2pm Saturday 23rd April 2022/ 2pm Dydd Sadwrn, 23ain Ebrill, 2022
Our first in person event/ Ein digwyddiad cyntaf â phawb mewn ystafell
Bilingual readings by poets/ Darlleniadau dwyieithog gan feirdd
plus open mic
Canolfan Soar, Pontmorlais,
Merthyr Tudful, CF47 8UB
Line up: Nicholas McGaughey, Des Mannay, Gareth Writer-Davies, Sian Northey, Matthew MC Smith, Mike Jenkins, David Mathews, and provisionally, Sara Louise Wheeler and Becky Lowe. free, just turn up
Solstice Shorts – our annual celebration of original poetry, stories and music for the shortest day – is rapidly approaching. We asked Solstice regular, poet and writer Rob Walton to share some memories of the festival, and accompanying anthologies, from years gone by. This year’s theme is Words from the Brink – writing and music in response to the climate crisis.
Rob Walton: I count myself lucky to have been included in more than one of the Solstice Shorts books, and fortunate indeed to have had my work performed/read by others. It was a great thrill to hear ‘Words on Paper’, a story of which I’m very fond, read aloud in Carlisle. It’s a story that’s close to my heart, and I’m chuffed it was recorded for posterity and also appeared in print.
Ben Brinicombe reads Words on Paper by Rob Walton, BSL translation by Karen Edmondson
I’ve definitely enjoyed seeing some of my more, er interesting pieces reach a range of audiences – I wonder what the crowds (I’m guessing) in Lisbon and Maryport made of ‘The Dowager Duchess of Berwick-upon-Tweed May or May Be Bottling It’? I’ve written micro-fictions shorter than that title!
This year’s offering, ‘Mr King Has Decided to Pursue Other Avenues’, is inspired by a long-standing commitment to environmental change and, possibly, that time I had to leave my primary school class behind on the beach trip when I was stung by a weaver fish. These things stay lodged somewhere and appear, transformed, years later…
Read an extract from ‘Mr King Has Decided to Pursue Other Avenues’:
It was a liberal and progressive school – some would say slack and lackadaisical – and when Mr King said he wanted to stay at the beach at the end of the trip, they wished him well and happily set off without him. It was almost time for the long holiday, and when he wasn’t there to take registration the following morning they arranged temporary cover, and later replaced him with somebody younger with a similar name and the same tattooist. (Mr Prince would be pleased to get the job because Hokusai’s expertly inked The Great Wave off Kanagawa, which covered all of his back, had been very expensive. And quite painful. Also, he knew it would be a star turn on a staff night out.
Today we are celebrating 100 days of100neHundred! Laura Besley’s second collection of micro fiction, 100neHundred explores a kaleidoscope of emotions through 100 stories of exactly 100 words.
We spoke to author Laura Besley and Arachne Press Director and Editor, Cherry Potts to bring you a behind the scenes look at the commissioning and editing process of 100neHundred and the particular challenges and joys of creating a collection of flash fiction:
Laura, can you give us a brief introduction to your writing career and where yourinspiration comes from?
Over the last 12 years I’ve been writing as much as time has allowed, around work and/or childcare. My writing journey started with literal journeys: travel writing about my time living and teaching in Germany and Hong Kong. Fiction writing soon followed.
I realised early on that I had plenty of ideas, but struggled to write more than a paragraph or two. Quite by chance I discovered Calum Kerr online (Director for National Flash Fiction Day at the time). He had set himself a challenge to write a piece of flash fiction (max. 500 words) every day for a year. I did the same. In that year I learned a lot about my writing, not least that I loved short fiction.
Cherry, when did you first come across Laura’s writing and how did the idea for100neHundred come about?
Laura was one of the contributors to Story Cities, our 2019 flash fiction anthology which explores (almost) every corner of urban life in anonymous cities. Her story Slim Odds was about estranged sisters sitting opposite each other on a train. It was deliciously off-kilter, and now I’ve read more, a typical Laura story. For our eighth anniversary in 2020 I put out an invitation to people who we had already published, looking for collections and novels. Laura was one of those who responded, with her concept in place, and a lot of stories already written. My initial reaction was that it was a little gimmicky, but would make it easy to market, but once I read the stories it was an immediate and firm ‘yes’.
Laura, was the idea of a collection of a hundred stories daunting? How many did you need to write and how long did you have in which to do it?
I’d amassed the 100 stories originally submitted over many years, so in that way it didn’t feel daunting. It just occurred to me at one point that I had enough to put together a collection and 100 stories of 100 words seemed like the best format. I submitted the manuscript of 100neHundred to Cherry in March 2020 and was delighted when she said she wanted to publish it. Things were a little delayed by the pandemic, but in September 2020, after Arachne secured funding from The Arts Council, I got the go ahead. However, there were 25 stories Cherry didn’t like enough to include. Over the next three months I wrote another 35-40 stories, finally both agreeing on the final one hundred stories to include.
Cherry, were there any particular challenges (expected or unexpected!) in editing acollection of stories with such a precise word count?
The predictable one was that they weren’t all exactly 100 words to start off with! And it wasn’t as simple as adding or subtracting a word here or there. Laura had played with the grammar here and there to hit the target, so I edited as though we weren’t aiming at 100 words, and then gave them back and said, now fix the ‘100’ thing. Taking the titles into the header so it wasn’t counted in the file helped! There were some stories that ended up turned inside out in order to get there. And some that we decided to lose because the 100 limit just didn’t suit them, they needed more room to find themselves.
I was afraid that it would get tedious, every story being the same length, (and remember I read a great many more than 100 stories, and all of them multiple times!) but it wasn’t the case – a lot of stories felt a lot longer, and some seemed to whizz by so fast I could barely catch them – 100 words is actually quite a generous limit, it allows for a lot of variety.
Laura, the stories in 100neHundred are divided into four sections, each named for aseason. Can you tell us a little bit more about that decision, and how you decided whereeach story fitted within the collection?
I decided to divide the collection up into sections to make it more appealing and manageable for the reader, thinking that being faced with a bulk of 100 stories, despite them being short, might feel a little daunting. The idea of seasons seemed, to me, the most natural step to take. Once that was decided I looked for obvious markers to place them within the different sections, like the weather, or people’s clothing, but also I looked at the mood of the pieces, as well as trying to strike a balance overall making sure that pieces, in style genre and content, were evenly distributed across the collection.
Were the any moments of disagreement during the edit, or stories that you each felt strongly about in different ways?
Cherry: Oh boy – not so much an individual story, but a thread of stories. With the initial 100 stories, I started a spreadsheet with a loose themes column. This was mainly because it helps me work out how to sell a collection if I can track the writer’s preoccupations, and also to check I wasn’t imagining a particular slant to the book.
There were an awful lot of deaths, dead mother/father/brother/sister/friend/child… children, one way or another. Maybe Laura as a young mum was working out her anxieties? I think I actually gave Laura a corpse limit. It was quite amicable!
Laura: Generally, there were no big disagreements (I don’t think!), but there is one story I can recall submitting in the new batch that Cherry said: “No, just no”. And I realised there was no point trying to persuade her otherwise. That’s fine – as readers, writers and editors we all have personal tastes and preferences.
The response to 100neHundred has been incredibly positive, from readers and reviewers alike. Why do you think these stories have resonated so much with people?
Cherry: I think the brevity and apparent simplicity of a 100 word story allows the reader to project a huge amount of their own interpretation onto the characters and situations, so that they relate to the story more than they would if there was extraneous description. The surburban houses are the houses in the suburbs you live in, or travel through, the men and women in the office are the ones you work with; particularly when you are given only a he or she to play with. I wouldn’t say the stories quite achieve universality, but there’s a huge stride towards it.
Laura: I’m absolutely thrilled with the positive response 100neHundred has received. It’s impossible, for me at least, to say with any certainty why these stories have resonated with people. I’m just extremely grateful that they have. Every kind word and positive response is so uplifting.
This Friday 3 September it will be 100 days since publication of100neHundred, Laura Besley‘s remarkable collection of 100 stories of exactly 100 words each. To celebrate we are sharing 100neHundred related content on our blog and social media all week.
It may be a little book of tiny tales but 100neHundred has had a big response from readers, reviewers and booksellers. We asked Laura Besley to share her 10 favourite reviews of 100neHundred with us:
“The book gives the reader the feeling of voyeurism as if we are taking a glimpse behind the curtain of lives unraveling, of decisions being made behind closed doors, of peeking at the most intimate of moments. It’s melancholic, heartrending, hard hitting and joyous all in one!” Ross Storgy
“Besley takes you through so many emotions in very few words. She also whipped the ground out from beneath me a few times, changing my expectations with the final line, which I enjoyed.” Goodreads, Reader Review
“Besley writes with sensitivity and an acute awareness of what to include in the frame and what to omit… Every story in 100neHundred is worthy of a re-read; the entire collection deserves many more.”Daniel Clark offers high praise in Briefly Zine
“This well-crafted collection tantalizes very quickly and delivers potent moments, creative economies, and clever tours of humanity.” Goodreads, Reader Review
If you already have a copy of 100neHundred but haven’t yet left a review on Goodreads or one of the online retailers, then please do! Reader reviews make a huge difference to both the publisher and the author:
“I recently told a friend, who was about to publish her first collection, that reviews will make you cry. Not just the bad ones, although they make you cry too, but the good ones. Especially the good ones. It’s nothing short of magical when you read someone else’s words about your words: sometimes they are kind, considerate and thoughtful, sometimes they are insightful, and sometimes they convey exactly what you were trying to achieve and it is this, all of this, that overwhelms you emotionally, because the hard work, the early mornings and late nights, the writing and rewriting, the editing and re-editing, is worth it for someone else’s enjoyment of your writing.” – Laura Besley
If you don’t have a copy of 100neHundred, you can buy one from our webshop here.
Out on 27 May, 100neHundred is a collection of 100 stories, each of 100 words. A man carries his girlfriend in the left-hand breast pocket of his shirt. During World War II, a young soldier searches the houses and barns of the families with whom he grew up. An astronaut wonders whether she can adapt to life back on earth. This is a moving, funny, powerful collection of microfiction.
Laura said “The more micro fiction I write, the more I love it: the challenge of piecing together what I want to convey in as few words as possible and the absolute joy when it works. I’m extremely excited about the launch of 100neHundred, hoping that people will enjoy reading my tiny tales as much as I enjoyed writing them.”
Follow the blog tour on the schedule above to read reviews of 100neHundred, plus guest posts from Laura Besley, an Author Q and A and some exclusive extracts of stories from the collection.
Find all the content from the blog tour here too (updated daily):
“With this collection I soon lost track of how many ‘wows’ I was uttering…” Laura Besley credits Morgen Bailey’s 100 word story competition with her interest in micro-fiction. Read Morgen’s review of 100neHundred here.
Zed and the Cormorants is a page-turning gothic mystery and contemporary coming-of-age story rolled into one. Perfect for readers aged 12-15, it is the debut novel by Clare Owen.
Zed’s family have moved from London to a village in Cornwall. Dad says they need a fresh start but nobody has asked Zed what she thinks. Maybe their new home will help with Mum’s depression and keep Amy, Zed’s sister, away from her drop-out boyfriend, but why does it have to be so remote?
Why has the boathouse at the bottom of the garden been locked up for seventy years? Why do the birds living by the estuary fill Zed with such dread? And WHAT do they want?
Follow the blog tour on the schedule above to read reviews of Zed and the Cormorants, guest posts from Clare Owen and even some Zed-inspired recipes. Plus, we will be sharing some exclusive content from the book!
Follow all the content from the blog tour here too:
Thanks to everyone who came along to celebrate the launch of Departures at Brockley Brewery last night, it is so lovely to have a packed venue!
And huge thanks to the readers for instilling such passion and humour into their readings, and to the Brewery for hosting us.
Normally I video everything, but in the heat of the moment I didn’t hit the record button till part way through, so there are only audio recordings for the first two readings, massive apologies to David Mathews and Sarah Lawson for that, but the recordings are good.