News

January 2021
Sad to report that the Chaffinch Press, Co Dublin, has reneged on the contract we signed for my fourth story collection (see Sept 2020 below). The excuse was that the MS would involve too much work, which is not listed in the contract as a reason for withdrawal. Bear in mind that all the stories had already appeared in celebrated literary magazines and that I spent over twenty years as a daily-newspaper sub-editor.Apply the logic. I'm warning writers to avoid this company but not the small group of authors already published; they are a talented lot and their books are worth reading. At my level of the writing game, such summary action by publishers appears to be common. Ideally I would go to court and seek reparation. But it won't happen. Moving on I consider to be the best option. Other publishers are interested in the collection.
October 31 2020
Happy to congratulate Richard Owain Roberts on winning the Guardian's Not The Booker award for his novel Hello Friend We Missed You. That's 'The' Guardian, not the Neath Guardian. His prize is a beaker from the King's Place canteen. Winning Not The Booker has earned itself a cachet in UK book publishing. Roberts is a fellow Parthian – ie, he, like me, is or has been published by the company of that name, headed by Rich Davies in deepest Cardigan, a place already deep, and venturing no farther east towards civilisation than the campus of Swansea University.
In Wales, we are self-sufficient. Even Cardiff, where Roberts lives, is not considered a cultural advance for Rich. Roberts won first prize in the fiction section of the latest Penfro competition, with the sort of edgy story that rises above those conventional domestic efforts reluctant to stray far from home – unless it's work by Niall Griffiths, who was the Penfro fiction judge this year.
In his report for the Guardian's Saturday Review, the epicene Sam Jordison, who'd already praised Roberts's book fulsomely in a survey of the NTB shortlist, described Parthian as 'tiny'. It was metropolitan condescension. Tiny book publishers such as Salt and Tinder Press (the Parthian catalogue is extensive) have been making fools of publishing's big-hitters for ages. Random House is responsible for disgorging more crud than the whole of the UK's independent sector.
When another 'tiny', the Dublin-based Chaffinch Press, brings out my fourth story collection – fourth for me, not them – in Spring 2021, it will be only their fourth or fifth title. The latest is Trouble Crossing The Bridge by Diana Powell, like me and Roberts a Welsh writer, or a writer living in Wales published by a small house. Many small houses are synonymous with single enterprising individuals like Rich Davies: Chaffinch with Dave Kavanagh, founder of the literary magazine The Blue Nib, and Salt with John Kinsella. Salt's growth in stature has seen it take on publication of Nicholas Royle's Best British Short Stories, an annual publication. BBSS2020 includes Whale Watching, from Powell's Chaffinch collection Are the big operators alive to what's going on among the 'tinies' or are they sitting on their self-satisfied arses?
NEWS, September 1 2020
LATEST...LATEST...LATEST..
I'VE JUST SIGNED A CONTRACT WITH THE CHAFFINCH PRESS OF DUBLIN FOR MY THIRD FULL COLLECTION OF SHORT TALES, CALLED: FIVE GO TO SWITZERLAND  & OTHER STORIES.
I'VE BEEN WRITING A LOT RECENTLY FOR THE PRESS'S SISTER PUBLICATION, THE BLUE NIB, A VIBRANT NEWCOMER AMONG LITERARY MAGAZINES AND RUN BY THE FAR-SIGHTED DAVE KAVANAGH.
THESE CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE BEEN MAINLY ESSAYS, APPEARING IN EDITOR CLARE MORRIS'S 'THE WRITE LIFE', A SECTION OF THE MAG IN WHICH SCRIBES VARIOUS WRITE ABOUT THE THINGS WRITERS WRITE ABOUT, INCLUDING WRITING ITSELF.
John Updike said writers were simply readers 'who wanted to get in on the act'. Writers will attest to that. I don't know of any writers who are not readers, though I know of writers who do not necessarily read what one might expect. By 'writers' one usually means writers of fiction or poetry. But there are so many other forms of writing which demand an equal amount of imaginative input. Writing as a mode of expression, especially the writing of fiction,  doesn't necessarily suggest itself to anyone with something to impart – or, rather, there's no reason why it should. Too many people with something to say never say it. They should. But they must read, even if it means saying things that others have said (as long as what is said has been understood), or eventually transmuting their thoughts and ideas into fiction by writing them down – and maybe getting them published. Not that writing will invariably be the way those things to say will be transmitted.
Five Go To Switzerland is about a trip to a jazz festival that went awry and it first appeared in Alan Dent's wonderful magazine The Penniless Press, now subsumed under the more colourful title of Mistress Quickly's Bed.

NEWS June 4 2020
No news is good news but coronavirus and lockdown are bad news. The news from here is that lockdown has resulted in a free-up or unlocking of creativity. I started a Covidiary of lockdown, the first few days of which were recorded in a piece I wrote for  Arts Scene in Wales called 'New Journal of the Plague Year' - https://www.asiw.co.uk/my-own-words/nigel-jarrett-new-journal-of-the-plague-year  I've also written a piece for Wales Arts Review* about Albert Camus, not specifically about his novel La Peste, though that was the impetus, but about Camus himself and how his existentialism is reflected in our current and wider travail.
It's amazing how the weeks of lockdown have sailed on without our recognising the distance/time travelled. Is it to do with routine; that doing lots of things makes one forget time passing until we realise that it seems to have taken on the plenitude of our activities and seems stretched; whereas doing things in a more measured way means that we are always in time's wake and that it seems to be racing on ahead of us?
 I've done lots of reading and writing, those complementary activities, and among the books travelled through are Heroic Failure, Fintan O'Toole's withering critique of Brexit; a biography of Scott Fitzgerald; and John Lukacs's Five Days in London, his account of the time when Churchill was almost convinced that the way to stop Hitler's further advance on Britain – as opposed to Neville Chamberlain's appeasement attempts before the invasion of Poland -  was to mediate with him through Mussolini. Both Lukacs and O'Toole say much about the UK's almost petrified governance and class system.
Blue Nib magazine takes a story of mine called A Field for the British Isles as well as a piece for its Daily Writer page about cycling in lockdown. The Island Review takes a story called The Villamoura Long-Distance Sea Swimming Club and an American magazine called Yellow Mama will be publishing my story, Lovey-Dovey, in August. Armour de Voyage accepted by The Erotic Review, an essay called Whither the Cinnabar Moth appears in The Real Story; Close Contacts, an essay on nudity, pornography and the burlesque published in The Galway Review; and a few poems in Orbis, its editor, Carole Baldock, also holding a flash fiction piece, Travels in Lakeland, for publication soon. Other work of mine is awaiting editorial decision, but Arenig, the smart Welsh publisher, after showing a lot of genuine interest, turned down my second poetry collection, Gwyriad (the house undergoing internal changes, partly financial, which has restricted its intake). Win some, lose some. I withdrew agreed publication by The High Window on the grounds that it required a payment from me that I had problems with (not that financial input from writers, especially to small indie publishers, is unusual). Its editor, the wonderful David Cooke, nonetheless published a couple of poems from Gwyriad in his High Window magazine. Plenty of other rejections, though all returned work is sent somewhere else, ultimately with profit. Ah - the writing life, second division!
* Subsequently rejected by Wales Arts Review but published in Dublin's The Blue Nib.
NEWS December 2019
General Election week was a gift for misanthropes. After ten years of austerity and bad news for all, the country voted for five more years of the government responsible; The Bookseller magazine announced that Fifty Shades of Grey and its sequels were the most popular books of the decade; and Aung San Suu Kyi was at the International Court of Justice denying responsibility for the genocide of Rohingyan Muslims in Myanmar. Only the last of these might persuade grumpies that some agency other than people in the mass might be responsible. 
    The only surprise of the election result was that Britain's class structures had taken so long to split on unexpected lines. There are still plenty of sons and daughters of toil to galvanise into what we have always understood as 'the working class'. But it's no longer numerically large enough to guarantee the election of a Socialist government which professes to represent it. That has long required the 'workers' to be bolstered by what is meaninglessly known as 'the middle class' (we are all workers, after a fashion). These are people who do not work manually to the extent of getting their hands dirty, a distinction that has to be further qualified: their brawn is not as important as their brain in what they do for wages, which are often not paid weekly and may be known as 'salaries'. So, these distinctions are already becoming practical and cultural and conducive to dislocation, though will depend on yet another difference. Education can lead to economic advancement which has to be competitively maintained, offers insights and myriad points of view, and may result in what its recipients see as enlightenment. This, in turn, may bestow feelings of superiority on the enlightened, thus permanently widening any gap. The two will no longer meet on common ground; they will not mix socially; and they will recognise intellectual disparities. In unpredicated terms, of course, we are all equal and capable, whether 'educated' or not: capable of being wise, intelligent, and intuitive. But education adds knowledge to all these, altering their states – the wisdom is questioned, the intelligence enhanced, and the intuition confirmed or proved to be shaky.
     Thus we have a middle class Labour voter and a working class one, though the middle class activist and campaigner must speak for both. In Brexit terms, the former voted to remain in the EU, the latter to leave it. The Labour party, if elected, promised to strike a new Brexit 'deal' and put it to a second referendum, dressing the word with an euphemism: a 'people's vote'. Its mistake lay in believing that Labour Leavers would accept this as indicating that Brexit as an election issue was less important than the party's manifesto of widespread reforms and vote for it accordingly. They didn't.  The two conflicted. Notwithstanding suspicion of the party and its leader fostered by the Press, Josie and Joe Public supported the Brexit parties, even though neither they nor their middle class confrères had ever thought EU membership was worth talking about in the previous thirty years. After the result, a street interviewee in Scunthorpe said: 'Look around you at the closed shops and deprivation. We needed change. So I voted Conservative.' Don't blame the politicians for Labour's failure; blame Joe and Josie.
     Blame them too for reading Fifty Shades of Grey. It had not a single good review but plenty of salacious commentary. As a book purporting to be in any way significant of anything whatsoever it had the merit of one written by Barbara Cartland on an off day. But it was ever thus. The province of Bestsellerdom is on the other side of the mountain from whatever the province housing 'literature' is called. Tastes in book-reading are also defined and confused by class division; indeed there are some people who never read but would consider themselves the recipients of an improving education. But then, to read or write a shopping list requires an education of sorts. It's all a matter of degree. An education is probably needed to argue that Stephen King and Agatha Christie do not write pap. (Pauline Kaal, the US film critic, destroyed King by saying that, as the horror writer's function was to scare the reader, and King was the best, his non-literary goal must by definition be to induce a heart attack in the reader.)
   A misanthropic response to genocide would have to incorporate wholesale lack of confidence in the ability of individuals to rise above the dumb throng and do the right thing. Some do, but they are the misanthrope's exceptions, which are really aberrations. For the misanthrope, war and conflict are the rule, peace and stability the deviations.

NEWS November 2019
It's nice to have a poetry collection lodged with a publisher in the hope that it might, after due perusal and consideration, be taken up. My collection, Gwyriad (the word is road-sign Welsh for 'diversion' but in this case use metaphorically) is with The High Window, an independent publisher which, to my knowledge, has never brought out a book that didn't excite and inspire. What's nicer is to have several of the collection's hitherto unpublished poems taken up separately before a decision on the collection as a whole is made. The High Window's own magazine and Orbis magazine have each taken two. All four are from the collection's Glenside sequence, written after visits to the museum of the former Bristol Lunatic Asylum, now a campus of the University of the West of England. The museum has moving photographs of some of its turn-of-the-century patients, and I'd like to use some of these throughout the collection, in which I've tried to depict various forms of the unstable, including eccentricity. I hope the publisher thinks it works. During the war, the asylum was emptied to make room for injured soldiers returning in ever greater numbers from the Great War battlefields. I've not discovered how the patients were dispersed. As a hospital for soldiers, one of its orderlies was Stanley Spencer, the painter. I managed to work that into one of the poems.

                                                                        *
To Theatre By The Lake at Kewswick for a performance of Dear Uncle, by Alan Ayckbourn, his transportation of Chekhov's Uncle Vanya from Russia to Cumbria somewhere between the two world wars. In offering a reason  why the switch seems fatuous and meaningless in terms of what it amounts to as a substitute for watching Uncle Vanya again, one might adduce universality if the goings-on did not seem more appropriate to the original locale. Chekhov's setting is not specific but it does meet expectations that he will do what he always does with characters and their interactions – place them central  to the inertia of provincial life in the country and introduce the attempt by a 'progressive' (here a doctor of medicine with wider socio-political concerns and burdened with his own lassitude) to give it a shake. All these characters live cheek by jowl and in various degrees of inter-relationship, some of them morbidly sexual, if unconsummated. But, apart from the doctor's anxiety about the environment (the planting of acres of fir trees in the Lake District in the 1930s was later considered to be a disaster), there appears  to be nothing peculiarly Cumbrian about what's happening. Chekhov's pattern of infatuation and sexual desire are still there, mostly unchanged
The mention in the text of Penrith, Carlisle, and Keswick itself raises an audience titter, always a signal that it's finding the wrong thing funny. Maybe Ayckbourn is saying something about local British history and that of Northern England.  But are the characters when portrayed as Northerners any more typical than the Russian originals? Unless there's a reason for such changes, they become at best a novelty, at worst a travesty; more so if the adaptation is presented outside Cumbria and the North-West – Brighton, say - where Marcus (Vanya re-drawn) is being driven barmy by the work of running the estate of his absent brother-in-law, a professor and hypochondriac. Since Ayckbourn adds little to the original play's theme (in fact, he subtracts from it by having Marcus so young that he can't have had enough time to loathe the job so much that he wants to shoot the Prof) the changes are immaterial. One looks instead in the production for the inter-scene choreography and its tableaux of time passing. It's what the play is partly about; or rather it's about a disruptive episode in that passing. (In fairness to Ayckbourn, Marcus has other reasons for wanting to despatch his brother-in-law.) The props are economy-grade minimal and the backdrop an unconvincing stab at depicting the snow-draped fells.

NEWS August 2019
'Blogpost Of An Older Woman' is about to appear in the online magazine Platform for Prose via a circuitous route, of interest only to those like me in constant need of locating where one's submitted work has come to rest. I've also just proofed the text of an essay about Rhys Davies, titled Chasing The Hare, a reference to the symbol of fugitive biography or recollection; its sister title, Print Of A Hare's Foot, is that of Davies's somewhat unreliable memoir. My essay is to appear in the next issue of the magazine Tears In The Fence, whose editor, David Caddy, has published a lot of my short fiction. Having won the Rhys Davies prize for stories, I've always felt honour-bound to promote his books; so this essay includes elements I've written about elsewhere. I've also sent something to Rebecca Parfitt's wonderful ghost-story magazine The Ghastling; if she accepts Grizely Mill, it would be my third appearance there. The next issue is the tenth and the theme is 'No.10'. I'm also waiting for decisions on work I've submitted to The Cabinet Of Heed, The Barcelona Review. The Blue Nib, and The Lonely Crowd.
    I never thought I could write a ghost story, so I'm pleased with my efforts thus far, even though both were variations on familiar spectral themes: namely, Disturbing the Dead and Hauntings. My latest is more original: a haunting with a difference, and another example of fictional ventriloquism, like Blogpost Of An Older Woman. I thought of writing an essay on The Writer As Ventriloquist, before realising that all fiction in which characters different from the author give utterance must embody ventriloquism. The trick is to keep one's lips sealed while talking.
    Managed to read Three Men In A Boat while in Cornwall for a week. Thanks to the wonders of online book-buying, I hope to arrive home* to Joseph Connelly's biography. JKJ was surely the first important modern British humorist. It's remarkable that Three Men... was written in 1896.
    No visit to Cornwall is complete without a visit to Tate St Ives and other galleries not swamped by abstract-realist seascapes painted in varying degrees of mediocrity (the realist ones are mostly dull beyond compare, the work of the Newlyn School far more interesting historically). The permanent commemoration of the St Ives School at the Tate is a satisfactory attempt at placing it in a wider European tradition (Matisse, Mondrian, Ernst, Dubuffet, Appel etc) but still has few if any examples of American Abstractionism, the movement which diverted the St Ives obsession away from the Primitivism of Alfred Wallis and his schooled admirers – Christopher Wood, Ben Nicholson, Wilhelmina Barnes-Graham, and others, most of whom themselves finally embraced the Abstractionist ethos. The attendant British contemporaries beyond St Ives, such as Sutherland and Keith Vaughan, seem to be there simply to fill up wall space, though there's always  a bigger 'picture' to be illustrated. Mark Rothko visited St Ives. I assume the collection is being added to all the time, and/or some of the the gallery's items are being loaned. Is Wallis's Voyage to Labrador, which George Melly described as a masterpiece, a newcomer? Peter Lanyon seems to me to have emerged as the best of the St Ives moderns, those aerial views of the landscape a grim reminder of how he died -  in a gliding accident – and how he managed to imbue his canvases with a sense of place, profoundly so in St Just.
    Among the Tate's new textual acquisitions, I think, is a short typrwritten letter from the poet WS Graham to Nicholson, asking fo a meeting out of sheer want of human contact: Graham was living in a scruffy, borrowed caravan at nearby Hayle, and was within walking distance if he couldn't have afforded the train fare. Pictures dominated in St Ives; words were mostly confined to  art criticism as abstractionism strove to explain and to a certain extent justify itself.
   The Porthminster at Westcott's Quay is a new St Ives Gallery. It sells limited edition prints of work by William Scott, Lanyon, Henry Moore, Howard Hodgkin, Roger Hilton, Sandra Blow, Patrick Heron, Terry Frost and others. I particularly liked the 'paper entomology' constructions of Bristol-based Helen Ward: pinioned butterflies and other insects each intrically designed, made, and arranged in 'cases', subverting the notion of the naturalist/collector in a Damien Hirst style.
* It did arrive.

NEWS June 2019
The expression 'spoiler alert' might have been coined for anyone interviewing Ian McEwan about his latest novel. All McEwan's books hang on the expectation that everything will be dramatically explained towards the end (his eponymous Black Dogs, for example, turning out to be descendants of the hounds used by the Nazis as instruments of sexual torture in Occupied France).
    At the Hay Festival, McEwan was talking to Marcus du Sautoy about his novel Machines Like Me, which is a take on Artificial Intelligence (AI). Du Sautoy is an Oxford professor charged with popularising science, or making it intelligible to the layman; so McEwan's novel was a gift. He said it was difficult to avoid mentioning the novel's outcome but would try not to spoil the enjoyment of anyone in the audience  who hadn't yet read it. I assume there were many of those.  One Hay regular I spoke to had been at this year's festival on nine days and attended 35 events. He may or may not have read the particular book which all speakers at Hay have just had published and which is the reason for their being at the festival – and many others no doubt. But most educated guesses about McEwan's latest dénouement might have been accurate, given that the ethical dilemma of AI centres on the likelihood of its developing attributes beyond intellectual capacity: knowing the difference between right and wrong, for instance; or, rather, coming down on one side or the other without knowing why: AI as intuitive, as it were.
    McEwan's 'gig' (as Hay's hour-long appearances have become known) was sold out, unlike the one for the distinguished theatre director Richard Eyre, which was not about his stage career – well, not directly – but his début collection of poetry. The poor chap hadn't been able to find a publisher so self-published. He may have pitched too high, though he seemed too immodest to have done so thinking that none of the big-hitting poetry publishers, such as Cape and Faber, could have resisted the temptation to take him on because he was so well-known. The poetry wasn't half bad. I was amazed that no smaller publisher was interested; perhaps they weren't contacted. Only those unknowns who've struggled to find a publisher for their poetry know who these pygmy houses are.
    James Ellroy. America's leading crime writer and maybe one of its best irrespective of literary genre, was at Hay this year, calling interviewer Mark Lawson a 'sidewinder' for trying to get him to comment on Donald Trump. Ellroy was having none of it. He lives in Los Angeles 'in 1942', has no TV or cellphone and no interest in today's politics. It's a curious stance but at least his books, the various components of the LA Quartets and his latest This Storm, bear out these assertions. They read as though there were no today. He began his Hay appearance by reading the long intro to This Storm, a fictionalised radio speech by a real Jew-baiting and racist commentator following the attack on Pearl Harbour. Ellroy was the only son of parents who separated. He chose to live with his  dysfunctional father and as a ten-year-old wished his mother dead, as irascible ten-year-olds often do in anger. His wish was granted: Jean Hilliker was found raped and murdered on the outskirts of LA and the young Ellroy went off the tracks. But he found solace and redemption in the local library. Ellroy today is a handful yet there's something appealing about him. No-one in the audience at Hay asked him why he wrote. So he posed the question himself, and answered it by quoting In My Craft and Sullen Art, by Dylan Thomas.
NEWS March 2019
Work appearing soon in The Cabinet of Heed and Idle Ink (both flash fiction). I have an essay in the latest issue of the Irish magazine The Blue Nib (Aspiring To A Watery Heroism) and have sent one about Rhys Davies (Chasing The Hare) to David Caddy at Tears in the Fence, which has been very good to me in publishing many of my short stories in the past 15 years. Still trying to find a home for my essay Close Contacts: Eroticism, Nudity, Pornography, and Burlesque, a look at adult attitudes to these subjects at a time when, sad to say , porn can be accessed by computer-savvy pre-teens in the absence of parental controls, and is no longer restricted to magazines and the proverbial 'top shelf'. I thought The Erotic Review, now a website-only publication, had taken this but no: there've been staff changes and I got the bum's rush. Nothing worse than being rejected after you've been accepted. Is it that big a deal for one editor to abide by the decision of a predecessor, absent for whatever reason?  On the grounds that long titles for short fiction and poetry do a writer no harm, I've submitted an epistolary piece to the next issue of The Lonely Crowd, called From the Papers of Princess Helene de Gagnier-Deschamps, disappointed at the Portrait of Her Painted by M. Bonnard. Almost as many words there as are in the letter itself, an intimate billet-doux that hints at an imminent and tumultuous change in the social order.
Just to show how writers are more often turned down than accepted, no luck with the competitions listed earlier and so many other rejections it's laughable, albeit common. But we carry on - hands to wheels, noses to grindstone (never understood that last one).
NEWS February 2019
Jazz Journal is in the second month of its website-only change of life. The last issue was December 2018, and I have two reviews in it! The cover, always a distinctive feature of JJ each month, is of Benny Goodman and Count Basie. Space now permits lengthier reviews but won't be filled like some textual version of Parkinson's Law. Maybe in the spirit of the new, but hopefully because he likes my writing, editor Mark Gilbert has offered me an occasional column and has accepted my name for it, viz, Counting Me In...A muso would understand that. But how to fill it - even occasionally? Like all other columnists, and I've been one myself elsewhere, something always turns up. Mark tells me that the wonderful Dave Gelly's column is submitted only when he has something to write about. In my previous columnar existences, I had to turn something in every week, and every month. It concentrated the mind.
NEWS January 2019
My regular look at what The Day's Portion is fetching on Amazon reveals £47 - not bad for a book (about Arthur Machen) for which  I and Godfrey Brangham, its co-editors, received not a farthing in royalties. That's no reflection on the wonderful Mel Witherden's now-defunct Village Publishing: he probably didn't make much from it either. The joys of publishing and authorship!
My second poetry collection, Gwyriad, is with a publisher. The central batch of poems is based on visits made to the old Bristol Lunatic Asylum, now the Fishponds, Bristol, campus of the University of the West of England. In the Great War it was evacuated to accommodate injured soldiers arriving at Temple Meads railway station from the Front. Some patients were retained to staff the place, and the painter Stanley Spencer worked there as an orderly. In his notebooks Spencer recalls that one patient always saluted him - with the wrong hand - and another thought he was an electric battery.
NEWS December 2018
I thought my new short fiction pamphlet, A Gloucester Trilogy, might be out from Templar Press by Christmas; but ten days away it looks unlikely. Alex McMillen, who at Templar runs one of the most important poetry imprints in the UK, has been doing his darnedest, uncomplainingly putting up with my interminable edits as he takes on fiction for a change. We got there in the end. That's the problem with editing and proofing: the MS typeset exactly as it will appear in book form always looks right, and therefore beguiles. Close reading not only reveals solecisms missed last time around but also inelegant constructions (also missed) which one just has to remedy. The process in logic would of course carry on without end. Did Hemingway, agonising over the final paragraph of For Whom The Bell Tolls – I think he had a dozen attempts at at – feel that he'd hit on the definitive one? I suspect he would have had several post-publication second thoughts but could do nothing about it until the time came for re-printing. I can't be sure that he bothered, having never read the first edition.
    A Gloucester Trilogy, consisting of three spooky stories based in the Forest of Dean, had an early add from me when I mentioned something in the first story, Inspector Rossington's Casebook, which linked it, albeit tenuously, with the succeeding ones. My poor police-inspector, recalling his career in the force, may not be as he seems. The central story, Christ, Ronnie, Christ, won the inaugural Templar Shorts prize and appeared at the same time in my second story collection, Who Killed Emil Kreisler?, published by the Medway-based independent, Cultured Llama. The final one, Missing, is a more involved case of goings-on among educated Forest folk, centred on a writer from Ruardean called Emma Brocke, not her real name.
    Alex has come up with a nice front-cover illustration: a Monet-like painting of tall, wind-beruffled trees that aptly doesn't show any grubbing around on the forest floor, or anywhere else in the forest for that matter. The mise-en-scène, as the auteur has it, is meant to reflect the idea of the forest as a place of mystery and dark imagining: think Hansel & Gretel and Grimm things in general.  I've also included a foregoing epigraph, supposedly an anonymous verse referring, as does Houseman's in one of his Shropshire Lad poems, to the presence of the Romans in ancient Severnside. (It's by 'Anon.', but I made it up. If we can't invent  things rendered without authorship, what can we do?) That's it. With Acknowledgements and a couple of endpapers and a biog, it clocks in at just sixty pages. The idea is new: we've had poetry pamphlets aplenty, often the promising or hitherto unpublished poet's first effort in print and the overture, publisher and poet hope, to a first and full collection. 'Tis better, of course, if the contents of both poetry and story pamphlet have some linkages to justify their handling by the reader. Mine has. My hope is that it'll sell in the area of which it speaks. So I've booked preview features in the two main Forest weekly newspapers (calling in favours here), though the daily Gloucestershire Echo hasn't had the courtesy to reply to me.
    The New Year, then. Gary Raymond at Wales Arts Review and Gwen Davies at New Welsh Review have promised to commission notices from their writers, which is kind of them. (Gwen has just published an author blog of mine about the American poet-undertaker Thomas Lynch.) Others might too if I can think of anyone. Marketing and publicity are not my strong points, and at my age I cannot call on a host of admiring and/or sympathetic coevals. A Gloucester Trilogy will always be a stocking-filler; which Christmas is immaterial.
    In other news, Laura Black at Fictive Dream, which published a story of mine called Siblings, about closing ranks against threats of one sort or another, is reading a second one, called Lovey-Dovey, which is about romantic infatuation. Jamie McLean and Celia Morris at The Erotic Review have taken my essay Close Quarters: Eroticism, Nudity, Pornography, and Burlesque, and are looking at possible illustrations. Jamie tells me that Malachi O'Doherty has written on broadly the same subject, so I must look him up. My second poetry collection, Gwyriad, is with Wrecking Ball Press, a poetry imprint I admire. Work on the novel is halted but at this moment I'm coming to the end of a story, Dear Reader..., about a woman 'of a certain age' who is about to take her annual summer holiday at an offshore hotel and believes that her life might be changing. I'm thinking of submitting it to The Island, a magazine which publishes stories to do with anything insular; it has published my story A Weissman Girl, which appeared in my Who Killed Emil Kreisler? Collection and deals with a woman whose instability has led to a lonely life in an

I’VE BEEN WRITING A LOT RECENTLY FOR THE PRESS’S SISTER PUBLICATION, THE BLUE NIB, A VIBRANT NEWCOMER AMONG LITERARY MAGAZINES AND RUN BY DAVE KAVANAGH.

THESE CONTRIBUTIONS HAVE BEEN MAINLY ESSAYS, APPEARING IN EDITOR CLARE MORRIS’S ‘THE WRITE LIFE’, A SECTION OF THE MAG IN WHICH SCRIBES VARIOUS WRITE ABOUT THE THINGS WRITERS WRITE ABOUT, INCLUDING WRITING ITSELF.

John Updike said writers were simply readers ‘who wanted to get in on the act’. Writers will attest to that. I don’t know of any writers who are not readers, though I know of writers who do not necessarily read what one might expect. By ‘writers’ one usually means writers of fiction or poetry. But there are so many other forms of writing which demand an equal amount of imaginative input. Writing as a mode of expression, especially the writing of fiction, doesn’t necessarily suggest itself to anyone with something to impart – or, rather, there’s no reason why it should. Too many people with something to say never say it. They should. But they must read, even if it means repeating, preferably with telling variations, things that others have said (as long as what is said has been understood), or eventually transmuting their thoughts and ideas into fiction or essays by writing them down – and maybe getting them published. An artist, although having read about other artists, will surely have also looked at their work.

Five Go To Switzerland is about a trip to a jazz festival that went awry. It first appeared in Alan Dent’s magazine The Penniless Press, now subsumed under the more colourful title of Mistress Quickly’s Bed. In one issue of TPP, Alan mischievously listed the contents without bylines and offered a separate list of the writers, inviting readers too match one with the other. Maybe it wasn’t mischief at all but a serious attempt to divorce the writing from the encumbrances of knowledge of the author.

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