Tag Archives: short stories

Vintage comedy – with Stokes Croft Writers

A few months ago I made the longlist for Christopher Fielden’s To Hull and Back humorous short story competition whose anthology is being launched at next Saturday’s Talking Tales in Bristol.


Knowing this was sure to be a fun affair ( yes, I got my TT badge in October!) I saved the date to go along and listen – then I heard that more submissions were being invited.

to-hull-back-2016-front-cover-188x300Well  nothing ventured! And now I’m  on the programme for Saturday too, not with my shortlisted story (“the one about the ukulele”) but A Fork Less Ordinary the very first  in what has become an occasional series of reflections on ordinary life teetering  on the edge of sanity (doesn’t it always?) Think domestic noir without  blood  (though this one comes closest to carnage).

Now, the  eagle-eyed amongst you (do these people really exist?) may notice A Fork was highly commended for a prize –  in 2007 – !!!  Yes, apparently it has been that long. So if you can make it along I can definitely promise you an evening of vintage comedy from many wonderful writers.

Let’s hope my bit isn’t showing its age.

Talking Tales - nights drawing in!

No music this time but plenty of laughs

When? Saturday  10th December

Where?  Leftbank, Stokes Croft (BS6 5RW)
When? 6.30pm


St Andrews Photography Festival – being part of it

“Celebrating 175 Years of Photography in the home of Scottish Photography”.


By invitation!

When I found out about the first St Andrews Photography Festival taking place this summer, I had a pang of regret that I wouldn’t be there to see it. However, in an unexpected  turn of events, I will actually  be part of it as I’ve been invited to read my historical fiction in a festival event on September 9th. I can’t think of anything more special than to take my work to the place where the story began, and present it to people who share my enthusiasm for early photography and its exponents.

I realise most of you will know about this via my outpourings on social media, but with the festival kicking off on August 1st (my event is Sept 9th) I thought it would be good to post about it here, especially for those who aren’t on Facebook where the festival has its main site.

Here’s a link to the full programme of exhibitions and events put together by the University Library Special Collections Department and running from August 1st to September 11th.


Please share it with anyone you know who has an interest in early or contemporary photography, especially if they happen to be in or near Fife.

And here’s a description of my event.

hillbell_st andrews

In Sunshine and In Shadow
Stories surrounding the photographs of Robert Adamson and David Octavus Hill, 1843-48

Fiction writer and St Andrews graduate Ali Bacon brings her own words to the calotypes of Hill and Adamson and lends a voice to those who sat for them.
In this series of readings you will meet Elizabeth Johnston Hall of Newhaven, Jane Adamson (sister to John and Robert) and literary critic Elizabeth Rigby, and hear how an encounter with early photography changed all of their lives.
Presented with illustrations from the University Special Collections.

It’s on Friday September 9th, 5.30 – 6.30 pm,
Martyrs Kirk Research Library
80 North Street, KY16 9 Saint Andrews

Again, I know very few of you can be there, but do spread the word. If you can be there, please register for a free ticket.

This post will be top of my blog page for a few weeks to come!


Stroud Short Stories – submissions open

stroud short stories

submissions open for April

It seems no time since I was up in Stroud at the Short Story event last October and telling you all how great it was. The good news is that submissions are open  for the next event on April 19th, with a deadline of March 21st.

All the rules and regulations are on the Stroud Short Stories website. As an October ‘winner’ I’m not allowed to enter this time and even if that’s a bit of a disappointment I do think it’s a really good policy to avoid the same people hogging the limelight which sometimes happens at events like this.

On the other hand the good people of SSS have decided to publish an anthology of the September and April performances – a great  way of celebrating – and showing off! – what we did. Details still in the pipeline

If you want to bag a ticket for April 19th they’re not on sale yet, but I’ll let you know when they are. I’m definitely hoping to be there.

Enjoying the moment in Stroud

Stroud Short Stories

The audience awaits!

Stroud Short Stories was a great evening for  readers and listeners – and I was lucky enough to be both. It’s a lovely venue with a fantastic atmosphere and I   can recommend the next event (April 2015) to anyone in striking distance of Stroud with an interest in short stories as a writer or a reader.But for me it represented something more. Okay, the audience was big (a sell-out!) and none of them had had an arm twisted by me – or as far as I know anyone else – to turn out on a winter’s evening. In fact they had paid a modest sum to be there. But something else changed too.

It has taken me a while to get used to being in front of an audience as a writer.  Despite having a stories and a novel published,  I wasn’t quite ready to inhabit my status in public.  Was I worth  listening to, was my work really worth coming out for? I suspect on some of my early outings my discomfort was clear. I read too quickly or too quietly and often edited bits out as I went along in my eagerness to get to the end! At Stroud I had worried my story would be dull compared to the others but as I got going I realised it wasn’t dull, it was just different. I also remenbered it actually sounded goodand out here in front of a microphone it did sound good or – at least better than in front of the bathroom mirror! It was time to enjoy the moment.

A final confession. Years and years ago, when I first started writing,  one daydream I allowed myself was to be standing in front of an audience (not the Albert Hall, just some cosy pub or arty cafe) who would listen with rapt attention to the outpouring of my genius. Since my genius at the time was more in my head than on any piece of paper, it didn’t happen, and it got crowded out by other dreams and ambitions ( some more realistic than others). But during my rendition of Preparing for Winter, it tapped on my shoulder and reminded me that this dream, however small on the cosmic literary scale, actually had come true. So a final thanks to all those who indulged me and gave a good imitation of being totally rapt while I was up there living my little dream.

Well that’s enough self-indulgence or one day. The powers that be have decreed that those who read in October will not be considered for the next Stroud Short Stories event. A very wise decision. If I could rustle up something else worthy of a spot, the fame would most certainly go to my head. But if you get picked I could well be there to watch.

This is me reading on the night and also Alice Jolly, a writer I’d already been in youch with on  Authors Electric. I’m looking forward to being in touch with her and more of the Stroud crowd.

reading at stroudAlice Jolly

It’s all happening – another events round-up!

You may have guessed that what with the start of my MA course and my monthly blog for Authors Electric, I’m less likely to be mulling things over here, but this is a reminder of some upcoming events and one great piece of news.

At the risk of repeating myself, this Saturday is ‘Books Are My Bag’ day,  so do join us at Foyles in Bristol if you can manage. Details below.

BAMB flyerFor those who can’t make it there’s a Facebook event which I’ll try (no promises!) to update during the day,  or look out for Twitter hashtag #bamb_bristol.
Now some real news!   I’m thrilled to have been selected as one of ten readers at the next Stroud Short Stories night in October. Living  in what sometimes seems like a distant suburb of Bristol, it’s great to  remember we’re actually South Gloucestershire – an area encompassing places as diverse as Kingswood and Kingswood (work that one out if you can) where the brave new world of Yate Shopping Centre rubs shoulders with the cosier confines of Chipping Sodbury. And of course our northern neighbours are in Gloucestershire itself, so it’s great to be meeting up with members of that writing community. I’m not so much pleased to be amongst their ‘best writers’ as totally over the moon. Nearer the time I’ll be brushing up on my performance skills – all tips appreciated!

And finally! You can catch me closer to home at the second South Glos Discover workshop in Bradley Stoke on October 25th.

Those writing questions answered by Judy Darley

JudyDarleycropI met  Bristol writer Judy Darley last autumn at a Bristol Literature Festival event and last week I reviewed her great short story collection over on the Unchained blog.  For those who can’t be at tomorrow’s launch of Remember Me To The Bees, (or even for those who can!) here are her rather intriguing answers to those writing question that have been doing the rounds.

1) What am I working on?

tea-cupGosh, as always so very many things. I task myself with writing a short story every month, and am just giving the one for March a final polish. It came to me with a rush and an image of a very bright blue suitcase on a luggage carousel, and begins with the protagonist stealing it. My sister actually did this – not intentionally, but, still, she walked away with someone else’s suitcase and didn’t notice till she got home. Mind-boggling!

I’m also working my way through a revision of a novel I thought I’d finished. Feeling very excited about this, as it seems like I’m finally getting it to express what I want it to – which is harder than you might think.

2) How does my work differ from others of its genre?

I’ve been told that my short stories read like novels, with layer upon layer of plots and sub-plots, so maybe I’m the writer of short stories for people who don’t think they’d find short stories sufficiently satisfying compared to novels. I’m also told I have quite a poetic way with words, which I think is probably because I love the visual arts and try to incorporate a sense of colour and texture into my prose.

Remenber me to the Bees3) Why do I write what I do?

It helps me to make sense of things. The majority of the fiction I write is to answer questions for myself. Why did this happen? What make someone behave like that? How did this result in that? I’m also endlessly fascinated in the way our experiences and cultural influences shape our understanding of the world, which is probably why my protagonists are often a little damaged in some way.

4) How does my writing process work?

I work as a freelance journalist, which means spending up to four days a week in publishing offices. If I’m struck with inspiration I’ll use my lunch hour or train journeys to and from work to write.

winter treesOn the happy, happy days when I’m working from home, I tend to get up relatively, grab my laptop, and curl back in bed, then write as much as possible before my brain is fully awake. Once my head has been tidily emptied, if the sun is shining I like to go for a run to give myself a chance to think about the next bit of the tale. That’s my plotting time, and the more ideas that flood me, the faster I have to run to get back home and stick it all on the page. Exhausting but effective!

For me the thinking time, whether that’s while running, waiting for trains or cleaning the bathroom, are the most crucial times, easing the fiction from my subconscious into the light.

Thanks to Judy for coming along and providing these gorgeous pictures too. I can really recommend her short story collection and can’t wait to hear more about That Novel.
As is the way with these things, I’ll be answering the same questions  ‘over  hers’ before too long.

Judy Darley’s short stories, flash fiction and poems have been published by literary magazines and anthologies including The Germ, Riptide journal, Litro Magazine, and The View From Here. She also writes extensively as a freelance journalist for magazines. Judy’s debut short story collection Remember Me To The Bees is launching on 31st March 2014, available to buy from http://www.tangentbooks.co.uk/products/Remember-Me-To-The-Bees.html. Judy blogs at www.skylightrain.com and tweets at @EssentialWriter


Unchained Anthology, a gift that’s as pretty as a bunch of flowers – and longer-lasting!

UnchainedWith Mothers’ Day (that’s Mothering Sunday for the traditionalists) almost upon us, don’t forget that you can still buy the small but perfectly formed paperback version of Unchained  –  a pretty nifty gift for any book-loving Mum with a lot more durability than a bunch of carnations.  And now that the fabulous Bookhive has been disassembled from Bristol Central Library, it’s a great way to remember the whole 400 years of history that the library is celebrating this year.

Less giftable but just as readable is the e-book version now available here at a bargain price of just over £4. All of our profits will go to the National Literacy Trust to help others get the most out of reading – so really, what’s not to like?

The paperback can be ordered from the usual place , or if you are in or around Bristol, contact me for the direct sales price.


Bristol Women Writers and Unchained

Time to celebrate!

Less than two weeks to go until the official launch of Unchained, our anthology celebrating the 400th anniversary of Bristol’s original chained library. After a whole year of preparation, it’s truly exciting to see it all come together.

 Join us for the launch


Reference Library by Andrew Eason – via Flickr

If anyone out there hasn’t heard the details, the launch event is part of the Bristol Festival of Literature (lots of other great stuff going on there) and will be at  7.30 on October 23rd in  Bristol Central Library –  in the gorgeous Reference Library itself. Every local writer or even reader we know should have had an invitation by now, but if you have somehow been missed, do leave a comment and I’ll get one to you.

Or download our Press Release (.pdf file 220KB approx)

UnchainedOf course we hope the joy will not be confined to Bristol. This is a celebration of all libraries, everywhere  and other things besides. If you can’t join us on the night, the book is in bookshops now and available to order online. Don’t forget the proceeds are going to a great cause, the National Literacy Trust.

There’s still a lot to do before the Big Day, but now we have the book in our hot little hands – a great job by Tangent Books and Wildspark Design. Worth a small celebration!

Bristol Women Writers

By the way, this post will be stuck fast to the top of this page for the time being – new posts (if time allows!) will pop up underneath.

Unchained uncovered!

Absolutely thrilled to be sharing the news I’ve been keeping under wraps for a while. You all know I’m devoted to my writing group which has been the breeding ground (is that the word?) for all kinds of successes over the years , some of which are celebrated in last week’s post.


We did it!

But last year, around this time, we decided it was time to have a group project and set ourselves the task of creating at least one new piece of work each and looking at ways to make it as widely available as possible. One bright spark noticed that there was a big anniversary looming for our much-loved local library, and so Unchained was born, a collection of poetry and fiction by Bristol Women Writers, taking Bristol Central Library and libraries in general as a creative springboard. Well we all put our heads down and ten months and some rigorous editing later, the result is an amazingly diverse collection.

Thanks to some existing contacts and a readiness to make more, we have also found some great partners to take our work out into the world. The anthology has an introduction by our friend and fellow writer Tania Hershman, is published by local publisher Tangent (we just love their cover design) and will be officially launched on October 23rd at the Bristol Festival of Literature.  At the same time we’ve launching our own website where you can follow the progress of the group and of Unchained.

We have all been working like mad to make this happen, and so it really is great to see our baby out in the world at last. Do visit our blog to follow our progress and see what we’re talking about. This week it’s writing groups. What’s yours called, what does it do? Looking forward to seeing you over there and maybe at our launch party too.

Let us know if you can make it!

On demand and in the ether

At last week’s literary lunch in Suffolk I decided to read a short story which is the last (latest?) in a series about a retired couple coming to terms with their newfound life together ( I married him ‘for better or for worse ‘ but not for lunch ). I’m glad to say it went down really well with the fifty strong audience on the day and it reminded me that previous efforts in this series are available to download from the amazing Etherbooks site.

Ether on Android

Ether on Android

I have mentioned Etherbooks before, but I’m renewing my interest now because the stories on there are only (I don’t really mean ‘only’ as that is the whole point!) availabe on i-phone or Android apps and up to now I’ve never had the opportunity to see how they looked in e-print. But now I have can see just how well it works. The text is incredibly clear and much easier to read than I expected, and the interface is pretty nifty.Best of all, I have discovered that two of the stories – A Fork Less Ordinary and Museum Pieces are now in the ‘paid for’ category, although at 69p I hope it won’t put anyone off having a look.

In fact my favourite short story of recent times – Mouse Years – with protagonists from a younger generation, (it has won a couple of prizes too) is still free and has just had another 4 star review which describes it as ‘a mighty good read’. So if you have the technology, I can recommend it. Descriptions of everything I have on Ether can be found here, or ofcourse, on the app.

Wickhambrook lunch

Finally a huge thankyou to the Wickhambrook WI Reading Group for having me last week. The lunch was fab, and I hear they also made £300 for the coffers.

Didn’t we do well?