I'm not a very good blogger these days, I am sorry. If you take a look at the previous post you'll see what's keeping me busy - and there are other things i'm doing that aren't on the list too, a bit of a whirlwind time right now. But frankly, it's all writing-related, and it's ALL good! Last week I had the honour of having my own event at the brand-new Plymouth International Book Festival, in its first of what I hope will be many many years.... I chatted for about an hour, interspersed with reading some of the stories from MMWAUP, and I did worry that I was talking about myself too much. (A worry I have often). But the audience were just lovely, asked some great questions, and then came and chatted to me afterwards and bought books. It was great to talk to people, find out if they're writers, readers, what they're writing. It gives me such a boost, doing events like this, talking about the short story without anyone asking me to "defend" it, because I don't believe the short story needs defending...!
The next day I rushed straight off to Cork for the heavenly short story festival, my fourth time at the festival, a highlight of my calendar. This time, though, I was being worked very hard - teaching a 4-day flash fiction workshop, for three hours each morning, then reading from my new book, together with the wonderful and fellow flash-brained Nick Parker, author of The Exploding Boy and Other Tiny Tales (see left). Nick, my great mate Nuala Ni Chonchiur and I were then invited onto a panel entitled, somewhat controversially in our opinion, "Is Flash Fiction a True Literary Form or Just Something for Chancers" - luckily the large audience in Cork library seemed to agree with us that it didn't matter at all what a piece of writing is labelled as or how long or short it is. Phew!
I had the enormous honour of being the one to introduce and moderate the session with two new and instant favourite writers: the inimitable Canadian author Zsuzsi Gartner, author of two collections (Better Living Through Plastic Explosives and All the Anxious Girls on Earth) and the excellent English author Sarah Hall, whose first collection (finally, after four award-winning novels!) is The Beautiful Indifference. I was nervous about introducing them properly, because at first glance you might superficially assign their stories to very different genres, labels... But their stories are unlabel-able both because they are unique and because they have a lot in common, despite very different styles. I hope I did them justice - go and read their books, their stories will slay you. I love being slayed by a short story.
And then... yes, there's more! Later that night, much later, I was the first to read at a brand new event for the Cork fest, the Flash Fiction Rapid Fire, where writers literally queued on the stage and read their tiny stories, 500 words max, in quick succession! I was extremely proud that 7 of my 10 workshoppers read that night, many of them for the first time ever. I felt quite parental!
The next day was our last workshop day, and then an afternoon of events including the sublime Lydia Davis, certainly proving that word length has no bearing on story substance ... and then the final day of the festival we listened, spellbound, to Frank O'Connor award-winner Nathan Englander reading one of his stories and talking so wisely and enthusiastically about writing. A real real treat and a worthy winner!
To get back to the workshop, I felt like I learned so much from spending 4 days talking, reading and writing flash fiction with my group. I experimented on them and they were so receptive, no-one refused to do anything, and I think we all had a lot of fun. We batted around thoughts of what flash fiction might be, then let go of the need for definitions and just got on and did it. A fantastic group, they shared their work, and it was all so great, I expect to see their names gracing the pages of lit mags and competition shortlists very soon.
If you fancy trying your hand at some flash fiction for the reduced time commitment of only 2 hours (!), there are still some spaces left on my workshop at Mr B's Emporium in Bath on October 11th. Visit Writing Events Bath to book.
Nuala is a much better blogger than me, she deserves her shortlisting for the Blog Awards Ireland - she has a lengthy blog post about the festival, with pictures. Read all about it here! Also, the phenomenal lit magazine Five Dials has put together a special Cork-festival-themed issue with contributions from many of the authors who were there. It's so big it's been split into two! Read Part 1 here, with stories by Lydia Davis, Kevin Barry, Nuala, Joe Dunthorne and more - I have a new short story (over 2000 words long!) coming in Part 2.