But words can never hurt me... and other mid-year mischiefs!
I'm not entirely sure how it is June, but it is past time for some mid-year updates from the writing desk. As a fan of the self-fulfilling prophecy, ever fond of saying the upcoming year is my year, I have to say I think 2023 has stepped up to the plate. Those creative pokers I was talking about have emerged glowing from the fire, and here they are!
The New Zealand Society of Authors Te Puni Kaituhi O Aotearoa Mentorship Programme
In April, I was over the moon to be awarded a place on the NZSA's mentorship programme, matching with none other than Catherine Chidgey, whose writing I love and admire. I'm obviously not alone in this, since my mentor (she says casually all the time in a 'pinch-me' kind of way) has just won the Jann Medlicott Acorn Prize for Fiction for the second time, in a history-making move at the Ockham NZ Book Awards, with The Axeman's Carnival. You can read more about Catherine here - and I hope you will pick up her books if you haven't already, they are a gift.
Also a gift is the time I get to spend with her between April and November this year. We've had our first couple of meetings already and I'm appreciating every moment. She is insightful and sharp, while unfailingly kind and encouraging. It's the cocktail I need to keep hitting word count when morale is low, and to hone my prose when I've a tendency towards wordiness (I'm sure you haven't noticed). Thanks to Catherine my work in progress has become a rousing place to spend time, not just a nerve-wracking one. And the waves of revisions make me feel like I'm headed somewhere that could be beautiful. I'm extra motivated to put in all the hard work on the WIP, given the calibre of eyes on it, and I can't see that not paying off!
But words can never hurt me: An Oxford Flash Fiction Anthology
May saw the publication of But words can never hurt me: An Oxford Flash Fiction Anthology, edited by FJ Morris. This zesty collection of flash fiction features exciting voices in the genre, including the winners of the latest Oxford Flash Fiction Prize. It's also home to my piece '2 Albyn Place', which made the short list. I'm waiting for my paperback to arrive in the post. If you'd like your own, you can find it here to buy. It's in the Bodleian Library to borrow!
National Flash Fiction Day
And that brings us to June! This month in NZ, we celebrate fiction in one of its shortest forms, with National Flash Fiction Day. I didn't place in the competition this year (last year I managed to reach the long list!), but I submitted a micro for the ekphrastic series being presented in Dunedin and am overjoyed it's been selected. My 100-word story inspired by artwork by Manu Berry will feature in a digital display in Dunedin Library and will be printed in a poster series. Delighted to be heading over to Dunedin for the festivities on the 22nd, I'll be reading probably the shortest piece I've ever written on the shortest day of the year! I'll share the poster when it comes out - for now here is the invite, in case you'd like to come!
Back to school
Let's hop back in time a moment before looking forward. In February I was thrilled (and nervous - mostly nervous) to interview with Joe Reed (author of We Begin Our Ascent) and Nick Bradley (author of The Cat and The City) for a place on the University of Cambridge's MSt in Creative Writing. In April I received word I'd been awarded a much-coveted spot, and in May I received my college acceptance, from beautiful Selwyn College. So... in September, I'll be heading back to the UK for a spell to matriculate once more! I did my undergrad at St John's, which will always be home, but I'm pleased to have the chance to experience Selwyn as a part-time student, as well as the grounds of Madingley Hall, where the teaching takes place - and which sounds like it belongs in a novel itself!
It was the Diploma in Creative Writing that I completed at Cambridge remotely last year (the certificate actually just arrived today!) which tipped the scales for me - I always knew I wanted to take on further study. And I know not everyone has the chance, so I feel very lucky. Last year guest lecturers included George Saunders and John Yorke! And the tutors in general are amazing. On the Diploma I was honoured to have Menna van Praag (author of The Sisters Grimm - whose third book in the trilogy I eagerly await) and Elizabeth Speller (author of The Return of Captain John Emmett) in my corner, and this year I'm particularly giddy to meet Natasha Pulley (of The Watchmaker of Filigree Street fame!) and Nick Bradley, whose books have been highlights of my year.
I only see more good news in the future - including finishing the first draft of my novel, heading onto the MSt, and having plenty more fun entering competitions and connecting with readers and writers at events. Let's see what the second half of the year holds...
(Meanwhile, it's also fine if the next few months are a little calmer in comparison - my cup runneth over, and I just had to edit five instances of being excited from these few hundred words. It's probably obvious where!)