Tuesday, 15 October 2013

spoken on Radio 4

First of all, the Radio 4 discussion I took part in on The World Tonight last Thursday had absolutely nothing to do with the fact that I had a couple of stories on Radio 4 back in August. 4 is a big, many-tentacled beast, and when the producers got in touch with me they didn't even know my name, let alone my history (such as it is) with the channel.

This is because the discussion I was asked to contribute to was about short stories (and specifically the impact of short story writer Alice Munro winning the Nobel Prize for Literature) and so I was contacted via Liars' League. This happened at 2.34pm on 10th October, and by 8pm that evening - having dashed out of dinner with my parents - I was in the studio. So what was it like?

Saturday, 5 October 2013

joined a gym (Weeks 3 & 4)

Fourteen days and seventeen visits down, this is where it gets hard – not just because I'm pretty sick of writing about exercise, possibly one of the hardest subjects to make interesting, but also because I caught a cold on Sunday. Well, it was Saturday really, but it started making itself known on Sunday, and thus my Monday and Tuesday were pretty much spent on the sofa. It should have been a nice rest, but obviously I was feeling shit so didn’t really get the benefit. 
Also I seem to have brainwashed myself by dint of repetition into actually wanting to do some exercise every day … has the Gymsperiment worked?

Thursday, 26 September 2013

joined a gym (Week 2)

So, after a whole week of doing at least one exercise class or sporting activity per day without (and this is the important bit) injuring myself or dying, what possible terrors could Week 2 hold? I’ve already sampled two-thirds of what the Peckham Pulse has to offer, and with only Zumba, Aqua Zumba, Combat Aerobics (me neither) and the ever-tantalising Soca to sample, soon I will be able to cherrypick a smorgasbord of fitness pursuits to suit me. While mixing my metaphors.

Total cost so far: £82.76
Number of total visits: 17
Number this week: 7
Total cost per visit: £4.86

Thursday, 12 September 2013

joined a gym (Week 1)

I am not one of these.
In fact, I have never even really used a gym, let alone joined one, hence this is a pretty large Never for me to tackle. The last time I did regular exercise it was 90 minutes per day of dance workout as part of a drama course. I hated every minute, and although at the end of the month I could do lots of press-ups, I have never before or since had the desire to do press-ups at all, let alone multiple ones. 

Therefore those who know me, even in passing, may be forgiven for scrunching their brows and wondering aloud (as one in fact did on Facebook when I announced my intentions) what I have done with the real Katy Darby.

Wednesday, 24 April 2013

gone mudlarking

(I have a new plan for my blogs, by the way, which is hopefully going to increase their frequency: 
1) Keep the text to around 500 words instead of my usual 2000+ ...
2) Lots of pictures
Let's see if it works ...)

Mudlarking (which is, as the word implies, larking about in mud - or muddy sand, anyway) has a long and colourful history, especially on the banks of great tidal rivers like the Thames. The incomparable Victorian social historian Henry Mayhew writes about them, and I vividly remember reading a book about a young London lad who becomes apprenticed to a tosher (a sewer scavenger) when I was a kid, and finding loads of treasures - though not so vividly that I can recall the title, alas. It was a great book.

Wednesday, 3 April 2013

cried when an author died

The title of this post is mercifully misleading, because titan of sci-fi, literary novelist and all round top bloke Iain Banks is still with us; but, very sadly, not for long. And that's why I had a little cry just now.

Here's the statement he put out today.

Here's an interview he did for Litro when I was editing it, which is revealing, interesting and funny - and has the best answer to the "worst job" question we've ever had. I asked (via his publisher) whether he could answer our Q&A for the science fiction issue. About 99 times out of 100, authors of Banks's success and stature are far too busy and important to do such things for free. He did, which was incredibly generous of him, and got his answers back to me in record time. What a gent.

Banks has long been underappreciated as an author of literary/mainstream/general/non-science fiction, a fact which his fans have been bemoaning since pretty much ever. I'm not so naive as to imagine that the critics will suddenly do a Princess Diana and proclaim all his books works of genius (even the ones that are) but I am hoping that this news will send people scurrying off to re-read his absolutely fucking massive backlist (the man is a writing MACHINE) and especially some of the earlier Iain Banks (i.e. non-sci-fi) novels.

If anyone else had written books as daring and experimental as The Bridge and especially Walking on Glass, which has stayed with me very clearly for 15 years since first reading it, they would have been a darling of the litfic scene from day one, but for some reason (despite or perhaps because of the huge popularity of his Culture novels), a lot of mainstream readers have been slow to cotton on to the stone-cold awesomeness that is Banks. I'm glad to say Granta had the nous to put him on their Best Young British Novelists list back in 1993 (he squeaked in aged 39 - the limit's 40) but apart from that he's been far less garlanded than he deserves. Thank goodness he's been so productive in his 59 years (so far - let's hope he hits 60) and there's so much left for us (well, me anyway) to read.

If you love Banks's work, or you want to tell him he's a great bloke, or reminisce about that time he signed your book in Glasgow Waterstones, or just show the man some love before he leaves, you can sign his guestbook here.

Update: Iain Banks died after a short illness on Sunday 9 June 2013, aged 59. Guardian obit (including exhaustive rundown of the novels) here.

Wednesday, 30 January 2013

written flash fiction

I have a confession to make: for the last four years I’ve been asking my short story students at City to write stories of exactly 100 words (“drabbles”) as an exercise, yet I rarely write flash fiction (under 1000 words) myself. I’ve published nearly 40 short stories since starting to write prose fiction, and only four have been 1000 words or less. And given that the next Liars' League is a flash fiction special, I've been reading an awful lot of flash recently (60 stories, to be precise).

A youthful and toothsome Drabble
I am, as anyone who’s read some of the other blog posts on here (average length 1000-2000 words) will know, naturally prolix. Brevity doesn’t come easily to me. If I’m going to sit down and write something, I usually want to spend a good few hours on it: I want to explore the setting, the character and the narrative arc at my leisure. I want, in short, to write without limits – especially word limits. I’m sure some of you know what I mean. Putting a bunch of words on a page has never been a problem for me – but the right words (and only the right words) in the right order, now that’s the challenge …

So last year, when I was asked to teach a Flash Fiction workshop at a university open day, I knew had to get some practice in – reading and writing it. Luckily I had to hand Sawn Off Tales by David Gaffney and Tania Hershman’s collection The White Road (both are especially noted as authors of shorter fiction).