Book Launch Party for Other Household Toxins by Christopher Allen

If you love short stories/flash fiction and live near Norwich, UK, we’re holding a book launch for this outstanding collection on Saturday 3rd March, 6.30pm at Nunn’s Yard Gallery. Christopher is the managing editor of the legendary literary journal, SmokeLong Quarterly, and runs a travel writing competition and blog.

This book is so good. I mean so, so good. It will break your heart and make you laugh, and then break your heart all over again. It contains some of the best flash I’ve ever read, and Christopher is a terrific human, kind and generous and extremely funny, and you will love him.

Also, we have Tania Hershman reading as special guest – anyone familiar with the short story and poetry scene in the UK will know her work, but hearing her read live is a real treat, as she does it so beautifully. Her recent story collection is called Some of Us Glow More Than Others, and honestly, she kind of does – I know I’m not the only one who thinks so. She’s amazing. She’s also been mentoring me for free through the Womentoring Project for the last few months, a fact that still occasionally makes me shake my head like a labrador with water in its ears at my good fortune.

I’ll be reading a couple of stories at the beginning as well. And there’s gin. Like, really nice gin. It’s going to be an incredible evening – I’d encourage you to come if you possibly can.

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Reading With The Psychedelic Circus

Being a literary baby, I’m still new to a lot of things – public readings in particular – so it may be that I’m just not familiar with how things generally go. But I’m willing to bet, nevertheless, that the average prose reading isn’t followed by a demonstration of lightbulb-eating by a trainee sword-swallower in nipple stickers, as mine was at the pretty fabulous Psychedelic Circus in Norwich, where I was invited to read last week. She was an utterly amazing performer and a lovely human, and I’m so glad I went first as I’m pretty sure I would have lost the audience entirely, otherwise.

It was a large-ish, predominantly young and very lively, bar-watered crowd who were not there to see me. My disposition before readings is something like that of an unpopular French aristocrat with an imminent appointment with the guillotine at the best of times (I say that like the seasoned performer I am, this being my third ever reading). But something seems to kick in once someone shoves a microphone in my hand and blocks all available venue exits. As has happened previously and equally inexplicably, stage confidence arrived from nowhere and I had an absolute blast. I don’t know if it’s because basically, I really, really like people, and getting to connect with loads of them at once overcomes the sweating terror of being in front of an audience. Or if the year and a half of improv shows I did before I lost my nerve has meant that I’ve made an utter idiot of myself in public often enough that my subconscious knows this can’t possibly be worse than the time me and my friend Dan pretended to be politically anarchist seagulls from Hull. And I guess the stories come from the heart, so the feelings that come with reading them definitely override some of the self-consciousness.

And the lovely, lovely, beautiful audience seemed to really, genuinely enjoy it. One of the young people came up and hugged me afterwards and said how much she loved it. Thanks so much for your encouragement, if you ever read this – it meant a lot. And thanks everyone else who was there for being such a wonderfully supportive and enthusiastic audience. I’m going to keep all my clothes on, but I’d love to come back.

Best Small Fictions Nomination

Best Small Fictions Nomination

I was off social media for most of Monday (a situation that usually makes friends panic that I might have died) and so it wasn’t until late in the day that I saw the incredibly exciting news that Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour, the story I wrote about my then- five-year-old, has been nominated by the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology for Best Small Fictions 2018. Yay! Getting the email from Tino Prinzi last summer to ask if I’d let them use it as the title story for the 2017 NFFD anthology was one of my most exciting moments in writing to date. This is the strawberry butter icing on that cake.

About Best Small Fictions:

Ellipsis Two anthology

Ellipsis Two anthology

Lovely news this week that my story, Reunion – inspired by a reunion with my best friend from school a few months back in which we partied like it was 1999, dancing to terrible music out of hours at a softplay centre – has been picked for the Ellipsis Zine Two anthology. The sheer joy of meeting up with someone you adored for years, and finding you still adore each other, found its way into words that reflect the spirit of rather than reality of our friendship, in this story. We were (and are) WAY less cool in real life, but we had so much fun, always.

An Open Pen Christmas

An Open Pen Christmas

Thrilled to have my downbeat micro flash, Holy Night, chosen by Open Pen London litmag to be the Christmas Eve story in their Twelve Days of Christmas series: Pretty happy too that they let me have The Smiths’ Please Please Please as my contribution to their accompanying Christmas playlist, on the wafer-thin ground that it was ‘once used in a John Lewis Christmas advert’. It’s one of my favourite songs, especially at the moment.

This flash was originally a free-write in response to a challenge last year to write a Christmas-themed story for our writing group. I remembered it this year and searched in the dozen or so scraggy notebooks I have stuff scribbled all over. Remarkably, I found it in the first one I tried. Even more remarkably, given my ‘disturbed spider fell in some ink’ style of handwriting, I could read all but one word of it, and rewrote it for this year.

Thanks, Open Pen, for letting me be part of your brilliantly warped and slightly disturbing Christmas stocking, this year – it was an honour.

Short Edition Short Story Dispenser

Short Edition Short Story Dispenser

Edmonton airport travellers can read free short stories while waiting for flight

A few months ago I was approached by Canada-based writer Jason Lee Norman about an exciting secret project he’d been working on for some time, bringing Canada’s first ever short story dispenser machine to Edmonton International Airport. The airport was keen to invest in something so creative and innovative and the project had reached the stage where they were looking for flash fiction writers from the local area and from destination countries, including the UK, to submit the stories that would fill the machine.

Was I interested? Er, YES PLEASE. Did I know any other UK flash writers who might also want to submit stories for consideration…? Yes – yes, I kinda thought I might :).

I wasn’t wrong – there was LOT of enthusiasm and excitement among UK flash writers about this project. The short story dispenser launched successfully early in December – I have two stories in the machine, and about a dozen UK-based writer friends have work in there too. We’ve been playing spot-the-story as passengers have shared pictures on the internet of the stories the machine has dispensed to them. We hope they have taken some of them home to keep and to love.

More dispenser machines are planned soon, with the potential for our stories to end up all over the world. The stories are free to the readers, with royalties being paid to authors each time their work is dispensed. Many thanks to Jason for such an unusual and brilliant opportunity.

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