31 August 2011

Books the trend

If you haven't heard of For Books’ Sake - subtitle: "books by and for independent women" - then where have you been? Apart from having probably the best title of any website ever, it's an ezine promoting and celebrating writing by women, and today it is one!

In the last year, For Books’ Sake has featured news, reviews and interviews with iconic and upcoming women authors, been involved in World Book Night 2011 alongside author Margaret Atwood, curated the three-day literary programme for Ladyfest Ten, set up their own lending library and interactive forum, collaborated with Pulp Press on an anthology of the best pulp fiction written by women, scheduled for publication later this year, and coordinated regular live literary events and book groups in Manchester and beyond - not just in that London, which deserves some praise in itself! Plans afoot include a monthly literary clubnight in Manchester, so watch this space.

The girls behind FBS are so ace, and deserve plenty of cake for their efforts. I didn't have any time for baking over the bank holiday, so I've provided a testimonial instead. It goes something like this: "I discovered For Books' Sake back in November, so no longer a babe-in-arms but already a healthy, bouncing site. As something of a spoken word fan, I really love to keep up to date with all the events news and reviews - and the FBS shindigs themselves - plus the regular writing competitions and submissions info." There you go. And if you want to read some stuff I've written for the lovely ladies, you can go here, here and here.

25 August 2011

Posts win prizes

In case you haven't heard, nominations are now open for the Manchester Blog Awards 2011, and you might even be in with a chance as this time round previous Best New Blog sash-wearer Words & Fixtures isn't allowed to enter. Could this be because: a) last year she got drunk and stormed the stage Cocker-style after not winning anything; b) the organisers fear that if they let her anywhere near a microphone all kinds of filth is likely to spew forth and fill the innocent minds of the great and the good there gathered; c) she works for Manchester Literature Festival, so it might look a bit weird as they're one of the sponsors?*

This is the sixth year of the awards, which celebrate the best online writing in the city, show what an amazing blogging scene there is here and give us the chance to sneak out from behind our computer screens to drink copious amounts of grog and meet fabulous fellow bloggers.

Visit the Manchester Blog Awards website to nominate your favourite Manchester blogs in the following categories: Best Writing, Best Arts and Culture Blog, Best City or Neighbourhood Blog, Best New Blog and Best Personal Blog. Nominations close at 5pm on Sunday 18 September and the winners will be announced at a glittering awards ceremony during Manchester Literature Festival at 7pm on Wednesday 19 October in the fab upstairs room at The Deaf Institute. As well as the presentation of gongs, there will be readings from the winners of The Real Story creative non-fiction competition (closing date for entries is this Saturday!) and Socrates Adams, who'll be treating the audience to extracts from his fantastic forthcoming debut, Everything’s Fine (proofread by yours truly).

*It's c.

18 August 2011

Flash fiction friction

Following on from yesterday's post, today I found out that one of my 100-character stories using the word "revolve" has made it into the top five in my group and got me through to the next round of the NYC Midnight flash fiction competition. Mine was the first choice in the public vote in my group's 25 stories - aw, shucks! This means I've been whittled down from 800 writers to the last 100, which is really rather marvellous.

Today, me and the other 99 remaining writers will be given another word to write three new 100-character tales about in 12 hours; the 25 top ones picked by the judges will be put to another online vote to ascertain who gets to win one hundred American dollars. This is definitely going to be a challenge since the new word is circulated at midnight New York time, so about 5pm BST, just at the point I'll be off gin-quaffing and am-dramming. Ho-hum.

Here's the story that has brought me this far...

Spin. Twist. Revolve. I'm mesmerised. Arms curved, leg kinked. I love you, jewellery box dancer. // by Sarah-Clare Conlon

17 August 2011

Short shorts

I've been writing some proper flash fiction this week. I've been whittled down from 800 writers to 500 in the first round of the 100-character micro challenge being run by NYC Midnight, and two out of three of my stories including the word "revolve" have been picked and are up for voting. Please go and put your ticks in the boxes here before the public vote closes RIGHT NOW.

I also submitted a 100-word story, inspired by a photo of a man getting on a train, to Stylist's short story competition. It didn't make it through, but here it is anyway...

Boarding a train instantly opens up a whole new unexplored set of opportunities and outcomes, possibilities and probabilities. Anything could happen; often it does. Colette is dragging her luggage onto the sleeper in Gare de Lyon when she feels someone hoof up the steps behind her. Jerking round at the suddenness of the pounce, her eyes fall into a brilliant gaze beneath a dark hood. The stranger shakes his head free, smiling, and takes the weight of Colette’s case. Pushing it into the second car along the corridor, he turns, reaches for her hand and pulls her in after him.

16 August 2011

Words and festival

Have I mentioned Manchester Literature Festival to you yet? I mean here, on Words & Fixtures, not here on the fabulous new-look Manchester Literature Festival Blog or here on the @McrLitFest Twitter feed. No I haven't. Well, I'm mentioning it right here right now because the line-up has just been announced and it is all very splendid indeed. The two-week shindig kicks off on 10 October and runs until 23 October. I suggest you head on over to the MLF website and have a shufty at all the fabulous things on offer.

11 August 2011

Mills & Boon challenge update

It's 11 August. I'm sure you're pretty much aware of that, but I mention it as it's significant. It's exactly a month since I announced my Mills & Boon challenge and exactly a month later I am announcing its termination. Yes, I've given up. Call me uncommitted, but last night I picked up my seemingly well-thumbed copy of Julie Cohen's Featured Attraction and realised with horror that I've been reading it since 20 July and am still less than halfway through. They still haven't had sex; they've had a couple of snogs but Kitty the main character is properly mixed up in the head and keeps running off whenever Jack goes near her. She's basically playing hard to get, but she doesn't seem to realise it. Frankly, I just can't be arsed. I managed to read two and a half novels: the thought of getting through the original figure of seven (one per day for a week) now seems rather silly. I'm reading some proper sauce now instead: Confessions: A Collection Of Erotic Fiction. Expect some radio silence for a while...

Images by Oli + Alex.

09 August 2011

Rainy day

One of my short stories has been published on Rainy City Stories; you can read it here. It's called Poster Girl and the action takes place in the Northern Quarter. All the pieces on Rainy City Stories are set in Manchester; if you've not had the pleasure, the site is an interactive literary cityscape with the poetry and prose marked a bit like pins on a map you get in TV cop shows. I also have a poem, Hawthorn Lane, on the site. I know: poetry! Crazy talk.

Submissions are now closed for Rainy City Stories, which is a shame, but the folk behind it are running a new project, The Real Story. Part of Manchester Literature Festival, the competition is for short creative non-fiction. See my earlier posting for details.

04 August 2011

Day tripper

Yesterday I went on a train. This is obviously the kind of behaviour that warrants me the Twitter bio label "part-time adventuress". A train! Actually, I went on two trains: one there, one back. Imagine!

So I went on a train and the train went to Liverpool and I went on a train to Liverpool to look at some art. First off, I hotfooted it to the lovely becolumned Walker Gallery to see the show Art In Revolution: Liverpool 1911. It harks back to an exhibition of international Post-Impressionist and local avant-garde artists held in the Bluecoat 100 years ago. It didn't blow me away, I'll be honest, but it is very varied and there are some quite nice pieces (nice bit of Gaugin; some really nice woodcuts; a nice spot of Pointillist stuff, possibly even Seurat, I can't remember).

From here, I sauntered over to the Tate in the Albert Dockhhhhh. A giant table and chairs drew me Alice in Wonderland-style into Robert Therrien: Smoke Signals, but it was the towering pile of plates (above) that was really great - the gallery invigilator told us to be careful when walking around it, as the effect of the perspective throws you off balance. He wasn't wrong: it was an almost interactive experience.

Anyway, the reason why I really came to the Tate was to see Rene Magritte: The Pleasure Principle. It's on until 16 October, but I've been wanting to go for, like, ever. There's a ton of stuff: paintings, drawings, collages, ads (above), photos...
There's the bowler hat stuff, the train coming out of the fireplace, the Ceci n'est Pas Une Pipe series, giant apples, flapper ladies, lots of tits. I liked Les Charmes du Pays, a rifle next to an empty picture frame titled Paysage (above). Kinda funny. Also liked The Menaced Assassin for its strong narrative, Popular Panorama for it's cut-away multi-layered view, and The Lovers II (Les Amants) (below). Apparently this is inspired by an image from the cover of a private dick pulp fiction comic Nick Carter, Detective, where the dying heroine has her head hidden by a sheet, which has led to me spending a good part of the past hour looking at magazine covers on Google images. The Spicy Detective and Saucy Detective series look great.

02 August 2011

Badass language

Yesterday our good chum Daniel Carpenter, one third of Bad Language Manchester, launched a new writing and photography project: What Vanishes Will Vanish. All the info is on the website, but in a nutshell: submit a picture from your childhood along with a short story (up to 2,000 words), poetry (up to 40 lines) or non-fiction (2,000 words) inspired by it; a creative interpretation of the image, if you will. Submit words and pictures to dan@badlanguagemcr.co.uk. Follow @WhatVanishes on Twitter for updates.

Back to Bad Language, and I have been promising to do a little write-up of the shenanigans in the hottest room in Manchester last Wednesday, so here goes. I can't remember everyone who read or everything that was read, so this is just selected highlights and sorry if I don't mention you. The three hosts Nici West, Dan Carpenter and Joe Daly each brought us their usual high standard of tales, featuring subjects as disparate as team-building and star-spotting Paul Heaton on the bus. The guest star for the evening was the lovely Tom Fletcher, who read a few extracts from his second novel, The Thing On The Shore, which is nothing if not creepy.

Another published writer who appeared was Angela Smith, who I recognised from The Manchester Lit List write-up about the City Library launch of her debut poetry collection with Puppywolf, This Is The Me I Would Be If I Dared. Quite liked her pieces: modern and a bit in your face. Of the poets, Zach Roddis also deserves a mention. I like his stuff; it's young and fresh and he uses copious amounts of swears, which always keeps me happy. You can see some examples of his work on the Write Out Loud site.

On the prose tip, one story which stuck in my head was Nija Dalal's Young City, set in Atlanta, where she was brought up. Nija's work is always very personal and open, but at the same time intriguing and sometimes a bit David Lynchesque with her observations of America. In this particular story, I really liked the idea of her father dragging visitors to see the Gandhi statue and eating chutney sandwiches. I also loved some of the language and imagery, for starters: "Tumbledown shotgun shacks line potholed streets, close and huddled; a stern look could make these houses crumble" and "all roads intersecting Ponce De Leon Avenue change their names there, revealing an economic and racial fissure along a fault the whole world is guilty of".

Much to my dismay, I missed Fat Roland's (gimmick-free!!) performance of Michael Is A Beautiful Horse, A Dangerous Horse (yes, I was at the bar - needed some nosebag), but you can read the craziness that is that creation on FR's creative writing blog, Italic Eye, here. I don't want to give anything away, but can I just say one word? Carroty. Hahaha.

Tom Mason read his latest addition to his fantastic short story site 330 Words. Inspired by the current advert for match.com (which I've since seen), it's called Ukelele, and you can read it here. Tom even sang, though he's been embarrassed about it ever since. Tom's delivery is great; he always pauses for just the right length of time at just the right moments. Case in hand: "She hid her head under the pillow in embarrassment as he tried to think of a word that rhymed with foreskin.

"Nothing rhymed with foreskin."

I also read a piece from 330 Words, Bird Strike, which we won't go into again. This I bookended with two tiny tales of titillation, each, er, 69 words long. You can read them on my new home for saucy stories, Queen Of Tarts. (Disclaimer: adult content contained therein.) (Warning: this is a soft launch.)