Friday, 26 November 2010

MS: I like my stories like I like my skirts…

The Mslexia Blog

It is National Short Story Week. WooHoo. I love short stories. Sophie has written a very informative blog about events packed with tips and linkage (see below), isn’t she lovely?
As such I thought I’d celebrate the week by giving you my recommendations for top short story writers and collections written by women in or from Wales. In no particular order these are the books I have loved most:
  1. Jo Mazelis has written two great collections, Circle Games and Diving Girls, the latter of which was shortlisted for the Best First Book Award in the Eurasia Commonwealth Writers Prize and for Welsh Book of the Year 2003. You can read her list of the top 10 short story collections on the Academi site.
  2. Margiad Evans The Old and The Young
  3. Anna Wigley Footprints
  4. Maria Donovan  Pumping Up Napolean
  5. Imogen Herrad The Woman who Loved an Octopus and Other Saint’s Tales
  6. Gee Williams Blood Etc - shortlisted for Wales Book of the Year 2009.
  7. Rachel Trezise Fresh Apples which won the Dylan Thomas Prize in 2006.
  8. Deborah Kay Davies Grace, Tamar and Laszlo the Beautiful which won Wales Book of the Year 2009.
… and not strictly short stories but Holly Howitt’s microfiction collection Dinner Time. I’ve also enjoyed the anthologies Urban WelshNu: fiction & stuff (yes, I am in this one), and Sing Sorrow SorrowHonno have also published many anthologies of the best female short story writers in Wales, from the emerging to the established including A View Across the Valley: Short Stories by Women from Wales c. 1850 – 1950Mirror Mirror and The Woman Who Loved Cucumbers.
As a special FREE gift for National Short Story Week you can read my short story Aquatic Life on their website. I also took part in their short story challenge, contributing 150 words or so to the collaborative short story game Consequences. I will be guest editing the website for a month in 2011.
Short Story Day is also coming up next month and I’ll be reading with Rachel Trezise, Matthew David Scott, Rob Lewis and other literary friends at Gwdihw in Cardiff on 21 Dec 2010 as part of the national celebrations. There will also be a bookstall and an opportunity to take to the stage in the short short story open mic. The event is supported by Academi. Thanks Academi!

Thursday, 25 November 2010

Bright Young Things Logo
Happy National Short Story Week

The short story is having something of a resurgence of late. I am not complaining,having written a book of them, and I am sure Tyler isn’t either, as Parthian are publishing his short story collection sometime in the future. Anyway, as such there are all sorts of fab celebrations of the short story form going on this month and next.
This week is National Short Story Week. There are events across the country, and short stories to read for free on the website including my story Aquatic Life. I’ve also taken part in the short story challenge and contribute 150 words or so to the collaborative short story Consequences. I will be guest editing the site for a month in 2011.
I am going to be writing a Mslexia blog on why I love short form and my fave short story writers soon, possibly this afternoon. Sophie has written a very informative one about events and resources for short story readers and writers too.
In other news it is Short Story Day on the shortest day of the year. I am reading with Rachel Trezise and friends at the Cardiff event on 21 December 2010. Come along.
I also feel I should tell you that I just spent a lovely morning interviewing Caroline BirdEleanor Catton and co. from the Dylan Thomas Prize shortlist in front of the fire in Dylan Thomas’ old house. I’ll be writing up for a few people, so shall post links to it all soon.

Tuesday, 16 November 2010

GUARDIAN CARDIFF: Undeb celebrate first birthday with Undeb-velopment – review

Undeb celebrate first birthday with Undeb-velopment – review

Undeb Theatre celebrated their first birthday with more exciting, spirited new theatre - Susie Wild reviews
3 out of 5
Undeb have been making a name for themselves as purveyors of exciting, spirited new theatre in innovative venues across Cardiff over the past twelve months.
  1. Undeb-velopment
  2. by Tom Cullen, Alexander Vlahos
  3. Milgi Lounge, 
  4. Cardiff
  1. Until 13 November
  2. Uundeb theatre website
The youthful company was set up by Royal Welsh College graduates Tom Cullen and Alexander Vlahos because they were frustrated at the lack of theatre available that spoke to them. Today, they develop new writing, acting and directing talent in the city and put on accomplished, relevant theatre.
Undeb-velopment this weekend showcased early script-in-hand performances of their current work in celebration of Undeb's first birthday. The evening's rough and ready double-bill debuted two new plays from the artistic directors Cullen and Vlahos.
Actor Iddon Jones started off proceedings, playing Ed in Vlahos' emo-tive monologue Island. Standing centre stage, awkwardly confident in the Emo Park uniform of hoody and skinny jeans, Ed introduces us to his teenage life where youthful awakenings of lust are eclipsed by bigger things. Like many pubescent boys, music is his way of explaining and showing emotions. Through compellingly but ropey performances of tracks by The Ramones, Lou Reed and Joy Division, we learn that the deepest scars are not the lacerations of self-harm of his peers, but those Ed has kept hidden.
A fuller cast interpret Kingfisher – the very first draft of a full-length play from emerging theatre writer Cullen. "I am very, very nervous," he exclaims before passing over to the performers. It is a move that could be dubbed brave, and luckily for Cullen it proves not to be stupid. The dramatic, fledgling script shows plenty of promise as 30-year-old lead Lewis Fisher (Gareth Jewell) returns from 12 years in prison to the darkness of his past. As he tries to recompense for teenage mistakes and reconcile with his youngest, incredibly disturbed, brother Toby (Adam Scales) the audience wraps up in the provided comfort blankets – gripped and shocked by the violent plot twists. Lighter moments of relief are provided by smatters of laughs and real-time uncomfortable pauses.
Undeb are growing, both in confidence and maturity, and we like it. As works-in-progress, inevitably there are holes to be patched and scenes to be tightened. But as a good night out Undeb have triumphed – the event was affordable, challenging and entertaining, and the audience could take their cocktails into the show. What more do you want from a Saturday with your mates?
Susie Wild is a writer, poet, journalist and editor.

Sunday, 14 November 2010



Photo: Gareth Phillips
Fri 12 Nov 2010
The Riverfront, Newport
‘Don’t have dark thoughts,’ so repeats Gwyn Thomas’s father to the young lad as he hands him lemonade outside the onstage pub, before disappearing back through the door. This didn’t deter Gwyn Thomas the great Welsh storyteller though, who is the star in Told By An Idiot’s expressionist, physical interpretation of The Dark Philosophers. Those die-hard fans of The Other Thomas should not expect a literal adaptation of his three novellas. Instead in their eighth (and best-yet) production National Theatre Wales have managed to do something quite remarkable, in not just representing the words of the extraordinary writer, in all their deliciously dark quirks, but in also capturing the spirit of Thomas, his world, his cracking humour and his sharp mind. Once asked to describe his style, the Welsh valleys’ writer proffered ‘Chekhov and chips?’ whilst others have described him as Marx with both tears and laughs.
The Dark Philosophers is a vivid, visual, vital production. Action takes place amidst a brilliantly eccentric, tumbledown set – a tottering staircase of drawers and a stagger of wardrobes and from which the cast appear and disappear, or sit aloft. Musical moments composed and directed by Iain Johnstone stitch the show together, imbued with just the right measure of heartbreak. Other interludes take their jump off point from Gwyn Thomas’ Parkinson appearance, reminding guests of the level of Thomas’ reach in his heyday. In this entertainingly portrayed conceit we see Thomas placed in the TV studio with contemporary guests, including Dolly Parton and his closest match in terms of comic storytelling today, Billy Connolly.
Away from the studio-light glare, characters are coated in coal dust and hardship, jumping at explosions, and so thin they could fall down ‘the cracks between the pavements‘ but still there is laughing, singing, flirting, shagging, and drinking. In the shadows incest, murder, power and exploitation coerce and cajole. Oscar the ogre becomes a wonderfully grotesque, magical realist puppet created by a bad wig and a well choreographed cast. Within his blackly-comic telling Oscar is hated by those who live below his mountain and the audience alike.
Thomas didn’t just conjure up this valleys world, he lived it, and he identified with the lives he warmly chronicled. In this, the first dramatisation of The Dark Philosophers, the narrative jumps from scene to scene, story to story with the cut up speed of the digital age, which is jarring at first, and perhaps needs a little more evolving to find its perfect realisation. Despite this, it manages to inventively evoke the darkness and light of Thomas and of the valleys, amongst which Alex BeckettGlyn Pritchard and Laura Rogers shine bright. As Told By An Idiot and the cast are still improvising and growing the work and I believe this is a show that deserves a touring chance to gain that full row of five stars.
The Dark Philosophers moves to Wrexham at the weekend. Gwyn Thomas’ wonderful 1946 collection of stories The Dark Philosophers is now available through the Library of Wales.

Wednesday, 10 November 2010

MS: Whoooooosh…Bang!

FireworksThe Mslexia Blog
I’m not sure where time goes. One minute it was midsummer and I was performing in fields in wellies. The next people are asking me what my plans for the festive season are. I don’t plan that far in advance. Although if the rain keeps on falling then hibernating under blankets with a pile of good books and my laptop seems most likely. I do have a novel to complete, after all. Hopefully, though, the rain will stop falling, I will be coaxed out for the whoosh-bang fun of a postponed Fireworks display and the weather will return to a glitter of frost, snug layers and I-can-see-my-own-breath cheap thrills. There are many reasons to hope for this, including the luxury of having finished my own book tour and being able to enjoy other people’s literary performances and some top new theatre.
First up, I must congratulate the Seren poets Pascale Petit and John Haynes who have both been shortlisted forthe T S Eliot Prize. They join Simon Armitage, Annie Freud, Seamus Heaney, Robin Robertson, Fiona Sampson, Brian Turner, Derek Walcott and Sam Willetts on what is a mighty fine list. I’ve particularly enjoyed the collections of Pascale, Robin and Simon and wish them all well. The winner will be announced on the evening of Monday 24 January 2011 at the T S Eliot Prize award ceremony, which will be held in the Courtyard at the Wallace Collection.
BayLit: Shock of the New offered a truly enjoyable programme of events in Cardiff Bay. I was particularly impressed by the Plymouth-based Hannah Silva’s theatrical poetics at the TXT2 event examining innovations in performance and technology for poets and spoken word artists. With other top performances from Rufus Mufasa, Liam Johnson, Ceri Elen and Byron Vincent it was the sort of evening that makes me want to up my game. As such I look into my crystal ball and see a lot of re-edits and rehearsals. The Saturday also showcased plenty of scope for new directions and innovative discussion as Tyler Keevil and I finished off the Bright Young Things tour, with talking points focusing on e-books and how the writing process may change for authors with the interactive novel. It also saw the announcement that the novella ‘Arrivals’ from my debut short story collection is to be released as a Kindle Single very, very soon. So hark at me moving with the times.
We were followed by the brilliant Welsh literary magazine The Raconteur who have relaunched as a digital entity, still with the same great writing, but now completely for free. It really was a fascinating look into new angles in publishing, and reader expectations and trepidations. How do you feel about digital magazines? Do you own any e-books? Do you read them? Fellow Bright Young Thing JP Smythe has written an interesting article on all this forThe Raconteur. I’ve also been getting fascinated on all topics technology, and recommend this brilliant essayGeneration Why? by Zadie Smith for insights into Facebook, Generation 2.0, and the film The Social Network.
Due to my rather crazy schedule of late, I’ve missed a few launches. One of these is Simone Mansell-Broom’s first full-length poetry collection Cardiff Bay Lunch (Lapwing Publications, 2010). Simone is a regular on the Live Lit scene. Luckily for you prolific blogger Kath Eastman was there to report. Saying that, I was pleased to make it along to the Cardiff launch of Seren’s anthology of dark and chilling tales Sing Sorrow Sorrow featuring short readings from great writers including Imogen Rhia Herrad, Roshi Fernando, Maria Donovan, Charlotte Greig, Tristan Hughes and Richard Gwyn. Tristan is not long back from a lengthy stint in Canada, now with a new novel completed, and a new post as Research Fellow at Cardiff University. Other appointments in the world of academia include Jasmine Donahaye and Jon Gower who have just joined the Creative Writing team at Swansea University. I’d also recommend joining Cinnamon Press for the launch of new poetry titles from Alison Bielski and Jane Monson on Weds 17 November. The free event forms part of Academi’s Literature Programme in the Wales Millennium Centre. Bar One, 7.30pm.
Rachel Trezise has been pretty busy too. As well as becoming an ambassador to The Dylan Thomas Prize, along with Welsh comedian Rhod Gilbert, she has also finished her ‘New’ novel: “so it’s the ‘old’ novel now I guess.”
This weekend I’m looking forward to seeing and reviewing a double bill of new theatre, starting with National Theatre Wales’ celebration of one of Wales’ most distinctive voices of the last century with ‘The Dark Philosophers’, a brand new dramatisation of the comic tales of Gwyn Thomas. That’s my Friday night, over in Newport’s Riverfront. I’m following it up with UNDEB-VELOMENT in Cardiff on Saturday, where Undeb Theatre will be launching three news plays onto the public, and then partying into the night.
In fact, it is a pretty good month for theatre in Wales with the news that National Theatre Wales is launching an unprecedented five-year project to help up-and-coming theatre companies and artists explore new ideas, thanks to a generous grant from the Esmée Fairbairn Foundation. The programme, entitled WalesLab, will give theatre practitioners a rare chance to develop their ideas in locations across Wales. Under the guidance of National Theatre Wales, they will share the results of their work online and at artist ‘summer camps’. Up to 240 artists will be reached directly through the programme over the five-year period, with many more benefitting through online elements. Funding of up to £483,000 will be given over the course of the programme, all of which will go directly to work with emerging artists and companies. Great news for writers, performers and audiences alike, I think you’d agree.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

BYT: The end of the BYT launch tour. Sob, sob.

Bright Young Things LogoNOVEMBER 2010
The end of the BYT launch tour. Sob, sob.

Susie Tyler BYT end of tour
Susie and Tyler model the Bright Young Things goodie bags at BayLit festival. Hawlfraint / Copyright: Academi / John Briggs
Having Wil as a fellow BYT must have rubbed off, look at Tyler and I doing our catalogue model pose above. A-M-A-Z-I-N-G. Yes, Saturday saw the end of the BYT tour SOB SOB. We were appearing as part of BayLit Shock of the New festival because we are shocking and we are new. Only 50% of the BYTs were on stage but it was still an ace event. The busy Havannah Bar audience were treated to a double helping of readings from both Tyler and myself, a BYT quiz, and a kazillion chances to win prizes. We missed Wil and James though, and both read little bits of their book to the audience to make up for their absence.
A couple of pals who have been to more than one of the BYT events said they still weren’t bored as each one had been so different, and they’d noticed our confidence growing along the way so that the last event was the most insightful. Awwwwwwwww, bless their cotton socks. It was a different kind of event, I even read from the novella ‘Arrivals’ which is rare… but then I’ve had SOME NEWS about the novella. It is going to be released as a Kindle Single in the very near future. I’ll announce in the blog when you can actually get your hands on it. Exciting!
In other news, I’m writing a novel, like, actually writing it. Tyler is teaching and working on his short story collection for Parthian. The two of us are both open to offers from agents. James is extending his Harper Collins books by many thousand words at their request. Wil is dressing up as a bunny.