Short Story Course 2017

I’m delighted to tell you that beginning January 2017,  I’ll be tutoring a Short Story Course on behalf of Comma Press at the beautiful Lit &Phil Library in Newcastle.

The course will run over a six month period, and take place once a month, on a Tuesday evening 6-8pm from January to June. This will allow plenty of time for your writing and reading between sessions.

You will find full details, including dates, cost and booking HERE.

So why am I delighted, excited and full of anticipation ?  Here are just four reasons to begin with:

I love the short form

I know there is so much for us to share, discuss and learn and I never run a course without learning something new myself which feeds into my own work.

I get to read your work and hopefully help inspire you to make it the best it can be.

The short story has brought me great success and helped me establish myself as a recognised writer – I know it can do the same for you.

So why not join me? We will learn a lot from reading  the best and I promise you I will share everything I know about crafting a successful short story. And we’ll have a ball while we do it… hope to see you there


Falling in Love With the Short Story

Junot Diaz’s, On My Way To The Novel I Fell In Love With The Short Story, (In Praise of a Form “Unforgiving as Fuck”) forms the introduction to  The Best American Short Stories 2016  and to my way of thinking is a must read piece for all lovers of the short story, particularly writers.

Every line is quotable and I especially like the way he likens his life’s course to a series of short stories and ‘the brevity of our moments.’ I’m with him on that. I’m with him on practically everything he says..and I’m archiving pieces like this now in preparation for a Short Story Course I’ve been asked to tutor in Newcastle in 2017 (exciting) – more of that coming up soon…

In the meantime I’m concentrating on the short story form in my own work and it goes without saying that I will be reading lots of stories and collections too.

Here is Junot Diaz on reading and his concerted effort to get to know the form: ‘What happened during that intense blaze of reading was that a new aesthetic standard began to establish itself in me. I went from a grudging tolerance of the short story to a surprised admiration.

It dawned on me finally that this was no intermediate form, a step en route to the novel, but an extraordinary tradition in its own right, not easily mastered but rich in rewards.’


lake and palace

I’m currently writing a story set in India


Aiming for 100 Rejections a Year…

Aiming for 100 rejections a year seems like a crazy, self-destructive path for a writer. I mean really, if one rejection is enough to have us reaching for the tissues, that glass of red, or that piece of  Vennels coffee cake, then any more starts to look dangerous for the waistline and the heart

But wait, I see that it’s not as crazy as it sounds, here’s author, Kim Lao, after deciding to aim for 100 rejections a year – ‘Since I’ve started aiming for rejections, not acceptances, I no longer dread submitting. I don’t flinch (much) when I receive inevitable form rejection emails. Instead of tucking my story or essay apologetically into a bottle and desperately casting it out to sea, I launch determined air raids of submission grenades, five or ten at a time. I wait for the rejections, line up my next tier of journals, and submit again…

The great news is that in the writing life, there’s always something or someone new to get rejected by. In the towering waves of slush, be it high tide or low tide, my own modest submission is out there, like a tiny sailboat, bobbing afloat, perhaps bringing me closer to land.’  READ the whole of this inspiring piece HERE including the experiment that left ceramics students paralyzed by theorizing about perfection – now that is dangerous

Here’s my post on Brene Brown and the disease of perfectionism



8 Tips for Writing What You Don’t Know

As promised here are my top tips for writing what you don’t know, whether it be time, place or both:

1. Imagine, imagine, imagine – imagination comes before research. You can imagine it all. Trust your imagination, it’s your greatest tool. Only later will you need to back it up with research.

2. Don’t get hung up on the research- do only as much as you need and don’t feel you have to use it all. I often do my research as I go along.

3. Primary sources are the best – journals, official records, diaries, fiction written in the time or place, blogs, videos…

4. Sweat the small stuff – this is where the research is important – the small details are crucial.

5. An image can be worth a thousand words – use paintings, photos, maps, etc to inspire you

6. Be patient, know that it will take longer and be harder – but it will be fascinating and worth every minute of time spent.

7. Use a timeline – it will help prevent confusion and keep things right

8. Names are crucial – people, places, streets, fauna, flora etc – they must be authentic.

Writing What You Don’t Know

Writing What You Don’t Know – is the best adventure you’ll ever go on as a writer, believe me. Its hard, at times painstaking, always exacting but ultimately so rewarding…

When Isabel Costello invited me onto her Literary Sofa to talk about writing my novel, Sometimes A River Song, and suggested I might like to do a, ‘Writers on Location,’ piece, it was time to confess. I hadn’t been on location. I had never been to Arkansas. Not even close. I had not explored its mountains and forests or sailed its great rivers down to the Mississippi Delta, and yet place, in particular an Arkansas river, is the thread on which the novel hangs. It begins and ends with the river and the 2016-05-16-18-38-04river is constant throughout.

So how did I come to write about something so far from my experience, a place and a people I knew nothing of and all set in the 1930s?

Well, here’s how….One evening, by pure chance,

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