Monday, 14 January 2019

The Mechanics' Institute Review (Birkbeck, University of London)

The Mechanics' Institute Review is the online platform for BirkBeck, University of London. I recently attended an Arvon course in Lumb Bank nr Hebden Bridge with Toby Litt (from Birkbeck) and Joanna Walsh. Toby read one of my stories in the week at Lumb Bank and suggested I might like to send it in to MIR for their consideration. I did and they accepted it. I worked with one of their staff - Jupiter Jones - on fine-tuning the piece (thank you to Jupiter for making the whole process so easy) and today the story has been posted up on their site. It's called 'A GIRL IN MY BATHROOM' and it's a bit quirky and you can read it here:

Great picture to go with it by the way.

Wednesday, 21 November 2018


I am gad people are still reading Jonathan Lethem's very important essay 'The Ecstasy of Influence' which looks at ideas and the 'theft' of ideas and Art, and the need for a freedom of the transmission of ideas that is not really covered by recent copyright battles in the music industry.

Here is an article written by J.C.Mims which looks at what Lethem says about ideas and the need for them to be shared in order for Art to flourish. Mims says in the article:

"Lethem is arguing for an artist-wide shared universe essentially, where many different creators have access to a wide range of publicly accessible properties, so that the best possible art can be created. One writer might have a good idea, but their follow-through could be terrible. Why not have another writer pick that idea up then, and see if they can make a better follow-through?"

Read the whole article here .


Thursday, 25 October 2018


So, I am told that deadlines and publication dates often shift under one's feet. I have completed the second 'Typeset Proof' edits for the novel that was due out at the end of this year (initially October and then shifted to December) so from this it might be assumed that we are good to go. But the cover has not been finalised yet and there's some debate going on around this to make sure we get one that is right for the book. And this, along with some other small concerns around timing, has shifted the publication date to the end of February 2019. I am told by a writer friend of mine that this is all pretty normal.

So, having had a 'dry spell' for quite a while, this summer a whole other novel spilled out and it was a little new in its shape and not like anything I have written before. Still at the first draft stage but it felt good - to be writing again, to have a good project filling my head, and to get something down on paper. I have someone looking it over and am waiting for feedback on the project. I expect it will need a fair bit of revision, but it is something that was a lot of fun to do.

Then I had another Arvon course booked - one on experimental fiction with Toby Litt and Joanna Walsh. The reading in preparation for this course sparked another project and, having completed the course (which was so exciting and mind-expanding) and returned home, this second project is now completed too and is very very different from anything I have done before; it was exciting and fun for me to write. Again this is at first draft stage, but I have shown it to someone - someone who knows my work a bit, and they have said it is hands down the best thing they have read of mine... so that feels good.

Am also looking at some non-writing university short courses to do in 2019 which may also help me in my writing... I will share more of this if and when they happen.

Sunday, 30 September 2018


(Been a while since I posted any fiction here, so here's a flash from a while back.)


Kimika stares at the numbers she has set down on the page. She sees them running all ways, like ants across the paper, and she chases those ants with her pen, never quite catching them. Kimika does not understand what her teacher, Mr Osaka, has told her to do. She cannot remember the rules to make those numbers sit still. She can see the other girls in the class, bent over their work, their small-moon faces crumpled and creased with concentration, and they are writing. Kimika can hear the scritch scratch of their pens, and she thinks she is the only one who sees ants.
Kimika thinks of Grandpa Ishio and the stories in his head. She thinks of the biggest number in the world; she cannot yet put a name to that number but she thinks it must be more than a hundred and that is the number of the stories that her Grandpa Ishio has. She remembers those stories, though sometimes when she remembers they are just one story and Grandpa Ishio’s voice does not stop for breath in the telling of the tale. Kimika looks at the page before her and she wishes Grandpa Ishio was with her now; he would have the words to stop those ants from running this way and that, for there is a magic in words, Grandpa Ishio says.
Kimika makes a story come, one of Grandpa Ishio’s stories. It is the one about the boy who emerged full formed from the great peach stone and he grew as quick as stories can and came to be the warrior Momotaro. Kimika tells herself of the Lord Monkey and the Lord Brindled Dog and the Lord Pheasant of the Moor, and how they sailed with Momotaro out across the sea in a bamboo boat and, reaching a far off island, they found and thrashed the great ogres that were the terror of the country, and the heroes afterwards brought back all the lost treasures of Japan. There were precious jewels, and coral fans, and amber beads, and emerald necklaces, and gold and silver bells, and tortoiseshell combs, and bolts of the finest silk. And there was a coat made of rice grass and wearing it made a person invisible. Kimika looks up at the clock on the wall and even those numbers are become ants. She wishes for the rice grass coat then.
‘Don’t forget the hammer,’ she says, only the voice in her head when she says it sounds like Grandpa Ishio. ‘Don’t forget the hammer.’ He means the hammer that Momotaro brought back from the Isle of Ogres. And it was a magic hammer and every blow of the hammer struck showers of gold. Kimika looks down at the page of her book and she thinks that to make gold out of the ants on her page would be a fine thing indeed, and the ogre, Mr Osaka, would be pleased with that and not notice that her numbers didn’t add up. Instead she scribbles with her pen.
Kimika is busy with her scribbling, not really knowing what she does, making a cloud that glowers and glowers across the whole page, and all those ants are soon shrunk to one that sits in a small white space in the middle of the paper. 
‘The pen is mightier than the sword,’ her Grandpa Ishio says with some satisfaction, and it is as though he is there beside her, leaning over her shoulder and his lips close to her ear. ‘The pen is mightier than the sword,’ he says again, and Kimika did not think that could be true till now, till she sees the one small ant trapped in the crowded darkness of her scribbling, outnumbered by the marks she has made on the page, over and over, too many to count, more than all the stories in Grandpa Ishio’s head.
Mr Osaka looks up for a moment and seems to be listening to the scritch scratch music of the girls’ pens, and Kimika pretends she is thinking hard, wears a mask that makes her look like all the other girls in the class. Then, when Mr Osaka looks away again, Kimika bends to her work and scribbles the last remaining ant into dark.

Wednesday, 22 August 2018


I believe it's really quite something to be selected for inclusion in New Writing Scotland's annual anthology, so I am thrilled to be in this one. It was the late Helen Lamb who encouraged me to send them something; she has appeared in a couple of their anthologies. Thanks to Helen for pushing me into this. It's a vibrant and kick-ass production and I love the cover and hope that my story is wearing its best clothes. You can find out more about it here and a list of the other contributors - good names on the list.


I have a story included in this very elegant production. So pleased to be a part of The Fiction Desk stable of authors with this anthology of good writing. Special thanks go to Rob - editor at The Fiction Desk - for having faith in the story and for helping me bring the story to it's proper size and shape - it reads so much better now. You can find out more here.

Sunday, 17 June 2018


I attended two classes in 2017 with the late Helen Lamb as the tutor. It was such a loss when she suddenly and unexpectedly passed away. She had shared with the class that she had just completed her first novel and was touting it round looking for a publisher. I am pleased to say that Helen's novel will be published sometime in 2018 and is called 'Three Kinds of Kissing'.

Helen was very encouraging to her students. I followed her advice and sent a novel I had completed out to four agents in Scotland. One came back almost immedately and agreed to represent me and now the novel will be published in time for Christmas this year. It would still be tucked away in a folder on my desktop if Helen had not expressed such urgency for me to 'get it out there now'.

Helen also encouraged me to send one of my pieces of shorter fiction out to 'New Writing Scotland' - an excellent showcase for writing. I again followed her advice and one of my short stories will appear there in August:

Teachers can be so important and so inspirational and so generous. And they live on in memory of the things they taught and the people they were - thank you to Helen.