Writer’s Blog: Trudy Duffy-Wigman – The Idea Behind ‘My New Best Friend’

Trudy Duffy-Wigman talks about what inspired her flash fiction ‘My New Best Friend‘ published in Breve New Stories Issue Two.

Do you know that awkward moment when you hop on a bus or a train and you notice something is out of kilter? You hear the collective intake of breath by your fellow passengers and slowly realise that you are trapped – someone wants your attention, and you are going to give it, like it or not.
That is the inspiration behind this story. After decades of using public transport in every form and shape I can honestly say that overheard conversations, observations and interactions on tram, train or bus is where a lot of my ideas come from. Like the time I got on a tram in Amsterdam that happened to be full of drunken football supporters. Like the time we took the train from St Petersburg to Moscow armed with wet towels because criminals were gassing compartments to steal passengers’ credit cards. And like the time I got on a night bus in Glasgow and heard a lament from an inebriated, lonely soul.
And what do we, being sober and upright citizens, do in such situations? We don’t want to be involved. We turn away, afraid that eye contact means we are stuck with this person for the duration of the journey. We tune out the lament; blame it on the drink or the drugs. We forget this person is someone’s son, someone’s friend, a human being.
That is what the story is about. It comes not from one particular encounter; rather it is an amalgamation of several observations; I think most people will recognise it, having been in a similar situation. It is a story that needs to be told and it doesn’t need a lot of words.

Writer’s Blog: Hamish McGee – The Idea Behind “Doubting Thomas”

Hamish McGee talks about what inspired his short story ‘Doubting Thomas‘ published in Breve New Stories Issue Two.

What inspired “Doubting Thomas”? Let me think. Mmm … In fact, that’s pretty easy.

I was brought up in a small Scottish village where I met one of the most wonderful men God created. He changed my life in ways I am still discovering today. He is the inspiration. He was the village greengrocer and he did run the local Gospel Hall. He did give me my first Bible and he was truly wonderful.

When the time came for me to leave the village and make my own way in life, we corresponded throughout the years. No matter where I was, a few miles away or the other side of the world, no matter what I was doing, he was constant. Every letter I wrote him was answered promptly in his beautiful, handwritten script. I opened the envelopes slowly, prolonging the anticipation of the inner contents, reading each page so often that I could recite them from memory. Even if his descriptions of what was happening in the village were, to others, banal in the extreme, to me they were gold dust in my impoverished world, the sweetest wine in my desert life, a veritable feast sustaining and nourishing my lean existence. Every word resonated with beautiful imagery. I could all but hear that lilting accent.

Only once did he fail to reply. I knew immediately but refused to accept, that he had died. The mould was broken.

Hamish McGee

Writer’s Blog: Michael Bloor – The Love of Reading

In his last post, Michael Bloor author of ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One, reflects on his love of reading and its roots.

I’ve loved reading all my life and ten years ago I found out why. The clue lay a few miles north from my home, in a building in the hamlet of Innerpeffray, in rural Perthshire. There you can find Scotland’s oldest free public library: www.innerpeffraylibrary.co.uk, founded in 1680. IMG_1630

When last I saw it, on rare warm day of early spring, the ground of the little wood beside the library was smothered in snowdrops, and the last of the winter snow could be seen clearly, glinting on the hills above Crieff. Inside the lovely old building there are many rare volumes, but the real treasure within this house of treasures is surely the Borrowers’ Register which goes back to 1747. Overwhelmingly, the readers are the rural poor: William Morrison – roadman, James Bronsler – cooper, Peter White – shoemaker, Ebenezer Clement – dyer, Peter Comrie – miller, John Drummond – mason, James McInnes – brickworks foreman, James McDiarmid – carpenter, and the rest.
Jethro Tull’s ‘Husbandry’ and Hill Burton’s ‘Emigrants Manual’ were popular items, but many borrowers seemed to read for more than self-improvement. On April 28th, 1859, Peter Comrie, the miller, borrowed ‘Fable of the Bees’ and ‘Ship of Fools;’ he was back on May 12th to borrow Scott’s ‘Witchcraft’ and Middleton’s ‘Letters;’ and he was back again on May 26th to take out Burton’s ‘Anatomy of Melancholy.’ Shortly after that he was reading a history of the French Revolution. These readers were autodidacts, snatching brief hours of leisure, peering at pages ill-lit by primitive cruisie lamps. They trekked to Innerpeffray from tenant farms and servants’ bothies to drink the sweet waters, to sample the only art and beauty that was available to them. They had fed on honey-dew and then would accept no other.
Me too, I’ve been feeding on that honeydew for sixty reading-years.

Michael Bloor

Writer’s blog: Barbara Stevenson – Writing in Orkney

In her last blogpost Barbara Stevenson, author of Zuri Mtu published in Issue One, describes her life in Orkney, between history and nature.

I am lucky to live in Orkney, with the sea all around as inspiration. Not only that, there is five thousand years of history on my doorstep – from my front garden I can look down onto the neolithic village of Skara Brae. It is a natural step to imagine how the people there lived and I am currently working on a Stone Age whodunnit. With the ongoing archaeological dig at the Ness of Brodgar nearby, discoveries are constantly forcing historians to question what they knew about the time. I have been surprised at the sophistication of the artwork and decorations found there. Although the setting is important, I prefer writing stories about the people and how they deal with and overcome problems no matter where they live or what social circumstances they find themselves in.IMG_1630
Orkney has a vibrant community of writers, artists and musicians which can be a distraction from actually doing any writing, but it is also fantastic for bouncing ideas around and coming up with stories.
In my other life as a veterinary surgeon, I meet a variety of wonderful people and animals who say and do remarkable and funny things that wouldn’t be believed in fiction. Unsurprisingly this proves to be a fantastic source for creative projects. My novel, The Organist, which will be launched in February with Yolk Publishers, is about a vet living in Edinburgh just before the First World War.

 

Barbara Stevenson

 

 

Writer’s Blog: Michael Bloor – Notes of Inspiration

Michael Bloor, author of ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One, chose a few authors and stories that inspire him.

This is really tough – how can I neglect to praise Louis MacNeice’s Autumn Journal??
Nevertheless, I’m just going to mention one old inspiration and one new inspiration. BREVE-LOGOThe old favourite is William Morris’s The House of the Wolfings. Morris is my hero, just as he seems to have been a hero to everyone who knew him back then (except, possibly, his wife). The House of the Wolfings is the tale of a Gothic tribe menaced by a Roman invasion. It’s an extraordinary achievement for a Victorian gentleman, raised on the classics (at Marlborough and Oxford) and subjected to endless Imperial rhetoric on Britain as the New Rome. He contrasts the Gothic folk society with the Roman Empire, always to Rome’s disadvantage: on the one hand, the organic Gothic society, with its democracy of governance and manners, and its symbiosis of art and crafts; on the other hand, the authoritarian, war-mongering, slave-society of Rome, with a commodified art for the leisured few. Needless to say, the Goths win.
My new favourite is Island, the collected twenty short stories of Alistair MacLeod, all set in the Gaelic-speaking communities of Cape Breton Island, Nova Scotia, where he grew up, where he returned to write every summer, and where he was buried last year. These are not heart-warming stories of an idyllic rural childhood, adorable animals and golden sunsets. They are unflinching accounts of hard lives in the fishing boats and the mines, of the divisions in families caused by education, emigration and economics. But there’s a wonderful, spare lyricism about the stories (MacLeod spoke each sentence aloud as he wrote it): they are short, graceful and simply told; adjectives are rare but always evocative – he made every word count. Like Thomas Hardy, MacLeod has memorialised a people in a landscape.

Michael Bloor

Writer’s Blog: Barbara Stevenson – Notes of Inspiration

Barbara Stevenson author of ‘Zuri Mtu’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One, talks about the authors that inspire her.

When I was about eight a friend gave me a copy of short stories by Oscar Wilde for my birthday. This included, among others, The Happy Prince, The Gentle Giant and my favourite The Remarkable Rocket. I was enchanted by the poetic language and also the sadness. Most of the stories involved at least one death. At the time I had no idea about Oscar Wilde’s life, but being used to reading Enid Blyton, it seemed strange to enjoy a story where the hero died. I admit that nowadays in my own stories the hero doesn’t always survive to the last page.

In my late teens, early twenties, my favourite book was Jonathan Livingston Seagull by Richard Bach. This is an inspirational book about a seagull, which in itself says everything. Jonathan is no ordinary seagull and the author encourages the reader to be no ordinary person. It’s a short book and if you haven’t read it, I would recommend you do.

My final mention is for a book I read fairly recently by the Scottish author Michael Malone (with Bashir Saoudi) called The Guillotine Choice. This gripping story reads like a novel, but when you realise it is based on the life of Saoudi’s father, Kaci Mohand Saoudi who was wrongfully convicted of murder and sent to Devil’s Island, it makes disturbing and emotional reading. With experience as a crime novelist, Malone is able to tackle the subject with frankness and understanding, without the need for an orchestra of violins.

Barbara Stevenson

Writer’s Blog: Michael Bloor – The Idea Behind “The Aberdeen Kayak”

Michael Bloor talks about what inspired his flash fiction ‘The Aberdeen Kayak’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One.

BREVE-LOGOThe bones of the story of the Aberdeen kayak have been rattling round in my head for forty years. But I never wrote the story until, at the beginning of 2015, I set it down as one of the course exercises in the Open University’s creative writing module.
It really is the case that Aberdeen University has in its possession an antique kayak, and it also appears to be case that an Inuit man landed it on the Aberdeenshire coast at the beginning of the eighteenth century. Indeed, he may not have been the only Inuit to have made landfall in Scotland: there are stories of mysterious ‘Finnmen’ appearing in skin canoes in Orkney waters in the seventeenth century. When I first saw the kayak in the 1970s it was part of a jumble of assegais, head-dresses, wooden idols and the like, sent back to their old university by intrepid, nineteenth-century, Scottish missionaries and colonial administrators. The kayak stood out from the crowd. I was captivated by the thought that, just as Columbus and company were sailing westward, obscure Inuit were perhaps venturing into their unknown eastern Atlantic.
The kayak was an old discovery, but flash fiction is my new one. I love it. So I’ve been dusting off old stories and editing then down mercilessly until hopefully the sentences – a few of them at least – have a stark, stand-alone quality, like lines in a prose poem.

Michael Bloor

Writer’s Blog: Barbara Stevenson – The Idea Behind “Zuri Mtu”

Barbara Stevenson talks about what inspired her story ‘Zuri Mtu’ published in Breve New Stories Issue One.

Visiting Africa, in particular west Africa, I was intoxicated by the spirit of the people there and how in tune their lives are to their natural surroundings. I wanted to write something to bring this out. I also wanted to write about how larger decisions, often made by BREVE-LOGOgroups with no direct knowledge of or interest in the subject, affect individuals. There is often no right or wrong. In Zuri Mtu, the protestors feel they are in the right and see the result of their demonstrations as a victory, but it has a devastating effect on Kofi and to the local community. I am also concerned about how people treat the natural world, manipulating it to suit. In the story, people revere the ancient tree as the last of its kind, conveniently forgetting that they were the ones who destroyed the others. To make a point, they go over the top to ‘protect’ the tree using scientific data, but the tree is dying in its artificial environment..

I hoped to give the story the feel of a modern folk tale or fable, by implying the tree is descended from the tree of wisdom and knowledge, blown to earth on a cherry blossom breeze and by writing in a simple style. I also hoped to add a touch of humour, with the goat eating the signs and when one of the protestors asks what it does, Kofi answers seriously ‘It is a tree.’ Like all fables, it has to have a happy ending, so Kofi is rewarded for his service. This isn’t in monetary terms, but in a way that he and people like him appreciate, giving hope for the world.

Barbara Stevenson

Little Magazine Life 2

November marks six months since Breve New Stories project was launched. These months have been full of great satisfactions and experiences. The first call for entries has seen more than one hundred stories submitted. We have many Facebook, Twitter and Breve Newsletter subscribers and the long awaited ‘Issue Zero’ is finally out. Now it’s time to think of the future.FullSizeRender (5)

The incredible gift of reading such an eclectic mix of interesting stories and talking to immensely talented and promising writers encourages us to keep working hard on this big dream despite the limited resources. Breve is a self-funded publishing project put together by a small team, although most of the time it’ s a team of one (!) fuelled not only by the passion for literature, but also by the kind words of its supporters, as well as the many, many cups of tea.

In order for Breve magazine to continue growing we are introducig a few changes.

Issues will not be published monthly as we had previously planned but will be bimonthly instead, starting from January 2016. Issue One will then be the first of six issues, and we are very much lookking forward to offering you you great short fiction for the coming year.  We will still have space on our blog for each author to talk about their projects and inspirations and we hope this will encourage our readers to take part in the debate, writing to us and spreading the word. Our dream is still to bring on print new and beautiful short fiction and to let as many people as possible know how much we love it, and our goal is to really support the contributors by offering visibility and, hopefully soon, a real cheque.

To achieve all this we need all the support you are willing to give. There is always more than one way to help when you believe in an idea: every little helps.

You can donate from £1 up to however much you are able and/or willing to pay, to receive a copy of Issue Zero and start your collection of Breve New Stories magazine (it will be worth A LOT in a few years).

You can pre-order a copy of Issue One that will be delivered to you in January 2016, just when the winter blues kicks in and you need a literary pick-me-up!

You can share your love by reblogging this post, send it to a friend, share it on Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr, Google+…go crazy!

You can stock Breve New Stories in your bookshop, shop, cafe, kiosk….

You can ask for a complimentary press copy of Issue Zero and review Breve on your blog/website/magazine.

You can send us your amazing short stories and flash fiction to be published on Breve.

You can leave a comment, send us an email or a picture if you like what you read and you want to see more. We welcome positive and helpful feedback more than anything!

 

 

Writer’s Blog: Michael Hampton – On the Act of Writing

In his last post, Michael Hampton author of ‘”A” Death’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Zero, reflects on the act of writing.

from Unshelfmarked

In declaring writing to be an ACT consisting of modes and exercise (eg the jargon of art criticism), before it is a definitive profession, and therefore closer to Derridean écriture, or the presence of writing, I would like to return to the ground and issue of writing at its most fundamental level, that of mark-making. Starting out once again from the primordial human impulse: to articulate signs in language systems, or para-language systems such as cuneifrom and hieroglyphics, re-sets the way words are perceived, and therefore used; forever bearing in mind that their order and meaning can always be fatally scrambled.

 

The emergence of so called art writing (see my thoughts on this phenomenon in Letters to the Editor Art Monthly #352, Dec-Jan 2011/12) has taken place at the interstice of these psychic domains, the literary turn in fine art of the 1990s exemplified today by migratory figures such as Tom McCarthy and Katrina Palmer, or the calligraphic modernist painting of Cy Twombly. Personally I try hard to confound the way society and the market force us to become wholly defined by our job descriptions, hence my endeavours over the years to produce verse, book & exhibition reviews, philosophical discourse and occasional short fiction, with a current leaning towards conceptual writing.

I’ve been assembling a set of prosthetic extensions to texts already in print. Here the term ‘extension’ is suggestive of its modern usage, applicable to hair, building, ballet movement and web addresses. Typically these extensions will derive from sources at the edge of the popular, but not necessarily high brow either. For instance in ‘The Holmes Doppel’ I combed through dozens of cheap imitations of Conan Doyle stories in the British Library and extracted instances of cross-dressing or disguise, which have then been aggregated as a list or anthology, illuminated by an endnote. In ‘Pulled from the Wreckage’, fragmentary material is lifted from Wreckage, 1893, a collection of short stories by the now forgotten symbolist writer Hubert Crackenthorpe, which gets butted up against technical data taken from the report into the Concorde air crash of 2000, and then blended with the diary notes of a London flaneur, in act of unlikely bricolage; a reminder that no text is ever finished absolutely.

Michael Hampton

Michael Hampton’s Unshelfmarked: Reconceiving the artists’ book ISBN 978-1-910010-06-8 is published by Uniformbooks www.uniformbooks.com

 

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