Saturday 13 October 2012

Long fiction, the short story and the poem. Plus Work in Progress

As friends here will know I am enjoying the new adventure of writing short stories.

So I thought I would share here my introduction to the six story collection Writing Matters where I meander about thinking of the connection between long fiction  the short story and the poem.

And then also here is work in progress - an extract from one of these stories. Hope you enjoy it.

I once said in a room full of dedicated short story and published writers that a short story was the waste of a good idea. Such blasphemy got the gasps it really does deserve. In the end I did protest that my tongue was firmly in my cheek.

In fact I admire the short story form. It sits neatly between the novel and the poem. It combines the broad narrative significance of the novel with the precision, the economy and illumination of the poem. Both the poem and the short story demand of the writer the precise and focused use of language and true involvement with the processing of unique human experience.

And the truth is that I have always written short stories. The very first publication for which I received hard cash was for a story in Annabel magazine about a little boy called Sam who stood on a rusty nail.

As the years went on, while publishing long fiction, I continued to write short stories, mopping up the ideas that teamed in my head. Some of these were published in Sunday supplements and other places. After a while I started to collect them together more systematically. So emerged the collection called Knives and Other Stories (first published by Iron Press). Then came Fear of Flight and Other Stories which is to be published soon with the re-issue of Knives by AudioGo.

It’s difficult these days for a writer to place very good short stories, despite substantial national campaigns to reinstate the value of this prose form in the public consciousness. I have been advising serious short story writers to build a collection around a theme.
In producing Painting Matters and Other Stories I have followed my own advice.

Often we don’t quite realise quite what we are influenced by or what may be threaded there in layers below our surface narrative. And recently, when re-evaluating my own long fiction, I realised how much painting, painters and teachers and inspirers thread themselves through quite diverse novels.

My first job (when barely out of my own teens) was teaching art to disaffected teenagers and when I moved on I continued to admire art history, contemporary painters and to paint a little myself. Also – very significantly as I re-read my work what also struck me was the degree to which I see painting as a liberating process.

So I decided that Painting would be the loose theme for my next short story collection which has emerged here as Painting Matters and Other Stories. I hope you enjoy these stories.

Work in Progress: from the short story actually called Painting Matters:

"… And the person knocking at the door could definitely not be Sheena’s sister Geraldine. She lived on a boat somewhere in the Midlands with her arty friend Roy and her musical so n Seth. Geraldine’s focus on Emma was a five minute telephone call every Sunday night.She often told her step-mother that she made phone calls standing up. Time, she would say, was to be spent, not wasted.

Emma was breathless when she finally reached the door. She put a hand to her throat, took a deep breath, undid the chain and opened the door. She blinked up at the boy who stood there. He was tall and rangy, his grey eyes were ringed with black; his black hair shot up from his brow was cut oddly short at the side and. He was clutching a big square parcel which he hoisted so she could see the label. ‘Emma Unthank?'

She nodded…"

Monday 8 October 2012

Proud Mum’s Portrait of a Good Writer

 Phew! Nice to be back on song after a while under the radar.

Last month’s highlight for me was Licked Spoon launching her  super book  Gifts From The Garden which as the proud Mum I think everyone should have for themselves or buy for creative friends for Christmas. So far it's had good reviews in theTelegraph garden section and Gardens Illustrated - so it’s not just me!

The book is great – brimming with ideas, beautifully shot and – most important for me – beautifully written. This is her hallmark.

The launch at Stoke Newington Bookshop – a brilliant independent bookseller - was packed with every kind of booklover, gardener, cook, and maker.  As a Northern Outsider I was interested to observe the styles of these book lovers, which ranged from neat and familiar, through Shaker restraint, to the elegant and the cookie. My favourite style-statements were the elegant grey suit with black tee-shirt(man) and golden brogues with shocking pink bows (woman).

In between the laden bookshelves the tables were filled with gift-food made from the book, complete with luggage label page-references.(I was sent out in the afternoon to buy those labels…) Debora told the story of the book and burnished it with stories of our outrageous Uncle Jos, his witty wife and his amazing allotment. Then - using her recipes from the book - she  demonstrated how to make a calming tisane (lovely word that ...) and  a beauty skin scrub with the help of her friend Allison.

Here we had great food, aesthetic appreciation, much laughter, hard information and beautiful books. Here the medium was indeed the message. I can’t find it in me to apologies for the eulogistic tone of this post. This writer is my clever kind daughter after all. 

As well as rushing out to buy brown luggage labels, another thing I did that week was make a portrait on my tablet of Licked Spoon working, I know, I know! It looks like poker-work, But like Licked Spoon's  writing, cooking and gardening, it is all my own work.

If you fancy Debora's  Gifts from the Garden click here 

Monday 1 October 2012

Changing My Priority Back To the Written Word.

Here on Lifetwicetasted you have heard from time to time of my adventure into community broadcasting with my programme THE WRITING GAME. Through producing writing and editing 23 one hour programmes I have learned a great deal. It has been exciting and full of month-by-month pressure. If I were thirty years younger I might  have made a career of it.

But I am a writer: my commitment is to the written word and I must now focus properly on that,
You might be interested in the whole story, so below is the  piece I have posted on my Bishop FM Blog which will give you the whole picture.  It has been a great experience is the significance of the spoken word and the deadline disciplines of broadcasting.  Any writer out there who wants to spread her or his creative wings whould give community broadcasting a try.

This is what I said:

'...They say every good thing should come to an end and I am sad to say that, due to pressure of work, I will be unable to continue with The Writing Game.
This winter - writing being my day job - I will be completing the third of three short story collections[1]* This new collection is called Painting Matters & Other Stories and features painting, painters, teachers and other life-changers. I will also be embarking in a big new novel involving ... er ...ghosts.

On The Writing Game we have celebrated writing and writers, reading and readers. We have interviewed great writers such as David Almond, Pat Barker, Terry Deary, Kathleen Jones, Maureen Almond and Ann Cleeves. We have featured talented local writers such as Barbara Laurie, Geri Auton, Noma Neil, Eileen Elgey and Alison Carr. Also musician Andy Jackson and Su Kane.

Of course the Writing Game is not just one person. On the The Writing Game team – all from Bishop Auckland – we have had novelist and short story writer Avril Joy, gardener, librarian, writer and expert on mining art Gillian Wales and historian Glynn Wales who reads more widely and more eclectically than anyone I know.

Between the four of us on our team we have celebrated the Dickens Bi-Centenary, the joys of writing and reading Children’s Literature, the inspirations of music, gardening and travel, and the writing of Bishop Auckland history; we have showcased the writing skills involved in writing novels, short stories, memoirs and poetry.

 With valued technical advice from Bishop FM’s James Burrage and Terry Ferdinand, and encouraged by Gillian Campbell, I have learned a such in the course of producing these many one hour programmes – researching content, recording interviews and discussions, editing two or three hours of source material into the coherent 56 minutes which is The Writing Game. This has all been very fascinating and absorbing – a great learning curve for me. But in the end it has left little time and energy for my equally fascinating and absorbing 'day job' of writing novels and stories.

The good news is that all of the Writing Game programmes will remain here as THE WRITING GAME ARCHIVE an archive of podcasts on the Bishop FM Website as well as being featured on the widely available iTunes. So the opportunity is there for everyone to listen again to these good words about reading and writing on The Writing Game.

So in signing off here I would like to thank Gillian C, James and Terry for allowing and encouraging me to share with them the airwaves of South Durham. And Gillian W, Glynn and Avril or their ongoing inspiration and comradeship. (I hope you will hear their voices again on the aor waves of Bishop FM.)
Thank you all so much.

I hope I too can come back here now and then to share with you my opinions about writing and books which may be in the news. If you want to share with me the ongoing delights of my day job, look at my blog at

Until then, happy writing, happy reading.

Wendyx ...

[1] The first two -The reissued Knives & Other Stories and a new collection Fear of Flight &  other Stories –   are both  now commissioned for publication. The third collection Painting Matters & Other Stories is in its final stages of writing...  '

So now, back properly to the day job...


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