Hello fellow writers and readers and apologies for being off the scene for a while. However we have some excellent news to report and can also give you the heads-up for our next event in October, part of the annual Bristol Litfest extravaganza.
First, the good news.
In between all that short story action last year, our members were labouring over their long-term projects, two of which have come to highly satisfying fruition.
First up for a round of applause is Heather Child‘s debut novel Smartface recently acquired by Little, Brown Book Group imprint Orbit via the Julie Crisp Literary Agency.
Heather’s book is a high-concept thriller that tells the story of a woman whose virtual assistant takes on the personality of her missing sister.
When her sister vanished, Freya’s life seemed to stop. Eight years later, she is hearing Ruby’s voice again as a ‘Smartface’, so alive and real it seems she could be out there somewhere, feeding updates into the cloud. But should Freya trust this intelligent assistant, which is programmed to give her everything she wants?
The novel examines what happens when smart becomes too smart, when people accumulate so much data online that they can be recreated as data ghosts and lives can be changed by the information they’ve left behind. The book will be out in spring 2018.
Heather, who joined us a couple of years ago, has already been published in Mslexia, Under the Radar, the Storgy 2014 Short Story Anthology, HerCircle, the Bristol Post and Notes from the Underground online. We’ve loved hearing excerpts from the book at our feedback meetings – I can’t wait to read the whole of this fabulously written novel which takes a compelling and disturbing look at what might be just around the corner.
Hard on the heels of Heather’s success comes Ali Bacon who has signed with Linen Press Books. In the Blink of an Eye is a re-imagining of the life of Victorian artist and photographer David Octavius Hill. This collection of sixteen stories in ten distinctive voices bring together history, fiction and biography. Ali says:
I was doubtful a mainstream publisher would commit to something that crosses so many of the usual boundaries. I was thrilled when Linen Press snapped it up straight away.
Thanks to Suzanne McConnaghy for summing up her first experience of reading with us at Southbank on March 19th.
Writers Unchained impressed me so much at the Festival of Literature, back in October 2016, that I decided I would enter their next event. They’d finally got me to see that writing a short story was not just writing a story: there was an art to it. Large learning curve and here I am at Story Sunday on March 19th, 2017, about to step onto the stage.
The Southbank Club provides us with a relaxed and welcoming venue to listen to ten writers’ interpretations of the theme: ‘Another Country.’
I soon find Story Sunday’s excellent organisation is very supportive to the readers – when you have a programme and know exactly when you are on, it does a lot to calm the nerves. I’m placed mid-way through Act 1 and this gives me time to see how the first two excellent writers handle the situation but comes early enough to allow relaxed enjoyment of the remaining performances.
Heather Jo Reed’s ‘Mr Muyila’s Bull’ transports us straight out to the African Bush, transfixing the listener as we come to understand the fate intended for the little girl and enjoy the mother’s clever thwarting of her husband’s will. Thoroughly rattled by Mark Lewis’s surreal ‘The Ancestors,’ during which we travel across place and time,’ I realise it’s my turn. I’ve prepared a smooth response to the introduction but fail to hear a word of what is said – it must be nerves – so I have to go straight into the story. With ‘Boy in a Blue Shirt,’ you’re out in Bristol, mixing with the people who live on the streets – and under them.
Ali Bacon’s sensitive story of a young girl’s death, ‘The Coldest Country of All,’ introduces a note of sadness which contrasts well with the following piece, ‘The Emperor’s New Wall.’ After the tension of the previous reading, this satirical story by Debbie Young gives the audience an opportunity for uncomplicated laughter.
An interval filled with the strong musical performance of Dawn Marie Kelly, mixing well-known titles with some of her own work, and we’re into the second act with Jean Burnett’s ‘Swansong.’ Set in Malta, it reveals the uncertain world of the hit-man and confirms that his is not the ideal profession – if we didn’t already know it. A smooth performance by Lania Knight with ‘The Red Doll’ touches on the theme of homesickness and the power of certain objects, while John Holland’s ‘The Doorstep’ deals with a familiar character, the Polish workman, whom we see in an entirely new way. Then, Dawn Marie Kelly is back with ‘No Place,’ the story of a simple world somehow made infinitely menacing in the telling. Her acting ability and very convincing American accent made this story very powerful.
To finish, Mark Rutterford’s funny, self-deprecating ‘Skydiving’ takes us on a whirlwind journey through his love life, which feels exactly how I believe skydiving would be. This intricate, cleverly-constructed story is a worthy end to a very satisfying programme.
Can I recommend attendance at the next Writers Unchained event? Most definitely. You’ll sit enthralled through a couple of hours of thought-provoking entertainment. And if you’re a writer with aspirations like me, you’ll also learn much from the way in which the performers handle their material and deliver it to the audience. Look out for the next Story Sunday.
Thank you, Suzanne! If anyone would like to be notified of our next event, please contact us to be added to our mailing list.
You’ll have to excuse the cliches while we say a massive thanks to everyone who made last night’s Twilight Zone an absolutely stunning experience. Most of all to our amazing writers who each brought a unique and contribution to the SF/spec-fic genre every one of which was totally unforgettable.
So let’s hear it for these brave and talented souls who took the floor (with apologies for the odd solar flare!)
Our commiserations to John Holland who couldn’t make it on the night but whose story ‘You’re Very Beautiful’ was read by Kevlin with such mesmerising intensity it looks to me as if John’s shadow (or maybe his alien alter ego) was with us in the room.
Thanks as ever to Southbank Club who provided the ideal venue and to Sally for bringing along the portable atmosphere!
This was our fourth story Sunday since last we began on a misty night last November, so a good time to thank everyone who has read for us this year.
We are off to give ourselves a pat on the back and decide when and what our next event will be. Thanks to last night, I think there are a few more sci-fi fans in this neck of the woods.
And thanks again for all the birds, robots, eggs and (recurrent theme) very startled cats.
Five local writing groups ‘compete’ to come up with the best flash fiction (up to 200 words) on the night. Last year’s event was a riot (almost!) This year Gail, Jean and Jo with friends Louise Gethin and Gavin Watkins will represent us as Writers Unhinged. Come and support us – or any of the rest!
Saturday Oct 22nd, 3 – 4pm
Ancient Egyptian Storytelling at Bristol Museum and Art Gallery
Four local authors, including our own Jean, will read original stories inspired by the myths and mysteries of Ancient Egypt. Should be atmospheric! No tickets, just turn up.
Saturday 22nd, 7 – 11 pm Talking Tales, Left Bank, 128 Cheltenham Road
A first outing at this event for Ali Bacon. Natalie Melling who read at Midsummer Madness is also reading. Come along to calm them down and cheer them on. Live music as well as prose and poetry! Presented by Stokes Croft Writers
Yes, at 6pm next Sunday you can enter a world of mesmerising and mind-bending stories read by their writers. Our call for submissions has been the best yet and in a break with tradition we at WU are standing aside in favour of a full programme of guest writers. Our line-up includes not only star local writer/performers but also newcomers to the Bristol live-lit scene.
If you feel the need for something more familiar, Mark Lewis offers boiled sweets (but not as you know them) and you can share an apocalyptic cigarette with Kevlin Henney. Or if far out really is your thing, we have D. S. Ketleby with an avian family saga.
As soon as we’re over the #lovehangover event, we’ll be heading off for a very important book launch. Established crime writer and our erstwhile member Nina Milton is launching the third in her Shamanic Mystery Series Beneath the Tor in the centre of Glastonbury on Saturday Feb 27th. Do join us if you can.
Beneath the Tor, published by Midnight Ink (Llewellyn Worldwide), features young Somerset shaman, Sabbie Dare, who enlists the help of the spirit world to fight the dark side of humanity.
All the Shaman Mysteries are set in the beautiful, but sometimes eerie landscape of the Somerset Levels, but Beneath the Tor opens on Midsummer Eve at the top of Glastonbury Tor, where beautiful Alys Hollingberry dies suddenly after dancing the night away. The book has its own cast of Glastonbury characters and examines many of the myths and legends of this mystical town.
The launch will take place at
The Avalon Rooms at the Glastonbury Experience (2-4 High Street BA6 9DY)
2pm on Saturday 27th February
All Nina Milton’s books will be available at a special launch price.
Ronald Hutton, professor of history at Bristol University, and author of Pagan Britain will give a talk on shamanism today, and Nina Milton will give readings of her work and sign copies of her books.
Complimentary refreshments will be served and blues guitarist Arthur Billington will provide acoustic music. All book lovers are invited, and admission is free.
Born in Bristol, Nina has been writing since she could hold a pen, and holds an MA in creative writing from Bath Spa. She is a Fellow of the Higher Education Academy.
She began her writing career when she was awarded the Wells Festival of Literature Short Story Prize. She returned to the prize-giving in 2015 to talk about what can happen after winning. Milton Nina Milton is also a Druid with shamanic training. “Druidry takes me close to the earth and into the deep recesses of my mind. Shamanic techniques help me in my life – in fact they changed my life.”
If you’re a reader or writer, Nina will be happy to chat to you at the Launch Event; “I love talking about my passion, writing,” she says. “Talking about it makes a break from the actual writing!”
Here are some reviews of her books:
Embark on Nina Milton…and you won’t stop reading…
Naomi Lewis, Sunday Observer
Nina Milton has created a unique fictional world in her Shaman Mystery Series, featuring Sabbie Dare as a young shaman. With Beneath the Tor she passed the ultimate test of a writer, that of causing me to put off useful jobs which I really should have been doing, in order to see what happens next. She has become a mistress of plot-weaving, and above all, she pulls off the trick of setting the totally fantastic amid the totally everyday and making the two fit together with pace and excitement…
Ronald Hutton, author of Pagan Britain and The Triumph of the Moon.
This third mystery of the series hits the ground running. I read the book straight through with only some sleep in between. It’s not necessary to have read the first two to read this one. Wonderful mix of modern grit and ancient magic…
Sabbie Dare is the most compelling protagonist I’ve met this year, and Milton’s tale is riveting…the visceral suspense Milton creates is commendable, not to mention terrifying. I like pairing her work with Elly Griffiths’s atmospheric English mysteries
Milton puts an intriguing New Age spin on the traditional English mystery
In the Moors, 2013 Unraveled Visions, 2014 Beneath the Tor 2016
Milton’s books for older children, Sweet’n’Sour (HarperCollins) and Tough Luck (Bristol Publishers ThornBerry) were both set in Bristol.
She has a long track record as a short story writer, winning the Wells Literary Festival Short Story Prize among others.
And some of Nina’s most recent short stories can of course be read in our own Unchained Anthology.
Thanks to all the wonderful people who have talked, tweeted or written about us (not to mention all those who sent something in) we are delighted to announce our line-up for Sunday 21st which looks like being as spinetingling (in a slightly different way) as our November event.
Our readers will be (not necessarily in this order):
Emily Koch (Bristol)
Writer & journalist, newly in possession of a masters degree – and, hurrah! – an agent