Friday 23 October 2009


This week I've been continuing to work hard on my fictionfire site and am really pleased with how it's going. I've added Paypal to the courses section - I'd intended to do this anyway but the situation with the postal strikes has really pushed me into action. I'm also having fun doing the 'Quote of the Week' page - I love ferreting out a literary quote and then writing a mini-essay about it. So I hope if you haven't been over to the site yet, you'll take a look at

I entered the Bridport Prize some months back and just this week thought 'I wonder what's happening with that?' so checked out the site only yesterday - it said that winners had already been notified by telephone. Sigh. So it was an absolute delight to receive an email today telling me that my story, 'Mind This', had actually been shortlisted. Of course it would have been nice to have been in the top thirteen prizewinners, but to reach the shortlist when there are thousands of entries is pretty damn good too and has given me a boost! Apparently my name will be posted on the site with the other shortlisted entrants in late November. I'll definitely be having another go next year, although to be honest I don't write short stories all that often these days. They tend to be like the poems I also write - something that just comes to me and is expressed quickly (even though later worked on relentlessly, sometimes over a number of years), whereas novels are a more conscious act of development and construction, slow to brew, rich, complicated, frustrating, rewarding. I do think it's good to pursue different forms of writing - I even wrote a play in August, in my own Scots dialect, and found that a new and somehow liberating experience, even though the constraints of dramatic form might have seemed restrictive. When you find yourself 'stuck' with one particular story or genre, try your hand at something else and maybe it will help to bring back your writing mojo.

Monday 12 October 2009

fictionfire launches!

Well, I'm still working on my website but I just can't wait any longer to let you all know about it! I've been talking for years about setting up my own creative writing courses: I've built up a decade of experience in this field and have worked - and still will - for the University's Summer School programme and at Winchester at the Writers' Conference. But I've been feeling increasingly restive, wanting to run my own show my own way. So, fictionfire has been born!

I'm starting with a couple of day courses at Trinity College here in Oxford. The first, on the 21st November, is called Get that Novel Up and Running (self-explanatory, don't you think?) and the second, on the 28th, is Blindfold into the Maze: Plotting your Novel. I chose these as my starting subjects because so many writers struggle to find the nerve to make the transition from short fiction to tackling a novel - and then, when they do, they find managing plot a daunting prospect. I've presented these courses before so some of you out there reading may well have attended.

Full details of the courses, price and venue are on my website, so I do hope you'll take a look. It feels pretty damn good to use the words 'on my website' because for a technophobe like myself to have designed my own site is quite a triumph, believe me. The past few weeks have been a vertiginously steep learning curve - and tears of sheer bleedin' frustration have been shed along the way. I've also had a lot of fun too, selecting the photos and the overall look of fictionfire. I hope to learn more and make it look even better.

I'm still adding material to the site. I'll be offering editing/critique services imminently, and I'm also posting other material which I hope you'll find interesting. I'm a complete magpie when it comes to collecting snippets and quotes and anything we can share to inspire us as writers and keep us hanging on in there when the world of publishing is a cold and hostile place.

So, I hope to welcome you to fictionfire soon. Thaw out your imagination, fire up your faith, ignite your creativity (and other such conflagratory images)!