One Hundred Voices for One Hundred Years (audio piece)

One Hundred Voices for One Hundred Years (audio piece)

This project is celebrating the 100th anniversary of women’s voting rights in the UK, sharing audio recordings of 100 female-identifying writers telling the story of an achievement in their lives and reading a piece of their work relating to it. Jude Higgins, possessor of more energy and inspiration than ten of most of us, who spends just some of her time running the Bath Flash Fiction Award, Bath Short Story Award and UK Flash Fiction Festival, suggested I write about winning the Bath Flash Award, back in October 2016.

That story, One In Twenty-three, was one of the first subs I ever sent anywhere, one of the first pieces of flash I wrote, my first ever publication. What an experience. It became my way into the literary world, and it brought people into my life who I can’t imagine being without, now.

But I couldn’t see how I could write and record for a project asking women for their personal stories, using a piece that is so very much not my story. I’ve doubted whether I should have sent it out in the first place. Often I don’t know how to respond to the kind things people say about it, when I was writing from a position of privilege about the loss of human life on such a scale  – when those are the people that story belongs to. I wrote it because I felt compelled to, from the grief of it all, and also because we were experiencing an obscene groundswell of nationalism and anti-refugee sentiment in our country at that time and I was so angry. But it’s such a painful subject, and these questions are difficult.

I spoke to one or two writer friends who love me and know how I get messed up about this stuff and the patient response was that I should do it, and that yes, 30 seconds of wordless sobbing on audio would probably be FINE. So I emailed the organisers and told them all my misgivings about doing the piece. They messaged back to say: That. Write about that. So I did.

You can hear me talking about all of this and reading the story aloud in this audio broadcast here, which I promise does not contain wordless sobbing: Do go and listen to the others, too. There are some astonishing pieces from some astonishing women.



Reading With The Psychedelic Circus

I’m quite new to public readings, 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, predominantly young and very lively bar-watered crowd who were not really there to see me. My disposition before readings is something like that of a French aristocrat with an appointment with the guillotine, at the best of times. 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.

Bath Flash Fiction Festival 2017


reading 2

I was honoured and terrified in roughly equal measure to be asked to read Sleep Is A Beautiful Colour at the launch of the National Flash Fiction Day Anthology at the June 2017 Flash Fiction Festival in Bath. Several of my flash-writer heroes were in the audience of over 100 writers. Patient NFFD co-director Tino Prinzi helped calm my nerves, and in the event it was actually really fun. Lots of people laughed in the right places. I’d definitely do it again.