This month, we’ve brought together six internationally acclaimed writers. We asked British author Nik Perring to describe his latest book, Beautiful Words, in fourteen paragraphs illuminated by Wellington cartoonist Grant Buist and Flash Frontier Features Editor Rae Joyce. Belfast author Kelly Creighton reviews Nuala Ní Chonchúir’s Of Dublin and Other Fictions, and we asked Arizona-based New Yorker Ezra Letra to write a response to a piece of flash, without telling him who wrote it. Read on to discover our secret final author.
eautiful Words is my new book. It’s a kind of picture book for grown-ups, celebrating beautiful words, with some meanings and some fictions thrown in too. It also follows the story of Lucy, Alexande, and Lily, and their relationship through the words that mean something to them.
very word and fiction and meaning, from A (Appalachian) – Z (Zygomata) in Beautiful Words is illustrated by the super talented Miranda Sofroniou. They’re not illustrating the story as much as adding to it. I like what she’s done. She’s very clever.
t first the book was going to be a beautiful book, simply celebrating words. The sort of thing I’d like to be given as a gift. But once I began writing it, it became a story too. I like it when that happens, when, as an author, you are actually guided by the story actually guides you.
nderstanding that not everyone will agree with the words I’ve chosen for the book was an important thing while I was writing it, because it can’t be a definitive list. And I hope some people do disagree with what’s in there because it’d be cool knowing that they’ll have their own favourite words, and thinking about them, I think, is a good thing.
his is my fourth book. My first was a children’s book and my previous two were short story/flash fiction collections for adults: Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010) and Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins 2012). My stories seem to be getting shorter.
am a thirty-two year old man, living in the northwest of the UK. I’ve been writing (been published) for about ten years. If there’s one piece advice I’d give to anyone, it’d be this: Write what excites you, because if it does, it’s likely that it’ll excite other people too. Also, write it in the most efficient way possible, so we get to the point when we need to.
or years I worried that people wouldn’t read the kind of stories I wanted to write. But then I discovered wonderful people like Etgar Keret and Aimee Bender (who you should so check out) and they made me realise that people do like that kind of thing. That’s when I started to write Not So Perfect.
sually, when I do this kind of thing, I like to include an excerpt from the book I’m babbling on about. And I’ll make no exception here. Here’s the entry, from Beautiful Words, for Q.
A word that sounds nothing like it looks. As well as being a line, queue can also mean a plait of hair worn at the back of the head.
The first time Alexander saw her was from the back as he stood in the queue in the garden centre and, from that moment, he knew he would recognise the back of her anywhere.
emurs. I like lemurs. One of my stories is about lemurs. A man’s wife throws them up in Not So Perfect. She throws other small animals up as well, but he doesn’t seem to mind. Maybe that’s the key to a happy marriage.
orking on this book was a little different to working on my others in that I think it was more of a collaboration. All of my others are illustrated, but they’re mostly illustrations (ones I love) of the stories. In Beautiful Words I think there’s more of a gap between text and illustration, and I like it.
h, here’s another extract:
We carved our names into the oak’s trunk with a knife. We sealed them inside a heart, and then they lay, warm and happy, on the grass by the shrub. That heart was the same shape as the shrub’s leaves. They were obcordate and perfect, both of them. And, hand in hand, we watched the sky and the shapes the clouds made in it until those clouds passed in front of the sun and chilled us.
eally, I think that the story comes alive in the space between the page and the reader. The smaller my stories get, the more space there seems to be. And that’s no bad thing, I reckon, because it means that there’s a cool amount of trust between the book and the reader.
on’t you just love finding new authors you love? I do. The most recent I discovered who really knocked my socks off was Marie-Helene Bertino. Her collection, Safe as Houses, is wonderful. Here’s what I had to say about it (and, as a bonus, there are few more recommendations for you too).
o that’s all from me. Thanks so much for having me here and for reading. Keep up the splendid work, everyone. And here’s to more reading and writing of excellent short fiction.
Nik Perring is a short story writer and author from the UK. His stories have been published in many fine places both in the UK and abroad, in print and online. They’ve been used on high school distance learning courses in the US, printed on fliers, and recorded for radio. Nik is the author of the children’s book I Met a Roman Last Night, What Did You Do? (EPS 2006) and the short story collection Not So Perfect (Roastbooks 2010), and he’s the co-author of Freaks! (The Friday Project/HarperCollins 2012). His online home is www.nikperring.com and he’s on Twitter as @nikperring. Beautiful Words is out now and available from all good book retailers.
Grant Buist (born 1973) is an award-winning New Zealand cartoonist and animator. He writes Jitterati (a satire on latte sipping cafe values, as well on as contemporary political and social developments) for the weekly Wellington City newspaper The Capital Times. Jitterati hit the 500th episode in May 2012. A compilation book of Jitterati strips was published in 2009. More here.
In review, with Kelly Creighton
Nuala Ní Chonchúir, Of Dublin and Other Fictions, Tower Press, 2013.
Of Dublin and Other Fictions is a collection of short, short stories published by Tower Press. Nuala Ní Chonchúir depicts Dublin in history, in change, and as a friend we get to see closer than ever. We are allowed to peer through eleven windows which Ní Chonchúir has cleaned every corner of, so we miss nothing.
In “Fish” we are, indeed, staring out a window at a naked neighbour; in “Room 313” – written in a second person p.o.v – we are the hotel maid, keeping schtum about generous tips, feeling envious of our own mother back in the Ukraine, who gets to put our infant daughter to bed and “rub her back until she drifts”. In “12th July 1691” we are sliding on grass “slippy with blood” in Kilcommadan.
Ní Chonchúir’s characters have much at stake; they are of flesh, and of Dublin. This writer puts us there, in passion-filled tales of yearning. Each fiction is a fresh one: a balance of truth and the surreal. The author makes us laugh (out loud) when we are not expecting to.
Anyone who writes flash fiction should read this book; it should be taught! Ní Chonchúir makes brief look effortless, but this is her expertise. The book itself could be read in one sitting, though you would not wish to. These stories are to be savoured and thought about after. Of Dublin runs through your head long after the book has been placed on the shelf.
Kelly Creighton’s short fiction has been awarded 2nd place in the Abroad Writers’ Conference flash fiction contest, short-listed for Fish short story competition and highly commended for Write4Autism. Her debut poetry collection Three Primes was published by Lapwing, Belfast. Her fiction has featured in: The Stinging Fly, Long Story Short, Literary Orphans and other places. Kelly edits The Incubator. @KellyCreighton
Nuala Ní Chonchúir was born in Dublin, Ireland, in 1970; she lives in East Galway. Her fourth short story collection Mother America was published by New Island in 2012. A chapbook of flash Of Dublin and Other Fictions was published in the US in late 2013 by Tower Press and Nuala’s second novel The Closet of Savage Mementos appears spring 2014 from New Island. More at www.nualanichonchuir.com.
In this new feature, we asked Ezra Letra to critique a piece of flash by an author who would remain anonymous to him until this issue went live.
“Mother Tongue” captures innocence and reverie in a time capsule. A flash fiction piece that focuses on the departure of a young girl from her mother, but what makes this story is the diction and delivery.
There is musicality in the language, despite the heartbreak the speaker endures, that carries the reader through a very common human experience, growing up and the loss of innocence.
When the story touches on the child leaving the mother, the memories brought forth serve as anchors to the past for the speaker, furthermore emphasizing how difficult it is to leave. Such life brought forth is quickly juxtaposed by “black sea” and the unknown, which beautifully embodies the difficulty of change, despite the possibility of that change being better.
“Mother Tongue” was written by Alison Lock, and was published in Deep Water Literary Journal.
Alison Lock is a writer of short fiction and poetry. Her first collection of poetry A Slither of Air was published by Indigo Dreams Publishing (2011) and a collection of short stories Above the Parapet (2013). Her work has been published in many literary reviews and anthologies, including Momaya Annual Review 2012, Myriad Editions Quick Fictions, Sentinel Champions, Tears in the Fence 57, Onward Anthologies, Sarasvati, Southlight, “Something Hidden” Bridge House Publishing, Deep Water Literary Journal, Visual Verse, Assent, Pennine Platform, Reach, Southlight, Pennine Ink, Poetry Cornwall, The Word (YSJ), Uroborus, Off the Coast, Westward Quarterly, The Lake, And Other Poems and Haibun Today. Her story “Erthenta” was performed by an actor at Bath’s bi-monthly event, A Word in Your Ear.
In 2012 she was Poet-in-Residence at Holmfirth Arts Festival and produced Eye of the Heron, recorded here with musician Robin Bowles.
She is also a facilitator on a Transformative Life Writing programme which brings together the traditions of reflective journalling and the artistry of creative writing.
Currently, she is working on a new poetry collection to be published in 2015.
Ezra Letra is a man with many muses: rapper, photographer, writer, director, graphic designer, producer, proud father. His work has appeared or is forthcoming in University of Arizona Press, Red River Review, Literary Orphans, Out of the Gutter, Sugar Mule Press and Gutter Books LLC. Born in Queens, NY and residing in Phoenix, AZ, Ezraholds a B.A in English and Creative Writing from The University of Arizona. His debut poetry chapbook When La Migra Stopped Coming is published by Nostrovia Poetry. He is currently touring the U.S. Southwest to promote his latest musical venture: The Nobody EP. www.facebook.com/ezraletra.
~ ~ ~
For this month’s sugar stories, please go here.