop host The Small Wonder Slam at Charleston in September, and we almost forgot about our regular show so it was a bit of a rush to organise. In the end it turned out to be one of our best. To see why go to our brand new website (brilliantly refurbed by Alice Cuninghame) and read a review, there are many other brilliant features on site including a rather good guide to submitting which will help with submitting stories anywhere, not just to us. The show took place just before Halloween and I got to read the only real ghost story I have ever written, Footprints, which was written for What The Dicken’s Magazine. When I set about writing this story I wanted it to be traditional rather than graphic to rely on atmosphere rather than shocks. After I had read it a member of the audience (who is an experienced creative writing tutor) told me that it reminded her of MR James – she made my day!