The writer is a lonely hunter

gailaldwin

Paisley Shirt

Paisley shirt

Examples of my short fiction have appeared in The Best of CaféLit 2012 and The Best of CaféLit 3. Now the publisher, Chapeltown Books, has agreed to publish a collection of my flash fiction. Paisley Shirt takes its title from a flash fiction story about a surprise relationship in middle age.  The Paisley Shirt collection will appear alongside other  flash fiction collections published by Chapeltown Books including January Stones 2013 by Gill James and From Dark to Light and Back Again by Allison Symes.

I will keep you updated as the work progresses.

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Apothecary, open mic in Bridport, Dorset

Apothecary is a monthly spoken word open mic session held at the Beach and Barnicott in Bridport. Run by Rob Casey, Ged Duncan, Tom Rogers and Sophia Moseley, it offers the opportunity for  a range of writers to share their work in five-minute slots.  Click on the link below to hear me reading my short fiction titled Burnt Toast.

The next Apothecary night will be held on Wednesday 10 May 2017. Get there by 7pm for a 7:30pm start to secure your place to read. Enjoy other Apothecarian readings by watching Apothecary Cure on YouTube.

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Bridport Story Slam

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  frances.colville@gmail.com.

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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.

 

 

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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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Writers in the Alley, open mic

There is a friendly and talented group of writers who meet in Dorchester on the first Wednesday of each month. They are known as Writers in the Alley due to the venue, a room sometimes used for playing skittles at Goldie’s Bar, 36 High East Street. Regular meetings are held at 7pm for a 7:30 start. Members support each other by showing a positive interest in the writing shared. On Wednesday 5 April, the group is hosting a second open mic session, so if you’re in Dorchester this is well worth attending. Go along to hear some wonderful poetry and prose presented in a variety of forms or bring your own writing to read or perform. I attended an open mic held in the autumn and it was great to find a receptive audience for my poetry. You can find Writers in the Alley on Facebook or contact the organiser on suzie.suze1@gmail.com.

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I’m really disappointed  I won’t be able to attend this open mic as I’m away from home at the beginning of April. Luckily Writers in the Alley are planning to make the open mic session a regular event so I hope to be there next time.

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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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Standing room only

In a new bid to lead a less sedentary life, I’ve started visiting the local swimming baths three times a week. Currently, I can swim 1km in forty minutes but I’m fast improving on that time. Also, as I spend far too much time sitting at my desk, I decided to clear a workspace on a filing cabinet to create a new standing desk. Here I am at my new work station.

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It took me a whole day to clear a relatively small space (I didn’t realise quite how much stuff I had stashed in boxes and bags). Most of it relates to previous employment working in schools and as many of the resources are now available online, I was able to ditch quite a few folders. However, I want to be able to apply for a post in educational management with Voluntary Services Overseas (VSO) one day, so I’m not ready to relinquish everything. After a serious tidy up, my shelves now look like this:

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There remain one or two boxes I haven’t looked in and the top shelf is still a dumping ground but what an improvement. I’m so pleased with the result I just had to blog about it!

What does your working space look like?

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Writers’ Day in Bournemouth

This time last week I was busy preparing a presentation titled Tips and Techniques: the voices of children in adult fiction to deliver as part of the Dorset Writers’ Network Day at Bournemouth Library. I got up early on Saturday to have breakfast and there was time to read over my presentation but when I opened the front door to set off, I found the car was not on the drive. I have been sharing a car with my daughter for a few weeks now. The deal is, I let her know when I want to use it. The arrangements had been communicated but somehow she forgot. I guessed where the car was, about a mile away outside her boyfriend’s house. I began sprinting up the road, only to realise I hadn’t checked in the garage to see if by some miracle, it had been parked in there. Back again, only to find the garage empty. Realising I was in no fit state for an early morning jog, I called a taxi. Meanwhile, with my daughter still not answering her mobile, I tried to make contact with other members of the network to let them know of my predicament. Finally a call came from my daughter who was on her way home. I cancelled the taxi, waited at the top of the road to ensure a swift handover, then sped over to Bournemouth. I arrived with a few minutes to spare for the start of the day. When I recounted my morning’s misadventure, a fellow network member commented that it would make a good start to a story. I’ll keep that in mind for when I’m next short of an idea.

The Writers’ Day was well received by participants and we’re looking forward to another occasion to deliver further input in support of writers in Dorset.

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L-R me, Tracy Baines (DWN), Vickie Goldie (Bournemouth Library) and Helen Baggott (DWN)

 

 

 

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In the Highlands

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.

Scan 8Droplets 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.

 

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Celebrate National Poetry Day 2016

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Myriam San Marco and me

National Poetry Day was founded by the Forward Arts Foundation to promote a love of reading and sharing poetry. Each year there is a different theme and in 2016 the focus is ‘messages’. A poetry and flash fiction competition was organised by Bournemouth Poet Laureate, Myriam San Marco, to celebrate this national event. I am delighted that my poem Starlings was awarded first prize in the poetry competition and my short fiction In the Highlands came runner-up in the flash fiction section.

Myriam is doing a great job in promoting the work of local poets and I’m indebted to her for providing this opportunity. I’d also like to thank poetry judge Louisa Adjoa Parker for selecting my poem and the feedback she provided. Thank you also to James Cole who acted as a judge for the flash fiction competition. Congratulations to Sally Lewis for taking first prize for her flash fiction piece about texting. At a celebration on 5 October in The Winchester, there was a chance to hear the winning and highly commended entries. I especially liked the superb performance by Kech Wo.

This success has given a huge boost to my confidence and I’m keen to develop further poetry. My aim is to create a series of connected poems and I’m looking forward to making progress towards this goal.

Here is the winning poem:

Starlings

Side-by-side we sit, watching the wipers swipe

pollution-stained raindrops.

You gnaw tags of skin beside your nails,

I grip the steering wheel like a life buoy.

Staring ahead, I pose the questions

you don’t want to answer.

Talking from the side of your mouth,

you dismiss the concerns that fill my head

like murmurating starlings.

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