Monday, 13 August 2018

When 'Normal Me' meets 'Writer Me'

If you're old, like me, you probably remember the cartoon 'Hong Kong Phooey' in which a 'mild mannered janitor' transforms into a canine superhero. Sometimes I feel a bit like him, although in place of 'mild mannered janitor' insert 'not very competent office worker with a life-long phone phobia', and you might start to get the picture. Most people who come into contact with my everyday persona no doubt assume I'm quite stupid. I give that impression on a daily basis. I'm not very good at my job, and am very lucky to have any kind of job at all, having, ten years ago, almost literally just picked up my handbag and walked away from teaching. If I hadn't done that I'd almost certainly not be around now to tell the tale. But it's a tale for another time.

Anyway, there is another me, the Hong Kong Phooey me, the superwriter. OK, there's nothing super about me, but I am quite proud of some of the stuff I've written, and had published. And until recently, mild mannered janitor me and Hong Kong Phooey me have peacefully co-existed. Nobody from life 1 was ever likely to come across the things I wrote in life 2. I kind of liked it that way. Then, in June, I had a story published in The People's Friend magazine (available at all good supermarkets and newsagents).

Mild mannered janitor me bought several copies, on different occasions. Each time I somehow managed to resist the temptation to turn to the relevant page, wave it under the cashier's nose and shout 'I wrote this!' I'm glad I didn't, because I'd have been dismissed as a fantasist. As a rule, overweight middle aged people with mundane jobs don't get published in mainstream magazines. But, in other news, this overweight middle aged person with a mundane job has just had another story accepted. And hopefully there will be many more. Watch this space though, because if you know me in my mild mannered janitor life, I'll probably never get around to mentioning it.....

Saturday, 14 April 2018

Anthologies, Poetry, Confidence, and What Not To Say To A Short Story Writer....

I got something nice in the post this week, which doesn't happen all that often. It was my complimentary copy of last year's Olga Sinclair Short Story Competition anthology. I was highly commended in the competition, which is a very well run one with a different theme every year. The theme for 2018 is 'Markets' and it closes in July. Read more about it here.

I love being published in anthologies, but I'm not stupid. I know the only people who read them are the people who are in them, and their friends and families. And let's be honest, most friends and family members don't actually read them. But at least, when you tell someone you're a writer, and they look at you sceptically and ask that most partronising of questions, 'Have you had anything published?' , a question almost always anticipating the answer 'No, not yet,' you can answer 'Yes, I have. And here is the link to it on Amazon.'

I had success in this competition with a story that I had previously sent out all over the place in various forms. It has been a flash fiction, and a longer story, and time after time it has wandered home with its tail between its legs. But finally it found a home. Never give up on a good story.

In other news, I have been brave. A few weeks ago I attended a poetry workshop run by lovely Lynn Gerrard, otherwise known as The Grumbling Gargoyle. It was a lovely, laughter filled evening at a newish local coffee shop Momo's. A year or so ago I would have run screaming in terror if I'd been asked to sit in a roomful of strangers and read out my rubbish offerings. And believe me, they were rubbish I haven't written poetry since my angst filled teenage years. But it didn't matter, and I'm just a little bit proud of myself for stepping (about a hundred miles) outside my comfort zone and actually daring to say anything at all.  And I've just booked a place on the next workshop, in May. Book your tickets here.

I'm always a little bit jealous of poets, because unlike short story writers I bet they don't continually get asked when they're going to write a novel. If you're a poet then you're just a poet. You're not seen as just practising to be something better. It depresses me. If you're reading this, and you know me in person, please don't ask me when I'm going to write a novel, because I won't be responsible for my actions.

Seriously, I would love to be able to write poetry well. And I do think that flash fiction is closer to poetry than anything else, especially in the way that every single word matters. Some of the shorter flash pieces I've written lately could almost be poems. I'm not quite sure what the difference is. So who knows? Maybe I'll be entering a poetry competition or two in the near future.

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Three Cheers For The Archers, And One For Me

If you know me well, you will know how much I love radio. And if you know me very, very well, which not that many people do, you will know that I have been a massive fan of The Archers since I was a teenager. I have rarely missed a Sunday omnibus sine the early 1980s. If I ever went on Mastermind it would be my specialist subject.

The Archers doesn't often make me cry. Well, not that often. I cried years ago when Ruth and David received her breast cancer diagnosis, and more recently I cried at the scene between Helen and her dad Tony after she was acquitted of attempting to murder evil Rob. I probably cried when John Archer died too.

The week before last, it made me cry again. Twice. Once on the Friday night, then again when the episode was repeated on Sunday morning. Because Nic Grundy died of sepsis. A fit, healthy woman in her mid thirties died a horrible agonizing death because she had an infected cut on her hand. This storyline came completely out of the blue. One day she was fine, and fretting over having lost her job. A few days later she was gone. That's what sepsis is like. That really is how quickly it can happen.

Many people think that soaps, or serial dramas, or whatever you want to call them, shouldn't be used as public information vehicles. It's a valid viewpoint. Their main purpose is to entertain. Having said that, most of what I know about HIV and AIDS I learned from Eastenders, and much later from Hollyoaks (Yeah, ok, you get the picture, I'm a bit of a soap addict...) But I'm willing to bet that Nic's story has already saved some lives, by raising awareness. Sepsis isn't glamorous or sexy. It's not a 'cause' that you see celebrities championing. It's cruel, ugly, random and, for the most part, completely avoidable. So well done The Archers for tackling it. Read more about Nic's story here

In other news, I'm having a rather better writing year in 2018. So far I've managed a shortlisting in the Retreat West Flash Fiction competition, with a brand new, never been anywhere before story called Curl Up And Die, and I'e been Highly commended, for the second time, in the Inktears 2017 Short Story Competition, with my story The Less Fortunate, which got down to the last 50 in the Mslexia comp last year. Never give up on a good story.

Most excitingly, I have sold my first ever story to The People's Friend magazine. Don't know yet when it will be published. I know magazines work months ahead. The People's Friend was always on the arm of my Nana's chair when I was growing up. I think she'd be just a little bit proud.