Good Literature, Pretentious Literature and Literature Houses

Long time no see! Sorry I haven’t blogged much for a while, you owe me a virtual slap. I’ve been busy reading pretentious books for my MA and visiting Munich!

I went to Munich last week with my boyfriend for a mini pre-summer holiday. My favorite place we visited was the Literatur Haus Munchen, as per below. There was a secret library upstairs which we couldn’t get into as there was some sort of conference, how dare they.

 

I recently read this blog by Tracey S Rosenberg on the Scottish Book Trust which got me thinking about what it’s like to go out with a writer. My boyfriend writes and runs Bad Language with me and our friend. It may seem like a dream to go out with someone who’s passionate in writing and is pro active in their writing habits. In some ways it is, I can get knowledgeable feedback on my writing any time, we both make time in our lives to write and read, we keep each other in the loop with competitions or good new writing we’ve come across. But on the other hand, there’s guilt when he’s writing and I’m not, I struggle with dyslexia so he’s three times faster  in writing and reading then me which is very frustrating, and sometimes I can never be sure if his honest feedback is tainted by the fact that I’m his girlfriend. The positive thing is that I’m around someone who knows and understands the things that I want and we can keep each other motivated to write, but in another sense we could be each others direct competition.

 

Talking of pretentious books, we’ve been reading endless experimental, post-modern books for my university course. We’ve gone from Austerlitz, to GB84, to Cloud Atlas. Although I appreciate the need to play around with literature I’ve found myself craving just a good story, just a straight forward, well told, good story. Every book we’ve read for a while seems determined to remind the reader that they’re reading fiction and any time the reader might relax into the story the author pops out and pokes the reader in the ribs and says ‘keep working snarff snarff, don’t forget that you’re reading fiction. THIS IS A WORK OF FICTION. DON’T FORGET THAT THIS IS SOMETHING YOU’RE READING. DO NOT RELAX.’ What happened to just a good story well told? Or perhaps I just don’t like post-modernist writing.

 

On a positive note, the best short story I’ve read for a while is 40-litre Monkey which can be found in Instruction Manual For Swallowing by Adam Marek. It’s about a man who goes to a pet shop to buy his girlfriend a new pet and ends up meeting a 40-litre monkey. As the opening tells you: ‘I once met a man with a forty-litre monkey. He measured all his animals by volume.’

 

If you’re in Manchester tonight you should come along to poetry in translation with Bad Language and Literature Across Frontiers. Nikola Madzirov will be visiting from Macedonia and David Tait, Kieron King and Sian Ruthore will also be reading.

 

Come find us in Kraak tonight from 7pm.

 

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Crawling back to the world

Hello world that I’m slowly crawling back to, after eight intense weeks of trying to write essays and novel extracts that are up to MA level. I’m still not sure if I achieved it but at least this section of it is over. I just need to give you a little reminder of things I am excited about.

Things that have helped me survive writing my course work:

– Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion – I never thought it was possible to fancy a zombie

– Lorrie Moore’s short story collection – Nothing like dry wit to bring you out of a blue mood

– Narrative – a literature magazine that I’ve downloaded onto my kindle ( I hear all you anti-kindleites groan) but trust me, some of the stories in there are breath taking.

– 30 Rock – Funny, easy-going, clever; the perfect boyfriend

Events which are coming up too soon and too fast which you should know about and you should have put in your diaries by now so get on it:

Eight Cuts Presents: The New Libertines – ‘The spoken word sensation mainlining the truth one infected word at a time – Monday 23rd January – The 3 Minute theatre Affleck’s

Bad Language (obviously) with Socrates Adams headlining, just before he releases his debut novel ‘Everything’s Fine’ – Wednesday 25th January – The Castle Hotel

Dead Ink – The Future is Words –  will be launching their first of E-books, Richard Evan’s Kosmonaut Zero alongside readings from The Poetry Business Book and Pamphlet Award Winner and editor of The Cadaverine, David Tait, the poet Charlotte Wetton and myself – Thursday 26th January – The Anthony Burgess Foundation

Tales of Whatever -that cosy live storytelling night where you get to hear embarrassing true stories – Wednesday 15th February – The Castle Hotel

If this just isn’t enough for you and you want a taste of more live, inventive nights, visit Creative Tourist where they’ve put a list together of their favourite live literature events.

Excuses to get writing:

National Flash Fiction Day 2012 – to ward off the nail biting excitement of impatient writers NFFD are holding a competition for flash-fictions of 100 words or less.

There Was No Where to go But Everywhere – In celebration of NFFD, I also encouraging new submissions of short stories less than 100 words.

Top Ten – Ever wanted to write your top ten list of absolutely anything? Well now’s your chance, the site currently features, Top Ten injuries I have sustained due to my own stupidity, Top Ten discarded shopping lists amongst others.

 

I hope that’s enough for today. I’m going to relax for a day before starting a new book and a new writing project. I’ll leave you with this video that I came across called Process in paper by Tony Clavelli:

Process in paper from Tony Clavelli on Vimeo.

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Writing Daemons

Now that the Christmas festivities are over, the Christmas markets have left an empty space in the street, the presents opened and used, and the last year has been stamped on by the approach of the new year, it’s down to some serious business.

The first two pieces of coursework for my MA in Creative Writing is due in at the end of January and I’m starting to feel the pressure to make my work ‘perfect.’ The only problem is, I don’t think it’s possible to be perfect, and at this stage, whilst I’m still learning to write well, seeing the problems in my work doesn’t exactly help me change it. So I’ve been looking for advice from other successful, well established writers.

One book I’ve found helpful, specifically in getting rid of my own writing daemons, is John Gardner’s On Becoming a Novelist. I find myself nodding along with his words, as he states the seemingly obvious but phrases it in a way you’ve never looked at before. I’m left with a few memorable sentences from his book which I think will stick with me whilst I continue to attempt to improve my writing.

A quote that’s stuck with me is:

‘Good writers may ‘tell’ about almost anything in fiction except the characters’ feeling.’

That helped clarify for me when it’s ok to tell and not show, as a beginning writer I tend to over show as I’m conscious of the common phrase ‘show don’t tell.’

 

There’s one short story that I can’t get out of my head from 2011 – and that’s Redeployment by Phil Kay. It’s featured in the Summer 2011 issue of Granta, Ten Years Later. It follows the story of a soldier who’s been deployed, trying to adjust to life with his wife and their pet dog, replaying his memories of shooting dogs at war. I loved the narrative voice and felt myself drawn in to the story so much that I had a sneaky few tears at the end.

Here’s the a quote from the opening:

‘We shot dogs. Not by accident. We did it on purpose and we called it ‘Operation Scooby.’ I’m a dog person, so I thought about that a lot.

First time was instinct. I hear O’Leary go, ‘Jesus,’ and there’s a skinny brown dog lapping up blood the same way he’d lap up water from a bowl. It wasn’t American blood, but still, there’s that dog, lapping it up. And that’s the last straw, I guess, and then it’s open season on dogs.’

So that’s good fiction from last year, I look forward to lots more this year; my plan is to eat up as much good fiction as I possibly can. I guess that’s my new year’s resolution, if I was to set one, which I won’t. If you have any recommendations for good fiction to read send it my way.

Happy new 2012 and happy good fiction!

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How to Write a Good Short Story

I wanted to share this great advice from Kurt Vonnegut on how to write a good short story.

My favourite point is:

Be a sadist– make awful things happen to the character, no matter how nice they are, to enable the reader to see what they are made of.

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Beetle

Just a quick note to say that one of my short stories, Beetle, is now published on the Dead Ink. Here’s the link if you fancy a read and feel free to leave a comment: http://deadinkbooks.com/archives/648

It’s a short story I wrote about three years ago and forgot about. I dug it out recently when I was looking for new ideas to write about and gave it a good edit with fresh eyes. It’s funny how that can happen, I’m often writing things that I leave to one side and forget about and then some how I find them years later and I wonder why I forgot about them.

The website has a dark feel to it, and I love the black and white photos that the editors match to the pieces, so if you have time please have a look around the website, especially the fiction page.

That’s all for now.

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Re:call

Re:call is a short film that was made as part of the film making competition 2.8 Days Later, a film project that’s all about finding and supporting undiscovered talent – brought to you by Left Eye Blind & Trinity Leeds, in association with Everyman Cinema.

 

Re:call is a film co-written and produce by one of my friends, Connor Hunter, with the synopsis about a man who has just been released from prison remembers the night of his arrest.

 

The competition runs until 31st January 2012 and voting will be counted by number of ‘likes’ on Facebook.

 

So please use the below link to view the video and click ‘like’ button if that’s how it made you feel!

http://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.374949594578.196052.628764578&type=3#!/photo.php?v=10150521596614179

 

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The Living Dead in Literature

Since reading The Walking Dead I’ve a new-found respect for those flesh-eating not quite alive thingies, especially in Literature.

I used to think that Zombies were cheesy and boyish, like video games or Batman. But The Walking Dead made me realise that Zombies are not just about the Zombies, they’re about the living.

Zombie can be used as a tool to explore a number of different social issues, be it race, consumerism, class or human nature. If we take The Walking Dead as an example (my favourite example), its more about the survivors than the zombies, exploring issues of social conflicts and the good and evil (if you want to label it as this) in human nature.

Since reading this I’ve attempted to create my own Zombie stories but have found that I am simply relying on the horror aspect of them and not what they can be used as a tool to explore. Perhaps that’s all we can ever consciously do with Zombies, and the rest of the work is done in the connections of the reader’s mind.

When researching Zombies I came across this podcast series on Zombies in Literature and would like to recommend anyone that has a slight interest in Zombies to have a listen. It breaks down what Zombies can represent, how they can represent this, and why they are such a scary idea to us.

Here’s the link to the podcast series:

http://itunes.apple.com/gb/itunes-u/zombies!-the-living-dead-in/id394644389

The podcast mainly focuses on Zombies in film but I’m interested to find more Zombies in literature. If anyone has any good recommendations please send them my way.

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