1st Prize Winning Story Published in Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts

I was thrilled last August 2017, when I received an email from the American writer, Lorian Hemingway, telling me that I'd won the American Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition 2017.  My story, Welcome to Legoland, had been picked from over 600 international entries and to hear this was such a wonderful boost.  As well as winning the prize, an additional bonus was that Welcome to Legoland would be published in Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts.  Cutthroat is an internationally recognised literary journal published in the USA: its Editor-in-Chief is Pamela Uschuk.  The Spring 2018 issue is now out - and after winging its way across the Atlantic (thank you, Lorian, for taking the time and trouble) - I have received several copies and here it is!

 

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Welcome to Legoland is a story dear to my heart, because it is set in Liverpool in the 1970s, the place and time where I grew up.  I wanted to capture the raw industrial mood of the city, as it was then, contrasted with the mature, mellow environs of Liverpool University, where my father taught.  I hope I've succeeded.  Narrated by a university student about the stranger teenage boy she meets on the avant-garde Southgate Housing Estate in Runcorn New Town, the story explores grief and architecture and a brief encounter between two lost individuals.  It was created as a side-step from the novel I'm completing, which is also set in Liverpool.  As writers, to take a breather, we're often encouraged to meet our characters in a different place, outside the timeline of the novel, and this is what I did one day. Adrian, the stranger, was the result.

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So, a big thank you both to Cutthroat: A Journal of the Arts, and to Lorian Hemingway, who is such a generous and encouraging author, for giving my story a chance to meet the world.  And if you get to read Welcome to Legoland - I hope you enjoy it.

Plymouth College of Art: Styling

I was thrilled to be invited to meet the 1st and 2nd students on the BA (Hons) Interior Decoration, Design and Styling degree course at Plymouth College of Art. The department has a wonderful buzz about it: what better way to fire one's visual senses, every day, than to see this sign at the entrance?

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I gave them a brief lowdown on my own career and we discussed Styling.  In the afternoon the 2nd year students presented their ongoing Styling projects to me - a very varied mix of studio and location shots, with highly imaginative and well-thought-through plans and beautifully detailed sketchbooks.  I wish them luck with the projects! 

 Listening to the 2nd year students present their Styling projects

Listening to the 2nd year students present their Styling projects

Thanks to Ally Turner and Cathryn Bishop, Lecturer & Acting Programme Leader, and Programme Leader respectively, for inviting me to meet the students and to see your really inspiring studios. (It was my first visit to Plymouth - and what a view from the train ...)

Launch of Bath Short Story Award 2017 Anthology

On Tuesday 28 November I attended the launch of the Bath Short Story Award 2017 Anthology.  It was held at the fabulously named Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights in Bath (worth a visit), and Bath was looking very sparkly and festive.  The event was a chance to meet the winners and other shortlisted writers included in the anthology - and we all read an excerpt from our stories.

 The Bath Short Story Award 2017 anthology - just published

The Bath Short Story Award 2017 anthology - just published

 Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights ...

Mr B's Emporium of Reading Delights ...

Jude, Anna and Jane, the organisers of the Award, had asked us all to read a short extract, so here I am reading the first page from my shortlisted story 'Hunger in the Air'.  We also had fabulous readings from the 1st, 2nd and 3rd prize-winners including Kathy Stevens, Mary Griese, and Sarah Mackey, and many others.  

 Reading an extract from my shortlisted short story 'Hunger in the Air' ...

Reading an extract from my shortlisted short story 'Hunger in the Air' ...

I'm thrilled to have a story published in the anthology, and to be in such illustrious company!  And you can buy it here

Inspirational Lecture/KLC School of Design

This morning I had a great time lecturing to the Part Time Certificate Students at the KLC School of Design.  It was their last day after almost a year's hard graft, so hopefully discussing and learning about Styling in all its guises was light relief after the pressures of presenting their final work!   Ally Coakes, their course tutor, was very welcoming.

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 The Part Time Certificate students after the talk ...

The Part Time Certificate students after the talk ...

Today I touched on working as an editorial stylist, how to look critically at an image when styling, approaching magazines to place a project and how to start thinking as a stylist.  So, thanks to KLC School of Design for inviting me, and to the students for listening so attentively this morning - good luck as you begin your new careers as interior designers ... or stylists, for that matter ...

'Interior Styling for Beginners'/KLC School of Design Short Course

Last week I led a one-day short course for KLC School of Design on 'Interior Styling for Beginners'. We had a full complement of 19 attendees, and over the day we covered a variety of topics: the role of the stylist, determining a brief, how to create mood, display and the low-down on great props to use.  We finished off with a whistle-top look at being on location for a shoot.  

 A few fail-safe props that are always a good choice ...

A few fail-safe props that are always a good choice ...

What I love about teaching such courses is the generous inter-action with attendees - we had the chance to look at some of their own styling worries at home, and hopefully we collectively came up with some helpful solutions.  My own secret weapon when it comes to styling?  A great selection of black and white photos - they have myriad uses - and a vast library of vases!

 And don't forget - a library of different vase shapes is essential, too

And don't forget - a library of different vase shapes is essential, too

Wimbledon Book Fest 2017

On Sunday evening I joined the long queue at Wimbledon Book Fest 2017 to see author Salman Rushdie, in conversation with the BBC journalist Razia Iqbal.  He was discussing his latest book, The Golden House (published by Jonathan Cape).  It was an entertaining and amusing evening, tied neatly into current global events, yet with crucial insights into a writer's personal world.

 Wimbledon Book Fest 2017 runs from 5-15 October 2017

Wimbledon Book Fest 2017 runs from 5-15 October 2017

In recent years I've visited a number of live author talks (Colm Toibin, Rose Tremain, Kate Atkinson to name but a few ...) and every time I've come away not only with a better understanding of the book in question, but also of the individual thought processes and craft that each writer pursues.  It's a brilliant way to achieve a personal insight into the minds of modern-day, working authors. And often the audience questions provide off-the-cuff and entertaining answers, too.

 Salman Rushdie and Razia Iqbar in conversation at Wimbledon Book Fest 2017

Salman Rushdie and Razia Iqbar in conversation at Wimbledon Book Fest 2017

Attending book talks is also a fabulous opportunity for a book signing.  There's something very special about meeting an author face-to-face, and I treasure all the books I've had signed in recent years.  Next one my reading list?  This one:

 The Golden House is published by Jonathan Cape.

The Golden House is published by Jonathan Cape.

Retreat West 'What Was Left' Anthology Launch at Waterstones

Last night's launch party for the Retreat West Books What Was Left Anthology was held at Waterstones Reading - a wonderful location - and was a celebration of the first collection of stories from the inaugural Retreat West Short Story Prize and Flash Fiction Prize 2016.  

 The Retreat West Books Anthology, edited by Amanda Saint and Jane Elmor

The Retreat West Books Anthology, edited by Amanda Saint and Jane Elmor

Amanda invited me to read my story 'On Crosby Beach', which won 1st prize in the RW Short Story Competition 2016.  It was a delight to do so before the assembled audience - even though a little nerve-wracking!  The story was inspired by my childhood visits to Crosby Beach and also by the 'Another Place' installation there, by Antony Gormley, most definitely worth a visit.

 Reading my short story 'On Crosby Beach'.

Reading my short story 'On Crosby Beach'.

Jude Higgins also read her 1st prize winning RW Flash Fiction flash, which was haunting and memorable ...

 Jude Higgins read her flash fiction 'At The Hospital' ...

Jude Higgins read her flash fiction 'At The Hospital' ...

Attending a launch is a brilliant chance to meet fellow writers and to sign books.  Amongst the assembled company were writers Jude Higgins, Mandy Huggins, Joanna Campbell, Angelita Bradney, Heather Walker, Diane Simmons and Stephen Palmer, all of whom have fiction in Anthology.  For me, it was also fantastic to meet Amanda Saint, who runs Retreat West with incredible efficiency and genuine passion.  Thanks Amanda and Retreat West!

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1st Prize - Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition 2017

I was so delighted to hear that I've been awarded 1st Prize in the Lorian Hemingway Short Story Competition 2017.  This year there were 650 entries from the USA and worldwide, so it was a great thrill to receive a personal email from Lorian letting me know that my story 'Welcome to Legoland' had won.  She wrote:

'I absolutely loved "Welcome to Legoland" ... Your story hit me in that spot in my chest that aches when a story evokes emotion so authentically.  For the 37 years of this competition I have trusted that instinct and it has yet to let me down. Such a beautifully rendered work.'

 A vintage Leica camera features in the story ... which is set in 1970s Runcorn New Town.

A vintage Leica camera features in the story ... which is set in 1970s Runcorn New Town.

Lorian is the Director and Final Judge of the competition - so thank you Lorian! - and to Dr Rob Merritt, also on the longtime judging panel.  Congratulations to the other winners and honourable mentions, too.  'Welcome to Legoland' will be published in Cutthroat: a Journal of the Arts in Winter 2018.