25/4/2018

IBreaking Windows - Jan Kaneents been a bit weird finishing the last taught exercises on my MA in Creative Writing. Its been all about the future of fiction,  and doing synopses of works in progress including our Examiner Marker Components (EMAs) which are due in in October. Most of us are writing the first 15 000 words of novels or novella though we can do short story collections. I’ve spent all morning trying to condense the essence of my novella into three sentences. This and struggling with writing a 2000 word short story,  has made me think about this blog which I began for my own entertainment really, when I first started writing. I didn’t even make it visible to anyone else for the first year and a half, using it as a sort of digital diary to chart my experiences.

Now four years later, I feel like I’ve come a long way and maybe its time to develop it a bit more. My next college deadline is 17/5/2018 when I have to submit a 2000 word short story, and for the first time ever, my heart isn’t in it. I’ve been polishing the first 2500 words of my novella (which I must submit in June for tutorly feedback) and I’ve fallen right inside that. Dragging myself into something else has been really difficult. I’ve started three stories trying to fulfil the brief (including  a metafictional aspect or experimental writing) but the stories won’t behave themselves. The first, which I’ve finished and do like, is 1500 words. Any longer (and I’ve tried really hard to make it longer) and its pants; the second is going to be 5000 words. I will finish it next year because its one of my favourites that I’ve ever hatched, but there’s no way it’s ever going to be less that 5000 words – the first person voice wont let it. The third is written as a blog, and I can’t get into character for it, which is one of the things that’s brought me here. I reckon if I blog as my own blog voice, it might help me get inside the head of my fictional blog-voice. The problem is that my fictional blogging persona (though he’s just written 2,000 words) doesn’t know who he is yet, where he lives, what he’s trying to achieve, what he’s trying to hide, so his writing doesn’t feel authentic.

I’ve decided, therefore to blog here as myself, by way of putting my own voice away for a day or two, so  I can get into the headspace of my nasty protagonist and craft his voice and backstory a bit better.

I won the illustration at the start of this post in a flash comp. It illustrates a story I wrote for Zero Flash last summer. I’m posting it here because it captures a bit of the mood I want to evoke in the afore-mentioned story/blog that I’m struggling with, puts me in mind of the character I’m trying to create. Right feel a bit more in his headspace now. Better get cracking before the darkness deserts me. The pun was entirely deliberate.

 

 

11/4/2018

WIN_20180411_13_29_53_ProBack in the Hobbit House for one day only and have just embarked on Chapter 10 of Year 2 of my two-year MA in Creative Writing. So what? I hear you cry from the flatland wildernesses of cyberspace, and its a very good question. I’m glad you asked.

It’s the last taught chapter.

After 19 1/2 months of learning about character, plot, tense, time, narrative voices, psychic distance, rhetoric, euphonics and much, much more – this is the last taught week. No more exercises to do after that. No more discussions in various forums, dedicated to fiction, creative non-fiction and getting published in the world. After this week there will be only writing and Tutor Group Forums, and occasional workshops where we critique extracts of each other’s work.

It going to be very odd, indeed, just writing.

It feels a wee bit like the end of an era. I’ve just posted the first exercise of the End Chapter and there’s only one more exercise after that. That’s why I’m marking the event here, before I do it, to herald the beginning of the end.

Getting published wise, I’ve submitted to Molotov Cocktail and written a few flashes  that are nearly ready to send out, but I can’t decide on venues. I’ve been reading work posted on several on-line sites/journals and think I’ve whittled my first choices down to Fictive Dream, Spelk, and maybe the Jellyfish Review. I’ve never submitted to any of these but think I need to get a bit more work ‘out there’ even if its for free and as they say…nothing ventured… I’m also going to submit to Horror Scribes first anthology with a slightly reworked version of the flash that won their New Year comp.

Talking of comps, I entered the Retreat West flash comp, theme ‘forgetting’, and spring’s Reflex Fiction, which is a brilliant idea for a comp.  I came across it at Christmas when I had time to look.  They pick a short list from all the entries, then count backward, publishing one  each day (between May and June for this edition) until the winning three are published on the last three days. Here’s the link  https://www.reflexfiction.com/ They publish the stories with a picture that illustrates the text and (if you agree) you’re story is published in a print anthology at the end of the year.

They published the longlist on April 1st and I’m on it, which is good. I don’t know when my story will be published, it depends on how well it does I suppose, but I’ll post a link when it is.

Right then, back to the last exercise. No point in putting it off any longer. Endings are always beginnings. Best foot forward and all that

22/3/2018

Back in the blogges-sphere then now that my latest MA submission has left the building. This one has been the hardest so far. A critical reflection/literary essay on a piece of work that has impacted my own writing. Not creative writing at all, more academic discourse, and very brain wearing to boot. This is the piece of work that I’ve found the most challenging and the most eye opening. My work under discussion was a collection of short stories called Dinosaurs on Other Planets by Danielle McLaughlin which, when I first read it in 2016, took my breath away. I’ve read and re-read it since, taken inspiration from it, borrowed techniques from it, such as telling stories in two narrative voices, and become cowed by it because its so flaming good it makes you wonder why you’re bothering…but it wasn’t until I wrote this essay that I actually ‘saw’ some of the techniques at work and really understood what was going on. I think its called deconstructing something and I would recommend it to aspiring writers. Its weird what’s hiding right under your nose until you really lean in and look.

Whist I was doing this essay, I researched McLaughlin and was very gratified to find out that she is both an instinctive writer who starts with an image or an idea and just starts writing and sees where the story takes her (like me), who then will do up to fifty drafts to sort of chip the story out of the stone until its fine and sharp and startling ( a bit like me though fifty drafts is more like 20 for me). She also has a band of writer friends who beta read for her, so she gets her disclosure just right. Researching her made me feel a writerly connection with her style and method, she too came to writing later on in life so I take great inspiration from her as a role model.

Very weirdly, when I was doing my research (which felt a bit like online stalking), I looked at her webpage and twitter profile etc., and I found another connection between us. In 2011, she was a prize winner in the  InkTears Short Story Competition where she got Highly commended. Just as I was doing all this research I won the very same award.

I’m so proper pleased with this, and my story, A Walk in the Park will be published by them in summer. Here’s the link to the announcement. http://www.inktears.com/contests-i/#winners-ss

 

 

1/3/2018

Ah the first day of the month in which spring shall, well…spring…and I’m at home due to a snow day. The ring village where I live is sheet ice and the temperature outside is -4 which is actually two degrees warmer than yesterday…and I am so not complaining. This simply all goes to reinforce my theory that The Open University is the best place to study when you live in the middle of nowhere. Here is the pastoral idyll beyond the confines of my writing shed and my stove on full draw, and me with my happy face on, in my warmest dressing gown just about to start serious full-on research for my Tutor Marked Assessment 3, re-reading the amazing Dinosaurs on Other Planets, by Danielle McLaughlin. On-line study is so the new going to lectures. Its the way forward.

24/2/2018

Much has happened on the writing front since I last blogged, vis a vis:

I’ve got a wee story up in issue 5 of the brilliant Cabinet of Heed E-zine. Here’s the link https://cabinetofheed.wordpress.com/2018/02/13/exorcisms-jan-kaneen/ Just love the illustration and I’ve had some fab feedback about the story via Twitter.

I did the Kathy Fish Fast Flash course which was wonderful and soooo productive. You write a flash everyday in the company of twelve brilliant writers from all over the world and feedback on each other’s writing. Its a mega positive space and Kathy feeds back on everything you post. She is such a positive energy source that’s its impossible not to pour stories out. You do ten exercises and each results in a first draft. The pointers and exercises are designed to get your ideas flowing and they really, really do.

I got a distinction for tutor marked assessment 3, edited it after brill feedback from Kath (my totally excellent OU tutor not Kathy Fish) and submitted it off to two venues, one suggested by Kath. Will report back if it gets accepted in either place.

I was longlisted then short listed at Ink Tears Short story competition – here’s the link to the listing, which I’m so pleased about.

http://www.inktears.com/news-b/2018/2/22/shortlist-for-inktears-short-story-contest

The results are out next Friday.

I’ve submitted a story to the National Flash Fiction Anthology this year, something I’ve not done before and I’ve also entered the 100 word National Flash Fiction Day CoWIN_20180127_20_54_24_Prompetition, which again I’ve not done before so it’ll be interesting to see how I do. I’ve also booked myself to attend the Flash Festival again which will be in July 2018. It was soooo good last year I’m keen to do it all over again  And finally….here’s a pic of me with my monster mug which I won last month for writing a horrible story inspired by the twelve days of Christmas. I have to say its makes tea, coffee, hot chocolate, gin, all taste wonderful.

 

 

 

26/01/2018

I’m meant to be writing the references list for my Tutor Marked Assessment – a task I find in the same irksomeness continuum as cleaning the toilet, taking the wheelie bins out or pigging out the car after the teenagers have been hogging Macdonald’s in the back, thus I am here blogging by way of avoidance. Last night I went out with my friend Carol for outing number one of her 50th birthday celebrations. She’s planning to really break the arse out of celebrating this august event by doing something different every month for a year. Proceedings kicked off yesterday by six of us going into Cambridge to do a role-play adventure game where we had to cypher our way out of a crumbling pyramid. It carolsbirthdaywas quite good. Here’s a pic of us after we’d escaped but before we went to the pub. Later, at the pizza place, we  planned what to do next i.e. a trip up the Shard in London. It occurred to me that this would be a great theme for a collection of flash fictions. So when I’ve finally finished referencing and eventually submitted my TMA02, I’m going to start on that. Writing-wise, since I last blogged, I won Horror Scribes Flash fiction 12 Days of Christmas Comp. Here’s the link to my winning flash https://horrorscribes.com/2018/01/05/the-twelfth-day-of-christmas-and-overall-winner/#more-1157

and here’s a pic of my story on a mug which I’m dead chuffed with.horrorscribes It only came yesterday so I haven’t yet had a brew in it. Will get grumpy husband to take a photo of me tomorrow having tea and biccies then I can put it on my next post. What could be better than flash fiction and a brew? Right better press on for this is buttering no parsnips nor referencing no influences. Oh yes one last thing. Next week I’m doing Fast Flash with Kathy Fish. Will blog anon. Soooooo excited.

 

4/1/2018

roadsariverAs its been 2018 for four days, and as this is the view from my liminal front door, I thought I’d better post a blog to commemorate the occasion. The road is often a river as I live on the Cambridgeshire flood plain, but I never worry because my 400 year old cottage has flooded only once according to local tradition and that was in the big flood of 1947. Even then we came off least wet as we sit quite high on an ancient bank. The nearest it ever came to coming in, in my time, was in 2004 when it lapped the edge of the top tarmac path. I almost bought sandbags that year. Anyway, back to more mundane ramblings. I was sick over the festive season and mostly chucked up when the family festivities were underway in my kitchen. Never-the-less, I got to see the family and some friends which was lovely. To link clumsily to the image above, I find myself in a liminal headspace at the moment. Its my birthday next week and though I’m proper fed up with eating and drinking (despite the norovirus incident) I know that I’ll have to give it another fling when the birthday comes along. We’re planning a trip to a local carvery which is more for the family than me as I’m veggie. Anyway, the prospect of yet another blow-out hovering on the horizon, has me Hoovering up (by which I mean eating) leftover dark chocolate brazils and sad unwanted edible tree decorations and the like because there’s no point in starting the inevitable January diet until the carvery’s done and dusted. I know, lazy self-indulgent, contradictory thinking, but at least I’m making myself walk/swim off the hogged choccies.

Writing-wise, I’m on a threshold too. I am so excited I could barely withhold the revelation to here but..flashfestival.drumroll/big tah dah, I’ve booked myself on Kathy Fish’s Fast Flash on-line course. (Its my birthday present from grumpy husband and starts on the 22nd Jan.) Will blog about it in the fullness of time. I am so excitied. I just love her work and several of the on-line flash fictionistas have recommended it in such glowing terms, I just had to. Also I’ve been very lazy with flash fiction since I started my MA and it will get me kick-started for the year to come. I’m currently writing Tutor Marked Assessment 2 (only a working title) for my course, which is in the workshop for peer feedback until 10th January, so a wee bit liminal re that too at the moment.

One thing that’s not borderline or in any way marginal, is the Flash Fiction Festival Anthology pictured above on top of one of the fireplaces, (where is matches the décor.) I’ve read it now and it is so very good. The contributors read like a who’s who of the flash fiction world (even despite my inclusion.) I feel very blessed to be included amongst writer who I so admire.

I was going to finish with some aims and objective for the coming year, but quite frankly such unexpected stuff occurred last year that I think I’ll just hold on tight and hope for the best. Happy New Year peeps of the bloggis-sphere, hope its not going to be too much of a rocky ride, or that if it is, I hope its good rocky, not pants rocky.