Don’t Try This At Home

It’s a huge pleasure to welcome Angela Readman to the blog today, mostly because her latest book, the very wonderful Don’t Try This at Home is a huge pleasure to read. Not only that, it’s a book whose stories stick with you, like the good kind of bruises, long after you’ve out her down. It’s not often I get super excited about a book these (mostly because I’m not reading anywhere near as much as I’d like) but this one, let me tell you, is an absolute belter.

Angela’s been a friend for a good while now, and that always makes things better- I love seeing good people do good things and I love to see them doing well doing them. Angela’s was listed for the Costa Short Story Award a little while ago, and then she decided to go and win it. I loved her collection, Strip, too, so I asked her to come along here to talk about both and her journey from poetry to prose (which I think, as they’re very close relations, as something like simply moving from one window of a kitchen to the other).

But enough waxing lyrical. Don’t Try This at Home is without doubt the best collection I’ve read in a good while (and I read plenty of great ones). Here’s what I said about it when her publishers asked me for a quote:

“Angela Readman’s stories are gems. Rainbow coloured ones that probably glow in the dark and sing too. They are perfect, fizzing explosions of stories, told by a perfect storyteller. You will love them.”

And I meant every word.

So, here is the lady herself…

Angela! Welcome! I couldn’t be happier to have you here. You have a new book out. A book of short stories. How’s it been? 

Hello. Thank you for inviting me over.

It’s been a surreal experience having a story book out, its still sinking in that it’s real! I keep seeing people I don’t know discussing the stories and which ones meant something to them. It’s been amazing to see how that varies for each reader. It’s quite moving to me. There is still a small part of me that doesn’t believe I have a book out, so I am stunned by it.

Now, I don’t say this kind of thing lightly but I absolutely adore Don’t Try This at Home. It’s one of those books that you fall in love with instantly and reminds me that I do believe in love at first sight. In fact, I’d go as far to say that I love it as much as the ones that made me realise that I could write the kinds of things I wanted to write in the days before Not So Perfect and Freaks! – I’m talking about Aimee Bender and Etgar Keret and those brilliant kinds of people. How does that sound?  

That sounds amazing! They are both writers that changed something for me, I think. I was one of those people who had such a long list of books to read. I had dozens of unfinished books on my shelf. Many were books I thought I am supposed to read, rather than books I felt like. The first time I read Keret and Bender I had goose bumps. It was a revelation for me: stories can be strange and enjoyable, as well as serious. That’s when writing stories changed for me. It could suddenly be fun.

Your last book, the poetry collection, Strip, was another I loved and, after re-reading it a little while ago (I used Laundry Day in a workshop I was running) I did notice similarities between that and Don’t Try This at Home. How do you think they compare? 

It’s always possible to see similarities between books, I think. The concerns of a writer come up again and again. One thing I’m always interested in is female characters, and the ways we resolve issues. The books share that. Don’t Try This at Home features different characters, relationships, and includes more men. It feels like a book with more fun in it than Strip. Oddly, it also has more sadness.

If the books were people, do you think they’d be friends?  

Strip would be the girl who breaks Don’t Try This at Home’s heart. Don’t Try This would be that sort of chap who wants to fall in love, but it never works out. Strip would give him a fake number.

And here’s what I really want to get to – your journey (if we can be as wanky to call it that) from poetry to short fiction. How was it for you? For me it seems that it was very natural (I remember reading short stories you sent to me four or five years ago and thinking how seemingly effortlessly good at them you were). Was it that easy? Are things ever as easy as they look? 

 

I work really hard to make things look easy, I think we all do! The journey was always going to happen, I think. Originally, I went on my MA for stories, but by the end of the course I already had poetry offers, so I ran with it. It kept me pretty busy. Now and then, a story would slip out anyway (like The Porn Star Letters in Strip) but not often.

Then, about five years ago, I started stories again. I couldn’t avoid it any more.

When I read your short stories it kind of makes me think that they could be my stories’ cousins. How would you describe the relationship between your stories and your poems? 

There’s a strange relationship between poems and stories I’ve only noticed recently. There are some stories I write I’d never have found if I hadn’t written a poem first. It’s as if a poem opens a little door, just a chink, to let me see something small. I have to come back, fling the door open wide and see who is there sometimes by writing a story.

Could you describe Don’t Try This at Home in one sentence. Who’s it for? What’s it about? 

Don’t Try This at Home is a story book of people who will try anything, however strange, to get through the day. It’s for dreamers, the disappointed, people who hope, and stare out the window wondering what if?

What’s next for you? 

Not to sound unprofessional or anything, but I have absolutely no idea! I have poems waiting to be published. I’m writing other stuff too, but who knows ? Nothing is certain.

And last… have you ever considered cutting your husband in half?   

Never in my wildest dreams, why half perfection?

Anything else you’d like to add?

Thank you, and to people like you who have been so supportive about my stories. It is amazing to me.

~

Angela Readman’s stories have appeared in a number of anthologies and magazines, winning awards such as the Inkspill Magazine Short Story Competition and the National Flash Fiction Competition. In 2012 she was shortlisted for the Costa Short Story Award for ‘Don’t Try This at Home’ – an award she would go on to win in 2013 with the story ‘The Keeper of the Jackalopes’. Readman is also a published poet.

~

Don’t Try This at Home is available from all good book sellers, including this one.

dand

 

National Flash Fiction Day

So, it’s National Flash Fiction Day. Hooray. The fourth one, no less. And, as ever and sadly, I am in a rush.

 

But am I the sort to let such a day pass without acknowledgement? No, sir, I am not.

So, here first, is this year’s anthology, Landmarks. There’s a story of mine, ‘Love’ in there and lots of other brilliant stuff (I know, I’ve read it) by brilliant people.

And here’s me reading a flash.

 

 

There are more on my Youtube page (which I should probably actually start doing something with) here.

£10 Flash Fiction Edit + Sushi Consumption

For the eagle-eyed amongst you, you may have noticed that there’s been a change in pricing for the edits I do and I just wanted to make a brief note here about that (brief, only because I don’t really like to talk about stuff that isn’t writing and story and generally I find this interesting here).

So, in brief, you can now have me edit your piece of flash fiction for £10.

A couple of the other edits I do have gone up a little for the first time in five years, but you should also be getting a little bit more for your money on that – ie I’m offering more and slightly more in depth reports on top of the line edits.

So there you go. (I’ve also got a couple of spaces free again on my online correspondence short fiction courseclick here if you’re interested.)

Also, I ate sushi the other day and it was good.

Sushi

 

And this is exactly what I look like before I eat sushi.

Nik Perring
Nik Perring

 

And, in other news, I went to some botanical gardens the other day and kind of fell in love with the rose garden there. They have roses that look like halved hard-boiled eggs now.

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And ones that smell exactly like their colours. And that, good people, was a belter.

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And between stuffing my face and ogling flowers and all the usual editing (lovely to hear the last couple of things I’ve helped with have been placed in good places) I’ve been writing and polishing stories and that makes me feel good. It makes me feel like a writer again, which is always a strange thing because, you know, that’s what I am; I just don’t always have as much time for it as I’d like.

More soon. Next up a rather exciting interview with someone whose work I am utterly in love with…

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Love Story + Other Things

As I seem to be saying over and over and over again recently, I have been busy. And I really have. I know ‘busy’ is a kind of a default setting for me, and has been over the past ten years, but I think this is probably about the busiest I’ve been in as long as I can remember. At times I certainly feel as knackered as I did after the tour to promote my first book back in 2006.

 

And talking of books…

I was very pleased to hear the other day that my brand new story ‘Love’ will be appearing in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology, Landmarks. I’m just really pleased to have something brand new out there – with everything else I’ve been doing I’ve not really been sending stuff anywhere. I’ve read it at a couple of events earlier this year, and it’s gone down really well, and it’s a story I’m really proud of so I’m getting all excited that people will be reading it. (And I’m in some lovely company too – here’s the list of everyone else who’s in there). (There’s a story of mine in last year’s too, which is available here.)

And Not So Perfect turned five while I blinked earlier in the month. I blinked and I missed it and I’m struggling to believe that it was over five years ago when I launched it, on a sweltering day in Simply Books, where the strawberry tarts I’d brought pretty much melted in their boxes. To celebrate (kind of) Not So Perfecthere’s me reading Kiss from that collection. (There are other videos of me reading, if you’d like to watch them, here). I think what’s the most astonishing (and certainly reassuring (ego-boosting?) is that, over five years on, people are still buying it and enjoying it – and they’re still letting me know. A huge thanks to every one of you who’s bought anything of mine. or who’s helped, reviewed – anything! –over these past few years. It means the world.

~

So yes. There has been busyness. Lots of busyness. Lots and lots of trains and travelling and teaching and workshops and editing for people. On Tuesday I took the last of my latest bunch of junior writers’ sessions which is always a sad thing (they’ve been a lovely bunch again) so next I’ll be arranging making the stories they’ve written and illustrated into books. And then there’ll be a reading. Most importantly one of the mums very kindly bought us lollies.lolly

~

But I’ve not only been working (like a dog). No, no.

I went to a gallery and saw hummingbirds wrapped in newspaper. (I love hummingbirds probably as much as lemurs so this, while exciting in a Victorian sort of way, was a bit sad).

birds

I went for walks at night and took pictures of things that the street lamp pointed to

boys

I posed by a car and pretended I could be one of those badass/heart-throb dudes from 80s cop shows

car

At some point I found the time to sit and drink this

beer

I very definitely didn’t find God (although they did sing very nicely) (Also note that God is at hand and there’s a lottery hand by them – so that’s what it looks like…)

ye

 

Someone I didn’t actually know pointed out to me that I, and one of my writing groups, was in this (thanks Vicki and Bollington Live – it looks great)

live

And I managed to find an hour to sit in a city library before I taught there and write.

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So there you go. That’s me. More soon…

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Getting In The Way

You know I had intended to mark this little website re-launch thing with something a little more significant than, well, just saying ‘Here’s a new website’ (huge thanks to the very lovely Vicky for her hard work for it – if anyone’s ever after a designer type person then drop me a line). I was going to wait until I had news (which I have, stay tuned, I’ll be sharing that very soon when I can) and I was also going to kick it off with some sort of giveaway (I still might) but things seem to have been keeping on getting in the way to the point where, the other day, I just thought let’s get it up there.

So I did.

And doesn’t it look lovely?

It seems that most of my time, these days, is spent on trains. Or sprinting to get on trains (with heavy bags – it should be an Olympic sport). Or waiting for trains.

And teaching. There’s an awful lot of that happening at the moment too, which is something I’m really, really enjoying. Of course it’s helped when the people I’ve been working with have been lovely and brilliant. And there has, behind the scenes, in whispers and pockets, been actual writing happening. Earlier today (on the train, of course) I heard that one of my stories, Love, will be in this year’s National Flash Fiction Day anthology, and that makes me happy. Mostly because, over this past year, I’ve been a little slow and reluctant to send short stories out there for one reason or other. But there it is. A brand new, previously unpublished, story of mine is going to be out there very soon. More details as I have them. (And talking of things of mine you might not have seen yet – here are some videos of me reading things. One of them’s even on a swing.)

So there you have it. And now I eat, and think about closing tabs (there are MANY) and maybe turning my laptop off for the first time in a week. And finish off prep for tomorrow’s workshop. But first: food.

More soon.

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New Look

Hello! So we’ve a bit of a new look going on here. I do hope you like it. I’m about to head off to teach but, believe me, there’ll be lots more content coming very soon, and very exciting content at that.

In the meantime, make yourselves at home. I’ll be back soon. And if you’ve any thoughts on the new place, let me know.

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To Tell The Truth

I bought Jaymay’s latest (Jaymay in Norway) the other day and it’s been on pretty much continually since. There’s always a bit of an odd feeling when I get something new from someone whose previous work I’ve loved – a kind of fear that I won’ like it, that the bubble will burst. Not so in this case. The record is very, very good. There’ll be more from me on this and Jaymay soon… (And, for the curious, you can listen to her chatting with me a few years ago here.)

And this is about the pick of the bunch. Love it.

Bank Holiday Offer + What I’ve Been Reading

I’ve been pretty busy of late, as I’ve probably mentioned. Workshops, editing, travelling, personal stuff have all been taking up a lot of my time and brain power. Most of it’s been really great (a few crappy personal bits aside which I might or might not talk about in here at some point)- it’s lucky I love my job so much and I’ve been incredibly fortunate that the people I’ve been working with, teaching, are brilliant and lovely and talented.

What I’ve not been doing is much on my online course. That’s kind of had to have taken a back seat while other stuff happened. Which has been a shame because, without sounding like I’m blowing my own trumpet too much, it’s good – people enjoy it, they get better at writing through it, and loads have been published and won stuff because of it. It’s something I’m very proud of.

So I’m relaunching it with a Bank Holiday offer. If you sign up before the end of next week (28th of May) then you can get the whole, six-part, lot for only £89 (that’s instead of the usual £111).

Here’s the blurb:

Have you ever wanted to write Flash Fiction or Short Stories? Or do you write it already and would like to improve?

In this 6 part online course, celebrated short story and flash fiction author and editor, Nik Perring, will take you through all the essential elements.

The course will cover everything you need to know to enable you to write great flash fiction. And all abilities are welcome.

From Generating Good Ideas, to Converting Them into Great Stories. You’ll learn How To Recycle From Your Own Experiences. You’ll learn how to Write Convincing Dialogue, and Description, how to Edit like a Professional, how to be an Efficient Story Teller, and much more.

While the course can be completed in the student’s own time (it normally takes around six weeks), they will be able to work, one-to-one, with a master in the field from the first assignment to the last.

Click here to sign up or ask any questions.

~

In the little spare time I have managed to find I have been reading again. And good stuff too. I’ve been reminding myself how much I love Roald Dahl’s short stories, I finished and loved Michael Kimball’s Galaga which is one of the most oddly interesting and honest books I’ve read in a long time – it has a lovely honesty about it which is both warm and happily nostalgic and a bit tragic too. And very funny in parts – well worth a try. And, last, I’ve been having a sneaky look through The Pigeonhole’s stuff – they’ve done some excellent things with Angela Readman’s Don’t Try This at Home, and they have a really cool Fable issue which is all things fairy tale (and we all know how much of a sucker for a fairy story I am). Go have a look.

Oh, and I also went for a walk and found a tree which was also a chair.

tree

Just Because Everyone Needs Christopher Walken’s Invisible Man Halloween Tips in the Middle of May

And here’s me, scribbled by a very talented young artist.

Saffsme

More soon. Tonight, I’m tired. It has been a long and busy week, and it’s only Wednesday. Stay tuned, folks.

Welcoming Susan Tepper

Now, way back when this little blog began, I used to do loads and loads of author interviews, and I loved it. As well as supporting people doing similar things to me it was also cool for me to listen to how other people wrote and interesting to see what they were writing about and I like to think that it made at least a little difference to people’s sales and introduced people to stuff they might not have otherwise found. That was back when I had more time and energy and before my commitments became, well, big. That was also back when I had the time to read as much as I liked, and to write as much as I could too. Times change and we adapt. (I’ve actually had a pretty good writing week – two stories and a poem, so far – and all that along with short story edits I do (five acceptances of those over the past few days, get in!), slightly bigger edits and reports (just finished a 40k word one), workshops and teaching (four in three days last week).) Yeah, I’ve been doing stuff.

But a couple of months ago I decided that I wanted to get back into the interviews. It was time. Work and home have settled a little (I’m still typing and editing and dashing about like a madman looking like, and I quote, an under-nourished Johnny Cash, I’m just managing it better) so I’m able to do that, and do it properly. I should mention now then, I guess, that if anyone would like to come here and to talk about their work then drop me a line.

So, hot on the heels of the lovely Aliya Whiteley talking about her new book (which you can read here, and you should) I give you: Susan Tepper

The Dawning of the Age of Aquarius

Some of us, like myself, remember this ‘dawn’ vividly. We were there, in the thick of it, in some capacity, enlightened or hoping at least for a spark. Sadly, like other sacred movements and moments of pure white light, it burned itself out. The candle does have an end point. Deaths occurred. Two countries changed irrevocably. A lot of people from many countries died in a tiny country over what were conflicting points of view that got stirred up by corrupt politicians for economic gains. Why this ancient history? you are probably thinking.

I wasn’t a writer back then. I was an air hostess who flew several times with the US troops in planes called MACS and MATS (Military Air Transport Service). My company was TWA and we were flying troop ships during that war. Flying young men in and out of Viet Nam. This created general and specific confusions for me. Was I an air hostess and patriot, or was I a hippie against the war? I certainly felt connected to the soldiers. They were sweet and considerate on the way in, helping us serve the meal trays. Mostly tired, or manic, stoned or depressed on the way out. Or, of those in the forward part of the aircraft, accompanied by a medic, badly injured.

Once I ran into a young man from my neighborhood, while serving cans of soda in the back galley of a 707. Robert. Bob we called him. At the tender age of 12 we had shared a coming of age experience with a group of other neighbor kids. When I brought that memory up, he had no recollection of it. He had just spent a year fighting a war. What was still important to me had become a superfluous thing that his mind simply didn’t retain.

I believe it was my strong internal conflict (was I an air hostess or was I a hippie war protestor?) that eventually brought me into the writing arena a decade later.

Conflict. The meat of creative writing. You gotta have conflict. You also need other things, too. But you can dress that baby to the nines, and if there’s no conflict, there’s no art. You have written the stuff of greeting cards.

When I started to write fiction and poetry (one poem then a decade later one story), when I started that, it was obviously slow going. And that was good, in fact it was very good. Everything submitted went via snail mail and so you could pop it in the letter box and basically forget about it. For at least 3 months. Possibly a few years. Things moved at a crawl. So lucky for the fledgling writer. Because while my submission lay festering, I could write other things.

In my beginning years I wrote two novels. I had no idea how to write a novel. I sat down to write a story and it just kept going. I liked the characters, and I guess I was a little lonely, so every day I let them out to play with me. And play we did. We had love and betrayal and sadness and jubilation. We had people collide and separate, then come back together again. It was a writing experience of great joy and vitality. I never thought about what would happen when it was done, because it never seemed to be done. Even when I hit page 425, the revisions started. That novel was probably reworked 30 or more times. By then I had taught myself how to write a novel. I tried getting into a class about writing novels, but my excerpt from this book was rejected by the instructor. Lucky me! I learned on the job instead.

That novel was subsequently entered in the Zoetrope contest and won 7th place out of 10 winners. I got a little bit of money. There was recognition. I was able to pick up the phone and speak to the owner of one of New York’s top literary agencies. She assigned an agent to my book. It was all very heady and wonderful. Until that agent left the agency and the book was left to die.

This is not a piece about death, though you might be thinking that it is— because of how it’s unfolding.   You see, I’m writing this as though you and I were seated across a café table. It’s nearly 3pm and so we would have the cream tea, perhaps. I would forego the jam but pile on the clotted cream. Dead book, or no dead book, we need to enjoy what life offers in the moment.

So eventually I secured another agent. The experience was even more terrible because this agent was a jealous type. She fought on her phone continually with her authors, while I sat across from her at a lunch she had planned. She was sending my book around, but she wasn’t fighting for it, or really advocating for it. She wasn’t saying: If this or that doesn’t work, Susan is willing to make adjustments.

Histoire.

I moved into online publishing of short stories and poems. A burgeoning new market for the writer! Some of it was spectacular and you did reach a much larger audience. But how many actually read the online work? Hard to say. I was still publishing in any concrete print anthology that accepted my work. I like holding a book. It’s tangible evidence that you’ve been there, your fingerprints, your DNA, your tears on the page, a drop of blood from that mosquito bite you kept picking during the saddest moments in the story.

Life is a fluid thing and I can’t begin to imagine what the next five years will hold for the writer. In Europe there is a huge resurgence of print books vs the e-book. That is very encouraging. In the US there is a huge resurgence in buying the latest cell phone which is less encouraging. Some people refuse the gift of a book. That’s very discouraging.

But art has endured worse. It’s been buried under the ravages at Pompeii, and dug up all over the world. Maybe someone will discover our crumbling abandoned books a century from now, all wrapped up in the Amazon box, just waiting for the word-archeologists to do their interpretative thing.

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Front Cover for Susan

Susan Tepper is the author of four published books of fiction and a chapbook of poetry. Her current title “The Merrill Diaries” (Pure Slush Books) is a novel told in flash chapters that begin following the Viet Nam War, and continue for nearly a decade over two continents. Tepper is Second Place Winner of ‘story/South Million Writers Award’ for this year, and the recipient of 9 Pushcart Nominations. Her novel Snug Harbor took 7th place on the longlist in a book contest sponsored by Zoetrope. Tepper pens a monthly column about all things writerly at Black Heart Magazine. In early 2016 her new novel will be out by Big Table Publishing.
how i learned to sing riff raf