A few favourite things

BooksI know it’s now more than a week since Christmas, but I’m still revelling in my gifts! This year I had an impressive haul of books, including the exquisite The Persephone Book of Short Stories, which I’m already thigh-deep in, and Jackie Kay’s Wish I Was Here, which I can’t wait to wade into.

I’ve been dipping into Nigel Slater’s The Kitchen Diaries II with huge pleasure – it feels to me like another short story collection, with the possibility of something good to eat at the end of each tale. My one concern is how to make full use of the book without marking the beautiful pages – I may actually end up writing out each recipe as I choose to use it!

Elsie Belle bee jewelleryOther delights under the Christmas tree was this gorgeous set of bee jewellery by Elsie Belle, cast in bronze from Victorian charms.

They’re so delicate I’m afraid I might break their wings off, but I’m going to try my hardest not to. Aren’t they gorgeous?


DragonThis wee dragon also tops my list. As my friend Joanna, who bestowed him on me, says, “We could all do with a small, portable dragon to protect us.”

I couldn’t agree more!

Book review – Connections: An Anthology

Connections book coverBefore I begin this review, I have a small confession to make – I have two pieces included in this anthology of poetry and prose from Paragram, and there are few things more exciting to receive through the post than a neatly packaged volume that features your own published words.

That said, I actually found myself getting so absorbed in this collection that when I did encounter my own pieces it was something of a surprise! From the melancholy to the wry, the poems and prose pieces draw you in with unexpected strength given their brevity.

Messages of love, murmurs of regret and realisation, promises and unspoken hopes thread the whole together. Continue reading

Gemini Magazine invites short story contest entries

Borneo jungle vinesDo you write stories that twist and turn and tangle with their readers’ minds? Gemini Magazine is seeking stories that meet these criteria for their 4th annual short story contest.

Editor David Bright says: “There are no restrictions on style, subject, content or length. Simply send your best, most powerful work.”

The entry fee is just $4 (approx £2.50), making this one of the most cost-effective writing competitions around.

Top prize is $1,000. All six finalist will be published online in the June 2013 issue of Gemini. The deadline for entries is Monday April 1st 2013.

Find out how to enter.

A sunlit stroll with Simon Callow

Arnos Vale fir treeI just ventured out into the sunlight for the first time since being struck by a gigantic evil bug early on Sunday morning. What a pretty day – a great start to the year.

To make things even better, I took my i-Pod with me and listened to the Guardian Books podcast of Simon Callow reading Charles Dicken’s ‘The Christmas Tree’ – a fabulous mix of utter nostalgia and eerie ghost story with a touch of moralising for good measure.

I love his description of “that pretty German toy, a Christmas Tree” laden with “rosy-cheeked dolls”, “fiddles and drums”, “tambourines, books, work-boxes, paint-boxes, sweetmeat-boxes, peep-show boxes”, “trinkets”, and so much more – a veritable Christmas wonderland!

And then the ghost stories, so spooky, not least as I was listening while trudging through the muddy paths of the Victorian cemetery near my home.

A welcome end to the Christmas season and start to the bright new year.