Hello again! It’s somehow December already – how did that happen? Christmas hasn’t got going yet at McFish Towers, but our tree should be up by the weekend. There’ll be no traditional Christmas lunch though. For years, Mr McFish and I have gone for a curry on Christmas Day. In the old days we’d venture into Bradford and pay a visit to the Kashmir, and in more recent years we have been walking down to our local curry house with a bottle of wine. But nothing has been decided this year. It seems we are even becoming Bah Humbug about the Bah Humbug option of going for a curry!

I’ve had another busy fortnight. I had a reading at Denby Dale Library on 25th November. It was the regular Later at the Library event, which takes place on the last Friday of every month (except December!), and I was reading alongside my friend and fellow author, Sarah Linley. Despite the England football match – or perhaps because of it?! – we somehow managed to attract a full house, and it was lovely to chat to everyone afterwards.

The judges have been announced for the 2023 National Flash Fiction Day Microfiction Competition, and I’m pleased to say that I’m one of them! The competition is open for entries now, so start polishing your 100 word stories! You can find out more here: https://www.nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/index.php/competition/

The writer Joan Didion was born this week in 1934, so here are a few reminders of her brilliant words:

“One of the mixed blessings of being twenty and twenty-one and even twenty-three is the conviction that nothing like this, all evidence to the contrary notwithstanding, has ever happened to anyone before.” Slouching Towards Bethlehem (1968)

“I know what the fear is. The fear is not for what is lost. What is lost is already in the wall. What is lost is already behind the locked door. The fear is for what is still to be lost.” Blue Nights (2011)

“I’m not telling you to make the world better, because I don’t think that progress is necessarily part of the package. I’m just telling you to live in it. Not just to endure it, not just to suffer it, not just to pass through it, but to live in it. To look at it. To try to get the picture. To live recklessly. To take chances. To make your own work and take pride in it. To seize the moment. And if you ask me why you should bother to do that, I could tell you that the grave’s a fine and private place, but none I think do there embrace. Nor do they sing there, or write, or argue, or see the tidal bore on the Amazon, or touch their children. And that’s what there is to do and get it while you can and good luck at it.” UC Riverside commencement address (1975)

Writing Tips…

The NFFD team asked me what I would be looking for when judging the microfiction comp, and this is what I said:

Micro-fiction has only got time for the sideways glance; a glimpse through the crack. But a glimpse is not the same as a fragment, and I still need something whole – a full story rather than an observation or an anecdote. The skill is in conveying what lies off camera and beneath the surface when you have such a limited word count. Without those hidden depths, the story will feel hollow and the reader won’t care about the character/s. In a hundred carefully chosen words the writer needs to make the specific feel universal.

In conclusion, it’s always worth reminding everyone to use their title wisely, as those are valuable extra words.

Books & Events…

Erica Crompton’s memoir The Mind Surfer launched last Friday at Newcastle-Under-Lyme Library and is now available to order from the Victorina Press website.

Victorina Press will be hosting a stall at two different Christmas events in Uttoxeter this week, selling all their marvellous books at up to 60% off list price! Plus there will be mystery book bundles up for grabs.

The first is the Uttoxeter Lions Christmas Cracker evening on Thursday 8th December (6:00-9:00 p.m. in the town centre). As well as Santa’s grotto, there’ll be rides, music, gifts, food, toys, charity stalls, street entertainment and more.


The second is the Winter Whimsy Christmas Craft Fair at Uttoxeter Library on Saturday 10th December between 10:00 a.m. and 2:00 p.m. As well as all those lovely books, there will be a range of gifts and local crafts on sale.


And do you remember me telling you about Kendal Community Theatre’s forthcoming production of A Christmas Carol for Kendal? Well it’s completely sold out!


There’s also some great news about fellow VP author, Mike Lewis. His novel, If God Will Spare My Life, is one of five finalists in the Historical Novel category of the Eyelends International Book Award, along with two US writers, another from the UK, and a fifth from Canada. The winners will be announced on 30th December. Mike is also waiting to hear whether plans to adapt If God Will Spare My Life into a stage play will come to fruition – so watch this space in the new year.




Before I Go…

Last week, someone was asking their friends on Facebook what their favourite place names were, so I thought I’d share a few of mine:

Land of Green Ginger – a street in Hull

Solid – a street name in Lockwood, West Yorkshire. Believed to come from “saliht”, an Old English word meaning “growing with willows”

Friendly and Triangle – two villages close to each other in the Calder Valley

Land of Nod – a hamlet in East Yorkshire

Shin Shimashima – a railway station in Nagano, Japan

See you next time!

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