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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

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

 

 

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

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

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

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

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

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

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

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

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Authors/New Voices Introducing Breve New Stories

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!

 

 

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

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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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Lauren Bell – The Beauty of Writing and Having Faith

In her last post, Lauren Bell author of ‘In a Land of Canaries’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Zero, talks about her passion for writing and reading.

Quite simply, I love writing. I also love reading which helps if you’re serious about writing.
For me, writing is a way to shape worlds and realities which are very different from our own, to create characters you would either love to be or have as friends, but above all to stretch one’s imagination and to entertain the impossible because the beauty of writing (in terms of fiction anyway) is that anything can happen.
I also spend a lot of time daydreaming, which isn’t very good if you’re in the middle of a work meeting, but an absolute godsend if you’re an aspiring writer and looking for snippets of inspiration to propel you put pen to paper. Anything can suffice for the opening to a story – a place, overheard (or imagined dialogue), or even a single image. But what’s most important is to write. If you want your stories to be read, you have to write them down.

BREVE-LOGO
Finally, if you are serious about writing then getting your work out there is paramount. I am fortunate enough to write for STORGY – a collaborative literary ezine, where each month I am sent an image I have to write an accompanying story for. Using pictures as writing aides is a really useful technique; you study the picture, you work out what it’s showing you on a literal level, and, most importantly, what it’s not showing you. The not showing part is great because that’s where your imagination comes in and you get free-reign to write about whatever you want (so long as it links to the story in some way, no matter how small).
Simply put: writing is all about you, your ideas, the stories you want to share with the world; and you are the only one who can tell them.

 

Lauren Bell

You can read Lauren Bell’s stories here: http://storgy.com/lauren-bell/

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Michael Hampton – Notes of Inspiration

Michael Hampton author of ‘”A” Death’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Zero, talks about the authors and stories that inspire him.

The cautionary tale is as old as the hills and starts orally with your worried parents telling you not to put your hand in the fire. But the format is for grown-ups too as learning is lifelong. My short story ‘”A” death’ fits this profile, its grotesque nature identifying it as a precise literary sub-type: the conte cruel or cruel tale, a refined form that emerged from the fairy stories of Charles Perrault and Brothers Grimm, but was made explicitly modern by practitioners such as Auguste Villiers De L’isle-Adam, Guy de Maupassant and H H Munro, more generally known as “Saki”.BREVE-LOGO

De L’isle-Adam led a bohemian life, and his stories were as A W Rait notes in his 1963 introduction to Cruel Tales, “often written on dirty, crumpled scraps of paper stained with the coffee and wine of the café tables at which Villiers, generally more or less homeless, spent much of his time”, possessing titles such as ‘Flowers of Darkness’ or ‘The Apparatus for the Chemical Analysis of the Last Breath’ that hint strongly at their baroque content.

Contemporaneous with him was the short story maestro Guy de Maupassant. In ‘A Piece of String’, first published in the collection Harriet, 1884, a frugal peasant is unjustly accused of theft after being spotted picking up a bit of string off the road. The police clear him but despite the object in question (a lost wallet) being handed in, the man continues to be stigmatised by the local villagers, who suspect him of involvement come what may. Wholly innocent but unable to clear his name in the community, as a result he suffers an apoplexy and dies insane. This is classic Maupassant: a tragedy based on an impulse to which the reader is an eye-witness, but can do nothing to prevent as it unfolds in slo-mo.

The short fiction of “Saki” however can be lighter in tone, Monty Pythonesque even, but still trades on the uncanny and weird. His favoured locale is the countryside, but more especially the goings-on amongst the doomed upper classes just before the Great War: fox-hunting, card games, garden parties and Christmas gatherings often the backdrop to madness and mayhem. Ironically in “Saki” the pastoral settings are never quite what they seem. In ‘The Peace of Mowsle Barton’, 1911, a holidaying city gent discovers that the place he imagined to be the very picture of rural bliss harbours dark forces, witchcraft in fact, practised by two old women who spend their time cursing each other and everything around them. In one hilarious scene the gent watches in horror as a group of ducks drown one after the other in the village pond, while the farmhouse kettle refuses to boil as if bewitched. In the end he leaves in disgust, relieved to find himself back among the hustle and bustle of Paddington station. Relying on the odd incident rather than the quotidian ‘plotlessness’ of soap opera, the cruel tale discharges a flare into the night sky, often signalling that all is far from well in the universe. Twisted, acid and unsettling (thus sharing traits with the Edwardian English ghost story) it focuses on arbitrariness and malignant disorder, as if undisclosing the contents of a restricted police file.

Perhaps such writing is a prophylactic against insanity? But by focusing on the incident that comes out of the blue, out of nowhere, horror gets sharply etched on the reader’s disbelieving mind; so in a 24/7 news media environment suffocating in wholesale death and destruction, in end-of-the-world speculation, the trivial yet telling moment that appears to have no explicable metaphysical cause, operates as an indexical mark, generating a grim brand of humour. Once upon a time such encounters were superstitiously classified as intersection points, the workings of fate, and might still be if there was an agreed upon framework of meaning amongst human beings; but normality was the very first casualty of the World Trade Center attacks.

Michael Hampton

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Authors/New Voices Notes of Inspiration Writing/Reading

Writer’s Blog: Lauren Bell – Notes of Inspiration

Lauren Bell author of ‘In a Land of Canaries’ published in Breve New Stories Issue Zero, talks about the authors that inspire her.
1) Neil Gaiman – a man who can write well about practically anything and everything, and who creates such a fantastical array of memorable characters and alternative worlds in every work. Gaiman’s fantasy/mythical vision grounds itself in good old-fashioned storytelling; whether it be an adult-type fairy tale, a fable or a myth or something entirely else. His prose is lucid yet effervescent and really paints his vision of the world in the reader’s mind. I would definitely recommend American Gods, Neverwhere and Stardust – three amazing reads by a truly fabulous writer. BREVE-LOGO
2) Stephen King/Joe Hill – Now I know I’m cheating here but honestly King and Hill are quite possibly the most illustrious writers in their field. Their creativity, flair for authentic dialogue and psychotic characters has furnished classic horror and thriller reads with a literary panache most authors writing in this genre struggle with. They write with a fierce intelligence and a real zest for stories and storytelling, creating a plethora of twists and turns along the way; and gore aside, the psychological impact after reading their work is nothing short of indelible. I would definitely recommend Doctor Sleep and IT by King, and NOS4R2 by Hill.
3) Tania Hershman – a writer whose flash fiction collections literally showed me what a story could be. I first heard her work broadcast on BBC Radio 4. Upon hearing them, I was amazed at how succinct and poetic her work was. I knew she had a unique way with language; the ability to move a reader with such insight and using so few words is an achievement she manages to realise again and again and again. The White Road and Other Stories, and My Mother Was an Upright Piano are must reads for anyone who appreciates the finest storytelling.

Lauren Bell