How to write horror

AJ Kirby, author of the horror novels Sharkways, Paint This Town Red and Bully, among others, invites us into the dark world of horror writing.

Artwork cr Louise Boulter

Artwork © Louise Boulter

My name is Andy Kirby and I am a horror writer. And I suppose you could say that I have a habit: I’ve written around ten published horror short stories and several horror novels, including Bully and Paint This Town Red. Continue reading

The New Writer invites submissions for The Prose & Poetry Prizes 2012

The New Writer Collection 2012There’s something about entering a creative writing competition that’s curiously helpful in getting you to take your writing seriously, see it through the eyes of others and really polish it up to be the best it can be, plus be disciplined enough to meet a deadline!

Not to mention the tantalising hope of actually winning, and gaining not only the prize money, but the associated prestige.

But these days it seems like countless random folks are setting up contests just to make a quick buck, so you need to choose your contest with care.

Many of the best are associated with well-known publication, such as The New Writer Magazine’s annual prose and poetry competition. Continue reading

Paper flowers vs catastrophe

While travelling through Brescia, northern Italy, Judy Darley discovers a dying art that protects one small corner of the world.

Women making paper flowers, Carzano

The women sit together in a small building at the edge of Italy’s Lake Iseo. Scraps of crepe paper cover the table, drift down to the floor, as they work with their scissors and small lengths of wire, creating flower after flower. Continue reading

Love letters

Good morning! *Yawn* Kettle’s on, cafetiere is stocked and ready, sun is shining…. Saturday morning is my favourite time of the week, the perfect time to think about the weekend ahead and relish the chance to read, write, be creative…

Last weekend I spent a lot of time working in preparation of the Capture the Scene writing workshop, which took place in Arnos Vale Cem on Sunday. While I was busy there, my husband and some friends headed off to a local flea market seeking treasures.

Letter JThis is what my man came back with for me. It’s a letter ‘J’ from an early 19th century printing press. Imagine all the words that little wooden block has been part of! Well, fewer than you might think, actually, actually, as the letter ‘J’ is definitely among the most underused of the letters – in fact, these are the only two in this entire 751 character post!


I think it’s a wonderful, thoughtful gift – a solid piece of literary history.

Real and imagined lives…

As a writer, and reader, my life is populated pretty equally by real and imagined people, which may be why this exhibition at M-Shed drew me in… 

Stephen Merchant by Spencer Murphy, 2010 © Spencer Murphy

Stephen Merchant by Spencer Murphy, 2010 © Spencer Murphy

This dual show presents a National Portrait Gallery exhibition of 16th and century paintings of unknown people, with lives imagined by writers such as Terry Pratchett, Sarah Singleton, Julian Fellowes, Joanna Trollope and Minette Walters.

Surrounding this, 25 portraits of folks linked with Bristol in one way or another are displayed along with hinged wooden tablets, with a true biography on one side imagined ones dreamt up by local writers on the other.

Some certainly worked better than others, by which I think I mean that in some authors allowed their imaginations free reign more than others. I adored the one by Helia Phoenix about Banksy, and the comically jealous missive written by Rosemary Dun on behalf of Stephen Merchant.

My favourite of all, however, was the beautifully written piece by Sarah Hilary in the voice of planetary scientist Colin Pillinger’s eight year old self, explaining why he wanted to be a farmer, “either that, or a spaceman.”

Iris Murdoch by Ida Kar, 1957 ©  National Portrait Gallery, London

Iris Murdoch by Ida Kar, 1957 © National Portrait Gallery, London

Of all the portraits shown, I think I would most have liked to write a piece in response to this image of Iris Murdoch. She has such a fierce, but possibly faintly confused, gaze in it. I think I would have liked to forget everything I know about her and just write in the moment, something along the lines of:

“I think, I’m almost sure, that I once knew something vast. Something one might describe as an ocean of words, shifting with the pull of the moon and carrying with it all the sounds of its movements; its relentless dogged dynamism, very loud inside my skull. And now, now all is silent. As though that tumult, that noisy inner industriousness, has seeped out of one’s ear, leaving one cold and salt-stained. Bereft.

“So that one is left with only a residual puddle of thoughts to kneel in. And it’s not enough. It never will be.”

Real & Imagined Lives is on at M-Shed until 06 January 2013.

Book review: The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky

The Perks of Being a Wallflower coverYou’ve seen the film. Now read the book! Review by Ben Macnair.

Meet Charlie. An average freshman. He is neither a jock, nor a geek. He is neither unpopular or the life and soul of the party. He just is. It is the place that many people find themselves, but don’t admit to.

Stephen Chbosky’s novel The Perks of Being a Wallflower is a book about growing up. About trying to fit in. About finding your own way. It is about standing out for the right reasons, and about fitting in where you are most comfortable. It is The Catcher in the Rye with less of a rebel streak; The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn without a river to escape down.

The book is a fast read, and is written in the form of a series of letters written by Charlie to an unnamed reader.

These letters examines how he interacts with the other pupils at his school and his many preoccupations, particularly Sam, his perfect girl, and her boyfriend Patrick, his sister and her abortion, the first girl he dates, the doubts he has about himself and taking his part in a world where he does not know how to fit.

Got that?

The novel is beautifully written, and has captured Charlie on the cusp of the moments when he feels Infinite, with his friends, the open road, the perfect song, and any number of perfect moments in front of him.

The Perks of Being a Wallflower by Stephen Chbosky is published by Simon and Schuster and is available from Amazon

An author, an agent and an editor walk into a bookshop…

Books on shelf

An evening at Foyles Bookshop as part of Bristol Festival of Literature gives asiring author Judy Darley the chance to glean some submission advice, including never, ever, to send an oven glove with her manuscript…

It’s the holiest of holy trinities for the publishing world: writer, literary agent and editor. Or, to put it into more meaningful terms perhaps: writer + literary agent + editor = success. Continue reading

Literary events for autumn 2012

Gosh, there are so many things to keep us wordy minded folks busy at this time of year. Tear yourself away from the duvet and head out for some inspiration! 

Scottish Storytelling Centre exterior

The Scottish Storytelling Centre, Edinburgh

RNIB’s literary wonderland – Until Saturday 20 Oct 2012

RNIB storiesThis magical, free event is transforming the banks of the River Thames, with children’s authors such as Jason Bradbury, Sally Gardner, and A. B. Saddlewick, and actor Michael Sheen taking part in events aimed at helping children to discover the joy of reading. Continue reading