Unusually, and for the first time ever, I have a guest post today from Calum Kerr, who I’ve worked with on National Flash Fiction Day. I also edited a flash anthology, Scraps, with him this year. Here, he talks about his initial interest in flash, and follows this with some of his own fiction.

 

The Birth of the Projects
by Calum Kerr

I described, earlier this month, over at Vanessa Gebbie’s blog how my career in flash-fiction was launched at one of her workshops. What I didn’t mention was how my projects to write flash-fiction on a daily basis got started. And that too was Vanessa’s fault.

You see, early in January 2011, she posted a photo to Facebookof a ruined abbey which she had visited. When I saw it, I knew immediately that I had a story to tell. The photograph had become a prompt and the prompt had done its work.

I ignored it at that moment, but in the evening I sat down and wrote the story in my head. And I liked it. I thought it was pretty good. Later that night, talking to my girlfriend (now my wife) on the telephone, I flippantly remarked that I should write a flash-fiction for every day of that month, as we had recently completed the NaNoWriMo challenge to write a novel in a month and the pressure of it had worked well for me.

The next morning, when I woke, it was to discover that aFacebook group had been created dedicated to this very endeavour and that a whole host of my writing friends had been invited to watch and to ensure that I completed the challenge.

The resulting 31 stories became my first pamphlet, entitled, suitably enough, 31. I took a break after that effort, and then in the May I started flash365, the same thing but for a year, andthat led to National Flash-Fiction Day, and in the rest is history.

So, anyway, that introduction was just by way of saying, here is the first story written for 31, and the start of all my (crazy?) projects.

The Abbey

Eric always told me not to drive in flip-flops. I never listened, of course. Every year on the first of May I rescued them from the bottom of the wardrobe – the old pairs from last year and the new ones I’d bought since – and they were all I wore until the last day of September. Sometimes my feet were cold, sometimes wet, but the feel of the air on them always made me feel free.

As I walked across the mostly deserted space which served as a car park a small piece of gravel slipped in under my sole, but a practised shake dislodged it. Once on the pavement I could feel the heat baking up off the tarmac. It warmed the ends of my toes and the sides of my heels. It felt like a benison, like comfort.

“Four pounds fifty,” said the bored man in the hut. I handed over my money with a smile and waited for my change, looking around. I could only see the very top of the Abbey over the shoulder of the hill. The stones were ragged and broken, but at one end they rose to a perfectly curved peak which led the eyes to heaven.

I glanced back at the car park. “Not busy today.”

He grunted. “School’s are still in. It’ll be packed next week. I’ll be in Kos.” He gave me a half-smile and I felt his gaze try to unhook the thin straps of my dress. I said nothing, but took the offered coin with another smile and slipped it into my purse.

“Well, enjoy Kos, then.”

Another grunt.

The pavement quickly turned to dirt as the path rose up and round the side of the hill. As I climbed, it seemed as though the Abbey was being pushed up out of the ground, the stone-masons hammering away under the earth and forcing the building towards the sky.

The dirt turned to grass and then I was there, right in front of the half-crumbled building. Buttresses and the remains of windows framed the ruin, throwing shadows to stain the surrounding green. I stood for a moment and just looked. Through some of the stone lace I could see more walls; through others the clean blue of the sky.

I brought my gaze back down to earth and looked in through the main doorway. Verdant nature had reclaimed what had once been the floor, marred only by fractures of stone and the balding patches caused by trampling feet.

I wandered forward, letting the atmosphere of the Abbey fill me. I didn’t stop to read any of the plaques, but headed straight into the heart of the building. If Eric had been here he would have been reading and learning. I had always enjoyed simply being in places such as this, but I lacked his enthusiasm for the words, preferring to see the thing for itself.

As I passed into the shadow of the patch-work walls, the temperature dropped and I felt the skin on my arms pucker and bunch in response. A shiver ran up my back and I let it, enjoying the sensation.

Inside it was silent and not as dark as it had looked from outside. The centre of the roof was missing, allowing a shaft of light to fill the main body of the building. I thought of all those nuns who had lived here in the darkness and wondered what they would think of the ruined beauty of this bright space.

The centre of the Abbey formed a wide corridor of light between the darkened side-sections. I walked down the middle in the sunshine. A squeal and a giggle came from the darkness on my left. I stopped and watched as two children – a boy and a girl – ran through the light in front of me. Too young for school but old enough to run and raise hell. I thought again of the nuns, and grinned, imagining their muted shushing.

“Jack! Chloe!” A woman also emerged from the darkness, following after the children. “Come back here and calm down.” She spotted me and gave me an apologetic smile. “Sorry,” she said, “to them it’s just a place to run and hide.”

Quite right, I thought. But all I said was, “It’s okay. Don’t worry about it.”

The woman smiled her thanks and hurried after her children.

I waited a moment until all was silent again, and then I stepped out of my flip-flops. The sun on my skin warmed me, but the grass was cool as my feet sank into it, my toes curling to scrunch the blades into their tiny fists.

I tilted my head back, closed my eyes, and let the heat of the day transport me. I thought of Eric and felt him at my side, eager to share what he had learned from the information boards, but holding his silence, waiting for me to finish my communion. I reached out and felt him take my hand. I clutched it tight in mine, and let out a long breath that I hadn’t been aware of holding.

I nodded slowly to myself and then opened my eyes. Eric wasn’t there. Of course he wasn’t. He never would be again, but I could still feel his hand in mine.

I walked on, leaving my flip-flops, my offering, in the middle of the ruin.

Bio:
Calum Kerr is a writer, editor, lecturer and director of National Flash-Fiction Day in the UK. He lives in Southampton with his wife -  the writer, Kath Kerr –  their son and a menagerie of animals. His new collection of flash-fictions, Lost Property, is now available from Amazon at http://www.amazon.co.uk/Lost-Property-Calum-Kerr/dp/095769850X/ref=sr_1_4?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1372940684&sr=1-4 or direct from the publisher, Cinder House, at:http://cinderhouse.com/product/lost-property-by-calum-kerr/. The individual e-pamphlets which make up the book are also available via Dead Ink athttp://deadinkbooks.com/archives/category/ebooks

A little while ago, I was commissioned to write a story for a book which came to be titled ‘Beacons’, edited by th very talented Gregory Norminton. The book is a collection of short stories about climate change, and all proceeds of the books’ sales will go the the chairty Stop Climate Chaos. The book is published by Oneworld, and features stories from A.L. Kennedy, Toby Litt, Joanne Harris, Liz Jenson, Adam Marek, James Miller, Rodge Glass and many more. If you’d like to buy a copy, visit the site here. You can even buy a Kindle version here.

And even better – if you’d like to hear readings from Gregory, James, Rodge and me, then come along to our London launch at Waterstone’s Piccadilly on 21st May at 6.30pm.

Invitation – Beacons

On Friday, 13th July 2012 we will be having our next and final series of events to discuss and celebrate the role of the Trickster. The events will be in Cardiff, kicking off with a spoken word event where short fiction writers will tell their tales of the trickster. The event will be at 12 noon on Friday 13th July at Gwdihw bar/cafe just off Churchill Way. If you are interested in coming to listen, please just drop in. It’s free entry and there will be a buffet lunch of veggie treats. Readers include Clare Potter, Susie Wild, Richard Owain Roberts and more, as well as me!

The trickster website is over at http://trickstertales.org/ if you fancy having a look, responding or becoming a network member.

Trickster Tales

May 20, 2012

As part of an exciting new research project, I’ll be attending two events about the place of the literary trickster in contemporary writing over the next few days. The first is in the Tobacco Theatre, Bristol, on Monday 21st May at 7.30pm – details are here: http://tobaccofactorytheatre.com/shows/detail/the_trickster_and_the_tricked/
The second is an open workshop to discuss the idea of and responses to the Trickster. This will be in Bristol too, on Tuesday 22nd May from 10am – 3pm – details are here: http://trickstertales.org/events/openspacebristol/
I hope to see you there!

May 16th 2012 is a very special day, and you might not yet know why. If you don’t know, I’ll tell you: it’s because it is the first ever National Flash Fiction Day. (Sorry if you did know.) To celebrate, there will be a whole host of events taking place during the day and evening. I’m taking part in an event that will take in readings, chat and questions at Southampton library from 6.30pm. It’s free to get in and will feature readings from flash fictioneers such as Calum Kerr, Vanessa Gebbie and others. Do come along and support the first ever flash fiction day. More details are here, including details of other events all over the UK:

http://nationalflashfictionday.co.uk/southwest.html

Interview

December 10, 2011

Scott Pack has interviewed me for his blog. You can read the results here!

Order The Schoolboy

November 28, 2011

If Amazon has run out of copies of The Schoolboy, don’t forget you can always order it directly from the publisher here: http://www.cinnamonpress.com/the-schoolboy/

New Review

November 25, 2011

Scott Pack has just reviewed The Schoolboy, and has said ‘I couldn’t help but be impressed’. To read the rest of the review, click here

To order a copy, click here

Quick Flicks

November 20, 2011

The mighty Scott Pack has given my book a mini review – a four star one at that! So if you were undecided about whether to buy a copy or not, let him make the decision for you:
“Very raw, honest and violent tale about a confused teen. Notes from a Scandal from the boy’s point of view, sort of. Really rather impressive. (****)”
From http://meandmybigmouth.typepad.com/scottpack/

Pathways to Getting Published

September 13, 2011

This Thursday, I’ll be a guest at ‘Pathways to Getting Published’ at Gosport Discovery Centre, along with literary agent Adrian Weston. We’ll be discussing how to get published and there will be a chance to hear from the audience about their journeys into print or online publication. This event is chaired by Hampshire’s Literature Development Officer Angela Hicken.

It’ll start at 7.30pm, and the tickets cost £3 (concessions £2). Booking is essential; please call to book: 023 9252 3463.

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