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

What is a Writer?

Two months ago I went to an event organised by Writing West Midlands.  I didn’t get into writing to improve my social life (which isn’t to say that it couldn’t do with an upgrade) but I’m told that networking is useful.  Actually, scratch the note of scepticism: I know that networking us useful; I’m just not that good at it.

Despite various mishaps on my journey to the venue, I arrived in time for the pre-event mingling – something that makes me extremely uncomfortable.  I stood around for a few minutes, nursing a cup of coffee and trying not to make eye-contact with anyone.  By and large this was a success, writers being generally shy/misanthropic.  Unfortunately (not really) it didn’t work with The Poet.

The Poet is someone well known on the Midlands scene – possibly quite well known nationally – who I’ve bumped into occasionally over the last 11 or 12 years.  I know her name (because she is, as I say, well known on the Midlands scene) but she doesn’t know mine, because I’m not.

“So you’re a writer too,” she said, after reminding me where we first met.  “Well, I write,” I replied, well aware that my publication record (see my CV if you must know) is considerably less illustrious.  What is a writer, but someone who writes, I wondered underneath my false modesty.

The first session, perhaps appropriately, was called ‘Becoming a Writer’.  As we waited for the session to start, I overheard a conversation somewhere behind me.  A man was outlining his plans: he said something like “I want to start writing; I thought I’d come to this event first.”  I didn’t turn round and tell him to get on with it, because that would be rude (not to mention out of character).

The first speaker, Leila Rasheed, asked us to think about what we meant by ‘writer’ – pretty obvious question to ask if you want to know how to become one.  I asked myself the question, but couldn’t think of an answer.

What is a writer but someone who writes?  Two months later I think I’m getting close.  I want to be read what I’ve written; I want people to enjoy reading what I’ve written; I want people to look out for what I’ve written.

Will I be satisfied when this happens?  Probably not.

Feedback

It’s been a while, I know.  The reason I started this blog was to promote my writing, but then I spend my time, erm … writing, and not blogging.  I don’t just write though: the internet is a vast place with many distractions.

Anyway, on with the motley.  Regular readers will remember that my last post was about the Birmingham Rep’s ‘Write Away’ group.  That was July and I finally get to see a rehearsed reading of my play next week.  Yesterday I got to meet the director and discuss the play.

This was a first for me (despite my advanced age).  I find conversation difficult at the best of times, which is one of the reasons I became a writer.  Talking about a play I wrote five months ago with someone I just met – actually, I found that relatively easy.  When I say ‘relatively’ I mean easier than small-talk (see comment above about making conversation).

It did find it disconcerting to talk in depth about my thought processes and motivations when writing the script.  More difficult, she was complimentary (related to my difficulty with conversation is a difficulty receiving compliments).  I came away with one area to review – the ending – and that is down to my unease rather than hers.  I have spent the last few hours trying to work out how I want it to end.

The rehearsal and performance are next week – invited guests only, I’m afraid – and I might blog again to let you know how it went.

Writing to the gallery

I recently submitted a short story to Prole Magazine.  Obviously, I looked at the submissions guide first – even I’m not that foolhardy.  One stricture stuck in my mind:

structures and forms that exist only to … appeal to the coffee lounges of our older universities are not welcome.

I have never been in a coffee lounge in any university, let alone an ‘older’ university.  I haven’t got a clue how to write something that would appeal to one.  This is a shame: Prole didn’t want my story – their loss – so I’m looking for a new market.  Here’s the thing, having been rejected, I can’t help wondering if it was because it does appeal to an old-university coffee lounge.  How would I find out?  More importantly, how do I bring my story to the attention of one?  It would seem churlish not to give it a go.

Mathematician, spellcheck, photograph

A word is worth a thousand pictures, I think.  Or, should that be the other way round?  I’m a writer, not a mathematician, which explains why I might not be entirely sure.  It doesn’t explain why I took three attempts to spell ‘mathematician’, before giving up and using the spellchecker (a word which, ironically, the spellchecker on my particular browser doesn’t recognise).

Anyway, I often feel a compelling urge to set my fiction in places I know, usually Wolverhampton.  I’m fascinated by the combination of dereliction, restoration and construction that can be found in this and other cities.  Often this comes out as slightly outlandish similes and metaphors.  The scene below I would probably describe as ‘ looking like a cheap toy garage in a particularly untidy adolescent’s bedroom’.

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Does this help the story come alive?  Does it get in the way of the story?  Is story that important anyway?  Depending on your answer to these questions, you are either my ideal reader, a potential agent, or one of 7 billion reasons why no commercially-minded publisher would touch me.  Whichever you are, feel free to get in touch.