28 January 2011

A moment of fiction #10

It's been a while, so here's the first Moment Of Fiction instalment for 2011.

First up, Natalie at THE SHRIEKING VIOLET zine is teaming up with Manchester Modernist Society and the Loiterers Resistance Movement in a collaborative project on Sunday 6 March and needs contributors. They are looking for expressions of interest by today (sorry!) for events, performances and pieces of creative writing, interview or journalism for a publication and activities celebrating 10 Modernist women related to the North West. The 10 heroines are: Mitzi Solomon Cunliffe, Winifred Brown, Rachel Haugh, Susan Sutherland Isaacs, Marie Stopes, Professor Rosalie David, Olive Shapley, Professor Doreen Massey, Mary Stott and Linder Sterling. Email info@manchestermodernistsociety.org with your heroine and outline of your idea.

Another deadline looming is Monday 31 January. This is for the second issue of FRICTION MAGAZINE, published by the Newcastle Centre for Literary Arts and edited by students on the MA and PhD creative writing programmes at Newcastle University (I guess it's a bit like Manchester's Bewilderbliss). There is no theme and no entry fee, and you can be established or not established, and it doesn't matter if you don't live in Newcastle. They're looking for poetry, short stories, flash fiction and also life writing - submit via editor@frictionmagazine.co.uk but check the website for full details. If you miss this deadline, don't panic: Issue #3 submissions close 31 March.

Next week, Nik Perring is guest editing SmokeLong Quarterly, so if you have a really fantabulous 1,000-word (or less) story up your sleeve you think he'd like (read his blog post for ideas), get in there. Submissions details are here; do read as they're quite specific.

A further submissions deadline I've heard about this week is 2 March, for the third anthology by the wonderful folk at BAD LANGUAGE. All the details are here and, if you want to do your homework, get a copy of the second collection, Scattered Reds, from Five Stevenson Square and the first one, I Know Where The City Has Wings, at Cornerhouse. The next Bad Language event, when poet Jo Bell will be in the hot spot and there will be the ever-popular open mic, is on Wednesday 23 February from 7.30pm at The Castle Hotel. Lovely Nici has set up an event page on that Facebook with more info.

Talking of open mic nights, I hear Silver Apples on Burton Road in West Didsbury are now running one - I believe it's the last Thursday of the month 7.30-11.30, free entry, but I'll try and glean more details for the next edition of MOF.

I'll also keep you posted on submission details for the third issue of PANTHEON magazine. Editor Beth tells me: "I'm hoping to make the next issue for April/May, depending on money and time etc." Give the woman some money, dammit! And if you fancy supporting another good cause, B&N zine needs some spondoolies to keep going, editor Sam recently told me at an International Anthony Burgess Foundation chapbook launch (check out the Foundation's upcoming literary events on the website).

Matthew of UNSUNG has sent a missive round saying that "In the interest of quality over haste, we have decided to postpone our launch night for Issue 6 of UNSUNG until the end of February. The amount of submissions we've received has been vast and they've been great. We'll let you know the launch night in February." Follow them on Facebook to keep up to speed.

Poet Max Wallis has got the SOMETHINGEVERYDAY project up and running again for 2011, and this time it's a collaboration. Check out the new-look site for all the info and email getinvolved@somethingeveryday.co.uk to, er, get involved.

PAPERGIRL are also looking for collaborateurs for their second Manchester project. "For Papergirl Manchester 2011 we need a collective to organise, promote, ride and deliver. If you can help gain submissions, talk to the media, organise people, coordinate an exhibition or help with the ride get in touch", they say. Email them via papergirlmanchester@gmail.com

That's all for now, folks! Happy writing and reading...

Finally, please don't forget to quiz Ask Ben & Clare (via askbenandclare@gmail.com), submit stories and poems to Roy Keane's Lucky Scarf (via roykeanesluckyscarf@gmail.com), fling flash fiction at 330 Words (via 300words@gmail.com) or rustle up a review for Screen150 (via screen150@gmail.com).

27 January 2011

Not bad at all

Last night Dan, Joe and Nici hosted another marvellous Bad Language evening at The Castle Hotel on Oldham Street.

Dan opened with a poem about the now ramshackle, onetime competition to Coney Island (which will in my mind forever be linked with Cloverfield), then gave up the stage to #beatoff's very own Dave Hartley, with a concoction about the Bridgewater Hall in space. The next #beatoff member, er, up was Tom Mason with a slightly longer version of his 2nd Violin from 330 Words. Also in the first third was Bugged co-creator, prolific poet and fellow boat person Jo Bell, who raised more than a few laughs with Coming, and one of the Bugged contributors, Calum Kerr, with a short short story about one man's innovative solution to writer's block. Nici rounded the section up with a dark tale of seeing in the New Year at Beetham Tower, though not in the traditional way.

After an interlude for recharging our glasses, star-of-the-show David Gaffney gave us The King Of Powerpoint, which I'd seen him perform on Short Story Day, but went down a real treat with the Bad Language crowd. He also read from his new Salt collection The Half-Life Of Songs, which is reviewed by Peter Wild on Bookmunch (where I've also written some reviews, if you're remotely interested). This was the third time I've seen David read (the first time was at the Bad Language Literature Quiz back in September), and I'm worried he's probably starting to think of me as some kind of Gaffney groupie. Or a stalker.

Talking of which, after another break (the drinking is as important as the readings), Joe gave us a stalker story, then, as if by magic, Bad Language newbie Joely "@thecharmquark" Black read Psycho, another 330 Words story, which she even got into character for. #beatoff's Fat Roland also "performed", extracting the letters making up his story, Despondent Correspondent, from various parts of his anatomy and vestments (as well as penning the award-winning Fat Roland On Electronica, he posts creative writing here). Another short story came courtesy of Guy Garrud, a regular (along with #beatoffers Dave and Ben, and John Andrew Hutchison, who I also had the pleasure of meeting last night) at the Manc Spec Fiction group at Madlab.

Then there was little old me. I read one of my new stories, White Rabbits, which involves a character called Alice, a John Tenniel artwork (above), a looking-glass and a life-sized bunny. I'd gone for this as today happens to be the birthday of Lewis Carroll (who, according to Wikipedia, pretty much invented Scrabble, coincidentally the board game of choice on the Bad Language logo). Thinking about it, I should have dedicated the story to rabbit-watcher extraordinaire and natty waistcoat-wearer Mr Hartley (the story even includes the phrase "natty waistcoat". One day I'll share it with you. Maybe tomorrow, who knows).

There were also loads of poets, so once again the evening offered a good mix. In no particular order (largely because, having consumed copious amounts of strong Dutch lager and not bothering to take any notes, I can't remember) the poets included: Dominic Berry, with his vegan-coming-out poem; a (possibly Spanish) lady called Mercedes (@cedered on Twitter); Scouser Gerry, who gave us a great poem about fighting girls on the Scottie Road in Liverpool; Heather, who read last time and this time treated us to the fantastic line "scum of clothes"; Anna Percy, who runs the night (which I think is on Mondays at Sandbar) Stirred: For Women Who Write, and Anna's pal whose name alluded me. Forgive me if I've missed anyone: as you can see, it was quite a roll call.

Finally, news on the night was that, 1) the next Bad Language shindig is on Wednesday 23 February at The Castle, and 2) following the success of I Know Where The City Has Wings and Scattered Reds, submissions are now open for the third Bad Language anthology. All the details are here and the closing date is 2 March. Ace.

24 January 2011

Crafty idea

Upcycling is a word I'm hearing more and more, although it doesn't seem to have made its way into the Oxford English Dictionnaire yet - at least not the free online version anyway. Never fear, Wikipedia is always on hand to come to the rescue in times of missing popular culture references crises; indeed here you'll find that upcycling is defined as: the process of converting waste materials or useless products into new materials or products of better quality or a higher environmental value. In other words, it just goes to show that one man's trash really is another man's treasure.

As if to prove this, an upcoming exhibition at the Royal Exchange Craft Shop sees up-and-coming contemporary craft makers showing and selling homewares, jewellery and accessories inspired by upcycling. The special commissions are by students on the MA in Design at MMU and include Catherine Chester, whose intricate and interesting earrings (pictured) are made from recycled watch components. There will also be pieces for sale by established makers and local craftspeople, so if you didn't even know the Royal Exchange had a craft shop, this gives you the perfect opportunity to bob along and check it out.

The Upcycled show launches with a special preview 12-3pm on Saturday 5 February and then runs until Thursday 31 March, with a special free workshop event on Saturday 5 March. It is part of the Take Stock project which the lovely Craft Shop ladies, Rachael and Gail, are running in conjunction with The Crafts Council. More info can be found on the website, blog, Facebook and Twitter, and you can expect a review here once it's all underway.

20 January 2011

Chapbooks and verse

Last night, I swung by the International Anthony Burgess Foundation to wave my hanky and throw my hat in the air for Adrian Slatcher, who was launching his new poetry chapbook alongside fellow Manchester-based poet JT Welsch. Adrian's pamphlet Playing Solitaire For Money and JT's Orchids are among the first six volumes in Salt's new Modern Voices series, pictured below.

Adrian, who has previously published Extracts From Levona with Manchester's own Knives, Forks And Spoons Press, describes Playing Solitaire For Money as "a collection of lyric poems, which are contemporary in form and subject", and you can get a taster of the more personal mid-section of the collection in Late Love, which is reproduced on Adrian's proper, grown-up website (as opposed to his blog, which I usually namecheck).

He started the set with one of his older works, the aptly themed Anthony Burgess, before treating us to a few numbers from the book, and finally some more recent poems including The Maze, with its wonderfully descriptive "aristocratic kitsch", and In The Harlequin, about Adrian's current craze, Modernist sculptor Jacob Epstein (with tales of whom he was recently excitedly regaling me in The Art Of Tea, and I'll confess I hadn't the foggiest what he was going on about).

Next up, Louisianian JT's style was quite a contrast. His short, snappy lines recounted subjects as diverse as sexuality, art, love, nature. I really enjoyed the parallels drawn between tree-cutting and the economic recession in Coppice, and the lovely listing of flora and fauna on the beach in Formby. If you want to test the waters, have a shufty at The Mirror Stage here.

19 January 2011

Science friction

Unbelievably, Sci-Fi Book Club has been on the boil for a year. Unbelievably, after a year, Sci-Fi Book Club appears to have gone somewhat off the boil. My spy rocked up to last night's meet, and was only one among four, which a lesser, more lazy commentator might take as indicative of the failure of society as a whole.

Or perhaps they could blame it on post-Christmas depression, the cold and dark, or folk being skint. But! - I would argue - the group's first-ever get-together was a snow-bound 5 January 2010 (as described on this very blog here), so I don't buy it.

Maybe it was down to this month's reading material, the rather-more-fantasy-than-sci-fi Swiftly by Adam Roberts (it sounded shit, which put me off, and the author sounded like he was obsessed with shit, which I don't suppose helped anyone else much either). But! - I would say - the reading list is decided by the members, so how can they vote on a book then turn their back on it in such a way?

Now, I like Sci-Fi Book Club. It has a hashtag (#mcrsf), a Google Group and a logo (above); it's free and it has forged links with the city's library service and orders in the books so you don't even have to buy any books; it takes place within the relaxing environs of the inimitable Madlab. You can even bring beer, dammit, and the collected troops order in some scrummy pizza to keep those energy levels up. I like Sci-Fi Book Club. I have read some of the novels and joined in some of the discussions. I have met some interesting people as a result of being a Sci-Fi Book Clubber; I have even made some new friends.

I don't want Sci-Fi Book Club to go by the wayside, so this is a rallying call! Sci-Fi Book Clubbers past, present and future - where are you all? Go to the next meet-up (Tuesday 15 February, 7pm); decide on a new bunch of books to read - books that people who read sci-fi actually want to read! I don't know, how about Isaac Asimov, Philip K Dick, Greg Bear, even John Wyndham...

Come on, guys, let's mobilise!

11 January 2011

The collaborateurs

Just now, @MancLibraries directed their not insubstantial 3,502 Twitter followers to their brilliant bookish blog Manchester Lit List and, in particular, a piece about FoldingStory, a "group storytelling game". Only yesterday, Radio 4's Front Row was inviting listeners to add the next part to their Brett Easton Ellis-bred Chain Story, following on from Man Booker Prize winner Howard Jacobson. (Send a maximum of 50 words by email to frontrow@bbc.co.uk or via Twitter @BBCFrontRow before 31 January.) Just last month, Tim Burton's Cadavre Exquis took its last collaborative Tweet, and you can now read the full Stain Boy tale here.

This upturn in interest is nothing if not a weird kind of coincidence, as I've recently been extolling the virtues of a good game of Consequences. It's such a fun way to collaborate as a writer as the results can be so imaginary and tangential. I experienced much glee joining in the Tim Burton experiment and contributing a line to Poem 27 as part of the Angels & Anarchy show at Manchester Art Gallery. I also harped on about my love of the Exquisite Corpse back in May in the comments on Art of Fiction, the blog by Adrian Slatcher, who organised a couple of rounds as part of Madlab's (seemingly now defunct) Interesting Monday. Hopefully, I myself will be helping spread the pleasures of the art form further afield some time soon. As they say: watch this space.

02 January 2011

What the book?

New year, new bloggage, and let's kick things off with some thoughts on reading. Rumour has it Kindle sales have gone through the roof this festive season, with something like eight million units being shifted even before shoppers started tearing off the doors to Selfridges in a sales-induced frenzy (I exaggerate). The most popular titles being downloaded for the handheld e-book reader? Good old-fashioned bodice-rippers.

Perhaps it's as well we don't have long to wait until 5 March, and World Book Night. The idea was launched on an unsuspecting public a mere month ago, but already your time is nearly up to put yourself forward to distribute 48 copies of your choice of tome from the list. Twenty thousand book-givers are being invited to hand out a grand total of one million books (yeah, I don't get the math either) and you have until 9am on Tuesday to apply. I'm absolutely stuffed as I (whisper it) have read only one of the 25 titles on the reading list. That's a bloody travesty, I know, so I'm hoping you lot are going to volunteer and make sure I get a copy of the books you advocate!

STOP PRESS! The deadline to apply to be a book-giver has been extended! Closing date for applications is now Monday 17 January at 9am.