Cork International Short Story Festival

Folks, I am obviously terrible at this being up-to-date thing, but I thought I’d still say a few words on here about the Cork International Short Story Festival that took place in September, between the 12th and the 15th.

I was lucky enough to be invited to read from The Proverb Zoo. The event was in Cork’s central library, which meant a lot to me, in that the place is a little the ground zero of my writing career*. I used to live across the river from the library, and I spent a good few hours in its warm, well-lit interior. And it’s at the festival that I first heard people talk about writing, and in particular about short stories. I attended it a good few years, volunteered for it once. So, yeah, it meant a lot to participate as a writer.

There were loads of great short story writers. Highlights for me were Welsh writer Carys Davies (who writes some pretty striking historical stories), and Ben Marcus (US). I read his The Age of Wire and String a few years ago, a crazy little collection that reads like an encyclopedia of a world both familiar and a little (a lot) off. At the festival he read a brilliant story from his brand-new book Notes from the fog.

Events I regret missing were Irish writer Mia Gallagher and Helen Oyeyemi (UK), whose works are well worth checking out.

All in all, a brilliant festival to attend for short story lovers who are not to far from Cork, or can make their way there somehow.

 

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Research Notes at Necessary Fiction: The Proverb Zoo

I’ve written a few words over at Necessary Fiction about the writing of The Proverb Zoo. It’s part of their Research Notes series, which is a great initiative that invites writers to talk about the “research” behind their books (research being left open to interpretation).

They also published my story “A slow, unstoppable devouring of everything” a few months ago, a story which is in The Proverb Zoo, should you want a taster (humhum, before buying it).

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First review of The Proverb Zoo; or, I could get used to this

The Proverb Zoo has received its first review at Headstuff, and I would lie if I said I wasn’t delighted with it and myself.

The collection is described as “a raucous, funny and constantly surprising set of tales populated with socialist dogs, obsessive children, miraculously animated statuettes of the Virgin Mary, elderly piano tuners and shipwrecked loners”, and my writing as bringing “a Nabokovian love of a second tongue and a perspective that feels fresh and distinct from Irish, Anglo or American voices”.

This is a very kind and thoughtful review, which ends by saying that “very little is playing it safe in this collection”. Well, safe to say that I’m a very happy writer right now.

 

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BOOOOOK OUT!

Folks, it’s official, my short story collection The Proverb Zoo is out in the world. Free. Well, you know, as in released. Unchained. You actually have to pay for it. You can do that here, from the good people of The Penny Dreadful. And you should, too.

There are 15 stories in it, a world war, an IKEA, a cut-off leg, dogs and cats in several forms, a whale, at least one miracle, three planes and a donkey, a shipwreck, some cuts and bruises… oh, and a few people too.

I was delighted to launch it last week in Cork’s Waterstone’s and Dublin’s Books Upstairs, and I look forward to the next time I get to share it with readers in person.

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(Me with a look I call “confused happiness”)

THE PROVERB ZOO: book launches in Cork and Dublin

Good citizens of Ireland! I’m delighted to announce that my short story collection The Proverb Zoo will be launched in just over a week, with the great folks of The Penny Dreadful Press.

There will be one in Cork on Tuesday 8th May, at 6.30 in Waterstone’s. (See here for the Facebook event page)

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Aaand also one in Dublin, or “the big smokey apple of lights”, as no one ever called it. It will be in the magnificent Books Upstairs, on Thursday 10th May at 6.30. (See here for Facebook event page).

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If you can come to either (or both!), it’d be great to see you there. I’m both super excited and pooping myself about it, so if not for the stories come for the bemused Armel.

 

 

A FRANCO-IRISH HISTORY OF CRUELTY: an essay up at Threshold

I have a piece up at Threshold (a great resource for short story writers / lovers, by the way).

It’s a cross-reading of Kevin Barry’s ‘A Cruelty’ and Guy de Maupassant’s ‘Le Crime au Père Boniface’, two short stories that have stayed with me long after I read them, and that have plenty in common. Both feature men whose innocence make them ill-adapted to the world around them, and who’ll fall prey to their fellow men’s cruelty.

There’s some personal (hopefully) relevant anecdotes peppering the piece as well, so this really is a hybrid bit of writing. Hope you like it.

 

Depressing numbers for short story writers

This article by Chris Power in the Guardian looks at the so-called “renaissance of the short story” that article after article (often in the Guardian itself, ironically I would say if irony wasn’t such a quaint concept):

In 2017, almost 50% more short story collections were sold than in the previous year. It was the best year for short stories since 2010. Booksellers are reporting a surge in popularity for the form, commentators note publishers are buying more collections and issuing them with greater care and enthusiasm; in December the newcomer Kristen Roupenian cut five- and seven-figure deals in the UK and US after her New Yorker story “Cat Person” went viral. 

Alright, sounds great, but Power takes a closer look:

if we aren’t living through a renaissance of the short story, how to explain those booming sales figures? Let’s break them down. Collections by Tom Hanks, one of the world’s biggest film stars, and Jojo Moyes, one of its bestselling authors, represent 22% of that total: £1.3m in sales.

Have a good day.