Publication Monster

I’ve had a short story, ‘Victor’, published in the latest issue of Under the Radar magazine. You can buy a copy here.

I wrote the story as an assignment for the MA in Creative Writing I completed last year. I was slightly disappointed with my mark, but used the feedback to improve the story.

As a writer, I don’t identify strongly with any particular genre; this story starts out in a realist mode, but takes a strange turn towards the end. If you’re curious, I’d recommend buying the magazine, which has many other excellent pieces, and finding out for yourself.

Frankie

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Inspiration

I have just learned that I’ve won second prize in a flash-fiction competition run by the Society of Civil and Public Service Writers (SCPSW). I don’t usually write flash-fiction. I don’t think of myself as a long-winded writer, but it sometimes takes me a couple of hundred words just to clear my throat.

I decided to give this a go, because there’s no point being a member of an organisation if you aren’t going to participate. In the absence of a suitable idea, I used a writing prompt that suggested looking at a piece of art. I picked Lucian Freud’s Girl With a BeretI’ve been intrigued by the painting for a while. Looking at the portrait, I see a young woman with a stern expression. Cover half the portrait, however, and there seem to be two women: the left side of the picture angry to the point of explosion; the right side amiable, happy and lighthearted.

I was keen to write a character that works in a similar way. I don’t know if I succeeded in this, and unless you are a member of the SCPSW, you won’t be able to read the story yet. I’m happy that I’ve done something right.

Wolverhampton Lit Fest 2018

I’ve had a (very) short story published on the Black Country Arts Foundry website.  This is a really exciting project and definitely worth checking out if you’re interested in new writing from the Black Country, or new writing, or the Black Country, or … well, if you’re just the kind of cultured person who likes that kind of thing.

On the 28th January, I read out my story as part of the Wolverhampton Original Literature Festival.  This is also worth checking out, although you’ve missed this year’s, so you’ll have to wait until 2019.

It was the first time I’d read a piece of my writing in public (apart from a plea for mitigation to Wolverhampton Magistrates).  I was going to post a short clip here, but it turns out I’ve got to pay for a premium site, so you’ll have to make do with a photo.

If you’re on Twitter, check out my account @JasonDJ, where I’ve posted the clip.

If you want to read the story, click on the link above.

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Long in the tooth?

I wrote this story 8 years ago.  At the time, I felt a bit old to be writing something about teenagers, but I used to be one, so why not?  I’ve submitted it to a few outlets over the years, with no success – persevere, and all that – but I had another look at it recently and thought about updating it.  The story is told by a narrator who is 19 at the time I wrote the story (2009).  This is obvious from the dates on the obituary,  I thought about changing these dates, so the story is being narrated in 2017, but realised that this would make Arthur’s (and the narrator’s) date of birth 1998: I was 27 in 1998.  I think on balance it’s time to stop submitting this particular story.  Feel free to have a read of it here:

Life Death and Beating a Hasty Retreat

To the Jubilee

This story was published in The Ranfurly Review a few years ago.  I have previously posted a link to the online issue, but it seems the magazine has gone to the great magazine graveyard, where it will be remembered by the editor, contributors and perhaps a few readers.  This makes me sad.

I don’t remember how I had the idea, but there are three things I do remember about writing it:

  • It took me ages to find an anarchy symbol to pasted into the document.
  • The original version finished with the narrator getting home and going to bed.  I had him think back over what had happened so the story would end with the joke it had been building up to.  This feels a bit ungainly, but was the only way I could make it work.
  • I submitted it to another magazine, before The Ranfurly Review.  It was rejected, but the editor sent me an email saying if it had been just her decision, she would have included it.

Anyway, here’s the story: To The Jubilee

I Wasn’t a Teenage Existentialist

I’ve only recently begun thinking about the Cure’s first single.  A bit late, perhaps.  I’m not a fan of the band, but I was vaguely aware of the (not uncontroversial) title.  I only understood the significance last month because I read The Outsider, the novel that apparently inspired Robert Smith.  If you haven’t read the novel, I suggest you go away and do it now, before you read the rest of this blog: it should only take a couple of hours.

Back?  What did you think of the novel?  I only read it because I’d finished At the Existentialist Café a few weeks earlier: like The Cure and Camus, I’ve been aware of Existentialism for a while, but not paid much attention.  All of which probably suggests I’ve been a bit slow off the mark, culturally speaking: Robert Smith released the single when he was 20, and presumably read the novel when he was in his teens; what exactly took me so long?

Existentialism is, perhaps, appealing to teenagers.  It doesn’t really take much account of the tedious business of real life and living with other people.  I might be wrong (I often am), but I don’t think I would have found it very attractive at that age.  I was quite earnest in my late teens and unromantic.  When I was 18, the Berlin Wall was demolished and Nelson Mandela released.  I should have been ecstatic, but I remember being cynical about both: would either bring about any real change?

With hindsight, I think it’s difficult to say that the world is a better place now than it was in 1989, but I think that misses the point.  With more experience under my belt, I try to see good news for what it is: it doesn’t have to be world changing; a bit at a time will do.

As for Existentialism, it’s not something I’m ever going to buy into, but I hope I’m curious enough now to at least find out about these things.