Short story course at Arvon – places available

There are a couple of places available on a short story course I'm teaching with Jane Feaver in May. It's a 5-day residential course at Arvon Totleigh Barton in Devon. Our mid-week guest reader is Lucy Wood. All abilities welcome. Full details here. If you've not been on an Arvon week before, check out my blog post about my first experience of … [Read more...]

BBC Radio 4 Extra to broadcast five of my short stories

BBC Radio 4 Extra

Every day next week, 17-21 March 2014, BBC Radio 4 Extra will be broadcasting my stories at 11am, 9pm and 4am. Here are the programme details. There'll be five stories in all, from both of my short story collections, Instruction Manual For Swallowing and The Stone Thrower: Fewer Things The 40-Litre Monkey Remember the Bride Who Got … [Read more...]

New short story on Visual Verse

Flock, pencil illustration by Denise Nestor

I have a new short story online – The Factory Explosion - over at Visual Verse. They asked me to write a short story in response to the brilliant image below by Denise Nestor. It had to be 50-500 words and written in an hour. You can read the full story here. Visual Verse encourages other writers to submit stories and poems in response to their … [Read more...]

Stories and Supper event


On Wednesday 5 March 2014 I'm doing an event in Berkhamsted - Stories and Supper - where I'll be chatting with writer Julie Mayhew about my work. An actor will read one of my stories, and I'll read one, too. Tickets are £20 if you come for supper and wine, or £10 just for the stories. This is the first of a new format event from the guys that run … [Read more...]

Happy birthday Haruki Murakami, and the year so far…

Haruki Murakami jacket photo

Today is Haruki Murakami's 65th birthday. Happy birthday, sir. I discovered Murakami the same way I discovered Kafka - via MTV. There was an MTV spot called 'An A to Z of Japan', and the letter M was, 'Haruki Murakami, Japan's coolest writer', or something like that. I Googled him and read about his books, and the plots appealed to my love of the … [Read more...]

Happy National Short Story Day 2013

National Short Story Day logo

Today, the shortest day of the year, is National Short Story Day. Here are a few links for story fans: • The official National Short Story Day website includes a wonderful long list of classic and modern short story recommendations from authors, including their reasons for choosing them, as well as story readings and events news. This year … [Read more...]

A sketchnote: the evolution of an idea

Evolution of an idea sketch note thumbnail

I've always used doodles, drawings and diagrams as part of my note-taking process, but after discovering sketchnotes / visual note-taking through Sacha Chua's blog, I've started illustrating my notes much more deliberately, and legibly, with the intention of making them something I can share. Here's a sketchnote from this week, which I've tidied … [Read more...]

The question that ‘What Does The Fox Say?’ really asks

What does the fox say?

Have you seen What Does The Fox Say? yet? If not, here it is - you'll need to have experienced it before we begin to deconstruct it. After watching it a few times over the last week with my kids, it's become obvious that within the inane chatterings and costume-play, the singer Ylvis - our protagonist - is actually asking an important … [Read more...]

My Nan’s pumpkin pie recipe

My nan's pumpkin pie

My kids really got excited about carving pumpkins this year (you'll see from the photo that they went for a Minecraft theme). So I bought three, one of which was a real whopper. It meant we had a lot of pumpkin flesh to eat. Nearly 5 lbs of the stuff in fact. While looking for pumpkin pie recipes, I discovered that my mum still had my nan's … [Read more...]

Writing tools I can’t live without #3: Scrivener

Scrivener logo

I'm always looking for new tools that make the writing process simpler, more effective or more fun, and Scrivener does all of these things. After reading a recommendation a couple of years ago, I saw that you can get a free 30-day trial of Scrivener and gave it a go. Now I write just about all of my fiction on it. Scrivener is an incredibly … [Read more...]

A cemetery reading and a weekend workshop with WordFactory logo

Next month I'll be doing two gigs for the awesome WordFactory: On Friday 8 November at 7pm, I will be reading at Hauntings: Ghost Stories at Earlsfield Cemetery, alongside Stella Duffy, Tania Hershman and Alex Preston. Can't wait. It's going to be spooktacular. Tickets are £10 if booked before 31st October, £12 in advance, and £15 on the … [Read more...]

The opposite of Glee

Finn Glee logo

Naomi and I sat through the Finn Hudson memorial episode of Glee last night in pieces. Boy it was agony to watch. Did you see it? It was a uniquely weird reality-fiction crossover, and I can't think of another example quite like it right now (it's 2:30am - I'm going through another spell of insomnia, so my brain is not up to full operating … [Read more...]

Daleks at the BBC National Short Story Awards

Adam Marek and Dalek

Until last week, I'd never been to BBC Broadcasting House, but it was somewhere I'd always wanted to go. So I was excited when the invite to the BBC National Short Story Award prizegiving dropped through my letterbox and I saw that the event had moved from its traditional home at the Freeword Centre to the BBC Radio Theatre. And the Beeb didn't … [Read more...]

Five things I learned at Small Wonder yesterday

Small Wonder thumbnail

At dawn on Sunday morning I drove down to Charleston, near Lewes in East Sussex, for the final day of the Small Wonder short story festival. The events were - as always - fascinating and diverse. Here are five things I learned there: 1 William Trevor used to be a serious sculptor. In a recorded interview with Small Wonder Artistic Director Diana … [Read more...]

Why can’t real life be like the Cork Short Story Festival?

There is much debate about which of the three main stouts in Cork is superior: Murphy's, Beamish or Guinness. My vote is for Beamish.

I've just got back from the Cork International Short Story Festival and I have Post Literary Festival Separation Anxiety (PLFSA). It's so hard to leave a festival sometimes. Especially one as spectacularly warm and generous as this. Of course I missed Naomi and the boys like crazy while I was away, but when you spend more than a night or two … [Read more...]

Will buildings grow on trees in 2070?

ECAL2013poster thumbnail

My scientist thinks they will. I say my scientist, because all of us writers attending the artificial life conference in Sicily got one. Mine was Professor Susan Stepney, a computer scientist at the University of York, and she's working on an incredible project to grow buildings from seed. Yes, buildings (that we live and work in), grown from … [Read more...]

The Mount Etna hat club

Mount Etna

Earlier this week, I was stood on the edge of a volcano watching my publisher run down into it. This is not a metaphor. I was near the summit of Mount Etna with Ra Page from Comma Press and writers Robin Yassin-Kassab and Julian Gough. The walk up had been tough - a 45-degree slope of black volcanic marbles that rolled away beneath our feet. … [Read more...]

My Edinburgh Book Festival experience in seven souvenirs


I just got back from three days at the Edinburgh International Book Festival where I was talking about The Stone Thrower at an event with Rodge Glass. It was my first time there and I was overwhelmed by the size of it. The EIBF camp on Charlotte Square is a mini-village with a market square in the middle filled with deckchairs bearing quotes by … [Read more...]

Work it out on the page


At the moment I've got two fiction projects underway. The first is a novel I've been working on since the beginning of the year. I don't like to talk about the actual subject of the work while I'm still writing it (it lets all the hot air out), but what I did want to share was a realisation I had while working on it. Sometimes, writing feels … [Read more...]

Writing tools I can’t live without #2: Fisher Space Pen

Space pen square 300

You know that feeling of excitement and joy you get when you first buy a new gadget or beautiful item? And how, after a very short time, that initial excitement starts to fade, and eventually, the item just becomes part of your background stuff? Well, that feeling of excitement never faded for my Fisher Space Pen. I love it every time I use it. It … [Read more...]

Shortlisted for the Edge Hill Prize


Last week, while I was away tutoring at Arvon Lumb Bank with the brilliant Kate Clanchy, I got the news that The Stone Thrower has been shortlisted for the prestigious Edge Hill Short Story Prize, previously won by Colm Tóibín, Claire Keegan, Chris Beckett, Jeremy Dyson, Graham Mort and Sarah Hall. I'm thrilled. Just look whose company I'm in on … [Read more...]

The Stone Thrower playlist

The Stone Thrower playlist

My new book, The Stone Thrower, just came out in North America, published by the brilliant ECW Press, who also published Instruction Manual For Swallowing over there. As part of ECW's BackLit series, this edition has bonus material at the back: my desert island books, an extra story, and a playlist of music to throw stones to. I wanted to share … [Read more...]

Check out my monkey stamp


Naomi just bought me this ink stamp. Isn't it great? In our house I will forever be associated with monkeys and books (because my first published story was about a 40-litre monkey). This is the second reading-monkey item Naomi has given me. The first was the Christmas decoration she made a few years ago. I'm not sure what I'll stamp with this … [Read more...]

Why you should write in your pyjamas, plus a workshop and new books


Write in your pyjamas A couple of weeks ago, I was back at Arvon's Totleigh Barton in Devon tutoring with the lovely Jen Hadfield. We were talking about our own writing habits, and discovered that one process had given us both a creative jump start. Early in our writing lives, Jen and I both read Julia Cameron's The Artist's Way. Have you read … [Read more...]

Next year I will hibernate


Hedgehogs have the right idea. Just curl up in a warm pile of leaves somewhere and sleep till the daffodils are out. I should do the same thing, because every January is the same for me - a dearth of creative energy, and self-esteem hitting rock bottom. Like some reverse Midas-effect, it feels like everything I touch in this miserable month turns … [Read more...]

One of my favourite Christmas decorations


When Naomi and I bought our first Christmas tree together, we only just had enough money for the tree itself, and not for any decorations. Rather than buy a whole load of crappy cheap ones, we bought two or three pretty ones that we liked and had a very bare tree that year. Since then, everywhere we've travelled together, we've bought a new … [Read more...]

A week tutoring at Arvon Totleigh Barton

Totleigh Barton

I've just got back from a brilliant week tutoring a short story course and stuffing my face with Tania Hershman at Arvon's Totleigh Barton centre in Devon. What a treat! Here's my report, in bullet points: Monday • Totleigh Barton is REMOTE. It's an hour's drive from the nearest train station - Exeter St David's. When I arrive, my phone … [Read more...]