Archive for May, 2014

 

Resized cover imageA lot of the people who know me have no idea that I’m a writer. I’ve always felt self-conscious about that label, because you need to be able to back it up; otherwise you’re just a bit of a weird fantasist. Or a romancer, as my grandmother would have said – meaning someone who makes up stories, which I suppose describes me fairly well. But right now I am holding in my hands an actual book, with my name on the cover, along with those of nine other talented women. Though I say it myself, My Baby Shot Me Down is an object of beauty. It includes both prose and poetry; some of it by far more accomplished writers than me. But if you type my name into an Amazon search, up it pops. It includes six of my short stories. So maybe I’ve earned the right to call myself a writer.

People tend to be impressed when you show them an actual book. My favourite response so far is ‘What are you doing in there?’ People who know me are pleased, excited, proud, and sometimes, to be honest, a little puzzled, because they thought I was just a rather odd person who gave up a secure, well-paid teaching job and ended up working part time for minimum wage and volunteering in a charity shop. Which is all true, but not the whole story. Anyway, my name is Alison Wassell, and I am a writer.

And then, inevitably, The Question is asked.

When are you going to write a novel?’ I wonder if, as Usain Bolt crosses the finishing line, anyone ever says

That’s nice dear, but when are you going to run the marathon?’

My name is Alison Wassell and I am a short story writer. I am not a wannabe novelist. I don’t view short stories as practice for something bigger. They are what I do, and my only ambition is to do them better.

DIGITAL CAMERAI almost got sucked in once. Several years ago, I registered for Nanowrimo. The idea is that, throughout the month of November, you attempt to write the first draft of a novel. The target is, I think, 50.000 words. I lasted about a week, and I wrote around 8000 words. I began to dread my writing sessions. I ran out of plot. But my head started to burst with ideas for short stories that I was desperate to write. That was when I realised that I was not a novelist, and that I had no desire to be one. The following November I set myself the target of writing a new story every day for 30 days. It was one of the best writerly things I’ve ever done. Several of those stories ended up as competition winners. I’m actually still working on some of the others.

Five of my stories in the anthology are flash fictions. It’s what I do best. I don’t do lengthy descriptions and I don’t do intricate plotting. I just like to capture a moment, or a single idea. I get most of my ideas from snippets of overheard conversations on buses. I once won £50 for a story based on something the cashier in the Co-op told me when I was buying cat litter. I think a piece of flash fiction is closer to a poem than any other form of writing. You can compose it in your head during a thirty minute walk. By the time you put pen to paper, it can be almost word perfect. I know this, because I do it, most mornings, on my way to work.

So, as a writer, I am a sprinter, not a marathon runner. Anyone who knows me personally will be smirking now, because I won’t even run to catch a bus, but I still like the analogy, so I’m sticking with it.

I’m well aware that short story writing will never make me rich. But for the last couple of years it has paid my fuel bills, mainly in competition winnings. I could have spent that time beavering away at ‘my novel’, with little or no hope of it ever being published. But I’d have needed a lot of extra jumpers to keep me warm while I was doing it.

DIGITAL CAMERAI don’t regard the short story as a lesser form. Alice Munro is my heroine. I prefer William Trevor’s short stories to his novels, and I believe that Dubliners is the best thing that James Joyce ever wrote. I’m thrilled to have my work included in My Baby Shot Me Down, because I can’t imagine anywhere else that would offer me such a fantastic showcase. But please don’t ask me when my novel will be coming out. My name is Alison Wassell, and my ambition is to be a better short story writer.

***

Alison is short story writer who specialises in flash fiction. Once a primary school teacher, she has won, been placed and shortlisted in numerous writing competitions, including 2nd place in Flash 500 (first quarter 2013) and first prize in the microfiction section of The New Writer Prose & Poetry Prizes 2012 with I Blame The Parents, which is included in My Baby Shot Me Down. By the way, Tania Hershman came third in that competition!  Her story The Mother Thief was placed third out of 1400 entries in the Final Chapters writing competition, organized by the Dying Matters Coalition in 2012, and was published in the Final Chapters Anthology (Jessica Kingsley Publishers) in 2014. In 2012 Alison came second in the 250 word category and third in the 1000 words category of the Words With Jam Bigger Short Story Competition. Her stories were published in the anthology An Earthless Melting Pot. In 2013 she came second in the 2500 words category of the same competition and was a runner up in the 250 words section.

I told you she was top!

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I just wanted to share this piece of news before sliding back into my virus-ridden hole. I had an email from Bill Hutchens, director of the short feature film of The Beast Next Door (free to read on the Ether App) to let me know it will be screened at the Planet Connections Film Festival in New York on June 2nd! The story’s journey continues. I haven’t actually seen the film myself as, although I was sent a copy some months ago, I haven’t got anything I can watch it on. That’s OK. I know it sticks closely to the original story, having commented on early versions of the screenplay, but it is difficult enough to watch a film of a much-loved book, let alone a story you have written yourself! I’ll admit I may be weird in this respect.

Other news – both my stories were shortlisted in December’s Flash500 and one got mentioned by the judge a couple of times, so it must have come close. Another one was shortlisted in the Fish Flash Fiction competition. Yes, I know it was a long shortlist, but it was a huge entry so I was pleased.

My biggest news (that’s how it feels, anyway) is that I broke out of my flash straitjacket after four years of not writing anything longer than a thousand words, and found myself completing a story of 4,000. It went down very well in my writing group, which felt absolutely wonderful. I’d thought I’d seen the end of my ‘long’ shorts career, so I’m happy and relieved. I just hope the judges of the competition I entered like it…

The Strid is still getting hundreds of hits a week (2,500 last week) because of the article at cracked.com. Not everyone stays to read, obviously, but I’ve had some really lovely comments.

Otherwise, I am still happily curating the Readwave Literary Fiction category and have accepted some great pieces of writing. Pop along and have a read if you have time – it’s all free. Much of Readwave is now devoted to articles and true life stories, but LitFic is an oasis of well-written fiction.

Finally, Ether Books has decided to try crowdfunding for further development of the App and to raise the profile of Ether Books worldwide. Anyone interested in investing can visit CrowdCube for further information or the Ether Blog which explains the campaign in detail.

And that’s about it for now. Please feel free to leave a comment or ask a question.

ps I almost forgot – call me crazy but I backed away from a publishing deal for a collection of my shorts. More of that another time.

 

Today I’m taking part in the launch party for Simon Kewin’s YA fantasy novel Hedge Witch.

Fifteen year-old Cait Weerd has no idea she’s being sought by the undain: sorcerous creatures that feed off the spirit of the living. She doesn’t know they need her blood to survive. She doesn’t even know she’s a witch, descended from a long line of witches. Cait Weerd doesn’t know a lot, really, but all that’s about to change.

At Manchester Central Library she’s caught up in sudden violence. In the chaos she’s given an old book that’s been hidden there. Given it and told to run. Hide the book or destroy it. The book contains all the secrets of the undains’ existence. They and their human servants want to find it as much as they want to find her.

Cait learns the fates of two worlds are at stake. Just what she needs. Along with definitely-not-a-boyfriend Danny, she has to decide what the hell to do. Run, fight or hope it all goes away.

It’s only then she learns who she really is, along with the terrible truth of what the undain have been doing in our world all this time…

The first three chapters of the book are available as a free taster to download in Kindle or ePub format.

In addition, if you fancy winning a copy of the complete book, enter the Rafflecopter giveaway below to be in with a shot at five copies in either Kindle or ePub format…

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Simon is also giving away Witching Hour – a collection of three witchy short stories – to all partygoers as part of the celebrations. Grab your copy now!

Contains the stories: The Standing Stones of Erelong, A Sorcerous Mist and Slieau Whallian.

Available in these formats: Kindle | ePUB.

Simon Kewin is a fantasy and SF writer, author of Hedge Witch, Engn, The Genehunter and multifarious short stories and poems.

Find him here.