Made my first submissions of the year last week, a slower start than usual for me. I was hoping to take some time for reflection as to what comes next in writing terms. Taking stock I realise I've now written nearly 120 stories, with perhaps another ten in vestigial form and 17K words of a novella I'm unlikely to complete. There are a couple of exciting publications to look forward to later in the year, but I wonder if now would be a good moment to step back and consider how or even whether to continue. What would happen in the space where once there was a writing schedule?
Very pleased to return to Eunoia Review today with a rather experimental story called Anima Mundi. In his book, The Thought of the Heart and Soul of the World, the post-Jungian author James Hillman makes a case that we as individuals can be offended by the pathology of the world itself. After the year we’ve just had who could argue? Thanks so much to everyone who has visited my website over the last twelve months, may 2021 prove much better for us all. You can read Anima Mundi via my Stories page here
One of my very early stories, A Meeting in Fitzrovia, appears today in my favourite online journal Fictive Dream. It’s a piece I’ve struggled with, but which has kept pulling me back. It has probably gone through a hundred drafts since I first wrote it in 2012. Now, with the benefit of Laura Black’s sensitive editing I’m hopeful that at last it reads as it should. If I could go anywhere in time, high on my list would be a post-war Soho pub where Dylan Thomas was holding court. As I can’t do that the narrator of my story has done it for me. It’s a great joy that my old friend and brilliant artist Simon Wisdom has provided the drawing that accompanies the text. You can read it via my Stories page here
I was delighted to receive an invitation this week for The Lonely Crowd editor, John Lavin, to submit a review of a book I'd enjoyed reading in the past year. There have been quite a few, but my choice in the end was The Redemption of Galen Pike, by Carys Davies, a writer who in my view demonstrates supreme command of her material. Throughout this collection there’s a lightness of touch that belies dark undertones, also some truly virtuosic double-twists that would be hard to foresee, but which work beautifully. I enjoyed the stories immensely, and will certainly be reading more of her work in the near future.
Sorry to be a day slow with this. Yesterday, Outliving the Muse, the story that was chosen to celebrate Fictive Dream's 500th publication, was also nominated for the Pushcart Prize 2020. This is the third year in a row that one of my stories has been nominated, so special cause for celebration. Thanks once again to Fictive Dream's brilliant editor Laura Black for all her staunch support and congratulations to the other four nominees. If you missed it first time round, or if you think you might enjoy the reminiscences of a lugubrious old poet, you can read it via my stories page here
Today the 5th Anniversary edition of The Lonely Crowd is launched, containing as it does my story Where the Dawn Takes Us. When I wrote it I drew from a very telling radio series about the Barry Line in south Wales, and took the narrator’s voice from a wonderful train conductor who had made her job into something special. It's no small thing to place a story in such a widely respected magazine and I'm very grateful to the editor, John Lavin, for kindly accepting it.
Overjoyed to be returning to Lunate Fiction today with a tiny story called Insight. I’ve been a regular swimmer for a long time now. Over years the activity itself and the rituals surrounding it have come to feel like a significant aspect of the person I consider myself to be, a feeling I’m confident many swimmers share. There’s something both private and public about it, being alone in a cocoon of water but gaining glimpses of other lives over a sustained period of time. I hope to do it for as long as I can. You can read Insight via my Stories page here
An emotional morning as my story The Sky appears in issue 4 of the beautifully produced Postbox Magazine, an imprint of Red Squirrel Press. This is my first story to appear in a Scottish Journal and so I dedicate it to my Scottish nan, who taught me to read. The story arose in my mind after I went to the Van Gogh exhibition at Tate Britain last year (distant times!). I was struck by the vast skies looming over endlessly flat landscapes, and dwarfing the tiny human figures beneath. I tried to convey a sense of that in this story. You can order Issue 4 of Postbox Magazine via the link on my Stories page here
Today my story Inhabiting the Present appears in one of my favourite online journals, Fragmented Voices. The story is something of an experiment for me in terms of varying the tense and moving away from a linear narrative to a more impressionistic form. Once again I’m grateful to editors Natalie Nera and Natalie Crick for their support in featuring a piece such as this. You can read it via my Stories page here
I’m really happy to be returning to Eunoia Review today with The Subtext of Skin, a story about tattoos, artistic inspiration, and how such things might coalesce with the need to get by in life. I’ve never had a tattoo, but the act of tattooing strikes me as a curiously intimate process, potentially life-changing, and one that must surely open a particular window into human nature. You can read The Subtext of Skin via my Stories page here
I'm pretty much euphoric to be able to say that, A Meeting in Fitzrovia, an old story that might well have gone through a hundred drafts, has just found a perfect home in Fictive Dream (I've run out of superlatives to describe Fictive Dream). It's a piece that has particular meaning for me and I'll say more when it comes out. It's news like this that can keep a writer going in dark times.
I was taken completely by surprise today to learn that my story Voices has been nominated for Best of the Net by the excellent Ayaskala Literary Magazine. Ayaskala specialises in stories and art forms that focus on mental health, and the story draws from a time when I worked in a psychiatric hospital and had the opportunity to talk to many people who heard voices and for whom a dialogue with their voices had become a natural part of their day to day existence. To some people the events the story describes might seem far fetched but, one way or another, they mostly happened. You can read Voices via my Stories page here
I’m tremendously honoured to be invited to submit a story to mark the 500th publication of the state-of-the-art online journal Fictive Dream. The story chosen is called Outliving the Muse. I love poetry and have always been fascinated by the people who write it well. The biographies and letters of well-known poets suggest that a life devoted to the poetic muse is by no means an easy option. In this story an elderly poet finds himself looking back on his life. You can read Outliving the Muse via my Stories page here Enormous thanks to Fictive Dream editor Laura Black for all the support she has given me personally and all the superb work she has done to promote the contemporary short story.
Following on from yesterday, and as a further prelude to Fictive Dream’s 500th publication tomorrow, I’m delighted that Laura has reissued my story Works in Progress, first published in July 2019, today. You can read it via my Stories page here
Today marks the beginning of a very special weekend. I’ve been reading the superb online journal Fictive Dream and submitting stories to its brilliant editor, Laura Black, since August 2017. Fictive Dream has become such a big part of my writing life that it seems much longer. I’m deeply honoured to have been invited to contribute a story to mark its 500th publication. To begin the process Laura has reissued my story Sharing Space, first published in December 2019, today. You can read it via my Stories page here Another reissue will follow tomorrow, and then the 500th story on Sunday.
I heard today that my story Inhabiting the Present has found a perfect home in the innovative and fast developing online magazine Fragmented Voices. This story is something of an experiment in that it fluctuates between tenses and also is impressionistic, rather than relying on a linear narrative. This is something I've been working on for a while, a story called How Things End published by Eunoia Review would be an earlier example. Fragmented Voices have published several of my stories now, and I'm very grateful to editors Natalie Nera and Natalie Crick for their ongoing support. Inhabiting the Present will come out on October 23rd, and when it does I'll make it available via my Stories page.
Just a little word of forewarning. Next Friday 18th, Saturday19th, and (particularly) Sunday 20th, wonderful things will be happening leading up to a very special event which I'm honoured and proud to be involved in. Watch this space!
Wonderful surprise! I've just learned that my story The Fun Police, published in the marvellous Fictive Dream, has been chosen for the Best British and Irish Flash Fiction list 2019-20 (BIFFY50). Grateful thanks once again to Laura Black, who nominated it as the editor of Fictive Dream, also to Cath Barton, who made an author's nomination. Congratulations to all of the other authors whose stories were listed. You can read The Fun Police and all listed stories via the links on this page
Three years two months and four days after I submitted it my story A Lighterman’s Tale, set circa 1900, finally appears today in the American historical journal, Footnote. The Thames lightermen worked in extraordinary conditions, often singly piloting a barge and cargo of up to sixty tons, using only an oar and the flow of the tide. I spent many hours online and in the British Library researching how they did this and then somehow ended up writing a love story. It’s available to read in my own PDF or to order in hard copy via my Stories page here
I was delighted to learn today that my story, The Subtext of Skin, has been accepted by Eunoia Review for publication in August. I was once a craftsman, and every now and again a story emerges drawn from that time in my life. This is one such. I'll say more when it comes out.... I also forgot to mention that a tiny story called The Sky, has been accepted for publication in Issue 4 of Postbox Magazine. It was written after a visit to last year's Van Gogh exhibition at Tate Britain - so many vast, dominant skies in his landscapes. As someone who was taught to read by a Scots granny, I'm particularly delighted as this is my first story to appear in a Scottish publication.
Exciting news (for me anyway!). One of my very favourite stories, Anchoress, appears today in the excellent online journal, Nymphs Publications. It's set circa 1200AD, and seeks to imagine a day in the life of a medieval anchoress. Anchoresses were women, often but not always high-born, who opted for a reclusive life of prayer, reflection and sometimes counsel to their local community. What separated them from nuns and monks was the formal process through which they were delivered into solitude - anchoresses might often be bricked into a single cell, within which they would then be expected to exist for the rest of their lives. The medieval mind is in some ways unfathomable to this day and age, but surely they must have possessed extraordinary physical and psychological resources to thrive in such an existence. You can read Anchoress via my Stories page here
It's been a busy week. I'm delighted to have been invited to talk about writers and writing for Fiction Friday in the wonderful Glasgow-based journal The Common Breath. Thanks so much to editors Brian, Kirsten and Rachael for thinking to invite me. You can read the interview here
Delighted that my story Avie appears today in Issue 10 of the elegant and beautifully produced Irish journal Crossways Magazine. The story is set in the 1960s and concerns a free-spirited and intuitive young woman who might bear a passing resemblance to the great traditional singer Anne Briggs. This story first appeared in Literati Magazine, and I'm very grateful to both David Jordan of Crossways and Renée at Literati for their kindness and support in creating another opening for this story. You can read it via my Stories page here
Apologies for being slightly late in announcing that Tics, a tiny story about obsession and diverging lives, came out in Eunoia Review on Sunday. It's another story in which I've used a mental map of the streets of my childhood in West London. This is the fourth story of mine to appear in Eunoia Review, and once again I'm very grateful to Ian Chung for presenting it so carefully, also for carrying on regardless in these difficult times. You can read it via my Stories page here
There are quite a few things coming up soon, though mostly I don't have dates. Amongst these is a very short story called Anchoress, set circa 1200AD, which I'm delighted to say has been accepted by Nymphs Publications. Also a longer story, A Retrospective Diary, will appear in Literati Magazine at some point, which I'm delighted about too. This one returns to my long-standing interest in memory and the way it can influence narrative. There's some other big news, but it's a little to early to reveal, even though I'd love to....
I'm delighted to express further gratitude to Laura Black, mentioned just below, who today nominated my story The Fun Police for the Best British and Irish Flash Fiction award in her capacity as editor of Fictive Dream. This story previously received a writer nomination from Cath Barton, for which I continue to be grateful. It's still available to read via my Stories page here
I’m very grateful to Laura Black, wonderful editor of Fictive Dream, for publishing my story John’s Oak today. I recently read Jonathan Bate’s vast and very enlightening biography of John Clare. It’s well known that Clare developed an intimate affinity with the natural world of his local community, and Bate recounts how he experienced fully-fledged grief when he learnt that his favourite tree had been felled. This led me to wonder how someone like Clare might exist in a more modern setting, hence John’s Oak. You can read it via my Stories page here
Grateful thanks to Literati Magazine for publishing my story Coming Back today. A while ago I worked at a major London hospital and in my role as therapist had long conversations with people who'd come through the intensive care unit and wanted to untangle what they'd experienced. The combination of critical illness, high levels of medication and in some cases sensory deprivation could be immensely disorientating, and often left a huge impact. I've tried to give a flavour of that in this story. You can read it via my Stories page here
I was really sorry to see that the Nottingham Review website has disappeared. It's sad to see such an established and high quality journal go. For this reason three of my older stories, On the Outside of Everything, The Prospect of Redemption, and My Past is not My future are no longer available via my Stories page. I'm not sure if anyone reads that far back, but I'm fond of these stories and will see if I can place them elsewhere. Thanks to Spencer Chou, editor of the Nottingham Review, for being such a helpful and courteous person to deal with.
My tiny and brand new story The Moon appears in Pendemic today. Pendemic offer a really excellent forum for anyone wanting to contribute stories, poems or thoughts set in other genres in relation to the lockdown and its individual and societal impact. I can also honestly say that I've never had any story accepted and published so quickly. You can read The Moon via my Stories page here
Really good news in these times. I heard today that a very new story, Tics, has been accepted for publication in Eunoia Review in early June. It's rare that I write and submit a story so quickly, but I felt I couldn't improve it any further, so tried my luck. It's one of those stories that depend heavily on the writing, so I must admit I feel relieved that a good editor thinks that it works. I'll say more when it comes out.
Really delighted that my story Access appears today in the beautifully presented online journal Fragmented Voices. It's a tiny story about the after effects of a marriage break-up - loss, disorientation, confusion of identity. So many things that can easily go unacknowledged, and may only become apparent over the course of time. You can read it via my Stories page here
Sashinder, the shortest story I've ever written and probably will ever write, has just been published by 100 Words of Solitude. This is a fabulous project which seeks to collect one hundred separate works including stories, creative non-fiction and poems from writers in all parts of the world in response to coronavirus and its personal impact. I feel very privileged to have been invited to take part. You can read Sashinder via my Stories page here
A really nice surprise. I learned yesterday that Alex's Blue Bag will be reissued in Fictive Dream this Saturday. A story drawn from the streets of my childhood, I was touched by the feedback it attracted when it first appeared. Thanks once again to editor Laura Black, who continues to build and curate a formidable online archive at Fictive Dream. For my money Laura is fast becoming our foremost custodian of the contemporary short story.
It's so heartening in these restrictive times to be able to continue to communicate and share through social media. Today my story Avie comes out in the new and exciting online journal Literati Magazine. I've always loved traditional music, and the story draws loosely on one or two apocryphal tales that still circulate about the great traditional singer and free spirit, Anne Briggs. As time went on she performed less and less, and then stopped entirely, but I was lucky to see her live when I was fifteen and have never forgotten what a mesmerising experience it was. You can read Avie via my Stories page here
Never has good news been so welcome. Last year I read a biography of the great rural poet, John Clare. By profession a farm labourer, although he travelled at various times in his life he lived mostly within a small radius of his birthplace, the village of Helpston in Northamptonshire. He developed an astonishing empathy for the natural life around him, which he recorded in great detail in his poems. He enjoyed patronage but also suffered poor mental health, and I found myself trying to imagine how he might live in more modern times, for instance the 1960s. Eventually, following this line, I began to write a pastoral story, not quite a fable, called John's Oak. I'm delighted to say it has been accepted for publication in late May or early June in the superb Fictive Dream. Thanks again to its wonderful editor, Laura Black, who has supported my fiction writing more than anyone.
One of my favourite older stories, Fascination, appears today in the innovative online journal Bandit Fiction. I’ve thought a lot about the relationship, and particularly the power balance, between artist and muse, and have tried to explore some elements of it here. An earlier version of this story appeared a couple of years ago in Into the Void. You can read the new version via my Stories page here
Delighted that my story, The Structure of Shadows, appears today in Hypnopomp, a excellent online magazine that specialises in strange or experimental fiction. For a long time I’ve been interested in the gaps that can appear in the narrative of our life. Sometimes their causes are traceable, sometimes they’re simply inexplicable. Perhaps this story is about the search for wholeness. You can read it via my Stories page here
Just delighted to learn that my story Fascination will come out in Bandit Magazine on March 13th. It originally appeared in Into the Void (or should I say disappeared). This is one of my absolute favourite stories, exploring as it does the relationship between artist and muse. I'm very grateful to Greg Forrester, Managing Director of Bandit, for giving it fresh life.
I learned this week that my story Avie, which has been through even more drafts than is normal even for me, has been accepted for publication by the Dutch online journal Literati. I'll say more when it comes out (there's no date yet), but in writing it I drew on apocryphal stories that grew up around the great traditional singer Anne Briggs, by all accounts a bit of a sixties wild child (in a folk singing sort of way).
Today one of my shortest stories, Silence, appears in the excellent online journal Fragmented Voices. In it I’ve returned to the themes of memory and association that first drew me back to writing stories. The essence of the story is based on something that really happened. Grateful thanks to editors Natalie Crick and Natalie Vera for accepting it and their care in presenting it. You can read it via my story page here
My all-time favourite short novel is A Month in the Country by J.L.Carr. Since I first read it (and watched the film version with early roles for Colin Firth and Kenneth Brannagh) I’ve always wanted to write a story ostensibly about the restoration of an old church, but really probing deeper into the complexities of the human spirit. So, decades after that initial idea, my story The Chapel appears today in Eunoia Review. This is the longest story I’ve written so far, it really taxed me, and I’m very grateful to the brilliant poet Georgia Hilton for reading a draft and offering invaluable suggestions. You can read The Chapel via my Stories page here
I've just learned to my astonishment that The Fun Police has been nominated for the BIFFY (best English and Irish flash fiction) award. This took me by utter surprise, as I never set out to write at a prescribed length, so have never thought of myself as a flash fiction writer. Very grateful thanks to Cath Barton for nominating the story, also, yet again, to the wonderful Laura Black of Fictive Dream for presenting it so beautifully.
The Fun Police, I think the shortest story I've yet had published, comes out today in the state of the art online journal Fictive Dream. Sometimes a particular phrase stays in the mind, then years later takes the form of a story. The first line of The Fun Police was spoken in real life, and brought about the same outcome as in the story. You can read The Fun Police via my Stories page here
I'm delighted that a very new, very short story, Silence, has been accepted by Fragmented Voices for publication on February 14th. I rarely write anything under a thousand words, simply because I find it so hard to distil a story into such a small space, and this one taxed me considerably. I'll say more when it comes out, but I'm very pleased that it will appear in Fragmented Voices, a new, vibrant publisher whose stated aim is to reach out and include work by authors who for one reason or other might feel marginalised. I feel they will provide a valuable resource for a wide range of voices in the months and years to come.
13th January (part 2)
I've just heard that a very short story, The Fun Police, has been accepted for publication on January 26th in the state-of-the-art online journal, Fictive Dream. I'll say more about the story when it comes out, but it's wonderful to know it will appear in Fictive Dream: a brilliant editor in Laura Black, a large, supportive readership, and a superb archive of contemporary stories by a diverse range of talented authors. I feel proud to be a small part of it.
My story The Arrangement came out yesterday in the fast-growing and beautifully produced online journal Lunate Fiction. For ten years I worked in a number of voluntary sector organisations in North London. I remember this time with fondness, but it was not without it's challenges. Some improbable people, with strange motives, seemed to end up in what appears to have become known as the 'third sector'. Tensions, as they say, could emerge.... Heartfelt thanks once again to Han and Gary, Lunate editors, for giving a fine home to another of my stories. You can read The Arrangement via my Stories page here
First acceptance of the year! The longest story I've written, The Chapel, has been accepted by Eunoia Review for publication in late January. Somehow, despite the numbing effect of being dragged round old churches as a child, they've never totally lost their fascination. A student fresh from college has the task of restoring iconography in a remote chapel amidst parish intrigue (oh god - that sounds horribly Midsomer. I promise it's not!).
I've been looking towards the year ahead and trying to give it some shape. There's a residue of three stories accepted last year and yet to come out - the only certain date I have is for a longer story, The Arrangement, due to be published by Lunate Fiction on January 12th. Fascination, a small story about the relationship between an artist and muse originally published in Into the Void, will be republished by Bandit Fiction at some point. Also a story called Where the Dawn Takes Us, set on the Barry railway line in South Wales, has been accepted for Issue 12 of The Lonely Crowd. Other than that, I've been writing, re-writing and submitting in the last few weeks, also trying to compile a collection (with one strong but not definite expression of interest). Finally, if I'm honest, I'm beginning to wonder how many stories I have left in me....