The Gestation of my book of short fiction “Melting Point” by Baret Magarian (Salt)

Eight years ago I was on a flight to Larnaca, Cyprus about to start a holiday in the company of friends. There was something faintly momentous about my feeling of excitement and liberation from the daily habits and deadening routines that normal life can slip into.  About two hours into the flight another faintly momentous thing happened, sliding out from under the tired, calloused epidermis of the quotidian. It was almost imperceptible, an undefined tension in the stomach, a fluttering of emancipating excitement.  I half recognised that feeling, though it wasn’t wholly familiar. I pulled out my Macbook and began to write, and after an hour and a half I had a more or less complete story before me (the story would eventually be titled “Clock” ; it is the sixth in the collection). It needed some shuffling, some polishing, a bit of polyster, maybe a few injections of literary botex, but I had the “thing in itself”, the essential bolus of the piece in front of me. I was rather pleased, never having experienced this kind of creative ease before. Intercourse, fertilisation, conception, incubation, delivery – they were all concentrated, distilled into those one and a half hours.

I can’t really account for it. But then, while I was on holiday, the same thing happened on two other occasions. More or less complete stories more or less fell out of me, or my brain, or what remains of it.  Maybe it was something to do with the Cypriot breezes, the mezedes, or the penumbra of peace that slid over my consciousness like a mystical lover in the night. After the third of these epiphanic creative bursts I began to realise that I might have embarked on that long, vexing, wonderful, self-cannibalising journey also known as the composing of a book.  Now many ideas for stories were popping up like mushrooms, all demanding to be developed and realised. It was rather wonderful and mysterious and I started two, three, four stories in a spirit of excitement and mild delirium.

On a few other occasions other stories “wrote themselves.” I remember very clearly that before I began to write them I had absolutely no idea of what the stories would be about, no idea of what the basic story or plot was, or of who the characters were. I somehow managed to pluck deep into some subterranean crucible of molten creativity and pull out these little nuggets of narrative. Other stories – the longer ones in Melting Point – were more recalcitrant, and had to be planned, structured, meditated upon. Notes were made, diagrams drawn, snatches of dialogue containing important ideas or plot developments jotted down. But throughout all this I was always careful to work on several stories simultaneously, to juggle different projects, so as not to get stuck on just the one story, so as not to become obsessive about finishing it. I wanted to push hard against the threat of writer’s block by fuelling this frenzy of diverse activity. By keeping up the heat I was able to thrawt the forces of inertia and stasis. I may have been influenced in terms of this multi-faceted approach by something Roberto Bolano had once said regarding the importance of writing stories not one at a time, but simultaneously.  In any case it was a very happy writing experience on the whole and relatively free of the doubts and vexations that had assailed me during the writing of my first book The Fabrications.

As I reflect on the (not always, but often) trance-like ease of the composing of Melting Point it seems to me that the following might be of elucidatory value: perhaps after studying literature and attempting to write it for many years the shape of its tropes, structures, devices begin to become in some way ingrained in one’s mind, become, so to speak, second nature and one arrives eventually at an intuitive place beyond the rational and empirical. And at this point it becomes possible to create something without so much obvious planning. Obviously, however, one cannot finish a book while always being in the delirium of white heat inspiration – the process of revision, expansion, problem-solving, stylistic polishing: all of these require full frontal, stone cold sober deliberation. But I do think that what happened to me in terms of the initial stages of writing Melting Point may have had its basis in a kind of abdication of the cerebral part of creation, a giving in to something far more spontaneous, emancipated and – ultimately – mysterious.

     I’m very glad it happened.

 

Baret Magarian is a British Armenian writer who divides his time between Florence and London. His first book “The Fabrications” was extensively and favourably reviewed. Jonathan Coe, writing about Melting Point, observed: “We find here the irony, moral ambiguity and self-interrogation of writers like Kafka, Pessoa and Calvino.” Find out more here.

 

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Review Of All That Is Between Us, by K. M. Elkes

Cover

Last month, K.M. Elkes’ marvellous debut flash fiction collection All That Is Between Us was launched at Flash Fiction Festival in Bristol. The book is available in paperback from the online bookshop at Ad Hoc Fiction and in digital format on kindle and has received much advanced acclaim from writers Tania Hershman; Kathy Fish; David Gaffney; Nuala O’Connor; Meg Pokrass; Angela Readman; David Swann and Sophie Van Llewyn. It has already been sent off all over the world and we are delighted that Award-winning flash fiction writer Shannon Savvas, based in Cyprus, has written a new review of it below.
Jude Higgins, Ad Hoc Fiction,


Review by Shannon Savvas
Last year, I read a story by K.M. Elkes, ‘A Punch to the Heart’, and fell in love with his writing. Now this – a collection of his work in one lovely book, All That Is Between Us. Three parts, forty flash fictions, one map of the connections and disconnections of people. Without trying to be too clever or obvious, K. M. Elkes treads lightly over stepping stones of light and dark which stretch across the wastelands, minefields and pleasure parks of human emotions. His stories hint at human frailties, disappointments, regrets and triumphs all held together by unglamorous yet abiding versions of love.
In each section – ‘Parents and Children’, ‘Friends and Strangers’, ‘Couples and Lovers’, certain pieces resonate, others are simply admired and enjoyed for their form, dexterity and heart. This perhaps says more about who I am and where I am in my life than the strength of his pieces. I liked all the stories even those that perplexed me (‘The Noise was Blades’ is a puzzler), felt a connection with some of them and adored a few: ‘A Secret Weight’, ‘Dry Run’, and ‘Manhattan, 2am’ all stood out for me. I loved ‘The King of Throwaway Island’ with its pathos and humour, ‘Biological’s’ characterisation, “There are cigarettes and long nights in her voice…”, and ‘Sisyphus and the Black Holes’ with the wonderful line that stopped me in my tracks, “The midwife doesn’t tell you she slaps them so they stay angry.”
It will depend on the life you’ve lived and the heart you have which stories sing to you, but all are a joy.

Shannon Savvas is a New Zealand writer who divides her heart and life between Cyprus, England and New Zealand. Winner of Reflex Fiction (Winter 2017), the Cuirt New Writing Prize (Galway, Ireland) (March 2019), runner up in Flash500 Short Story March 2019, TSS Cambridge Flash FictionMay 2019. Published in Gulf Coast Online and print/online Issue 12 Into the Void, March/April 2019. Longlisted, shortlisted and commended here and there. Published online (Storgy Magazine, Inktears, Reflex Fiction, Fictive Dream,Cabinet of Heed, Headland Journal NZhttp://headland.org.nz (Issue 1-2015 & Issue 13-2018 and contributor to Horizons 3, Bath Flash Fiction, Bath Short Story Award, Fish, Reflex Fictionanthologies (2017, 2018)

 

Talking Tales #24 – 20th August – Bristol

Talking Tales is open for submissions for its flash fiction special event on 20th August. What’s special about it? You’re going to be there and you’re going to be reading.

If that seems a little presumptuous, let me explain. The flash fiction special is celebrating the art of very short stories, poems and all other forms of creative writing. We have an upper limit of 300 words and we have confidence in you.

We believe in your writing – whatever form that may take. We believe in your ability to knock our socks off at the beginning, the middle or the end. We believe you know that Talking Tales is a lovely night of stories, with a warm audience in a great venue. And we believe…this is the important bit…that between the tennis, the barbecue, the warm Summer nights, the paddling and the 99s – we believe you’ll pull your digits out and give us 300 of your best by 9th August (submissions close then). 

Hosted by the awesome Christopher Fielden who will also be launching two of his writing challenge anthologies on the night. Are you in them? If not, there’s no excuse not to be in the next ones.

Challenge Books  E-mail your submissions (300 words or less) to: stokescroftwriters@gmail.com

Event details – are stupendously straight-forward:

…venue:     Left Bank, 128 Cheltenham Road, Stokes Croft, Bristol BS6 5RW

…time:       we start at 7pm on Tuesday 20th August 19 – doors open at 6.30

…join-in:    the ‘finish the lines’ competition – win a Talking Tales badge.

Stokes Croft Writers would love to see you there.

BlueHouse Journal Issue #1: submission deadline AUGUST 1ST

BlueHouse is putting together our first issue, and we are still looking for work by emerging and established writers that frame the “I voice” in a new and exciting way! We love poetry, concrete poetry, lyric essay, creative non-fiction, flash and micro fiction and so much more!

Any questions? Please contact us.

Interested in submitting? Check out our submission guidelines.

For the latest from BlueHouse, please visit our website, or follow us on twitter.

Happy writing!

-The Editors

 

Plug into FaxFiction

Old technology – we all used it, and it’s still there: cassette tapes, floppy discs, videos, 35mm slides, overhead projectors, Ansaphones, games consoles, View-Masters, faxes, Dictaphones, reel to reel, Ceefax… How did we function with these ancient machines, these relics of the future?

Hopefully these six writers hold the answer: Writer-in-Residence at Manchester’s Victoria Baths Sarah-Clare Conlon, Sawn-off Tales author David Gaffney, John Rylands Library Writer-in-Residence Rosie Garland, Creative Writing lecturer Valerie O’Riordan, Bad Language host Fat Roland and Nicholas Royle, series editor of Best British Short Stories.

FAXFICTION 2019

FAXFICTION 2019

In FaxFiction, six brand-new short stories will focus on old technologies, and will each be performed using artefacts gathered especially for the event. Made uniquely for the Refract:19 festival, which takes place annually at Greater Manchester arts centre Waterside, this unique show on Saturday 27 July will also feature the live premiere of an installation commissioned from sound artist Gary Fisher.

Tickets cost £8 (£6 concessions) – book here.

Spring 2019 Winners & Choose Your Own Entry Fee

Reflex Fiction - Flash Fiction - Spring 2019 Winners - ShortStops

Reflex Fiction is a quarterly international flash fiction competition for stories between 180 and 360 words. We publish one story every day as we count down to the winner of each competition.

Spring 2019 Winners

At the end of June, we published the three winning stories from our Spring 2019 flash fiction competition as chosen by Alison Moore. Here are the winners and links to the stories:

First Place: Cooped by Andrew Stancek
Second Place: Big Strong Giant by Billy Cowan
Third Place: Happicabs by Night by Izzy Paprika

You can read Alison’s thoughts on the winning stories here.

Summer 2019 Long-List

We’ve also just published the long-list for our Summer 2019 competition and have started publishing stories as we count down to the announcement of the winners at the end of September.

Autumn 2019 – Choose your own entry fee

We’re also accepting entries for our Autumn 2019 competition. For this round, we’re delighted to have 2018 Guardian ‘Not the Booker’ Award shortlisted writer Naomi Booth as our judge.

For this round of the competition, we’re inviting you to choose your own entry fee. If the suggested entry fee of £7 is prohibitive, just pay what you can afford. If you’d like to support a writer who can’t afford the full fee, why not add a pound or two? More details on our website.

Here are the important details:

Prizes: £1,000 first, £500 second, £250 third (or the equivalent in your local currency)
Entry Fee: Choose your own
Entries close: 31 August 2019
Judge: Naomi Booth

SUBMIT YOUR ENTRY