Leave a Comment · Posted on October 2, 2015
Quick update on my Off The Shelf appearance (as mentioned here):
And other people’s books. Yes. It’s not just about me on here, you know. Well, not all the time.
I’ve been lucky in that, for the past nine years, I’ve run a writing group in my hometown of Bollington (give me a shout if you fancy joining – we’re all very friendly). And I’ve loved it – we’ve had all sorts of writers doing all sorts of writing and we’ve produced some really cool stuff. And now, some of the members have released books on kindle and I couldn’t be happier to recommend them.
First up, with a foreword from none other than Dame Very Lynn and the proceeds going to The Poppy Appeal, the new to kindle after a successful paperback, is Jenny Martin’s Aftermath – a brilliant collection of poems and short stories marking WW1’s centenary.
Jenny’s brand new collection of poems, Night Light, has also just been released* – and I think (with justifiable bias) that it’s brilliant – do take a look (and at only a couple of quid you could take a punt too).
(* cover by the brilliant Debra.)
And last, but by no means least, here’s a book about a volunteer’s time in Ghana – By God’s Grace. Barbara was there for over a year and this book is packed with stories of her time there – from the hilarious ‘eyebrow incident’ to the exciting and interesting and then the sombre. What’s especially cool is that it doubles up as a guidebook – not only packed with useful tips on visiting Ghana or Africa, but on volunteering abroad too. Well worth a look. And what’s more, all the proceeds will go to the brilliant J.Initiative who are doing good things, and to VSO too.
So there we go. Three great books. Do have a look and support authors who’ve been doing things under their own steam and despite my guidance if you can. I know they’d appreciate it and so would the charities.
And, while we’re talking of writing group members… I’ve been meaning to share this for a while – a blogging award (been a while since I had one of them!) from J.D. Richardson – another very talented writer. I don’t have the time just now to fulfil all of the criteria (I actually think this past few months have been my busiest ever in writing and even looking at my calendar’s making me long for a sleep) but it’s lovely to see a few good and familiar faces over on her list and I’d definitely suggest checking them out.
And, as to how this blog started… Way back in 2006 to document the time when my first book came out and me touring it (somehow a lot of those early posts seem to have been lost when I changed sites/providers/something) and to spread the good word of good fiction. I still try…
1 Comment · Posted on September 29, 2015
I’m really excited to be appearing at a special Readers’ Afternoon at Off The Shelf Festival of Words in Sheffield in a few weeks (there’ll be all sorts of writing goodness, and a panel too).
As you’ll probably have noticed, I’ve not done very many appearances to do with actual books of mine of late so it’s something I’m really looking forward to – especially given who I’m on there with – the other authors I’ll be there with are brilliant. It’s also a chance for me to show off A Book of Beautiful Trees nearly a month before it’s published * with copies available courtesy of the brilliant Rhyme & Reason.
The event’s on October 17th, 1:30pm and it’s at the Quaker Meeting House in Sheffield. Tickets are £7, £5 for concessions and I would LOVE to see you there.
Here’s the blurb:
An afternoon of reading heaven for fiction lovers with the chance to meet six super authors as well as other people who love books and reading as much as you do. Authors taking part are Natasha Pulley with her historical fantasy debut The Watchmaker of Filgree Street, Simon Toyne with his original and compelling thriller Solomon Creed, Stevan Alcock with his unforgettable coming of age debut set in Leeds during the Yorkshire Ripper murders Blood Relatives, Virginia Macgregor with her beautiful engaging debut which looks at the treatment of the elderly What Milo Saw and Sheffield based writer Nik Perring with his unusual and captivating book Beautiful Trees.
Joining them will be Sheffield based, best-selling novelist Marina Lewycka. Her novels include A Short History of Tractors in Ukranian, Various Pets Alive and Dead and We Are All Made of Glue.
The afternoon will also include fun quizzes, competitions and giveaways for everyone who attends.
Thanks to Bloomsbury, Harper Collins, Fourth Estate, Little Brown, Roast Books and Penguin Random House for their kind support.”
There is, as ever, so much I really should be talking about on here but the fear of an absolute whopper of a post is making things drop out in little chunks. A bit like a vending machine of fun-size goodies. That’s free. And about me. There’ll be more soon.
*Beautiful Trees is still only available to preorder from Roastbooks – to should be available everywhere else very, very soon.
Leave a Comment · Posted on September 22, 2015
Following the success of the workshop I ran for young people at Sheffield Central Library in August, I’ve been asked to run another.
So I’ll be at Ecclesall Library, working with six young people (ages 8 – 11) for three consecutive afternoons: 28th, 29th, and the 30th October, during half term, where we’ll be generating good ideas and making them into brilliant stories, turning what we’ve written into an actual book at the end, with a presentation and reading event to follow a little later.
And it’ll all be free.
These events are brilliant fun and, from the feedback I’ve had from both parents and the young authors over the years, really worthwhile and useful. Places are strictly limited so if you’re interested please book quickly. You can email the library at: firstname.lastname@example.org
If you’d be good enough to spread the good word I’d be very grateful.
And here are a few pics to give you an idea of the kind of thing you can expect…
And for slightly older writers… Here’s Writing Yorkshire’s Vicky Morris and Rotherham Young Writer Joe on BBC Radio Sheffield (1ht 8mins in). We’re recruiting for the groups at Rotherham, Sheffield, and Doncaster after a summer break.
I know I’ve mentioned it before but I’ve been lucky enough to work with a couple of the groups and I honestly couldn’t recommend them highly enough – brilliant teaching, top and friendly atmosphere and, most importantly, great and talented young writers. And this year I’ll be working with them again and I can’t wait.
And that’s about it for now but there’ll be plenty more very soon, believe me. But, right now, it’s late and I’ve people to email and those dishes don’t clean themselves…
2 Comments · Posted on September 21, 2015
I did not know Stuart well. He was the nice guy who I saw around town. He was the guy who’d come and listen when we played music and sang in the pub. He was the man who stopped me in the street after reading in a local mag about the work I’d been doing with children to say, ‘Well done.’ He was an artist, a good one. I liked him. And when his name came up on Facebook a little while ago I sent him a request and hoped to talk to him some more, to tell him again that he was doing good stuff. I looked forward to it.
So when I heard, last night, that, while I was away he’d taken his life I was upset. Really upset. Because he was a nice man, a good guy. And I didn’t get to tell him that again. I’ve no idea why or what was going on behind closed doors, and I shouldn’t because it’s none of my business. But when people do good, tell them. When you can, be kind. If nothing else it makes this world and this life – which can both be really shitty at times – that little bit better. And a little bit, sometimes, can make a big difference.
And, because I can’t tell him those things, I’m telling you. Because Stuart could have been anyone.
2 Comments · Posted on September 17, 2015
I’m very pleased, and very proud, to announce that I’ll be this year’s judge for the very brilliant Poised Pen’s Flash Fiction Competition.
The word limit is 350 words (and that means I’m keen on anything under that – please don’t see that 350 as a figure you have to hit) and the theme is Antony Gormley’s ‘Another Place’ which has been around for ten years now. Stories must include two of the following words:
and be written to this, very fine, photo prompt:
I can’t wait to see your entries (DO enter, people, there’s actual prize money).
I’ve been lucky enough to judge for the Poised Pen before so I know that the standard of writing is high. But, as in all competitions, there can only one winner – there is absolutely no reason why that can’t be you. Full details here (as well as for the James Nash judged poetry competition).
(More details about James here.)
There’ll also be a celebratory evening of awards (I’ll be breaking a habit of a lifetime and reading there too – probably from my next book) on December 4th.
In the meantime, here’s what I wrote, as a guide, for the comp:
‘As someone who’s judged a fair few competitions, and guest edited at a fair few places, and written a fair few stories: here are some tips.
You might not want to, unless it’s an idea that grabs your tightly, write the first thing that comes into your head. Write a list of things you could write about. The interesting one usually comes after the first few.
And don’t think that your story has to include the prompt. Let that photo (which I think’s a brilliant prompt) inspire anything and run with it. This is not a case of ticking boxes – it’s a starting point for brilliant stories so allow them to come through. As long as there’s some sort of link to it (I don’t want anything that’s already written that you think might just fit – because 99% of the time that really doesn’t work) then we’ll be okay. Now go! Have some good ideas. And make them into brilliant stories. I, honestly, can’t wait to read them.’
And here are my short fiction tips:
Here are my tips for anyone wanting to write a good short story or piece of flash fiction:
Start where the story starts, not before. If I was telling you about a fantastic hotel room I’d stayed in I wouldn’t start by telling you about booking the tickets to get there (unless the story was about booking the tickets and ended in the room).
Take out everything, every word, every sentence, every character that isn’t absolutely necessary.
Similarly, only use the right words. Sometimes people do just ’sit’. Or ‘run’.
Make sure your characters are believable. What they do, or the situations they find themselves in, may be unlikely and fantastical but the way they react to them has to be something that readers will believe.
Be suspicious of anything you think is clever. The story comes first, the story’s what people should notice, not the writer.
Write for you, but spare a thought for the reader too.
Don’t overdo it. Big words are fine if they’re the right ones. Same with descriptions.
Say what you want to say in the simplest, and most effective, way possible. In other words: get to the point.
Aim to be brilliant.
Don’t expect it to be easy. Or quick. Be prepared to work hard.
Don’t be afraid of rewriting. In fact, embrace it; it will make your stories better.
Don’t expect to get it right the first time. You have total control of what can be changed. (I often find also that if a story wants or needs to be changed, then it’ll let you know.)
Trust your instincts. If you suspect something’s not working then it probably isn’ t.
Don’t be afraid of putting a story away for a while. Sometimes stories, and your head, need space.
Don’t be afraid of failure. Nothing’s wasted. It’s better to try something new and fail (and perhaps learn something) than to play safe all the time.
Most importantly: BE BRAVE. You have an imagination, use it. Write the story you want to write, write what you think’s good and interesting, even if that means not sticking with the norm. Different, if done well, can be brilliant.
And read the greats. See how they do things. See why they’re the greats. Even if you don’t like them you might find something in them that’s very useful.
And that’s about it. Go, write, enter. And GOOD LUCK!
Leave a Comment · Posted on September 10, 2015
Because I edit an awful lot of short stories, I don’t tend to enter competitions (I think I’ve entered two in my whole writing career – one, happily, resulted in this – thank you, Fiction Desk – you can buy the book here). It was a very easy decision to make because, ethically, if I’m helping someone who I know is going to enter a competition then I can’t enter anything myself because then I would be in competition with the very person I’m supposed to be helping and there ends up being (however unintentional) a conflict of interests. As I said, it’s a no brainer.
So, I am very happy that my short story, Carmine’s Fruit, has been shortlisted over at the Artificium Short Story Prize. They do good things over there. Check them out. And it makes me happy, too, that it’s slightly longer than the average Nik Perring story and very much a fairy tale type affair. Congrats to the rest of the shortlistees. I am looking forward to the big announcement.
And in other news…
If anyone knows anyone aged 14-19 in South Yorkshire who writes, would like to write, might fancy trying, enjoys words, stories, poems, free verse, spoken word, – anything then do send them this way. All abilities are welcome, of course.
I’ve worked with a couple of these groups, courtesy of Writing Yorkshire, and I’ve seen what happens first hand, and I couldn’t recommend them highly enough. The environment’s perfect, the teaching’s spot on, and the groups are fab and the members friendly and talented. (And, shush, I’ll be doing at least a little bit again with them soon too. What’s not to like?)
Do please spread the word.
4 Comments · Posted on September 9, 2015
I don’t remember too much about my first year of school. I remember Wayne, my friend (who I saw the other night incidentally, which was good). I remember coats as capes attached to heads by hoods. I remember the headmaster telling us all a fable in assembly, about an old, dying woman. She had a box of money under her bed and, while she lay sleeping at night, her daughters would come in, one by one, to take just a little. There’d always be more, they thought, no one would know. First it was for something inexpensive – bread or something like that. And it escalated until, sure enough, there was nothing left but an empty, old box. I remember show and tell with my dinosaur book and laughing when someone thought extinct meant smelly.
I remember, one morning, getting ready. I remember being in my parent’s room and my mum buttoning my shirt and my dad tying my tie around my neck. I remember him driving me to school (which was unusual) and I remember, when we got there, that it was closed. It must have been an inset day or bank holiday or something. And I remember being distraught because I’d put people out. Because someone had done something for me and they’d wasted their time. I was upset. I was really upset. I was probably the most upset I could remember being in those first four or five years here. I knew it wasn’t my fault but it was still because of me.
Since then I’ve tried, as best as I can, to not ask people for things (although that’s not going to stop me when I might need help getting the word out about my next book). I still don’t like putting people out. It makes me uncomfortable and that’s why, when I can, I do things by myself. And I’m proud of that. Really proud. I’ve managed to do quite a bit actually.
And I’m not sure what the point of this post is. Maybe it’s my way of preparing you for the possibility of asking for help with the next book. (If anyone would like to help then do give me a shout.) Maybe it’s because I’ve just finished reading Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years (which is brilliant and illuminating and funny – and makes me happier that I’m not perfect and a bit of a clueless mess at times) and that’s got me wondering about confessional writing or memoire or something.
Or maybe I just wanted to give you a bit of me. I guess things can get a bit boring when they’re just about books.
Leave a Comment · Posted on September 4, 2015
I’m actually just sitting down to write this at half two in the morning, because I’m busy and life is hard sometimes, and because there really aren’t enough hours in the day. And because it feels like it’s been a little while since I’ve actually said anything on here and I wanted to change that.
So lots of stuff has been happening. I’m being asked to do lots of stuff and things and I’ll be mentioning the details of where I’ll be and what I’ll be doing when I can. Lots of exciting stuff on the horizon though.
Most importantly is the NEW BOOK. A Book of Beautiful Trees which is officially published on November 5th. Remember, remember…
I know I was always going to say this but I really am very proud of it. It continues Alexander’s story (from Beautiful Words), along with Lily and Lucy. Things have moved on from the last book and this one charts a relationship (or two) and tells a story through trees – with a few bits of what I’d like to think are interesting facts and things in the same weird Nik Perring adult picture book way. And it’s only £9.99.
As with all the books Roastbooks have published of mine – it’s a very beautiful book. The illustrations (I was always going to say this too, of course) are stunning thanks to Miranda Sofroniou and I can’t wait for it to be out there. If anyone would like to help me spread the word – which I’d appreciate so much, then do give me a shout.
For now it’s only available to pre-order from here, but that’ll all change soon enough and when it does you’ll be the first to know.
So, what else can I talk about? Thinking about it, not actually all that much just yet. So maybe I’ll just babble for a while.
I can tell you though that on Saturday at noon I’ll be at Sheffield Central Children’s Library, presenting the books we produced of the brilliant stories that were written during the week I was there a little while ago. I’m sure you’ll be hearing all about it when it’s done because the stories and the young writers I worked with are all very, very brilliant and so were the library staff and I loved the whole thing very, very much.
On a slightly more personal note… I actually went to the seaside a little while ago. See!
It had been too long since I’d seen the sea (I think it was back in 2009 when I’d had my last holiday) so it was long, long
overdue. And I enjoyed it. In fact I enjoyed it so much I gave it a kiss. It exorcised things in a way because for too long I’d simply not been able to get there through one thing and another. So that was good. I am glad I went and did a little something for me. And thank you, Andrew, for lending me your house there.
There has been much editing happening too. Much, much editing. And between it all I’ve been writing too. Short stories. Longer short stories. Very short, short stories. And, a few of them, I’m really pleased with. I think that being published (or just being in my situation) can be a bit of an odd one in that a) you can fall into the trap of thinking that everything you write should be of a certain standard and getting really pissed off when it’s not, and b) you just don’t have the time. Both of those, of course, are easily(ish)ly dealt with and, well, a little self-absorbed because we’re all in the same boat with lives and other things to do.
And that’s probably about it for now. Stay tuned for updates on appearances (I know, I’m breaking the habit of a lifetime) and for other exciting news (which won’t all be about me, don’t worry). Don’t touch that dial…
1 Comment · Posted on September 2, 2015
I’m handing the blog over today, until next I post, to the very lovely and talented Jodi Cleghorn who’s not only here to tell you all what she’d done and does (read: cool stuff – she published me once which clearly means that I’ll love her forever), but also about an exciting little course she’s running. Deadline for applications is THIS SUNDAY so if it’s something you fancy then you’d best get your skates on! Apologies for the briefness of my appearance here – I am, quite literally, busy doing everything. Over to you, Jodi…
Mentor: An Accidental Destination
I’ve never considered publishing and author development as mutually exclusive to each other. However, I never considered myself a mentor even though I was a publisher! As a destination, it has come about as an organic, hit-and-miss, lead where my heart follows kind of journey. Like a road trip where sometimes you decide where you want to go and other times roll a dice. This is latest detour and pit stop on the ‘path less trod’ as a publisher, editor and writer.
When Paul Anderson and I set up eMergent Publishing in late 2008, we were interested in working with new and emerging authors as a first priority. Not because we had an altruistic imperative, but because we felt the collaborative ideas and the projects we planned on rolling out lent themselves better to writers who were still honing their craft. Writers who might be more willing to have others tinker with the characters and plots lines of their stories.
Additionally, I was pretty firm in the idea that you grow your business outward with like-minded people for the best results. At the inception of eMergent, Paul and I were still very much emerging writers ourselves, and it was from our peer cohort we filled the spaces on the first Chinese Whispering’s project.
• at least three characters
• have a link to an event/the main character in the preceding story
• stand alone as a story in its own right
Together we worked alongside each other, as editors and writers, to develop stories and then connect them.
The success of one crazy idea, lead to a second one – a mated anthology set in parallel European airports exploring the repercussions of a stolen painting falling into the hands of the receivers of a fictional airline. We upped the ante from 10 stories to 22 and paired writers with each other, but let them work out what they did with that pairing. Ten months later we launched The Yin and Yang Book.
Working this way, in close partnership with writers, lay pretty strong foundations for how I wanted to work as an editor and the future direction for the business.
Literary Mix Tapes
I joked in 2010, what does an editor do on her vacation: start a new imprint!
Literary Mix Tapes began as a Christmas filler project. I offered nine places on a web-based anthology then expanded it to 19 (one of those places was for me!). The stories used the lyrics of the carol ‘Deck the Halls’ as prompts.
There was no way I was going to be able to develop stories the way I had with Chinese Whisperings on such a tight turn around though. It was the holidays, and I was meant to be on holiday, and the deadline was absolutely nutes (less than three weeks from start to finish) so I set up a Facebook group and asked if the writers could all help each other out with beta reading (by that time I was a passionate advocate of beta reading and had taught my first workshop on it). People stepped up and helped each other out. I did fleeting edits and two weeks later, on Christmas Eve, the first of eMergent Publishing’s music inspired stories were released into the wild.
What began as a stop-gap, save-my-arse measure, became one of the defining characteristics of Literary Mix Tapes. Why writers signed up to be part of it. They enjoyed working together in this way. Tom Dullemond dubbed it ‘collective submission’. It also solidified something for me as a publisher and editor. I wasn’t interested in reading slush from open submissions and curating an anthology from the best 10 or 20 stories. What I wanted to do was work directly with a group of 25 writers to help them write the best story possible. That’s really what made my heart sing. So we kept on with the way we’d done it in the past. I’d release the idea for an anthology, ask who of my existing authors were interested in being a part of it and then open the rest of the places to anyone who was quick enough to put their names down when the call for nominations opened. The last anthology, From Stage Door Shadows, filled 16 places in 12 minutes!
There are currently four volumes of Literary Mix Tapes: a revised and extended Deck the Halls (which the rather talented Nik Perring appears in with his story ‘Weather Boy’), Nothing But Flowers, Eighty Nine and From Stage Door Shadows. I hope that sometime in the future, there’ll be more.
Supporting Grass Roots
It seemed to me, the experience and skills I’d gained over the years, paired with the structures we had set up through eP, were a potential base to assist other online publications and grass roots groups in achieving a print publication. I wanted to be able to assist them in gaining the skills, structures and confidence necessary to create publications to show case the work they were doing with new writers.
Over the years I’ve been lucky enough to work alongside Vine Leaves Literary Journal with the power-house of an editor and author Jessica Bell, the Friday Flash community alongside the founding patron
of the #fridayflash hashtag Jon (J.M.) Strother and the In Fabula-divino mentoring project founded by the multi-talented, multi-published, Nicole Murphy.
In 2012 I was invited to sit on a mentoring panel at the Australian Science Fiction convention. At the time I had no idea why on earth they’d ask me. It took my lovely friend, Jo Anderton, to point out I ran an entire business based on mentoring writers. It was so embedded in everything I did, everything the business did, I didn’t see it at ‘mentoring’. It was just how we did business.
Some Things Change, Some Stay the Same
In all the editing, publishing and supporting of new writing talent, I neglected the one thing I loved more than anything: my writing. I knew that I needed to nurture myself as I had nurtured others and I dialled down my project output, focused on finishing off what I had started and set about falling in love with writing again. Dispensing the same pearls of wisdom to myself, as I did the writers I worked with. Physician, heal thyself!
As the Universe is wont to do, it turned my world upside down late 2012, just as I was completing the last of the Literary Mix Tapes volumes, finalising the details on the partnership with Jessica Bell and waiting for my first novella, Elyora, to go to print.
Just when I thought I might have everything together, my son stopped going to school. He pretty much hasn’t been back to school since then and I pretty much haven’t edited or published anything since.
While I don’t miss the mental deadlines or the stress of getting contracts in, edits finalised, books to press. And I don’t miss the dynamics of working on 25 odd stories with 25 odd authors and all the vagaries (good and bad) inherent in that model, I do however miss the spark of the new. I miss the possibility in the unknown, of chasing down ideas with people and watching stories bloom. And most of all, I miss working closely with writers to see all that happen.
When my husband was made redundant at the start of last month it bought home something I’ve known for a bloody long time, but been willing to ignore, ‘cos I could: my family’s budget can’t sustain the status of ‘patron of the arts’. Gratefully my husband found a new job fairly quickly but our budget has absolutely no fat on it any more. If I want to publish future anthologies, it has to be via an income I’ve crafted.
And I don’t want to freelance edit if I don’t absolutely have to (I am still very much aware the give and take that underlines the polarities of being a writer and an editor). And I was lukewarm, but okay, with freelancing book design. But the passion burned hot, when the idea expectantly presented itself, to mentor writers.
FOR THE ASKING
That’s how For the Asking came about. It’s not really a creative writing program and it’s not really a mentoring program. And it’s not creative recovery. Yet it has elements of all of that in it.
I’m offering four places on a 12-week course where I’ll curate a space to:
• hone existing skills
• help writers find their voice
• deepen their understanding of themselves as creative individuals
• understand their processes better
• spark writing and creative adventures
• work one-on-one (with me) to complete a nominated project
And like everything I have done in the past, it’s part group work, part individual work and part in-partnership-work. I’m looking specifically to work with new and emerging writers. It’s something I am equally terrified and excited about. The very same feeling I used to have before launching a new publishing project!
The course is by application only and the form can be found here. Applications close this Sunday, 6th September and the course begins the following week on Sunday, 13th September. For more information people can email: mentor(at)jodicleghorn(dot)com
The philosopher Plutarch said: the mind is not a vessel that needs filling, but wood that needs igniting. My matches are lined up and waiting. This journey is due some bonfires!
JODI CLEGHORN (@jodicleghorn) is a writer, poet, editor and small press owner with a penchant for the dark vein of humanity. Known for big ideas that get her and others into trouble, she’s currently on a 105-day social media sabbatical, learning to walk the slower, quieter analogue path.