the writer is a lonely hunter

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Visiting Kim Martins, NZ

I am getting about this week! Today I’m being interviewed by Kim Martins who lives in New Zealand. Do pop over to her blog Up North for a read.

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While you’re there, take a look around Kim’s blog. There are some fascinating posts about Kim’s taste in books and you can learn about  El Hubs and the house building project. Great photos, too.

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Travelling and writing

An interview with Allison Symes for Chandler’s Ford Today has me sharing stories about travelling overland on a converted Lodekka bus with Top Deck Travel in 1981.Group Shot at Winery Lyonn (2)

Find out how this journey links to the publication of Paisley Shirt here.

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Welcome: Mandy Huggins

I’m delighted to welcome fellow Chapeltown Books author Mandy Huggins to The Writer is a Lonely Hunter. She is a prolific writer whose name appears frequently as a winner or runner-up in a range of competitions and her stories are widely published on websites and in print anthologies. Brightly Coloured Horses, her collection of flash fiction has received rave reviews and I’m keen to learn more about Mandy.

 

 

What do you do for a day job? How does working in a different context affect your writing?

I work in engineering, so it’s a completely different world to writing. I enjoy getting out and talking to people every day, and writing is a solitary pursuit, so it actually makes for a good mix. The only real way my day job affects my writing is by severely restricting the time I have to actually write! I have a half hour walk to work, which is useful thinking time, so I’m often jotting down notes as soon as I arrive.

You’re widely known as the writer Mandy Huggins, but you’re also called Amanda and Troutie McFish. How are your different personas distinguished?

Troutie McFish is a nickname that was given to me by a colleague when I lived in London, and it became my Twitter handle and blog name long before I was promoting my writing. It always raises a smile when I tell people my email address!

I recently made a decision to use the name Amanda for my forthcoming short story collection, Separated From the Sea. All my family, friends and work colleagues know me as Mandy, but it feels like the right moment in my writing career to start using my full name as my author name. I just hope I don’t confuse everyone!

You’ve enjoyed considerable success with travel writing and short fiction. Do you think there is elitism attached to different types of writing?

Yes, sadly I think there is elitism attached to different types of writing, and genre fiction such as horror and fantasy is often perceived to be less ‘worthy’ than contemporary literary fiction. However, I think things have changed in the poetry world. The new wave of performance poets has led to a sudden upsurge in sales of poetry collections, and I think this is one form of writing that is becoming much less elitist.

Do you have ambition to be published in any particular journal or anthology? Where are your favourite places to be published? Do you have any recommendations for platforms to seek publication or particular resources?

I dream of having a short story published in The New Yorker, and it would be lovely to be included in Salt’s Best British Short Stories. However, I’m lucky to have been published in an interesting mix of journals, websites, newspapers and anthologies, and I’m grateful to every editor that has ever liked my work enough to have me!

The main resources I use for competition listings and publication opportunities are the Competition Guide supplement that comes twice-yearly with Writing Magazine, Mslexia’s Indie Press Guide, and the writer Paul Mcveigh’s wonderful blog.

Do you ever get jealous of the success of other writers?

No, not at all. I’m always delighted when writers I know are published or win an award.

Brightly Coloured Horses, your newly published collection of flash fiction has consistently received 5* reviews. What were the challenges in putting the collection together?

I selected the stories I wanted to include in Brightly Coloured Horses from around 50 pieces of flash fiction I’ve written in the last five years or so. In the end it wasn’t that difficult to choose. The 27 stories that made it were the ones that just seemed to fit together naturally as a cohesive collection. I’m a very slow writer, and a lot of work had already gone into honing every story.

What’s next for you, Mandy?

I’m thrilled to say that I have another book coming out in June – my first full-length short story collection, Separated From the Sea. I’m currently working on the final edits with Amanda Saint at Retreat West Books, and the cover reveal is imminent! Two books coming out in the same year is wonderful, but it’s not for the faint-hearted! The promotional side of things is hard work and time-consuming, as you know, and I’m finding I have no time left over to write anything new. The third book could be a long way off!

Thank you for joining me on The Writer is a Lonely Hunter, Mandy. What an exciting year you have ahead.

Twitter: https://twitter.com/troutiemcfish

Blog: http://troutiemcfishtales.blogspot.co.uk/

Amazon: https://www.amazon.co.uk/Brightly-Coloured-Horses-Mandy-Huggins/dp/1910542199

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Scenes from Kashmir

Following my recent discovery that paisley print pattern originates in Kashmir, I hunted out purchases I made while visiting the area in 1981. I was a passenger on a Top Deck overland trip from London to Kathmandu. We travelled on a converted Lodekka bus which had a kitchen area downstairs and sleeping accommodation up.

For the journey to Kashmir we took local transport and stayed in luxurious houseboats on Dal Lake in Srinagar.

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My purchases from Kashmir include a carpet which sits in front of the hearth in our Dorset home. I paid a deposit and it was dispatched to my parents when they settled the balance and collected it after a wrangle with customs. (I was delightfully unaware of all this – having a fun time in Australia.)

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A jacket, which I’m self-conscious of wearing due to the real fur trimming.

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And a set of tables which travelled from Kashmir to Australia and then onto Papua New Guinea before furnishing various homes in the UK.

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The carved finish of leaf patterns on these tables is close to being a paisley style pattern. Unlike Paisley Shirt my collection of short fiction, these are not available to purchase on Amazon! (If wishing to obtain my collection, please ignore the warning that the book is out of stock and place an order anyway – it will be sent to you given time.)

I never quite understood why I went on such a spending spree in Kashmir. I blame the tea which I now realise must have been laced with hash. You can find the low-down on the overland experience from Trevor Carroll in his book Crossing Continents with Top Deck.

 

Enjoy!

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In Vienna

We spent five days in Vienna in early September. It is a great city to walk around and when we got tired it was easy to catch a tram or tube back to our hotel. (I can recommend the Kugel Hotel in a good location with outstandingly helpful staff and an excellent breakfast). We were based in the museum quarter and went to loads of galleries with exhibitions of Klimt and Schiele (the Upper Belvedere was particularly stunning with displays that showed connections between the two artists). Hotel staff recommended a visit to the opera and after an hour long wait (those wearing shorts were turned away) we got standing tickets to Il Trovatore for three euros each.

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with my very tall family members

The food was another highlight:

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melon cocktail with a rasher of streaky bacon as a garnish

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cake and tea for me

 

 

 

 

 

But the highlight was eating beside the Danube canal at Meierei at Stadtpark  (hotel staff made the reservation) where we enjoyed a delicious meal and I ordered venison goulash.

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venison goulash with curd cheese toast, broccoli and black walnut

 

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Retreats for You with Debbie Flint

I met Debbie Flint in 2011 when we both attended a retreat at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre.  (I returned there last year – you can read about my second visit here.) Debbie works as a presenter on QVC shopping channel, has a number of books published, and she’s recently taken over a writing retreat in Devon. It was great to touch base with Debbie again and draw upon her experience as a TV presenter to produce a couple of YouTube clips where I talk about my writing journey. Debbie’s help was invaluable in introducing me to interview techniques, accessing handy tips and supporting me through the process. I’d never done anything like this before so her coaching allowed me to feel confident throughout filming and I’m delighted with the results. You can watch the interviews here.

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Debbie has made Retreats for You into a homely and relaxing place to write and reflect. My window overlooks the square with views onto the fields beyond. There’s no excuse for not getting on with your work as a delicious breakfast, lunch and dinner is provided. It’s  also good to be in the company of other writers and tap into the positive energy this creates. A few days away makes all the difference to my word count, I find!

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Walking and writing

We spent the weekend in Fowey and took an amazing walk around the coastal path where this photo was taken – hard to believe it’s January from looking at this.

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The journey back took us inland along the Saint’s Way. This path was rediscovered in 1984 when local ramblers found a series of forgotten granite stiles. The circular route was labelled ‘strenuous’ and ‘muddy’ and with adjectives like that, I would normally have avoided it. But, with my new fitness routine established, everything was fine.

At my desk on Monday, I received feedback on a writing submission I made earlier in the month. The lovely Suzie at Writers in the Alley forwarded a request from an agency interested in using local writing for a South West Trains advertising campaign. I rang the company and with a ten-minute deadline submitted some work. Two pieces of flash fiction were shortlisted for presentation to the client. When I learnt more about the proposal I was scared silly that my stories would end up on one of those huge ‘out of home’ posters opposite the platform at London underground stations. I needn’t have worried. South West Trains didn’t go for the idea and I’m left feeling disappointed and relieved.

On the upside, I have received some good news. My application for a writing residency at Brisons Veor has been accepted and I’ll be spending a couple of weeks at Cape Cornwall later in the year.

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Flaming June

June was a turbulent month primarily due to the referendum. When the results came out I was in Spain and was woken by a text from Ryanair suggesting I celebrate remaining in the EU by reserving a £9.99 flight. All was well, I thought, and I tuned into BBC radio coverage to discover that things were far from expected. It was strange receiving this news in the place where I first began to think of myself as a European. In 1986, I lived in Santiago de Compostela, shared a tiny flat in Plaza San Agustin where  I was woken each morning by stall holders preparing for the daily market. I have to thank Brian Henry who encouraged me to study while living there and this set me on a route to gaining a university degree. I made friends, explored the cities and the countryside in my Mini Traveller and built a strong and enduring love of the place. I’m truly devastated that the referendum has robbed me of my European identity and feel that so many opportunities may be lost. It was certainly a flaming June, but not due to the weather.

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Gail and Cathie, Malpica, Galicia

For the last three weeks I’ve been travelling  with Cathie on one of her biannual trips from Australia. (We met in 1981 on a double-decker bus headed for Kathmandu). She has found my obsession with tapping into Brexit news on my iphone and seeking support from FB friends to be curious. She is of the opinion I should accept the majority decision and if this had been an election, I absolutely could. But, the referendum result has such huge implications and challenges what I know to be true: collaboration is of benefit to everyone. It pains me to think about a disconnect from Europe where I’ve found friendship, enjoyed learning and developed intercultural projects.

Thanks to the internet, I’ve signed petitions and emailed my MP. I joined a rally in London and have fallen out with my husband. (He voted leaIMG_0864ve but we don’t talk about it any more.) On the upside, I’ve seen several shows in London and spent a day at Wimbledon. After queuing from 6am, Cathie and I got tickets on court 2. It was the second day of the tournament and we watched Australians Kyrgios and Tomic win their matches. (The Fanatics were entertaining, too, with their timely chants.)

I guess it’s time to enjoy the summer and wait to see what autumn will bring.

 

 

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Travel (and writing)

I’ve had a recent success with travel writing – my submission about a journey to Enga Province in Papua New Guinea was highly commended in the Mairi Hedderwick Travel Writing Award. (Have a look on the link, where I have a short bio and a photo!) As a prize I’ve been given a £200 grant towards a course at Moniack Mhor, Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. I’m looking forward to heading north later this year.

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Here’s a photo from Enga.

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Holidays for 2016

This being the third day of January, I’m celebrating the fact that I’ve booked three holidays for 2016! (I’ve ditched my Boxing Day blues and have begun to look forward.)

"Taormina.Teatro Greco" by M. Schwarzwälder - Own work.

“Taormina.Teatro Greco” by M. Schwarzwälder

 

First up, I’ll be travelling with my husband to Sicily for 6 days at the end of April. A quick flick through the Rough Guide (a Christmas present from my mother) and I saw we could travel from Catania to Palermo by buses or trains and booked flights to and from these airports. Other destinations I’d like to cover are Taormina for the Teatro Greco and Siracusa.

 

In June, my friend Cathie is over from Australia and I’ve arranged a visit to Santiago de Compostela. I lived in the city for a year in 1986 and studied for my A levels while Brian Henry and others worked at El Centro Britanico teaching English as a foreign language. I took my family to the area last year and loved it so much that Cathie’s visit provided a good excuse for another trip. I’ve since been brushing up my Spanish and hope to engage in many more conversations that I was able to do last time. I love the old streets and plazas of the city.

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“Calle de San Francisco, Santiago de Compostela” by Diego Delso.

Edinburgh is my third destination with a visit during the fringe (although I particularly like going to the book festival). I usually attend the ten at ten sessions where visiting writers share a short reading. It’s always a good way to start the morning.

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What holiday plans do you have for 2016?

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