Words and pictures

I think that the coolest thing about reading at Sparks is the privilege of seeing how someone has visually interpreted your story. I feel very lucky that my story ended up with Nikki Acott of Maverick Photography.

Plans. Needs. Blues was originally published at Dogmatika but I’ll post it again here so you can see just how brilliantly the image works with it:
Plans. Needs. Blues

You have left the station and are trying to remember your way to the town centre. You are two hours early for the appointment with the psychiatrist who wants to discus the state of your child’s mental health. You are trying to formulate a plan.
The spring morning is sharp and bright. You stop in the middle of a wide road. It is not a safe place.

You go to a café and buy a mocha. You wipe your mouth after each sip in case you retain a creamy moustache. You hold a paperback, scan the words but do not read them.
You think of your son’s cuddle; the warmth of his body pressed against yours. You rub the teeth marks that remain imprinted on your arm. It has always been love/hate with him. When you start to trust the peace, he will erupt. What pours forth could be words, violence, urine, tears…you never know. You clamp your lips; lip on lip, pushed hard.
In the street, you check your watch. There is still an hour to go. You walk into a shop and look at rings in the shapes of flowers, butterflies, snakes. You pretend you may want one.
A greasy sickness slides over you. Moisture dots your top lip. Your head begins a soft pulsing. You enter a department store and locate the washroom. In the cubicle, your stomach churns and shit splatters into the toilet.
You only have ten minutes. You speed walk.
A bus passes; its destination is a place you have never been to. You flirt with the notion of going there right now.
This will be the eighteenth health care professional that you have spoken to this year. You met her for the first time two weeks ago when she ‘assessed’ your child. You remember the pictures and mottos that she had tacked to a corkboard above her desk. There was a postcard: blue water, blue mountainous shapes, another place that you have not been.
You knew that the tranquil scene was a trick to make you feel calm, just like her quiet voice, her careful body language. You know that she is another woman who will say she can help. Your son is ten years old and you have stopped believing anything will change.
Outside the hospital, you check your face in a handbag mirror. You apply another layer of lipstick. You are wearing a suit, a tactic you have learned disarms.
You wonder how other mums cope. You walk towards the huddle of smokers outside the main entrance as the plan you have been struggling with snaps into focus.
You lay down in the ambulance bay. You can’t decide whether to lie on your back or to curl in your sleeping position. You try both. Neither is comfortable. You wait for help.
I love this. Big thanks to Nikki and please do check out her website which is packed with fabulous photography.

Thanks to Jo Mortimer for hosting such an eclectic and friendly flash fiction night and inviting me along. 

Oh, and tee hee. My husband came to this and it was the first time he’s seen me read. It was a funny kind of situation reversal for us as I have sat through a gazillion of his gigs (he’s a drummer) and I have told him this is what his future holds as I may just be getting a taste for it!

P.S Was good to meet bloggy/tweety pal James Burt too. What a nice guy!

Dear writers, wanna see Sparks fly?


There are writers who thrive on reading their words to an audience. I’m not one of them, however, I was once persuaded by Jo Mortimer to stand on a stage and read a story to real, live people. ( Eeek.) Jo Mortimer is a very persuasive person! Truth is I had a blast. It was rather intoxicating and I can see how some writers get addicted to that thrill.

Jo’s flash fiction night – Sparks – is a fantastic, buzzy, creative event. She selects cool stories and commissions a unique photo for each one which becomes the backdrop to your reading. The next night is on November 3rd Upstairs at Three and Ten and you could be part of it. If you wish, you may submit a story of 1,000 words or less to sparksbrighton@hotmail.co.uk but you’ll have to get a wriggle on as the deadline for subs is October 15th.

And if you are reading this and thinking yeah, yeah, all very well but I live in America (for instance), never fear, Jo will accept two stories per month that can be read by someone other than the author.

Who wants to read at Sparks?


Jo Horsman is accepting submissions for the next Sparks, to be held on November 11th. She has received four stories, but needs three more brilliant fictions.

EDIT! SPARKS NOW POSTPONED UNTIL 9TH DECEMBER

Erm, me, at Sparks, reading out loud, into a microphone, sounding strange

Hmmm. Weird one this. Sparks was filmed, and videos of some readers are now up at Beat the Dust.

Mine is here

Very strange to look at myself doing that. It doesn’t seem to be me, it does not sound like me. It seems like a jolly, fat lady channelling Joyce Grenfell has got up on stage wearing my clothes, and ENUNCIATED her way through my story.

The others are far more appealing:

Steve Finbow
Martin Reed
Jo Horsman reading for Anna Britten
Melissa Mann

Sparks flew (boom tish!)

I loved Sparks, it was such a cool event. Big thanks to Jo Horsman, a real make happen kinda gal. It was her idea to hold a flash fiction evening in Brighton, and to marry the words spoken with a visual, she chose the perfect venue too.

Initially I was terrified of the stage and microphone and lighting and eeek, all the “proper” stuff. It was my very first time reading, and I was a mass of babbling nerves. The other readers (listed in my previous post) were thankfully very cool and reassuring.

So: good stories, good readers, good photographs, good venue, good people = plenty o’ good.

I think I did ok reading, people were kind and laughed in the appropriate places. There is a review by James Burt here, which has made me smile quite a bit!

In the end, apart from the anxious bits, I had a lovely time, and today feel proud to have been part of the very first Sparks. Keep an eye on Jo’s blog for details of the next one.

Edit: New review at The Badger

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