Readers, you must forgive me if I break the usual flow of short
stories to have a big-headed brag. For on 31st October 2016 an amalgam of short stories titled To Hull and Back was published, with one of my stories in it.
Apart from once having an article about watching Chelsea FC in a footy magazine, and an essay about horse chestnuts in the Nutfield parochial journal, I have never had anything published. so I believe my excitement to be justified.
And this is a real book, 344 pages long, of which my story, Strange Goings On at the Newbury Model Train Enthusiasts Society, occupies pages 178 to 185.
The book is the result of an annual short story competition, run (particularly well, I must say) by Chris Fielden, from which out of 284 entries, the 3 winning stories, 3 highly commended and 14 shortlisted entries are preserved in the book along with a further story from each of the 9 judges.
On the morning of publishing, I ordered 6 copies from Amazon, and failed to sleep for the next few nights awaiting delivery. When my personal library arrived, I left work early to gleefully open the box and stroke, sniff and fondle each copy as a pervert might welcome a new consignment of used camiknickers.
Each book was fresh and perfect. My name was on the back cover, and a quick and indulgent check confirmed my story to be in all 6 copies. A minor achievement in the progress of mankind probably, but a major achievement for me and a small reward for the hours spent struggling with that bloody story.
All 6 volumes soon given to friends, relatives, pets and anyone else who would take one. Then the excitement was ratcheted tauter than a strangler’s piano wire when Chris’ e-mail arrived to announce that not only would there would be a book launch event at the Left Bank venue, Bristol. on the evening of December 10th, but all successful entrants (including me) were invited to read their stories out loud.
I’d never been to a reading event, let alone partaken in one, and I pinged back a resounding ‘I’m in,’ before the naturally reserved writer side of me could argue.
Come the night, my wife, Jo, accompanied me for moral support and to act as chief drinking partner, along with good friends and Bristolians Lynda and Alan who were to put us up and share the taxis.
The Left Bank was an excellent venue for this sort of thing – small, dark and bohemian, walls pasted with posters to previous acts we could not even pronounce, let alone have heard of. The bar staff were delightful, served a brand of ale I’d never come across, and the walls of the gents were comfortingly defaced with plenty of crude drawings of penises.
Chris, inevitably, turned out to be a top bloke, as indeed did all the competition judges who welcomed all of us contributors warmly.
I was 2nd in the order of 8 readers. The opening reciter was clearly well versed with public reading protocol as well as her story and had it large-printed on A4 paper, yet still had a little difficulty reading in the available light, which was both limited and purple. I’d had no such foresight and just about managed to read mine directly from the copy of the book I’d cadged from Chris. Jo recorded my reading on her phone, which I vowed never, ever, ever to listen to – I’d always thought I’d rather stick blancmange in my ears than the sound of my own voice. Actually, I regaled on this promise within 10 hours (the recording that is, not the pink, wobbly gloop) and my reading really wasn’t too bad, once I’d worked out that the thing on a stand that looked like a microphone was a microphone and I needed to stand near it. I tried to attach it to this post for your aural delectation, but sadly it is too large a file.
I’ve got to say, it was a great night and I trust a success from Chris’ point of view. He’d gone to a lot of trouble to arrange the event, produce murals, qhich he had to drive home afterwards. Thank you, Chris.
On my part, it has inspired me to attend other reading events, and maybe read more stories in public myself.
Chris’s excellent site for writers can be found via:
The To Hull and Back anthology can be purchased via the site at:
If you would like to read my story, it is on this site at: https://thenewburyshortstoryteller.wordpress.com/2016/04/28/secret-goings-on-at-newbury-model-train-enthusiasts-society/
Please let me know what you think,
Cheers to Chris for everything, including the pictures used on this post, which I shamelessly culled from his Facebook page: