I've recently been concentrating on short stories again, and I'm delighted to say that two are to be published in anthologies from the brilliant Unthank Books. In the autumn, Red Room: New Short Stories Inspired by the Brontes, published in aid of the Bronte Birthplace Trust and edited by the talented A J (Andrea) Ashworth, will come from this innovative and energetic publisher, and I was thrilled when Andrea asked me to contribute. (You may remember that Jane Eyre is shut up by her horrid aunt in the scary red room.) Unthank's yearly Unthologies have been receiving much acclaim - last published was Unthology 3, and Unthology 4 is due in the autumn. My story, 'Clarrie and You', will be in Unthology 5, due for publication next June.
It's made me very quiet, this short-story writing - clearly, I haven't been much on this blog for a while. I've always said that it's novel-writing that takes you out of life, and that short-story writing gives you breathers that allow you to stay in touch, but somehow this time it's been a real immersion. I have realised suddenly that I've hardly been out for the last few months without even noticing - whereas usually I'm going up the wall if I don't get out pretty often. It's true that I've had some family issues providing plenty of interest and entertainment (and some great material for writing in the future!) but they haven't really been that time- or attention-consuming; I just seem somehow to have sunk right in there with the short stories. The only other thing I've been doing is growing plants from seed, which has felt like a very similar quiet, inward and nurturing process: oh, the excitement of sowing, the exhilaration when those first shoots come up, the unbelievable hard work of bringing the damn things in for the night to protect them and then putting them out again next day, day after ruddy day, the potting on (the tedious potting on!) - and then the utter satisfaction at the finished product.
One outing I did make was to the Bakerie in Manchester's Northern Quarter for the launch of Rodge Glass's new collection of stories LoveSexTravelMusik (Freight Books). He was supported by my fellow Salt author David Gaffney, who read from his new flash fiction collection More Sawn-Off Tales (forthcoming then but actually published today), accompanying himself on the guitar. They both read brilliantly and it was a great evening. Though I did feel a little strange and agoraphobic walking down the streets beforehand - just as I did the evening I ventured out to a 'Ballyhoo' evening to launch this year's 24:7 Theatre Festival, also in the Northern Quarter which seems, while my back has been turned, to have become rapidly the hub of Manchester's literary scene.
I took some photos at the Bakerie, too, of Rodge Glass:
and David Gaffney:
John and I did spend a fortnight in Wales at the end of May (which meant setting up a ridiculously complicated wick system to keep moist all those seedlings not yet big enough to plant out - really, at least with writing you can just take your laptop; I'm not sure I'll be doing this radical gardening lark again!), where the spring flowers were very late after our dreadful spring, but the bluebells were magnificent:
I had been invited to the award evening for the Women's Fiction Prize, so I left off writing and took the whole shortlist with me to read in Wales. It was thoroughly luxurious (the books are wonderful), and just what I needed to break through my introverted state. And then I was off to London and revelling in travelling once more. And the party was just fabulous...
I wrote about the shortlist here.