Meeting Banksy in W-S-M.

dismalandWe arrived in Weston-Super-Mare on Tuesday afternoon – myself and partner, my brother and his partner –  we were bringing my father back to visit his former home and friends. That evening the four of us took a stroll along the seafront. It was dark, 10.30 ish, the pier closed, donkeys put to bed and the evening tide retreating.

As we approached the site of the Tropicana, once an exotic outdoor lido where our children had swum, now derelict, laser beams appeared in the sky and the skeleton frame of a fairy castle with turrets rose above high fences and barriers, its ragged flags fluttering in the wind off the sea. As we got closer we could just make out a scaffold horse and the upturned wheels of a truck. Everything else remained hidden.

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Writer’s Rooms – Ruby Speechley

Today Writers’ Rooms features Ruby Speechley. Ruby recently won the Retreat West Competition with the first chapter of her novel. Yeh!

So if like me you love to see where and learn how other writers write – take a peek HERE.

If you would like to feature in Writers’ Rooms drop me an email and I’ll book you a place – ALL are welcome here – I am simply interested in writers published or not.

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Somerset Bound

cropped-GEP007SomersetLevels1.jpgI’m off to Somerset, land of my birth, to take my father back for a visit to old friends. I wonder if there is still more I have to write about this beautiful county?* I’m feeling encouraged by the response to my White River, Arkansas stories – a longlisting for my story How the River Breaks Your Heart, in the international Raymond Carver Short Story competition and what I can only class as a stunning rejection, possibly the best ever, for my novel – perhaps (for once) I really do believe they won’t have the room for it. Of course common sense tells me that in the end you find room for the irresistible – so nearly, but not quite, yet!

* My first novel The Sweet Track  is set on the Somerset Levels

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Anne Goodwin’s Writing Room

A fascinating peek inside the writer’s space – take a look HERE at the room where Anne Goodwin writes her fiction: short and long, and blogs about reading and writing, with a peppering of psychology. Her debut novel, Sugar and Snails, was published last month by Inspired Quill. You can find her at her website annethology or on Twitter @Annecdotist.

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Raymond Carver – Short Story Prize




This week in my newsletter I wrote about writers (including me) experiencing rejection. So today I feel justified in celebrating my good news – a longlisting in the Raymond Carver Short Story Prize. Any association with that name is alright by me! He is simply one of my all time favourite short story writers so I’m delighted to have made it that far.

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Desert Places – Reading Robyn Davidson

image 2One advantage of having a dodgy internet connection (hopefully to be fixed soon) is the time it frees up for other things which for me this week has involved a lot of sitting in my garden in the sun with a morning coffee or afternoon tea and reading Robyn Davidson’s – Desert Places, an account of her travels with camels and people in Rajasthan.

I found the book on my shelves, slightly the worse for wear, having been loaned to me some years ago on my return from travelling in India. Now I am going back (and in case you’re wondering I will be returning the book too.)  The difference is this time I go back as a writer with my notebook in hand and I can’t tell you how exciting a prospect that is. And I will definitely be sending item_XL_8402461_8093693postcards from India and pictures back via this blog.

In the meantime I find I’m entranced by the book and even more by the life of Robyn Davidson:  her resilience, bravery, humour, the sheer guts and romance of her life (great combination), her unconventional glamour… But Desert Places is not a book for the faint-hearted, the realities are very different from the romantic images one might expect of sand-dunes and sunsets. At times the story is brutal but still Davidson’s writing is full of images and words I want to steal, and also for me, it’s redolent with the anticipation of re-visiting this fascinating part of the world.


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Is Your Protagonist Male or Female ..?

Is your protagonist male or female? Chances are if she’s female you’re less likely to be published. Read this important piece by Nicola Griffith on the scarcity of female narratives in literary fiction in  The Seattle Review of Books

Then take a look at her blog post Books About Women Tend Not to Win Awards

No wonder Kamilla Shamsie is calling for a year of publishing women  –both issues seem intrinsically linked to me and it’s great to see a dialogue finally making headlines.


Kamilla Shamsie


Nicola Griffiths



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imagesIt’s not every writer’s cup of tea I know but one of the things I really enjoy about the writing life is being invited to read from my work. I rarely find it scary, in fact I think it’s a privilege. I think my lack of fear probably goes back to all my years of addressing row on row of prison officers at full staff meetings (now that can be scary or at least it was until I got used to it), or as I did once, a whole conference of Prison Governors.

So often, in this life, I end up reading in interesting and beautiful places, very different from those behind the prison walls – here are some of those places:

The Society Cafe Soho, on the faux lawn outside Foyles on the Southbank (that was a bit scary as it it was outside and it felt like reading to the world,) in a potting shed in Tom and Sue Stuart-Smith’s Barn Garden, in the RNLI building in Cullercoats with the tide coming in, libraries in Newcastle and Norwich, Chetham’s School of Music Manchester, Wharf Chambers Co-operative club in Leeds, Teikyo University of Japan Durham…

They were all very special in their own way. But I am happy to read anywhere. Who says writing is just a solitary, stay at home gig? It’s taken me to some great places and I hope there will be many more.

My top 3 tips for readings – 1. Practice, practice, practice. 2. Don’t go on too long. 3. Enjoy

You can listen HERE on You Tube to me reading in Leeds I have to admit while I love to do it, I don’t especially love to see or hear the recording – it’s weird, do I really look and sound like that?

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Summer Postcards

imagesThere’s something about a postcard* – the image that captures the view and then in that small white space just about enough room for a ‘hello, wish you were here,’ a neat piece of flash fiction, a polished description, or even a poem. Perhaps that’s why I like SetInModern’s idea of submitting your summer postcards for their summer-calls-for-submission. It costs to submit your 500 words (although not if you’re a member) but they pay for published pieces – publication and a fee – now that can’t be bad.

*My friend and writing buddy, the writer Wendy Robertson is currently on holiday in the beautiful South West of France. She has written a number of postcards and posted them on here on her blog  – lovely idea.

In my newsletter this week – competition and submission opportunities, and ‘writing from the drawer.’  You can sign up for it on the right and get a free PDF on writing short stories (your privacy is always respected)

Novella or Novel ?

I thought I was writing a novella. I think I might be writing a novel – albeit a short one. I think I might be on the cusp around the 50,000 word mark, although it would be longer were the language used different, as my protagonist Aiyana speaks in an unusual and abbreviated syntax. Of course the world and her/his dog will tell you that publishers want at least 60-70,000 words for a novel and that trying to get a novella published is hopeless. So what to do in the face of the statistics* and the advice?

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