Tuesday, 21 December 2010

MS: Happy Short Story Day

Dec
21


The Mslexia Blog
It is Winter Solstice, the shortest day of the year and, best of all, short story day. Another chance to celebrate the brilliant short form fiction. I am not going to wax lyrical for ages about how good short stories are today, mainly because I already did that back in Short Story Week but I would recommend that you take a look at the Short Story Day website for events across the UK, short story recommendations by authors, links, tips, apps and much much more.
I am reading at the Cardiff Short Story Day event tonight with Rachel Trezise, Rob Lewis, Mab Jones and many more. The event takes place is Gwdihw from 7pm and includes a short story book stall and a short, short story open mic. So don’t let the snow stop you enjoying a festive drink with us, come along and read, or listen appreciatively.
I have got a new/old short story recommendation for you though: Lorrie Moore. She is fantastically inventive and witty and I’ve been working though her collections. Start with Self Help.
Finally I just wanted to wish you all a very merry festive season and a Happy New Year. Thanks for reading me over 2010. I’ve already had one top present, my collection of short stories The Art of Contraception has been named Fiction Book of the Year in the Welsh Icons Awards 2010. May 2011 bring happiness, good fortune and creativity to us all.
About Susie:
Susie Wild is a freelance journalist based in South Wales. She is one of Parthian's Bright Young Things and her debut collection of short stories, The Art of Contraception is out now. As a poet she performs regularly, and publishes here and there, including the recent Bugged book. She likes good live music, Old Man Pubs, patterned tights, hair dye and avocados.

GUARDIAN CARDIFF: Literary Christmas events in Cardiff


Literary Christmas events in Cardiff

The festive season is upon us. Let guest blogger Susie Wild help you to enjoy a Literary Christmas with her guide to the best of the seasonal spoken word events in Cardiff
If last week's literary extravaganza wasn't enough, Christmas week brings another host of festive reasons to be jolly.
Monday 20 December sees Cardiff Arts Institute's Alternative Christmas Carol Service featuring poets from Cardiff's Jam Bones and the Red Poets. Don your Christmas apparel and join them for some Yuletide fun, or as they say: "Indulge your love of all things festive: warm songs, fuzzy beards, mince pies, mulled wine and rocking around the Christmas tree. This is a sing-a-long event and it essential that you bring your vocal cords!" Go along and be merry with them.
Tuesday 21 December is Winter Solstice and the shortest day of the year. As such why don't you come and celebrate National Short Story Day on the shortest day of the year at Gwdihw from 7pm. The evening of events, in association with Academi, will feature readings from the best local short story writers including Rachel Trezise, who won the inaugural Dylan Thomas Prize for her short story collection Fresh Apples, Matthew David Scott, Rob Lewis, Mab Jones and myself.
There will also be a short, short story open mic so bring flash fiction along to read, or scribble a new story on the night. For those of you who like to leave their Christmas shopping until the last minute, there will also be a short story book stall on the night, run by my lovely publisher Parthian. If you are really in the party mood, you might go and join other impoverished writers at the Unemployed Daytime Disco first.
Story Telling at Milgi's Yurt is also taking place on Tuesday 21 December from 8pm featuring guest storyteller Mary Anne Roberts and guest musician Domestic Violins. Fancy performing a turn? Well you can, if you would like to do a story or a couple of songs or tunes arrive early and speak to David or Guto.
Other budding storytellers should also be aware that CAI regular True Stories Told Live Cardiff is seeking new people to perform at their events in 2011.
Finally, if you are seeking inspiration for books to buy for your literary loved one, here is a list of all eligible books for Wales Book of the Year 2011. I would also recommend taking a look at Bert's Cult Book section in Waterstone's. I want them all, hint, hint. Enjoy the festive season. Eat, read and be merry.
susie wildSusie Wild
Today's guest blogger Susie Wild is a writer, poet, journalist and editor.

Thursday, 16 December 2010

GUARDIAN CARDIFF: In Chapters, Christmas - review


In Chapters, Christmas - review

Guest blogger Susie Wild goes to the In Chapters Christmas event to hear fresh work from writers Rachel Trezise, Rob Lewis and David Oprava
4 out of 5
In Chapters has acquired a strong following of fans. The music and spoken word regular is hosted by the people behind the Laugharne Weekend, novelist John Williams and musician Richard James, and takes place at Chapter Arts Centre.
  1. In Chapters - Christmas
  2. Chapter Arts Centre,
  3. Cardiff
  1. Until 14 December
  2. Chapter's website
While past sessions have featured unique collaborations between writers and musicians, asking Cardiff's finest to create new work on themes including birds, cafes, and murder, this week's event was a more festive affair with a Christmas theme and free mulled wine and Christmas biscuits helping to spread the cheer.
The literary cast of readers for the night boasted new Cardiff resident Rob Lewis, Rachel Trezise, and David Oprava. Crime writer Lewis, who had completed his new short story just an hour before the start of the night got many a laugh for his excellent Black Friday tale 'The Battle of St Mary Street' which, true to form, gave an office Christmas party his booze-soaked noir treatment:
"'We're here because it's Christmas,' she said. 'Somewhere. Now only two kinds of people are going to stay on this street. Those who have passed out on it, and those who are going to pass out.'"
A regular face on the local spoken word scene, Oprava read a fantastic new poem which began "Santa, I want you to be a redhead,/I want you to come down my chimney in a bikini,/ remember 1983, you gave me the Death Star:/I want it again, but this time,/ I want you to be Princess Leia," and continued wanting Santa to be many things, including Bananarama, Gorbachev, drugs, a Transformer, Madonna, a 1983 Volvo, and his grandpa. Out of all the regular readers, this poet always appears to be the most comfortable performing their work to music, even at a nightmarish crescendo.
Trezise had also just finished writing her "brand new, warm and fluffy Christmas story" in time to read at the event. She warmed our cockles with her A Mother's Christmas in Wales story, 'Christmas '83.' The tale, which the writer had been promising she would write for her husband for years, sees protagonist Pamela's Christmas transformed as her better half and his pals return from the pub late of Christmas Eve and decorate her rundown home and deliver presents for her children:
"She opened the door, the red fairy lights in the tree blinking against the dull morning light. Matthew stood for a moment in wonderment, his eyes circling the room. He ran to the presents under the tree, ripping at the paper with graceless fingers."
The evening also contained many a magical musical gift from Richard James, Bragod, H.Hawkline and carols from the wonderful Christmas tree fairy Cate le Bon. Behind the acts, a backdrop of film visuals depicted some of the In Chapters regulars enjoying the delights of Cardiff's Winter Wonderland, from ice skating to fairground games and German sausages so-ho-ho the audience couldn't fail to leave feeling festive.
Today's guest blogger Susie Wild is a writer, poet, journalist and editor.

Guest blogger Susie Wild goes to the In Chapters Christmas event to hear fresh work from writers Rachel Trezise, Rob Lewis and David Oprava
4 out of 5
In Chapters has acquired a strong following of fans. The music and spoken word regular is hosted by the people behind the Laugharne Weekend, novelist John Williams and musician Richard James, and takes place at Chapter Arts Centre.
  1. In Chapters - Christmas
  2. Chapter Arts Centre,
  3. Cardiff
  1. Until 14 December
  2. Chapter's website
While past sessions have featured unique collaborations between writers and musicians, asking Cardiff's finest to create new work on themes including birds, cafes, and murder, this week's event was a more festive affair with a Christmas theme and free mulled wine and Christmas biscuits helping to spread the cheer.
The literary cast of readers for the night boasted new Cardiff resident Rob Lewis, Rachel Trezise, and David Oprava. Crime writer Lewis, who had completed his new short story just an hour before the start of the night got many a laugh for his excellent Black Friday tale 'The Battle of St Mary Street' which, true to form, gave an office Christmas party his booze-soaked noir treatment:
"'We're here because it's Christmas,' she said. 'Somewhere. Now only two kinds of people are going to stay on this street. Those who have passed out on it, and those who are going to pass out.'"
A regular face on the local spoken word scene, Oprava read a fantastic new poem which began "Santa, I want you to be a redhead,/I want you to come down my chimney in a bikini,/ remember 1983, you gave me the Death Star:/I want it again, but this time,/ I want you to be Princess Leia," and continued wanting Santa to be many things, including Bananarama, Gorbachev, drugs, a Transformer, Madonna, a 1983 Volvo, and his grandpa. Out of all the regular readers, this poet always appears to be the most comfortable performing their work to music, even at a nightmarish crescendo.
Trezise had also just finished writing her "brand new, warm and fluffy Christmas story" in time to read at the event. She warmed our cockles with her A Mother's Christmas in Wales story, 'Christmas '83.' The tale, which the writer had been promising she would write for her husband for years, sees protagonist Pamela's Christmas transformed as her better half and his pals return from the pub late of Christmas Eve and decorate her rundown home and deliver presents for her children:
"She opened the door, the red fairy lights in the tree blinking against the dull morning light. Matthew stood for a moment in wonderment, his eyes circling the room. He ran to the presents under the tree, ripping at the paper with graceless fingers."
The evening also contained many a magical musical gift from Richard James, Bragod, H.Hawkline and carols from the wonderful Christmas tree fairy Cate le Bon. Behind the acts, a backdrop of film visuals depicted some of the In Chapters regulars enjoying the delights of Cardiff's Winter Wonderland, from ice skating to fairground games and German sausages so-ho-ho the audience couldn't fail to leave feeling festive.
Today's guest blogger Susie Wild is a writer, poet, journalist and editor.

Wednesday, 8 December 2010

MS: And the winner is…

Elyse Fenton with her Prize-winning collection
Elyse Fenton with her Prize-winning collection

The Mslexia Blog
So, a few nights ago I donned a frock and went along to the award dinner for the announcement of the third Dylan Thomas Prize, the international award recognises young literary talent and is awarded to a writer under the age of 30. The award ceremony took place in the newly-renovated Patti Pavilion in Swansea. There was a champagne reception followed by dinner seated around tables of ten or twelve. The hoi polloi were out in their dickie bows and their floor-sweeping evening dresses – the crowd included funders, judges (Peter Florence, Cerys Matthews), former winner Rachel Trezise (in a stunningly sleek new dress) and five of the six shortlisted writers (Caroline Bird, Emily Mackie, Elyse Fenton, Eleanor Catton, and Karan Mahajan). Nadifa Mohamed had skipped the party to attend the announcement of the Guardian First Book Award for which she was also shortlisted, but unfortunately for her, for whichshe also did not win.
Dinner was segmented by speeches and announcements. 22-year-old Stefan Mohamed from Powys, Mid Wales, won the all-new Sony Reader Award for his debut as-yet-unpublished novel Bitter Sixteen. He gets £5000 and a publishing deal – his novel will be out in e-book form in the near future.
Cerys Matthews read Dylan Thomas from a balcony above our heads. We tucked into our main course – Welsh Lamb or Mushroom Parcels – and then the winner of the £30,000 main prize was announced. 29-year-old Elyse Fenton was awarded the prize for her debut collection of poetry Clamor which depicts life at war in Iraq, life on the homefront and the distance between them.
Earlier in the week I interviewed Elyse by the fire at Dylan Thomas’ former abode, 5 Cwmdonkin Drive. Jetlagged and giggly, the elfin tomboy had arrived the morning before and done a red eye. A new mother, she had also discovered that her baby didn’t sleep on planes.
A resident of Philadelphia, Elyse received her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon. This may be her first collection, yet this young poet is no stranger to accolades – Clamor (Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010) had already been selected by D.A. Powell as winner of the 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize and she was also the Winner of the 2008 Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod International Literary Journal. Her poetry and nonfiction have also appeared in such journals as Bat City Review, The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The New York Times.
Sony Reader winner Stefan Mohamed with judge Cerys Matthews
Sony Reader winner Stefan Mohamed with judge Cerys Matthews
I asked her how she started writing such personal  poetry: ‘The collection began about halfway through my first year of the MFA, but it took me about six months to get into that work. When I started my MFA my husband deployed to Iraq within a couple of months, so pretty much my whole grad school time we were apart, and distant because when he was back in the stated he was based in Texas. I resisted writing about our lives, I wasn’t used to writing out of that kind of immediate experience, and so it took me about six months of perhaps writing indirectly and subconsciously about it, but really trying not to write about it, the subject matter felt untouchable. I don’t know exactly which poem it started with but I remember beginning to find a way in through thinking about the language we used when we talked on the phone or IM, newscaster language, the language we used to mask what the war was about. So that became a meditation, the language was my window in, to begin writing but it still wasn’t for another couple of months that I could actually begin write in the first person and enter that.’
Apart from organic farms – she likes to keep her ‘hands dirty’ – I asked Elyse what she was working on now: ‘I’ve had a baby, so that kind of governs a lot of my time and thinking. I’ve also started writing an interim project to get me away from the subject matter of Clamor. I’ve worked on a collaboration with a friend of mine, we’re writing sonnets in the voices of trees. I wanted something formal, I wanted something with rules, and that was just enough to get me off of, or out of the space of Clamor. I don’t know if this is going to be part of the same manuscript or not but I also have a collection that begins with the voices and sonnets of trees, sonnets and nonnets, and another series, perhaps unsurprisingly, that’s based on having a child. I guess in a similar way that I approached Clamor, I’ve started with the language of labour, and labour as in any kind of labour, so  hopefully that’ll be less autobiographical, less confessional.’
How does her husband feel about featuring so heavily in the collection? ‘He has a hard time but he knows that it’s not all fact – no poetry is – but he finds it difficult because he doesn’t want to be associated with the soldier for good reason. He appreciates the work though, I think, and he appreciates that my experience translates into something so fertile. It is my experience, it is certainly not his, and it is only my experience in the language.’
Congratulations Elyse!

Tuesday, 7 December 2010

THE RACONTEUR: ELYSE FENTON

Dylan Thomas Prize 2010
2008
 
 

Elyse Fenton is a 29-year-old American poet. Her debut collection of war poetry Clamor sees a woman reflect on her lover fighting in Afghanistan. The personal collection charts Fenton’s experiences of her husband serving as a medic in the War on Iraq, the long stretches of distance between the couple, and the contrast between the harsh realities of his day-to-day and her life writing and working on organic farms on the homefront. The accomplished collection impressed a panel of judges chaired by Hay Festival Guru Peter Florence and went on to scoop the £30,000 Dylan Thomas Prize 2010 following in the footsteps of short story writers Nam Le (2008) and Rachel Trezise (2006). 
Commenting on the announcement, Peter Florence said: ‘It’s a great winner. It’s an astonishing, fully accomplished book of huge ambition and spectacular delivery. For this Prize of all prizes it’s great to have a poet.’ Gwyneth Lewis, poet and member of the judging panel, added: ‘This is poetry of a very high order. The book’s vision of the relationship between love and war is more than worthy to be considered in the tradition of Dylan Thomas’ work.’
It was a win not just for the poet, but also for the small presses. Clamor is published by Cleveland State University Poetry Center, 2010 and has already been selected by D.A. Powell as winner of the 2009 Cleveland State University Poetry Center First Book Prize.  Winner of the 2008 Pablo Neruda Award from Nimrod International Literary Journal, Fenton’s poetry and nonfiction have also appeared in such journals as Bat City Review, The Iowa Review, The Massachusetts Review, and The New York Times. 
Fenton received her M.F.A. from the University of Oregon and currently lives in Philadelphia. In person she is elfin-featured and healthily handsome. You can see that she likes life outdoors. Her eyes belie a tomboy twinkle, and yet she is girlishly giggly with the sleep-deprivation of new motherhood and jet lag. She tells me that she knew she wanted to be a poet from a relatively young age. From high school she had the goal of getting a collection published, and the progression has been quite natural. What she has bristled against and resisted writing is the subject matter of the war, the personal, the confessional. ‘It took a year to get to poems in the manuscript, and confront the subject matter. I was not in the habit of writing autobiographical pieces. I resisted, I wasn’t used to writing out of that kind of immediate experience, and so it took me about six months of perhaps writing indirectly and subconsiously about it, but really trying not to write about it, it felt untouchable. Dangerous. I wanted to keep it at arm’s length.’
The dedication inside the book, addressed to P, her husband explains this disquietude: 
I want to gather you up/into a book whose pages clink//like bone cockles graveled smooth/in the blood-wash of unimagined shore
Fenton found a way in to translating her feelings and experiences through the intricacies of language. Newscaster terms like ‘corkscrew landings’ that the couple used to mask what the war was about, the harsher realities behind the terminology: ‘the language was my window in, to begin writing but it still wasn’t for another couple of months that I could actually begin write in the first person and enter that.’ The collection that she created began with his arrival in Baghdad, it was the use of the words ‘corkscrew landing’ in their regular early phonecalls that enabled her to find a way to turn the lens towards them and write, that took the surfaces of language and deftly dived deeper:
a plane corkscrewing// down into the verdant green/ neck of Baghdad’s bottle-glass night/ so I don’t yet register the casual solemnity/ of newcaster banter//falling like spent shells/from both our mouths, [‘Word from the Front’]
Since completing Clamor Fenton has had a baby, which places demands on most of her time. She has also begun new writing projects to get her away from the intense surveillance of her first collection to something less personal: ‘I’ve been working in collaboration with a friend of mine; we’re writing sonnets in the voices of trees.’ It is a very different project, more formal and rule-based. The personal has not been cut out completely though, as life as a new mother has brought another focus, and new terminology, new language to spark Fenton’s linguistic interest. A series of poems examining the language of labour, both in terms of giving birth and hard graft.
Before finding out that she was the prize winner, Fenton told me she was resisting the transition to ebooks – ‘if only for financial reasons.’ However she admits that she happily composes her own work on the screen rather than the pages these days: ‘I wish that I could write by hand but I can’t anymore. It is probably down to when I started grad school and was thinking that sitting down and writing needed to become a habit that I did everyday and having that white space, opening up a white doc and having to manually go to it, to see the text and the white space, the clamor: the silence and the noise.’