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.
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 email@example.com.
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.
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.
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.
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.
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:
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?
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.
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:
Side-by-side we sit, watching the wipers swipe
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.
I’m spending this week at Scotland’s Creative Writing Centre. The house is a thirty-minute drive from Inverness and yesterday, there was a huge blue sky and enough sunshine to make me want to put on sunscreen. Today, as I sit in my single room, at a tiny square desk I look onto a blurry grey scene. It’s just the weather for settling down to the tasks in hand. Another rewrite of my novel, a bit of poetry and a three-minute film script for starters.
This is the second visit I’ve made to Moniack Mhor. I’m still in touch with a tutor from the first course I attended in 2010 and have to thank Ronald Frame for his continued support of my writing. This time the tutors are Elizabeth Reeder and Ian Stephen.
I was lucky enough to win a bursary to attend the course which you can read about here and here. The internet connection isn’t great so there are few distractions and as getting this post on-line is proving a bit of a challenge, I better end here.
Enjoy your week.