Small and perfectly formed

I spent much of the early autumn putting together a substantial creative work for my MA, which consisted of short stories and  flash fiction. This, and other things going on in my own little world of writing have made me think more about the short form, which has provided a nice contrast to the long haul of writing a novel.

Flash Fiction

A workshop in Bridport with the very inspiring David Swann, judge of this year’s Bridport Prize for flash fiction and senior lecturer in creative writing at the University of Chichester, has given me new insights. From a moment in time to an entire life in a matter of a few hundred words, it’s a truly versatile form.

The Essay

I’ve been reading Deborah Levy’s Things I Don’t Want to Know, a personal response to George Orwell’s 1946 essay Why I Write. I love Levy’s eloquent prose and I’m a sucker for neat packaging. So this one’s a winner, beautifully bound in a slim blue hardback. You can read Kate Kellaway’s review of it here, and click on the image for purchasing info.

The Short Story

It’s not just the essay that’s enticing. Nightjar Press publish single short story limited-edition chapbooks, edited and published by Nicholas Royle and designed by John Oakey. (Incidentally, I consider myself lucky to have had the benefit of Nicholas Royle’s expertise over the past two years, in his role as senior lecturer in creative writing at the Manchester Writing School, Manchester Metropolitan University, through which I am studying my MA). I recently got my hands on Into the Penny Arcade by Claire Massey: great writing all wrapped up in a classy design. There are several titles available so grab these chapbooks while you can …

In the week Alice Munro won the Nobel prize in literature, short story writer Sarah Hall called for a short story laureate in The Guardian. In her piece, Hall talks of the short story as being “a bastard to write” and concludes that “the form dictates its own exclusivity”. Having wrestled with the short story somewhat this year (one of my rudderless attempts went through numerous drafts before I decided to shelve it for the foreseeable future), I’d certainly agree with those statements.

Delightful Dahl

The Roald Dahl Museum and Story Centre in Great Missenden has got it all right. From the moment you see the painted exterior, you know it’s going to be fun.

dahl museum exterior

Inside, huge Wonka bars that smell of chocolate take you through to an absorbing array of documents and information from Dahl’s fascinating life. School reports, letters to his mother, handwritten notes on story ideas …

dahl reports and letters  dahl school report

I particularly enjoyed this glass-covered display:

dahl story seed note  dahl notebook

Then there was the recreation of Dahl’s writing hut, a glass box full of inspiration complete with knick-knacks and the chair …

chair 2

chair 1

After browsing, listening and watching, a Story Centre awaited with lots of hands-on activities. Story sacks, a craft corner, word games, plus a replica writing chair to try out.

Having enjoyed so many Roald Dahl stories as a child, reading them now with my children, and trying to write my first novel, I found the whole experience thoroughly exhilarating.

More information can be found on the museum website here. I highly recommend a visit; it really is flushbunkingly gloriumptious.

Deadline within a deadline

It’s the final push for that first draft. I’ve finished all other assignments for my MA, so no excuses, no procrastination. I’ve broken it down to make it seem manageable: I need to write at least 600 words of my novel per day (from today) to complete the first draft this calendar year, and allow time for editing and revisions in 2014. It sounds easy, but life can so often get in the way. However, I’ve been looking forward to this phase all summer and feel a new determination settling over me. Thank goodness. Plus, my new writing ‘den’ is almost up and running. I’ll be showing you around within the next few days.

Six-hundred words per day until 31st December 2013.

That’s my deadline within the final deadline, which is

to submit the novel next September.