Saturday 30 June 2018

Leicester Writes Short Story Festival

On 30th July I attended a day of sessions about getting a short story collection published, with talks by Divya Ghelani (who was tutored for a year by Venessa Gebbie - small world), Rupert Dastur (TSS), Farhana Shaikh, Rebecca Burns, CG Menon, Alison Moore, Mahsuda Snaith and Megan Taylor - all of them good. A good audience too - lots of us are trying to do what so few of us will succeed in. The points I noted were

  • Think about using long, striking titles. It's the second time this summer that I've heard this advice. Such titles still feel gimmicky to me, but I'd better try.
  • Publishers like to take on people with many Facebook friends and Twitter followers because each friend/follower is a potential buyer. I'm going to have trouble there too.
  • People who read lots of submissions have a good idea of what topics to avoid - e.g. "weeping", dead babies, kitchen dramas with couples discussing their failing relationship.
  • Enter competitions. Even long-listing is worth adding to one's record (I don't bother mentioning anything unless I won a prize).

Monday 18 June 2018

A Birmingham visit

I hadn't realised how much Birmingham figures in Lord of the Rings. Tolkein used to play by Sarehole Mill (close to where he used to live), where now there are two metal models of Birmingham towers (Perrott's Folly and Edgbaston Waterworks Tower) that he may have had in mind when writing his book. We went to see the actual towers - part of the Tolkein Trail. It's a good bet that aspects of the mill and the surroundings - Moseley Bog - feature too.

I popped into Waterstones and by chance found my story book there, next to Christopher Logue's poetry book. By some strange reasoning that I now can't recall, I thought it best to leave the book where it was.

Friday 15 June 2018

Launch of Lighthouse 17

I attended the launch of Gateway Press's "Lighthouse" issue 17 in Norwich last night. It was compered by the tireless Julia Webb.

I read the issue on the way home. The theme was science - poetry, flash, short stories and essays. Many interesting pieces. My favourite ones were by Anne Bailey (poems) and Marc John (an SF story, sort of).

Anne Osbourn's article begins by discussing specialism, not only in science. She points out that there are benefits to society with having specialists, but the resulting breakdowns in communication may be dangerous. I agree with this. Scientists and artists/writers (or their representatives) need to transmit their findings, to help the public appreciate the latest Tate exhibition, atonal symphony, global warning, number theory, etc. After all, it's the public who pays them. It's the public who deserve to know why some charlatan performance poet or ivory tower pure mathematician is publicly funded while people are dying through lack of NHS funding. Outreach and Open Days are good things.

Half way through, the article turns to seeking common factors between the arts and sciences. It's here that I begin to have trouble. She writes that they both "involve a combination of creativity and technical competence", and that they "depend on the ability to define a problem ... and extract the essence of the problem in hand". Even were this so, it also applies to knitting a cardigan, preparing a cake, etc. It's how humans do things.

Then she writes that "The ultimate objective for both is to pinpoint the truth, and to communicate this clearly and succinctly to others for appraisal". I don't think it is. Her conclusion is that "We all look at things in different ways. Together we can draw on our strengths and differences to build up a patchwork of understanding, a better approximation of the truth". I try not to use the word "truth" in such circumstances - it means too many different things. Truth in logic is so far from the Truth in religion that it's misleading to use the same word. Besides, it seems to me that poets have backed away from claiming to be Seers, to be seeking great Truths.

I have abiding doubts about Valerie Laws but at least her article "Poetry and Science, Beauty and Truth" ends with "if there is more than one kind of truth or beauty, that is all the more cause for celebration".

See -


Friday 8 June 2018

Recent publications

I've a poem in London Grip - Dark Matter - deliberately packed with similes, and today a story in Spelk - The Park - which rather depends on readers seeing the implicit comparisons: tortoise and old man; decision-making and blind wanderers.