Interview with Christopher Allen for Gatehouse Press

Interview with Christopher Allen for Gatehouse Press

Gatehouse Press publish the beautiful quarterly print journal, Lighthouse lighthouse(check out their font, a digitisation of a vintage typeface – blooming gorgeous), as well as poetry and short fiction chapbooks. They’re based in Norwich UK, where the launch of Chris’s outstanding flash fiction collection, Other Household Toxins, took place last month. If you’re on Facebook, you can still view the video stream of that on the I Must Be Off blog page – you’ll need to scroll forward to the 40 mins mark to get to the start.

Gatehouse kindly offered to publish an interview on their blog in the run-up to the launch. We worked on it and I sent the text to the editors – yay! Only, it was the wrong file (because I am a writer and those genes have clearly nuked the smart, organisational ones I’m sure I would otherwise have expressed with great efficiency). However, the brilliant and long-suffering Andy from Gatehouse has put that right, and the actual proper version of that interview is now up on their site, here: http://www.gatehousepress.com/2018/01/interview-christopher-allen-flash-fiction/

Other Household Toxins CoverIt contains some invaluable flash writing advice from someone Kathy Fish describes as ‘a writer of uncommon skill and grace’, and Sara Lipmann calls ‘a master of flash fiction’. Christopher Allen is the managing editor of the legendary flash journal SmokeLong Quarterly, whose 15th anniversary flash contest is currently running, so this might be of interest to anyone who’s considering entering that (which you can do here: http://www.smokelong.com/the-smokelong-quarterly-award-for-flash-fiction/)

And if you haven’t bought the collection yet, you really should. It really is all kinds of awesome.

Bay Len (Taking Flight) Anthology – One In Twenty-Three

Bay Len (Taking Flight) Anthology – One In Twenty-Three

A few months ago I got an email that made me cry (in a good way). It was from the award-winning Vietnamese poet, translator and author Nguyen Phan Que Mai. She’d seen the story One In Twenty-Three, written out of grief at the mass deaths at sea of the ongoing refugee crisis, and said she’d felt an echo of the story of the people who fled war in Vietnam that had touched her deeply.

We exchanged some emotional emails, and Que Mai asked permission to translate the story for publication in Vietnam’s national newspaper, Hanoi Moi, and as part of an anthology she was working on. Ad-Hoc Fiction, the Bath Flash Award publishers, and Jude Higgins very kindly agreed to give permission.

The story was immediately accepted by Hanoi Moi last year, which was very exciting and a great honour. You can read about that, and some of what Que Mai had to say, here https://bathflashfictionaward.com/2017/07/one-in-twenty-three-by-hele-rye-nationally-published-in-vietnamese/

This week Que Mai sent me the cover image from the anthology – it’s a thing of such beauty, as you can see. Being on that astonishing list of names has completely made my year, however much of a fluke it is. I also learned that people have been using the story when teaching creative writing courses, which is just – well. Mind-blowing, really.

All royalties from the newspaper and anthology publications are being donated to the Ban Mai scholarship programme, a project that supports children in Vietnam from very poor backgrounds, many of whom have lost a parent, to continue in education.

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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

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.

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: https://www.facebook.com/TheBestSmallFictions/

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.