I am delighted to be a guest reader at The Garsdale Retreat this August. The novelist and playwright Hannah Vincent is leading a residential fiction course, The Blank Page: Novel Writing for Beginners—and I’ll be popping down to this beautiful part of the Dales to read one of my short stories to the writers.
Poet Paul Deaton has described The Garsdale Retreat perfectly: ‘a northern sanctuary for writers across the UK.’ Their programme offers fiction, memoir, poetry, playwriting and songwriting courses, tutored by writers such as Janice Galloway, Ian Duhig, Willy Russell, Jo Bell and many more… And their food, I can say from experience, is mouthwatering.
Callooh! Callay! My novel, This Starling Flock, has made the shortlist for the Lucy Cavendish College Fiction Prize 2018.
Now it its eighth year, the competition seeks out unpublished novels by debut women writers. And the prize, sponsored by the Peter Fraser and Dunlop literary agency, has proved a wonderful catalyst. Previous winners and finalists include Gail Honeyman, who went on to publish the glorious Eleanor Oliphant is Completely Fine, Catherine Chanter, author of The Well, and Kelleigh Greenberg-Jephcott whose novel Swan Song will be launched this summer.
More information on the six shortlisted writers is available here. I am delighted to be in such talented company.
I’ll be reading at ‘Story Shop’ this month, a daily short-story slot at the Edinburgh International Book Festival. Story Shop is a wonderful showcase for new and emerging writers run by Edinburgh UNESCO City of Literature Trust, and is now in its ninth year. Do pop into the lovely Spiegeltent on my day, Monday 31st August. And do come along any or every day at 4pm, from 15th to 31st, to enjoy this year’s Story Shop writers.
In the meantime, here are audio previews for each of the seventeen writers.
I’m so pleased to have my short story, ‘The Rooftop Busker’, appear as the title piece in this year’s New Writing Scotland anthology. I’ll be reading from my story at the Edinburgh launch in Blackwell’s bookshop 1st September. The event is free and tickets can be reserved from Blackwell’s.
This latest anthology from ASLS, edited by Gerry Cambridge and Diana Hendry, includes new work from writers such as Anne Donovan, Jim Carruth, Lesley Glaister, Vicki Jarrett and my old MLitt classmate Duncan Muir amongst many others. And it’s been lovely luxuriating in all their wonderful writing.
© Jörn Kaspuhl
My short story ‘Walking Water’ is out today in the latest ‘Outsider’ issue of Popshot Magazine.
Popshot is a thing of beauty: fiction and poetry with glorious illustration. The artist Jörn Kaspuhl has illustrated my story: I love how he has caught my character, walking water.
It’s also lovely to appear alongside the talented poet Emma Simon, my fellow Jerwood/Arvon mentee. Her poem, ‘The Fish Man’, is a beautifully observed study of another character out of his natural element.
Finally, you can enjoy a taste of Popshot 13 here.
Two weeks have already passed since I returned from my Masterclass Residency at Totleigh Barton, but the magic continues… My stay was a exhilarating initiation into my year as a Jerwood/Arvon mentee. I met eight wonderful writers – you can read about them here – and we were spun into various states of creativity during our workshops. We rewrote some D.H. Lawrence; we recast fairy tales into plays, diagnosing Rapunzel with Stockholm syndrome and introducing IVF into the Sleeping Beauty story; and we wrote a load of poems in three hours. We cooked and ate and drank – very, very well. And on the final night, compèred by the incomparable Sarah, we shared readings of our work-in-progress. Time to turn to my novel in earnest. Long may the Totleigh Barton magic continue!
I am thrilled to have been awarded a place on the 2015/16 Jerwood/Arvon Mentoring Scheme.
The scheme, funded by the Jerwood Charitable Foundation, selects three fiction writers, three poets and three playwrights to work with a mentor in their field. And so, over the next year, I’ll be working on my novel with the wonderful Ross Raisin who wrote ‘Waterline’ and, one of my all-time favourites, ‘God’s Own Country’.
I’m really looking forward to the year ahead, which starts with a masterclass residency in Arvon’s Totleigh Barton. Nine Go to Devon!
Reading on the Night
Next Friday, I will be reading at an evening of story-telling and poetry, ‘Until Only the Mountain Remains‘, at the Talbot Rice Gallery. This evening is the culmination of a project inspired by the artist Christopher Orr’s current exhibition, ‘The Beguiled Eye’. I’m looking forward to reading and to hearing how other writers such as Dilys Rose, Jane McKie and Allyson Stack have interpreted Orr’s haunting paintings. My story, ‘Silent One’, is a response to the painting of that name. We see a couple standing by a gorge, looking down at a face that appears to float in the darkness We cannot see their faces. We don’t know their reactions, but their body language is strangely relaxed, unperturbed. And so I wondered why this might be.
My story can be read online.
‘Silent One’, Christopher Orr
Another year and it’s Robert Louis Stevenson Day in Edinburgh once more! Edinburgh City of Literature has again rustled up a terrific programme of RLS events. As part of the celebrations, Edinburgh City of Literature have run a series of interviews entitled ‘In the Footsteps of Stevenson’ and you can read my Q&A here. Last year, I was an RLS Fellow and enjoyed a summer of writing in the beautiful village of Grez-sur-Loing, where Stevenson spent many summers. Other interviewees include the writer James Robertson, actor Nigel Planer and poet Andrew Motion. Follow their following footsteps...
I’m delighted that my short story, ‘The Quicken Tree’, is a finalist in the Aesthetica Creative Writing Award and will be published in the Aesthetica Annual 2015. The winners, in both fiction and poetry categories, will be announced in December. I look forward to reading the anthology—some great titles—which can be ordered here. Here’s a lovely preview in The Independent.