Each year, to support entries to the flash fiction Bridport Prize competition, there is a story slam that takes place in Bridport. This year it will be held on Monday 3 April from 7.30pm in the Arts Centre Café. Tickets (£5 for readers and for writers) must be purchased in advance from the Arts Centre box office (01308 427183 and http://www.bridport-arts.com). If you would like to read a 250 word story, please also register your interest by emailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
If more people want to read than there are slots available, names will be drawn from a hat on the night. Those who sign up have a good chance of being able to read (although this is not guaranteed). Do go along. It’s a great fun evening with prizes and feedback from the judges.
Here is the short fiction story that came highly commended in the National Poetry Day Bournemouth flash fiction competition. It’s titled In the Highlands.
Droplets fall in parallel lines and the rain plinks against the earth. Banana leaves fan the mist, and beneath the covered balcony of the lodge, there’s activity in the kitchen. I’m startled by shouts in Tok Pisin then I concentrate, trying to make sense of the words. Elias appears barefoot in the doorway and watches the downpour; his springy hair shows a scattering of flour. He lights a cigarette rolled in newsprint and takes a long drag. ‘Im bagarap.’
‘Bugger up, indeed.’ I assume he’s referring to the weather, but it could be a disaster in the kitchen, judging from the smell of burning that wafts. He disappears inside before I have a chance to practice my conversational skills, not that he really wants to talk to me. It’s easier being with the women in Papua New Guinea. They chatter and stroke my hair with fingers thin as vanilla pods.
When the sun splits the clouds, I walk to the edge of the gully. The land is covered in a lemon light and the river is a piece of twisted foil. In a clearing, little children emerge from kunai houses, squat wooden buildings with smoke seeping through the thatch. One boy is naked but for a belt of twine strung around his middle and his head’s been shaved. The hair is used to make ceremonial wigs which the tribesmen decorate with bird of paradise feathers. I have at least learnt something during my study tour.
‘An-i-ta’ The three syllables of my name bounce over the distance from the lodge. I return to find Elias with his hands cupped. Whatever he’s holding, I hope it isn’t alive. Last night a moth the size of a dinner plate had me cowering under the covers.
‘Lukim yu.’ He hands me a clump of moss and the roots of an orchid show. The flower hangs delicate between the leaves. I lean close to breathe the scent of honey.
Elias’s smile is broad and his brown eyes dance. ‘Nais.’
‘Very nice.’ The flower nods as I examine the structure and the dotted markings on the waxy petals. I find words of thanks in Tok Pisin, ‘Tenkyu.’
Elias shows me how to strap the orchid to a tree and each day I walk the garden to admire the plant. The gift is an entry into his world.
With Deborah and Janet, I spent a few days in Edinburgh. As well as going to the Botanical Gardens (where this photo was taken), we also went to sessions at the festival, fringe and international book festival. So many great events to attend, but my absolute favourite was the free fringe show offered by Harry & Chris, a personable pair who have an upbeat take on life shared through a spoken word and acoustic set. Have a listen to Whaddyawannado and Simple Times on soundcloud.
Please find below the story I mentioned an earlier post. It is written in response to Tiff Oben’s artwork which forms part of the Engaging in the Past exhibition at Oriel y Bont. Aethiopian Maid acknowledges the black presence in Tudor England.
The green silk gown hangs on a wooden pole. The girl has fingers thin as cinnamon quills and like in colour. She runs them over the embroidered hem. Clusters of pansies in gold and silver thread have faces marked with pearls. This is a gown of much importance. Clara checks the fabric, a task she undertakes every spring when moths are wont to cause damage. A smell of herbs and lavender pervades. Dried flower heads fall from the folds. She checks the seams and gathers for holes but none are found. Her mistress prizes this gown more than any other and work is needed to keep it fresh. Clara takes the gown and carries it outside where she hangs it in the breeze of the warm spring day.
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Although I have Viva Las Vegas ringing in my ears, this post is about an academic viva. Yesterday, I was examined by Julia Green, author of YA books including Breathing Underwater, and programme leader at Bath Spa University. After a 90 minute discussion about my work, Julia confirmed that I can continue my studies in Creative Writing to PhD level. I am pleased and relieved. There will be a lot of work involved, but with Philip Gross and Diana Wallace as my supervisors, I will be well supported.
While I was at the University, I took the opportunity to visit the Engaging with the Past exhibition. Held at Oriel y Bont, the exhibition accompanied the Representing the Tudors conference held during the summer. I was asked to use one of the exhibits as a stimulus for a piece of creative writing. I’m pleased to say my story ‘Aethopian Maid’ is displayed next to Tiff Oben’s artwork. The story acknowledges the Black presence in Tudor England.
This is a piece of fabric I bought while on holiday in Banjul, capital of the Gambia. We spent a day in the city in order to visit the Methodist Church where a new generator had been purchased by the congregation in New Malden. The cloth celebrates the Methodist Church in the Gambia and I became fascinated by the Gambian tradition of wearing fabric to acknowledge and promote many different things. I remember seeing a woman in Albert Market wearing traditional dress with a matching head wrap in bright, printed fabric. When I asked if the cloth was for sale, I was told it was worn in support of a political party. While logos and designer brands have become part of popular culture in this country, it seems that wearing anything to indicate allegiance to a political party is limited to a badge or rosette.
I was prompted to make this post after visiting the West Africa: Word, Symbol, Song exhibition at the British Library. There you will find a whole range of artefacts that demonstrate the interlinking nature of word, symbol and song including texts, drums, shell-stories and, of course, fabric. It’s well worth a visit.