Posted in Writing

Why Anthologies Are Like Buses

A quick shout-out for two fun anthology projects in which some of my stories are featured – and National Flash Fiction Day (today!)

 

Photo of rag rug
Story anthologies, like rag rugs, are much greater than the sum of the parts. (I made this rag rug too!)

I’m a big fan of short story anthologies, which serve as a sampler of the work of different writers, usually offering one story from each of a number of authors.

An anthology is a different animal to a collection, which features the work of a single author, e.g. my short story collections Marry in Haste, Quick Change and Stocking Fillers. Continue reading “Why Anthologies Are Like Buses”

Posted in Reading, Writing

For the Love of Postcards

Postcards from HereCall me old-fashioned, but I do love a good postcard.

While most of the rest of the world has turned to texting and social media to update their friends when away from home, I still send physical postcards to my family when I’m away on holiday, even though the combined cost of postcard and stamp can be eyewateringly expensive these days. (Denmark, you win the prize for priciest postcard option on our recent family tour of France, Belgium, the Netherlands, Germany and Denmark – but more about that trip later.) Continue reading “For the Love of Postcards”

Posted in Reading, Writing

Celebrating National Flash Fiction Day 2015

Happy National Flash Fiction Day!

New cover for Quick Change

If you’re not familiar with the concept, here’s the nutshell summary:

  • flash fiction is another term for the very short story (typically 500 words or fewer)
  • National Flash Fiction Day was founded by author Calum Kerr to celebrate this story format on or around the shortest night of the year (see what he did there?)
  • this year we’re marking it on Saturday 27th June with events in real life and online around the world

Here are four ways that I’ll be celebrating:

  • reducing the price of the ebook of my first flash fiction collection, Quick Change, to 99p for the weekend, on all the digital distribution platforms (it’s also available in paperback for £5.99, featuring two bonus stories)
  • publishing one of the stories in the book, The Comfort of Neighbours, in the online FlashFlood journal that pops up today like a rarely blooming exotic flower
  • reading the many excellent fiction stories that will appear every few minutes in FlashFlood 
  • writing some new stories for my next collection, Marry In Haste
Cover of the paperback showing blurb
The paperback includes two bonus stories set in public libraries

How will you be marking National Flash Fiction Day? I’d love to know!

Posted in Writing

Another Story Inspired by Libraries

Indie Author Fair banner adAs promised in my last post, today I’m sharing the second of the two stories that I read aloud at the Indie Author Fair in Chorleywood last Sunday.

Both stories have been published in anthologies this year. The one I posted here earlier this week was included in National Flash Fiction Day’s 2014 anthology Eating My Words.

I was invited to write the second story, below, to appear in an interesting and unusual project that used flash fiction to promote positive expectations of local government services. Gosh!

I chose to celebrate the mobile library service in my story, because the village in which I live is fortunate to have a visit from one every fortnight. Mobile libraries are invaluable resources, storing an extraordinary assortment of fiction, non-fiction, CDs, DVDs and even jigsaw puzzles in their limited space, for the benefit of remote communities, free of charge. They are especially valuable to those who have no independent transport to reach their nearest public library, but they’re also welcome to those who can’t otherwise get out very much, such as parents with small children at home, or those caring for housebound relatives who do not have the freedom to leave the village often.

My preamble is in danger of being longer than my story (the required word count for submissions was 350 words), so without more ado, here we go….

Upwardly Mobile

Every other Tuesday, half way through my shift in the village shop, I’d watch the white mobile library bus trundle past on its way to park by the village school. On its return trip twenty minutes later, the lady driver would wave cheerfully to me. In our narrow lane, the giant books painted on the side of the van almost touched the shop window, making me feel the size of a Borrower, which was ironic, because I’d never borrowed any of its books.

Then at the start of October, my hours at the shop were cut. Our takings had been falling since the new superstore popped up a few miles away. After that, I was always at home on Tuesdays, alone in my cottage opposite the school. I’d watch the library van park outside my house.

As soon as its doors swung open, school children bearing books would bound up its steps. Older folk followed more slowly, cautiously gripping the handrail with their book-free hand. When they’d emerge one by one, they’d all be smiling, large print books a common bond between the very old and very young.

As the days shortened, I grew weary of daytime television. I wished I could afford more bus trips into town, or to anywhere that would make my life less dull. Then last Tuesday afternoon I finally found my courage. Once its regular visitors had dispersed, I slowly mounted the mobile library’s steps.

“Can I help you, dear?” asked the lady driver, now standing behind the counter. It seemed odd to hear her voice at last.

“I don’t know,” I faltered. “You see, I’m not much of a reader.”

When she ducked behind the counter, I thought it was to hide her scorn. But she popped up again with a library card application form and a pen.

“Ooh, everyone’s a reader, dear!”she exclaimed kindly. “You just haven’t found the right books yet. We’ve got something here for everyone. I’ll help you choose.”

But that’s all I have time to tell you now, because I want to get back to my book.

Headshot of Debbie Young with Change the Ending paperback
Self-satisfied selfie, snapped on the day that my paperback arrived in the post!

Change the Ending is an intriguing anthology which includes the work not only of seasoned authors but also of local government workers who had never written fiction before, but were persuaded to by the project’s creator Dawn Reeves, a powerhouse of energy and inspiration. It’s now available to buy here.

To read more of my short stories, you might like to try either of my single-author collections:

  • Quick Change, published in the summer to mark National Flash Fiction Day, featuring 20 flash fictions on the theme of change
  • Stocking Fillers, just published this month, to celebrate Christmas with 12 humorous short stories

Both are now available as ebooks on Kindle, but if you’re ereader-averse, you’ll be able to buy them in paperback very shortly!

Posted in Reading, Writing

Sharing My Stories About Public Libraries

Indie Author Fair banner ad

 

Yesterday I was pleased to give a public reading of two of my short stories at the Chorleywood Literary Festival. Both stories were written in celebration of public libraries.

I attended the Festival to represent the Alliance of Independent Authors (ALLi) at an event called the Indie Author Fair. This was a pop-up bookshop organised by the author collective Triskele Books in association with ALLi. Around 40 indie authors were involved, so I was very lucky to be chosen as one of a dozen readers.

Originally I’d planned to read a story from my summer collection, Quick Change, but at the last minute I thought it more appropriate to select a story that celebrated books and reading.

I’ve had two stories about libraries published this year, one in Eating My Words, the official anthology of National Flash Fiction Day, and the other in Change The Ending, which used flash fiction to foster positive outcomes for local government – an unusual and inventive use of fiction!  When I asked the IAF’s compère, Perry Iles, which of the two I should read, he answered “Both!” So I did, and they went down very well with the audience. Good call, Perry!

I’d like to share those stories with those of you who weren’t at the Festival, so today I’m posting on my blog the story from Eating My Words – the one that had to be written on the theme of The Senses. This story was inspired by my husband’s Open University science degree course. By an extraordinary coincidence, he happened to be studying a module on The Senses, and kept sharing with me fascinating facts from his textbook. The narrator of the resulting story is an elderly gentleman, who is emphatically not based on my husband!

I’ll share the other story with you later this month, so if you don’t already receive my new posts by email,  pop your address in the “follow the blog” box form on the right of this page to make sure you don’t miss it.

Please Remain Silent for the Benefit of Other Library Users (In Hushed Tones)

Why, Miss Blossom, how lovely to see you back in the Reading Room, it’s been a while, has it not? I hope you’ve been keeping well. The Times? Yes, I’ve finished with The Times. Please be my guest. No, no, I’ve definitely finished.

I was just going to toddle along to the Science section until I saw you. Yes, Neuroscience, actually, it’s a new interest of mine. I’ve been spending a lot of time in that department lately. Fascinating stuff, absolutely fascinating.

Just yesterday I came across a fact I’d never known before. Tell me, have you ever noticed that although the smell of polish hits you the minute you enter the library, you cease to notice it after a while? Apparently, that’s nature’s way. We’re all programmed to stop noticing a smell, good or bad, within moments of first sensing it. Yes, unpleasant smells too. Yes, I suppose it is a blessing. That must be why that air freshener company has been advertising a device that alternates between two different perfume reservoirs – so that the user is constantly reminded that it’s working.

No, no, I don’t watch much commercial television either. I just happened to switch over by mistake.

But the same applies to all the other senses, according to the book I’ve been reading over in the Science section. If you hear a sound repeatedly, it fades into the background.  Yes, trains passing your flat at night, that’s an excellent example. You only notice them when they stop – when there’s a strike and they don’t run. I’ve noticed that too. You’re so right. Next time I’m kept awake by the cessation of striking trains, I shall – there, I shall say it! – I shall think of you.

And have you noticed how the same food or drink, day after day, ceases to be pleasurable? Yes, that first cup of proper English tea after a trip abroad is always the best, you’re quite right.

And as to touch, well, I never notice the cat curled up against my arm on the bed at night, once she and I have settled down. Your cat sleeps on your bed too? Sooty sleeps on your bed, curled up into the small of your back? Oh, Miss Blossom, I say! I wonder whether our cats would be friends if they met?

The other sense? The fifth one? Does it work for the sense of sight? Well, do you know, I am at odds with the book on that one. Because, Miss Blossom, because – and I don’t care if the librarian is looking daggers at me since you ask – no matter how often I spot you in this Reading Room, and no matter how long I gaze at you before you look up and notice me, I will never tire of the sight of you . Oh Miss Blossom, dare I ask? Would you care to join me for the afternoon in the Science Section?

To read more stories on the theme of the senses, and wonder at the amazing inventiveness of other writers featured in the anthology, you’ll find Eating My Words available as ebook and paperback available to buy on Amazon.

Quick Change is currently available as an ebook for Kindle, and a paperback will be available from all good bookshops from the end of November.