PublishED The Edinburgh Student Literary Magazine Issue No. 2
Hooked On Books: Mr. Canongate Jamie Byng
Six Word Story Competition
”Get Dumb Sunglasses & Silly Facial Hair”- An Hour With Ryan Van Winkle
Lewis Edwards Memorial Prize
Martin Conaghan Talks Comics & Corpses
t a b l e o f c o n t e n t s
The Lewis Edwards Memorial PRize
Publishing information, including articles from local publishers and information on upcoming writing competitions.
A showcasing of some of the winners and runners up of the University of Edinburgh’s creative writing
Flash Fiction Competition
An interview with JAMIE BYNG
The results are in!
The Canongate leader talks us through his success.
An interview with MARTIN Conaghan
An interview with Ryan Van Winkle
Comic book writer Martin Conaghan talks about the comic industry
An entertaining insight into the Edinburgh based poet’s life.
Six Word Story Competition Ernest Hemingway believed that a good writer could create a piece of fiction using only six words- a belief which has inspired this competition. We’re taking flash fiction to the extreme, and asking our contributors to submit us their six word stories.
events and Competitions A collection of photos from past PublishED events, and a list of upcoming events, competitions, and socials.
foreword History has shown us that the so-called ‘sophomore slump’ can affect the most talented and respected of ventures. Perhaps that’s why Harper Lee published just one novel, albeit a classic, in her lifetime. We at PublishED, however, were determined that this would not happen to our humble, beloved project. Rather than resting on the laurels of our magazine debut, we have worked hard to produce a follow-up that we feel offers a standard, variety, and style that matches, if not betters, our first issue. Once again, we have a million and one people to thank: Ryan Van Winkle and Salt Publishing, Jamie Byng and Canongate, Beth Ashton and Fledgling Press, Ed Murphy and Rough Cut Comics, Liz Small and Waverley Books, Rich Hardiman and Printbar, Tom and Melissa Oldfield, and Martin Conaghan. And of course, final thanks go out to our student writers and our hard-working committee for all their many contributions. The stardard of submissions that we received for this issue blew us away, and we hope our readers enjoy them as much as we have. Matthew Oldfield & Jen Mah
How to get involved email submissions to
PublishEDinburgh@gmail.com or through our website at
www.PublishEDinburgh.weebly.com We accept all poetry, prose, and drama, and run contests and competitions throughout the academic year. To stay up to date with PublishED news and events, follow us on Twitter at @PublishEDSoc
the committee Editor-In-Chief: Matthew Oldfield Head of Layout & Design: Jen Mah
General Editors: Josh King & Jining Zhang
Drama Editors: Katy Johnston & Kieran Johnson
Prose Editors: Eleanor Fairbanks-Angus & Sam Kirk
Poetry Editors: Karishma Sundara & Lois Wilson
Heads of Fundraising: Allan Cameron & Sarah Hull Head of Web Design: Conor Dunnachie Head of PR: Anjalee Salter
Secretary: Susie Shields
Head of Advertising: Tash Frost Head of Transportation: Will MacPherson
Treasurers: Robbie Marwick & John Wisdom
Proofreader: Kathryn Cheshire
DEEP-FRIE publ Graduate Internsthe Lost Generation? by BETH ASHTON from Fledgling Press
T he current job market is a daunting place for graduates fresh out of University, particularly for those who have studied an Arts degree. A degree is no longer the sturdy rung on the bottom of the career ladder that it has been historically, and employers are now looking for something more. At times it can feel as though all those hopeful applications are simply disappearing forever alongside most of the UK’s Christmas mail... However, with hardship comes ingenuity, and most graduates are now encouraged to demonstrate an alternative approach to job-hunting. Although there have been reports of some jobseekers adopting extreme tactics such as blowing their CV up on a billboard in Trafalgar Square, generally speaking practical experience is the most valued attribute a recent graduate can obtain, and this is where internships enter the (not so level) playing field. Internships can take many different forms, ranging from full to part time, and can last from four weeks to over a year. The nature of the internship in 2011 is difficult to pin down, as there is rarely a definite promise of employment shining at the end of the tunnel. However, adaptation seems to be the name of the game for today’s graduate, and we are expected to approach the role of intern with a bag of PG Tips and a big smile. During my own experiences as an intern, I quickly discovered that each company had its own idiosyncrasies and attitudes, and as such the skills learnt during different internships can vary accordingly. When I graduated I had very little working knowledge of the industry, and although I still would not describe myself as a publishing prodigy, it has been invaluable working for an independent company within a small and close-knit team. Although the idea of working for free can be a challenge, it need not always leave a bitter taste in your mouth. Being an intern at Fledgling Press has been insightful, heart-warming and challenging. I have had op-
portunities ranging from working in an editorial capacity, proof-reading manuscripts and being involved in submission selection, to marketing. Rather terrifyingly I have been given co-responsibility for the publication of a children’s book, which has involved sourcing an illustrator, and resolving other knotty issues such as type-facing and breaking down the text for a younger audience. These kinds of experiences have been hugely rewarding, and I doubt that such a hands-on opportunity would have arisen at a larger firm. Publishing is a complex process, and it can sometimes be somewhat confusing trying to establish who does what and when. I have found that working for a smaller firm has been eye-opening in establishing the format of the publication process, and for working out which job description is responsible for what. Being able to move around the different departments has been enlightening; for example whilst initially thinking that I would make the best editorial assistant in the world, it transpired that I had a much greater affinity with the design and marketing aspects of the process. Internships are invaluable both when learning more about the profession we might want to enter into, but just as importantly I have learned which areas I don’t want to be involved in, mainly anything incorporating rights! The success of an internship depends hugely on the people who you work with, and the company’s general attitude towards its interns. For most interns, the power dynamic of the normal working relationship, which is essentially the exchange of time and skills for money, is off balance. Instead, you are giving away your time and skills for the opportunity to be involved or included, and to learn through experience. Maintaining the drive to commit to a company which is not paying you is only possible if you feel respected and valued in equal measures. Even if you are stuck in a cupboard
ED INK o f n i g lishin somewhere stuffing envelopes, I have found that a bit of appreciation here and there is enough to make it worth the blank pay cheque. In the name of hyperbole, some journalists have taken to describing recent graduates as ‘The Lost Generation’ and innumerable recession-themed articles have been published detailing the seeming impossibility of obtaining a job at all, let alone one that you may actually be interested in. Although it is an uphill climb, there are ropes available to cling on to, and if used the right way internships can certainly give you a much-needed leg-up. In spite of our interesting economic climate, some things never change, and nepotism in the work place is as rife today as ever. For those not fortunate enough to swim in a well-connected gene pool, the internship is our next line of defence. For more advice on getting into publishing, keep an eye on the SYP (Society of Young Publishers) at www.thesyp.org.uk. Also, check out our interview with Canongate Chief, Jamie Byng, on pages 20-21.
U p c o m i n g l i t e r a r y Competitions COMPETITIONS WITH NO ENTRY FEES: The Posara Prize: Up to 2000 words of fact or fiction on the theme of ‘A Foreigner in Italy’, your piece of writing should capture the feeling of the country as seen through a foreigner’s eyes, prize: £1000. Deadline: 28th February 2011. www.watermill.net/writingholidays/writing-holidays-competition1.php Kelpies Prize 2011: Between 40,000-70,000 words on a ‘subject matter to which today’s children can relate. Entries should be set in Scotland and be written for children around the ages of 9-12. Prize: £2000. Deadline: 28th February 2011. www.florisbooks.co.uk/kelpiesprize/enter.html Wergle Flomp Poetry Contest: A contest specifically for parody poems. Prize: $1500. Deadline: 1st April 2011. www.winningwriters.com/contests/wergle/ we_guidelines.php
COMPETITIONS WITH ENTRY FEES: Bristol Short Story Prize: Prose up to 3000 words on any subject, prize: £1000 + £150 Waterstone’s gift card. Deadline: 31st March 2011. www.bristolprize. co.uk/ Gemini Short Story Competition: A short piece of writing on any subject and in any genre. Prize: $1000. Deadline: 31st March 2011. www.gemini-magazine. com/contest.html Agenda Poetry Competition: Poetry up to 45 lines, prize: £1000. Deadline: 1st April 2011. www.agendapoetry.co.uk
more deep-fried ink How Do You Get A Job In
Publishing and What Is It Like? by Liz Small
Waverley Books published Mad About Macarons – Make
Macarons like the French in October last year. The book shows you how to make the Parisian meringue-like delicacy that’s on sale all over Paris. Before we decided to publish, I researched the bakery/cake market and decided we needed a kitsch and stylish book as the market was already crowded with cupcake books, and we knew other books on macaroons were coming. We set up a website for it – www.madaboutmacarons. com and set out to sell the book in as many countries as we could. While it turned out that the British are not so keen to give two hours to making macaroons, we have found that the French and Americans are. So currently we have a bestseller in the US. If you look at the website above, you will see our author Jill Colonna is spending a lot of time blogging, and generating interest online that has resulted in strong sales. In March, we published a novel that I commissioned – Mavis’s Shoe - about the Clydebank bombing of 1941, when two night raids by the Luftwaffe destroyed Clydebank and killed over 500 people. It was Scotland’s worst episode of destruction in the war. The book is by Sue Reid Sexton, and she has counselled war veterans. She also did a lot of research on the bombing, and how children who lose their family in war today react, and grow up. She also did this research with the help of a counsellor in Bosnia. I am currently working on promoting the author, a first-time novelist, into bookshops, literary festivals, and onto TV. We are also working with some actors who will perform a scene from the novel at bookshops and schools. We are trying to cover both the children’s and adult market with this book. Risky? Yes. Can we make the market for this book? I hope so. In June we published a second edition of a travel guide to Scotland called The Broon’s Days Oot which ‘gives hunners of ideas for days oot around Scotland’, with a commentary by members of The Broons family. Our first edition sold over 30,000 copies. In contrast, our book, Maw Broon’s Cookbook has sold 250,000 copies to date. We have a diverse publishing list – so what part do I play in this?
My job is to help come up with ideas on what we publish, and to help craft them into marketable books, and to do the sales and marketing of our books into bookshops and non-traditional outlets for books such as garden centres, supermarkets, online etc. We are a team of eight, and we work closely together. The authors write the books, the editors do the ‘words’, the designer helps make sure the book catches the eye; the production people work to choose the right paper and binding, and buy the print to ensure we get the right look to the product that the book becomes. The job of the publisher is to develop the writer’s work into a saleable product and to market it as widely as possible to maximise earnings for the author and make money for the publisher. Be aware that publishing offers many opportunities and that book genres include: education, academic, science, technical, medical, reference, fiction, children’s, leisure/lifestyle, ELT, poetry, and for the publisher the aim is pretty much the same – to get the work widely read, and to make money for the author and the business. Most publishers I have met are passionate about what they do. Usually they have loved books since infancy, and are passionate about literacy, and design, and in getting people reading, and learning, and ‘doing’. The UK book industry is currently worth around £3bn. Sales have fallen slightly in the last two years owing to the recession, but overall book sales are holding up. If you are serious about working in publishing, you need an eye for detail. You need to research the industry and work out which part of it appeals to you. Go to your Careers office. Read ‘The Writers and Artists Yearbook’. Go into Waterstone’s. Look at books. Research EBooks, and what sells. Track down copies of ‘The Bookseller’. It is worth getting work experience. It is worth working in a bookshop. It is worth perfecting your CV, and in researching what kind of a job you think you will enjoy, and it is worth doing a course at Stirling or Napier.
When A Story Gets Graphic by Ed Murphy
Scottish publisher Rough Cut Comics has carved itself a firm niche in a marketplace that’s dominated by the two grandfathers of the industry – Marvel and DC Comics.
Above: an exclusive first look at the cover of ROSE BLACK BOOK II: DEMON SEED. Available from May. Below: two titles both developed from new writers.
The Glasgow-based company celebrates its tenth anniversary this year with their three mainstay titles (The Surgeon, Rose Black and Freedom Collective) still attracting huge readerships and dedicated followers including veteran horror writer Ramsey Campbell, Scots comic book writer Grant Morrison and renowned American artist Alex Ross. They ceased publishing the monthly 32-page format several years ago and now specialize in collected volumes and graphic novels. Rough Cut Comics Publisher and Editor-in-Chief Ed Murphy and his team initially choose their writers on the strength of their ideas, but he admits the final choice would be down to how they can present the script and develop the story. “Unfortunately, it still all comes down to solid writing experience,” admits Ed. “But we will always look at a 300 word synopsis of anyone’s story idea; and two pages of sample script. We will be direct, but if we see something in the work, we’ll give every bit of direction we can. Before you present an idea to us, it’s important for you to know what we publish and what our house style is. That simply comes down to being familiar with our product. We won’t tell what this is. Your understanding of it will tell us how astute you are at reading the industry.” “I’ve just read something this month which has a great idea lost within it, and if the writer can follow our direction and develop a good script, it may be one of the titles next year. This is a hugely competitive business, although I do believe talent does rise to the top. I think within the larger comic publishers, the emerging talent just gets lost. That doesn’t happen in the independent sector we work in.” Like all comic book publishers, Rough Cut Comics operate in the Direct Market. Their titles are solicited in the Diamond Comics Distributors’ Previews catalogue – alongside every comic publisher in the world – and orders are solicited two months in advance … so they know exactly what the minimum order of the title will be before it prints. “That’s what is unique about the comic book industry as opposed to the magazine publishing trade,” admits Ed. “There’s no sale or return, which has been a common trait of the retail industry since its inception. Everyone thinks that’s terrific because it’s instant revenue, but it makes the retailers more discerning. Poor sales from comic shops in the UK might mean an order of 50 copies. But a good sale worldwide can be around 5,000 copies. “But that needs good marketing and advertising in the right places. As well as my previous experience as a journalist, I worked in the film industry for several years; and there is a real technique in selling ideas and concepts to the comic-buying public.” Rough Cut Comics can be found at www.roughcut-comics.com and now a Facebook page where you can follow its activities. Check out Joshua King’s exclusive interview with leading Scottish comic book writer Martin Conaghan on page 14.
poetry Wanderings (An Extract)
This is only an excerpt from Thomas Martin’s “Wanderings,” and the rest may be viewed at www.PublishEDinburgh.weebly.com
She Would Get The Flowers Herself
The asphalt is reflective in the night’s occluded air, My feet beat the puddles and the rain beats my hair, This humidity is not conducive, to being debonair, My brogues dancing with the cars, Smashing lights upon the floor, A thumping step is all they need, To alert, to scare, the gang men; the ne’er do wells; The rogues lurking under porticos, Lighting smokes to lessen woes, They call out some quid pro quos, and beckon me to alleviate My pocket of that excess weight, In their darling dank grottos, Not tonight, my piteous friends, No not tonight at all, So striding on I give my phlegm, and I abandon them, To the knowledge that they’ll ensnare some smaller foes. My beating feet, grind these riverine streets, My head bowed with a knitted brow, My friends sit in piles of bricks, Warmed by the sound of broken lips, Electronic charms and tricks, Which, don’t fare too well outside, In a damp atmosphere, the wiring goes all queer, And they don’t like to walk alone, ‘Understandably, It’s not safe if we, Stroll down dark passageways, With a fancy telephone, Labyrinthine voyages, Don’t ever end too well And our blood will invariably, Stain the city stones, ‘ But I counter; the reprobates, Won’t see magistrates, If you’re going to stay inside, So come and follow me, And drown in irony, If I bleed on your precious stairs, Come on spinsters, Come on rakes, We’re all alone and we have thirsts to sate.
She would get the flowers herself Drawing on a wealth of self Assuredness and autonomy Petals of female anatomy Where ideals began to blossom, In bud for centuries of her. Indeed, To accept it or expect it In any other way would be to Feel indebted, and not to nature To see herself a delicate creature Wooed by colour, and swayed by scent, Sensitive to the compliment Of her comparison to nature And a natural couture. Scrutinising species In an almanac of flowers, Plucking out petals To while away the captive hours Gazing at forbidden fields Whilst locked away in towers Oh! What a difference a bloom makes! Twenty four little flowers. Yet perhaps that gay cacophony Of bedecked and bright perfumery Would be nothing but apology Or impulse for their beauty. Not given in a backwards thinking Sense of what is duty. Not to hypnotise or intoxicate, To ask for love or force one’ s fate But simply sit in water and Retain their outside glory. Like the offering which shines in fields And fades indoors in their one chance Let not unintended implication Kill the natural art of romance. LUCY LINFORTH
“Words are the most powerful drug used by mankind.” -Rudyard Kipling
wings to the edges of control. The whole intricate piping of her body anchors itself to life in increments, measures of will, her fugitive play. When you say that the blur
TE L A
Not Quite Thinking
between daylight and the dark seems no broader than this fault-lined pill that animates your vitals, you’re not a million miles from the truth, my sparrow,
My sparrow is dying. But that can wait. The Romans named her passer, taking in the sense of speed that bloomed to what is fleeting, and passion, a sense of headfirst flight pushing her splayed
but let the waiting be long. May your last recital embody this growing proximity to tomorrow, may you lose your voice in song at this darkening border.
Breathless still gasping I’m waiting for sorrow Joy everlasting Sulks with tomorrow
We’ll keep to the borders I’ll sweep your remains Safe from the hoarders Who think they’re insane Let’s die in these corners Stay where we’re swept Safe from lost mourners Who won’t leave till they’ve wept I’m still sitting in chairs I once built from toy brio And when I take to the stairs Up the wood hill we go Because I’ve forgotten when to be now Was time ever so simple Rhyme, the only progress allowed I hide behind, blind in its lull.
“A poem is true if it hangs together. Information points to something else. A poem points to nothing but itself.” -E.M. Forster
God’s iPod Playlist
When my soul seems to break and there is a lack of goal in sight I muse over that universal language, the secret used to subvert to tyrants; sonatas scribbled deep into the darkest night. An Aramaic chant, whose misty haze ripples the dome in the desert. Flutes round a fire that let native tales rise in the flame. Or sitars, whose strings glisten like the sun-induced sweat morning brings. Organ’s pipes, whose bursting blasts of joy within the devil tame Handel’s Chorales, conjured up in spotless harmonies from angels’ wings. That blind beggar on the streets of Pest; Rachmaninov became his eyes in the form of a viola, or maybe a cello that he’d never learned. But then- could we so shamed in sin be a shadow of the divine? I’d like to grasp the headphones, trip down a lane where his feet once trod. Once to listen, of painless beauty never heard on this side of Jerusalem’s gates-- the music of God.
prose Why The Plague
She once told me that God was somewhat intravenous, that faith was in our veins, and that not even our
blood was as pure as Him. She once told me that love is the second closest thing that we have to purification, that together we could make amends of all the things gone wrong, and that love picks up all the splinters to make a tree again. She once told me all sorrow is the absence of both these things, that what I feel is this absence, and that we call this absence emptiness. I told her that all three were poison, that all three were like the plague. My fingertips trail over her ceramic skin. I draw a line from her throat down to her hips. The street-light sepia of her hair delicately straddles her shoulders. Flawless portrait. Not even sunlight could ruin this. I take a final breath. Just one, final breath. Cold air fills my lungs. We come together. We part.
I’ve never felt this naked. My muscles move me to the window and my fists crash into the walls, forehead knocks on the cold glass. Relax. I look up and speculate. I wonder if He’s there, looking, watching, judging and damning. A whole manner of things with the present participle. Living. I wait for a reply. Here’s a chance - take it. I want to believe. The whites of my eyes are one with the sky. Insert vacuum. She got out of bed and silently came over to me. Her feet don’t even touch the ground. Her fingertips trace their way around my waist, and my blood turns to rain. Angelic assassin. She once told me that God was somewhat intravenous. She once told me that love is the second closest thing that we have to purification. She once told me that all sorrow is the absence of both these things. She whispered something in my ear.
‘Why the plague?’ she asked, and for once I couldn’t answer. KIERAN JOHNSON
What do you mean I’m dead?’
‘We here at Universe Inc. do not make mistakes sir.’ ‘Well ... well how did it happen?’
‘You were standing in a Tesco, waiting in a queue for milk, and then there was gas explosion. You were dead before you knew it.’ ‘So I’m really dead?’
‘No, mate, I’m just messing with you, you’re still in Tesco’s. That’ll be £2.50 please. Thank you. Next.’
Rasavatam- The Way of Mercury: An Archaic Indian Story
Aeons before we were, when sundry ways to plunder the planet hadn’t been found, whilst the peacocks danced in the varsa season and the elephants of Kerala were free to relish the monsoon rains, when man was not bound by corporate laws and was at liberty to wander at will, migrate and settle where his soul felt stilled, where there were no borders on the tranquil earth, even the nymphs of heaven mingled with those below, in the geographical expression we now call India lived he, of shimmering silver skin and a vermillion mark on his forehead which depicted valour. Brave as he was, it was believed far and wide that the ruler who possessed his services could transform any situation into one of triumph.
Caution prevailed on every ruler’s mind, for they knew of this valorous man’s dark side. Death was inevitable to those who perturbed him. Eccentricity sought to define his temperament, and he easily melted for all of women’s basest charms. Fickle-mindedness not confined only to matters concerning women, his gratitude often dissolved and he allied himself with those who offered him gold and other exotic metals. Grandiloquence never failed to seize him, and it was on one such instance. He was lured into attending the Swayamvara of Princess Rathnavati, by the Alchemist who had poisoned his capricious mind with the scheme of making an emperor of him, which he could become by marrying her. Incomparably demure, Rathnavati was brought up to befit the qualities expected of a Hindu Princess, of masochism in all its forms. Jasmine adorned her long black tresses; she was garlanded and bejeweled with jade, rubies, gold and sapphire. Kings of lands near and far stood in silence awaiting her choice of husband, emperor, the ruler of her soul. Lingering at the doorway, he stood under the arch and the sun glistened on his silvery frame. Moved by his smile, she felt herself being lured to him, as though she was being carried by a stream of gushing water. None could comprehend why she chose him, for he was as pretentious as silver and vacillating as water. On the full moon day, pournami, they got married, and sought the blessings of the three heavens. Proud of his accomplishment, he was intent on establishing his might. Quickly undoing what Rathnavati’s ancestors had realized, he dug up the earth in search of minerals and metals, constructed reservoirs and choked rivers, tightened the borders and punished transgressors, waged wars and brought death to every house’s doorstep. Rathnavati endured his ways, for that’s what women of the geographical expression called India do, and loved him devotedly despite his faults. Summoned by the diluted nature of various elements, he soon resumed his philandering ways. There was no interest shown in the chaste, noble disposition of Rathnavati, and she dwindled to non-existence. Ultimately, the Alchemist succeeded in his scheme, the silvery one was the ruler of humanity as far as one’s eye could see; it was believed that the man with the vermilion mark could end all of humanity’s tribulations if he brought the whole world under his control. Virtuous Rathnavati pleaded her Lord to shun evil, far-fetched schemes and to protect the people instead of squandering wealth. Wary of Rathnavati’s intentions, the Alchemist corrupted the King’s mind with rumours of Rathnavati’s questionable liaison with Xambezi. Xambezi, of noble blood, had been Rathnavati’s confidante since childhood, and was instrumental in bringing the Queen news of people’s suffering. Yonder she went, as the King watched, walking into flames, on the way to purgation, to prove to the fickle world her innocence. Zealously regarding his triumph, the Alchemist watched the world with glee; picking up a handful of her ashes, he looked at the silvery King saying, “Thou power, my Lord, has purged this woman of her sins. Great is thy way, Rasavatam (the way of Mercury),” while the skies broke, the heavens thundered at the atrocity and the monsoon rains doused the fires of human vanity. SINDHU RAJASEKARAN Glossary: Varsa- rainy Pournami- full moon day
The shine. That’s what struck Chrissy at first. The sheer shine that bounced off the tiles
beneath all the hurried feet in the world. Not even her dusty, battered trainers could erase that shine. Delighted, she looked up. And then she noticed the size. Never before had she seen, let alone set foot in, such a massive place.
Once again, we asked our contributors to write under 250 words, using the below image as a prompt. Charlotte Robertson was our winner, and Jack Kinross our runner up.
The Runner Up M
hF ict ion
To her surprise she was reminded of Taylor Brown, casually twirling in the tyre-swing. “My God, Chrissy, life here is so dull’, she’d whined, in her deep Tennessee accent. “Don’t tell nobody this, but I’ve got a plan.” She’d paused then, waiting for Chrissy’s pleading eyes before revealing her secret. “I’m gonna be a show-girl on Broadway. That’s how all them stars get noticed, you know. It’ll be a real good life. I’ll have my own apartment in r Blake pure wanked Manhattan, with huge high o’er trains an piles o‘metal an ceilings, and beautiful silk inside o’mopeds an that… curtains and windows so shiny Steven said he once seen him I’ll be able to see across the shagging a Honda, his tadger whole of New York. Maybe in eh exhaust and all that. But even America.” ken that’s pish. Blakey had ‘Train Stations of the World’ Chrissy grinned at that. in class. Pyoor shite, but a wiz Where was Taylor now, with her thinking on ma feet, a acted silly dreams and her interested so as a could get condescending smile? Not in away early. Worked a belter New York. No siree, it was an’all. Chrissy who’d really escaped. It was Chrissy who’d left the Today took eh train frae Dalry instead of eh bus because eh road scrapping mutts and the crying works. Looking oot eh window, came oot eh tunnel. It wiz wan ae babies and the rusting caravans seen they stations! Pure spitting image ae picture the Blakey had behind. And now look at her, showed us! Seen a sign.. an people walking up an doon speakin mad standing in Grand Central with shitey nasal voices. only a single wall between her and all the shiniest A wuz fucken skelped man. Couldny believe it. Wee tannoy on eh train was windows she could ever pyoor spraffin in its usual voice, givin it all ‘this is Grand Central Station… wish for. Yep, she was next stop is Partick’… in for a real good life.
That place, air smelt different, eh doors were wide open, but nae cunt wuz getting aff… nae cunt even noticed! Some pissed cunt behind us was just mumblin, a mad wuman was screechin an skelpin her wee boy. Coupla lads up eh back were laughin at this video on eh big wans phone.
But a wizny gonna miss this. A wuz movin, doors they started beepin.. closin. They only open fur aboot a minuet and a’d wasted all this time gawpin! Aw’Fuck! Train pulled away! a wuz just astaundin in eh corridor like a fucken eejit. Nae cunt else even noticed. JACK KINROSS
We curse and we cuss, we run and we hide, we count and we wish but nothing will stop the pace of time, the darkness and light, the daytime and night, over and over they go. Round and round and you’ll nev-er know what could have happened, what would have happened, if only you could save time.
One Hour Until Landing
ELLIOT FRANCIS JAMES
‘ xcuse me, my dear���, he slurred loudly at a passing flight attendant, leaning out into the aisle, his head lolling against his shoulder. His boring, middle-aged neighbour removed his sleeping mask to glare; it was nearly four in the morning, and the in-flight entertainment had long since been put out of its misery. But Paul William Kingston – 59, unhappily married with two exiled children, and a senile bitch for a mother – was on vacation, and hence the half-buttoned shirt, the bloodshot eyes, the wine-stained teeth, and the drunken swagger of a strip-clubber. He had £10 left, and he had one last toast to make, to his wretched wife who had finally shacked up with her therapist. ‘I would like a red wine, please, if you wouldn’t mind. How much would that cost a poor soul like me?’ He knew the deal better than he knew his own name, but he had a plan to follow. Because of it, he was confident that no-one had yet noticed his ‘condition’, even twelve glasses down the line. The air hostess, however, frowned wearily at his request and glanced round gravely at her colleagues. In his head he sounded every inch the British gentleman, charming and so incredibly courteous. Had he ruined the system? Had she already served him? He was trying hard to spread the orders out amongst the cabin crew, but the ladies were looking more alike with each sleeping pill. ‘It is £3.60 for one bottle, sir…or £6 for two’, she murmured mechanically. In his state of exuberance, Paul William Kingston failed to detect the disgruntled sigh that preceded the second clause. There were other things on his mind, such as dislodging his wedding ring, and finally joining the mile-high club. He had his long-awaited freedom, and now an air hostess to share it with. The world was their bittersweet oyster. She was at least eight years younger than Brenda’s toy-boy, and her face was a blur of blue eye shadow and red lipstick. It was like watching fireworks. Paul William Kingston imagined his face nestled nicely in her ample, hoisted cleavage. ‘Oh well, I suppose I should have two then. Awfully naughty of me, I know, but I am on holiday!’ The bottles had been delivered before he even placed his order. Mr Kingston would not be getting anymore, of course, but he didn’t know that yet. For now, he was a man of sparkling wit and irresistible sexual allure. He tipped her generously, winking in that subtle way of his, his crimson tongue poked crudely into his cheek. ‘And one for yourself, perhaps?’ He was flirting, she was teasing; the first move was his to make. ‘Touch me again and I’ll have you arrested on arrival…sir. One hour until landing.’ M.J. SCOLA
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Why comic books? Why not poetry or screenwriting for instance? What is it about comics and graphic novels as a medium that excites you? I’ve always made things up and written things since I was a little boy, be it stories in the back of old jotters or telling jokes in the school yard. I’m a child of the Star Wars generation, which was essentially a comic book movie and had a massive influence on people of my age. Comics are a wonderful medium for storytelling, both in the simplicity of their format, and the potential for conveying complex ideas or themes. However, it wasn’t until I reached my teens that I became interested in American comics, like Batman, Doom Patrol, Animal Man and Watchmen - when British writers like Grant Morrison and Alan Moore invaded the US and demonstrated that ordinary guys like me could write for globally-renowned companies. Comics are a pure form of entertainment, untainted by the budgetary and commercial influences of Hollywood.
Writers of all shades are often asked about their inspiration. However, what is perhaps more important is what motivates you. What drives you to get up in the morning and say ‘I’m going to write today’? This is something I struggle with and it’s an aspect of the job that many writers find difficult; getting out of bed in the morning, staring at a blank screen and conjuring up words that make sense. I know of several writers who can get out of bed in the morning, sit down and batter out thousands of words in a single sitting. For me, it’s a more drawn out process. I often spend a lot of time researching, or pondering the characters/plot/dialogue before I sit down and write it all out. I often make little notes, then write it all in a single session. Every writer is different – but there is one thing that connects everyone
who writes; you need to write, or you’re not a writer. Talking about being a writer does not make you a writer. Writing does. If you have an idea, it doesn’t matter how crap it might sound, you need to write it down and get the words out - otherwise, you’re just a talker.
lettering and quality printing. What about you – what makes a good comic book writer - why are you good at what you do? I think you have to firstly know the medium; you wouldn’t presume to perform heart surgery if you didn’t understand human biology or try to audition for a band if you couldn’t play an instrument or sing (Britain’s got Talent, notwithstanding). You need to read comics, understand the medium and enjoy the format but, ultimately, ideas are the most important aspect of all. If you don’t have ideas, you’ll have nothing to write about.
“Comics are a pure form of entertainment, untainted by the commercial influences of Hollywood”
You came to my attention last year with the publication of ‘Burke and Hare’. How does a project like that come about? In the early 1990s US-based company Caliber Comics put a call out to all their writers asking for contributors to a new line of Gothic horror graphic novel adaptations. I offered to write Robert Louis Stevenson’s “The Bodysnatcher” - a supernatural tale of grave robbing in Enlightenment Edinburgh. However, when I did the research and picked up a copy of the story, I found out that it was only loosely based on the true story of William Burke and William Hare, the infamous serialkillers in 19th century Edinburgh. So, I asked if I could do a straightforward version of their story. Burke and Hare had never set foot in a graveyard with the intention of stealing a corpse; they murdered all of their victims (with the exception of the first one, who died owing them money). It was one of those classic cases of truth being stranger than fiction. Unfortunately, Caliber ceased publishing in the mid1990s, and the story fell into limbo until it was resurrected (so to speak) in 2008. I approached my artist friend Will Pickering, with a view to illustrating my original script. We met up a couple of times to discuss the format, and around nine months later, the book was ready for publication.
Is the process of putting together a comic or graphic novel more complex than other forms of writing - in terms of coordinating with artists etc? Writing a comic book script is much more technical than writing a novel, because there’s more to consider than simply writing words down to tell a story or writing out dialogue for characters to spout forth. It’s more like writing a movie script - or, rather, it’s more like writing a shooting script for a movie, with stage directions and detailed descriptions of the scene required. I always leave it to the artist to make the final choice on how to draw the comic (mainly because I’m a terrible artist and wouldn’t presume to tell them how to do their job). The mistake people often make in trying to write a comic book story is to simply write down whatever is in their head - there’s a whole myriad of complex processes to take into consideration; such as the effect of page-turns on the narrative flow, the juxtaposition of imagery, narrative and dialogue. What makes a good comic book? Strong characters, believable dialogue, plausible plots, surprises, originality of ideas, competent writing, crisp visuals, technical composition, good colouring, clean
Finally, what advice would you give to budding writers out there? First: write. As I said before, a writer writes. There’s no shortcut to doing this - if you have an idea for a novel or a comic or a poem or an article, you need to sit down and write the thing. About 15 years ago, I spent most of my free time sending pitches to big comic companies that were all roundly rejected. It wasn’t until I stepped sideways into mainstream journalism that I realised one of the reasons I was constantly receiving Dear John letters was because my proposals lacked style. I was naive. I thought I could write, but I really only knew how to type. It may sound like snobbery, but mastery of english fundamentals gives an editor the clearest indication of your overall ability to utilise spelling, punctuation, grammar, lexical categories, composition and form. Your words are you. If you make the odd spelling mistake, it can be forgiven. If you misuse a word like ‘their’ or misplace parenthesis, you look like an amateur. Writing isn’t just about style though, it’s about passion – and it should be a part of your life. All writing will improve your writing. Not writing will make you stagnant. Get motivated and write. It’s that simple. When you’ve mastered the basics, the only other little gem of advice I’ve ever been given in my writing career so far is this: “Omit needless words”. Think about it. JOSHUA KING Martin Conaghan’s most recent work, Burke and Hare, is now available from Insomnia Publications.
six word story
flash ficti competition Inspired by Ernest Hemingway’s six word story- “for sale: baby shoes, never worn.”- we asked our contributors to create some six word stories of their own. here are the results.
recently widowed pe nsioner seeks cookin g instructor. -chris madden
Slomo snow falls: torn love letters. -Alex Shedlock
“Incurable,” the doctor lied. She died. -Madeleine Laulund
Fortunately, women are rarely accomplished marksmen. -Alex Lewis
eam left. -Sarah Bannen Dear, There’s Only One Dr
“I wish I’d never met you.” -Neil Colquhoun
h ion dear body- no more tequila. promise. -Jen mah
She broke another heart and yawned. -Hedwig Landseer
i forgot the time travel co-ordinates. -toby squires she smiled as he quietly died. -allan cameron
he loved his family. in theory. -allan cameron The band retires, we keep dancing. -Shaun Douglas
‘’Apology accepted but damage fee re quested.’’ -tarqu inia seccombe
Robots took over. No one noticed. -Alasdair MacGregor
In love, I lost at once. -Emily duholke
Don't lie: I read your texts. -Lorena Bechelli
God, if you exist - Kill grandma. -hedwig landseer
“Tear stained telephone, off the hook”. -Alex Shedlock
Table Set. Another meal for one. -Kieran johnson the beginining. the middle. the end. -chris robson She’d always loved his brother more. -Hedwig Landseer
“There’s a game called happy
Be nice: sharks have feelings too. -Neil Colquhoun
families.” -laura Jones
At last, the dinosaurs came back. -Alasdair MacGregor
The horizon awaits, relentless we chase.-Shaun Douglas
Reasonable man, broken promises, unreasonable world. -Alex Shedlock
our three favourites: 1. Put the gun down! Put the -Neil Colquhoun 2. Escape artist seeks all night locksmith. -Chris Madden 3. ‘Spermatozoa: we were all winners once.’ -Lois Wilson 17
the time thing frozen in fast-forward we hold our breaths until slipping above yet within the room for ever more
This is whatâ€™s sacred: Eating oranges with you on the rare calm afternoon; dismantling the fruit right down to its heart, fingers wearing the scent of its crescent parts. Pocketing my fistful of slippery pips I watch you peel pith from flesh, wondering how much more time, how many orange moons before weâ€™re left with stray citrus in the air. Fragrant hands.
The Lewis Edwards Memorial Prize
vibrating patterns nitrous like in design pausing amongst strange machines and minds speak an alien tongue beyond any and all comprehension thoughts spill through 3D veins perfectly ordered through space from time all is energy all this light beings emerge from Always flowing from flowers out with form the Dream-Plane awoken prisms of energy engulf, explode atoms vision continually refracting thoughts of the Womb the death of a Father a pulsation of geometric beings guide this planet this weird trip we call home with the message I am but dust & cock & balls all this air RORY WOODROFFE
Rather Too Human (An Extract)
The Lewis Edwards Memorial Prize is a prize awarded for a short composition in English verse or prose, and one which is open to all undergraduate students of the University of Edinburgh. In January, the two winners and four runners up were announced, and we wanted to showcase some of the winning work. The poetry section was won by Camilla Chen, with her poem “Eating Oranges,” while the runners up were Rory Woodroffe for “Dream M.T.” and Kate Shall for “Losing.” On the prose side, Richard Lane won with his piece “Rather Too Human,” followed by the runners up Aurora Adams for “It’ll Be Better When You’re Drunk,” and James Kelly for “Shipments.”
I hold up his hands and concentrate on the lifelines. Then I curl the knuckles around them, letting his nails dig
ever so slightly into his palms. That’s how I clear away the Weaves. How I try at any rate. I open his hands and flex the fingers. Rotate the wrists. Set our palms on the white tablecloth, and feel the cotton through my skin. I’m in, lucid. The Weaves are still there, of course, but now I recognise the objects they belong to; see the people among the lives, so to speak. I look around the room at the others. I know they won’t recognise me – their futures spin out ahead of them, dull with ignorance. Nevertheless I feel suspected. I am an impostor, and latent paranoia seeps through this body. My body now. The only cure is to distract myself. Time to act the human. I call the waiter and ask for water- controlling this ungainly form is difficult enough without intoxication. The waiter says nothing, just nods politely and strolls away. I try to ignore the trail he leaves behind, the shattered glass a short way ahead, and the twisted aluminium chassis at the end, three years from now. I always lean towards ends, and beginnings. They aren’t always the most interesting, but when there is so much middle, you need frames of reference. “Are you always this introspective?” The words shiver up my spine, and I wobble on the chair. This isn’t right. I don’t like surprises. I shouldn’t have to deal with them. I already know there is nobody behind me, but for a moment the body’s instincts take over, and I nervously glance over my shoulder. “Up here,” the voice drawls, though the statement is entirely unnecessary. “You shouldn’t be able to talk,” I say to it. “Not much as a conversation starter. You need to work on your introductions. Try starting with a name.” “I do not have a name of my own.” “Everything has a name, regardless of whether you came up with it.” “Very well. You would know me as Fate.” “There. That wasn’t so difficult was it? Well I’m Geoff. Geoff Standing. Not quite as grand I know. I suppose you could call me Professor Standing if you want to be formal. I’m actually quite a big fan of yours.” “I am aware of that. Lecturer in metaphysics, specialist subject determinism.” “Former lecturer in metaphysics. Retired now. It’s quite a coincidence, us meeting.” “There are no coincidences.” Geoff cackles. “I figured you would say that.” “ I chose you specifically.” “Often hang around in dusty philosophers’ heads do you?” “It is not a prerequisite, I only need people who recognise my existence. It makes them more compatible, though I must confess I did not expect you to be quite so...vocal.” “Well, I must confess I didn’t expect to have my body nicked by what up to now I presumed was an abstract human concept. Would you care to inform me as to why you’ve hijacked me?” The body grunts with irritation. This is most inconvenient. “I think it’s only fair,” Geoff adds. “I’m meeting someone,” I say, soothing the body, my body, ignoring the taunts from its hormones. “Then why didn’t you steal their body?” Geoff asks. I allow my lips to curl into a smile. “She doesn’t have one.”
This is only an excerpt of Richard Lane’s “Rather Too Human,” and the rest may be viewed at www.PublishEDinburgh.weebly.com. You can also check out more of Richard’s work at www.shortstories.me.uk
amie Byng e I Interview
Jamie Byng rose from a lowly unpaid intern to become British Publishing’s brightest and boldest star. As Managing Director of Canongate, Byng is the man behind the extraordinary success of The Life of Pi and Julian Assange’s much-anticipated autobiography. PublishED caught up with the former Edinburgh student to get the inside scoop on all things books.
ad c aus e
Let’s start with your time at Edinburgh University. Were you at all involved in any literary circles? No, only in the sense that I studied English Literature. I suppose there were informal literary circles but I wasn’t writing for a literary magazine or organising book slams. I wasn’t doing anything you might think a publisher would be cutting his teeth doing. What advice would you give to Edinburgh students looking to get into publishing? I worked for nothing for the first five months at Canongate, and I think if you offer your services for free, then in recession-hit times you are even more likely to be taken on.
I know not everyone can do that - I was lucky to have money from the club night to live on - but it does demonstrate passion, determination, enthusiasm and charisma, the key qualities that we now look for in the people we’re bringing in at Canongate. If you’re really driven to do anything in life, if you just go for it and don’t worry about people knocking you back, you’ve got a much greater chance of succeeding. It’s a really competitive industry but I think it’s one of the best industries that you can ever work in. A lot of people who work in publishing don’t really think of it as a job You’re working with writers, with books, and with ideas. The industry is constantly changing, now more than ever, because of the massive consequences of digital. It’s a very interesting time to come into the industry, but it has always been an amazing business to go into. I guess that’s my message for anyone reading this.
What advice would you give to Edinburgh students looking to get into writing? Don’t be scared to write what you want to write, rather than what you think other people want you to write. The sort of books that we want to publish at Canongate are highly original books that have a distinct flavour of their own, books that are daring to do things that other books haven’t done before. We publish books that are relevant to right now, but also books that might be relevant in thirty years time. It’s a bloody hard thing to be a great writer, or to be any kind of writer. It requires an enormous amount of graft. There are no simple rules, other than that if you want to write, write. Don’t just think about it, actually do it and keep at it. And read; the more you read, the more likely you are to be a great writer.
You have made several brave and inspired decisions during your time at Canongate – Life of Pi, Barack Obama, the Myths Series to name a few – which are you most proud of ? Firstly, I’m the public face of Canongate, but Canongate is actually a team of 35 incredibly talented people. Publishing is a very collaborative process; it’s not done by individuals. There are literally hundreds of books that we’re proud of having published. Life of Pi would be an obvious instance. We didn’t really make a mistake at any stage in the publishing of that book. We commissioned the original artwork, which was used by 35 of Yann’s publishers all around the world. The way we published it is not in itself why it won the Booker Prize, but it’s all connected. The presentation affects every reader’s experience of the book. I’m also very pleased with Jim Dodge’s remarkable collection of poems, Rain On the River. It sold 3,000 copies, but the fact that it hasn’t been a high profile book doesn’t make me any less proud of it. And how could we not be proud of taking that bold gamble on Obama? We read Dreams from My Father and we thought it was a truly great memoir. Then he ended up becoming the President of the United States of America and it became a hugely successful memoir, and a highly satisfying piece of publishing for us.
we are giving away one million books to one million people. 20,000 members of the public will give away 50 copies each of a book they love to whoever they want, however they want. That is, I think, the most beautiful part of the project. There are 40,000 copies of each of the 25 titles. It’s a huge celebration of the physical book, the act of reading, and the act of sharing. It’s a pretty ambitious initiative, and also a wonderfully collaborative one. Loads of people are working on it, from librarians, to booksellers, to publishers, to authors, to broadcasters, to agents. I think it will do something pretty amazing for the book industry.
“It’s a bloody hard thing to be a great writer, or to be any kind of writer. It requires an enormous amount of graft. There are no simple rules.”
MATTHEW OLDFIELD For more information on World Book Night, visit their website at www.worldbooknight.com
Which author would you most like to work with? I would love to have been F. Scott Fitzgerald’s publisher, I would love to have been Robert Louis Stevenson’s publisher. I think Stevenson was a great writer, still one of the most underrated writers considering the absolutely seminal books he created. The Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde is just an absolute time-bomb of a book. The ideas are mammoth. He’s a supreme entertainer, a magnificent short story and young adult writer, and he would have been a great screenwriter. What books are you most excited about this year? We are publishing Julian Assange’s autobiography in late Spring. I am very excited about this book because not only is Assange’s story fascinating and important, but he is also working on it with a major Scottish writer. Unless we mess it up, the book is going to be a massive bestseller. I also love this novel by Glen Duncan called The Last Werewolf, which we’re publishing in April. I think it’s one of the dirtiest, most entertaining and genuinely funny books I’ve read in a long time. It’s a kind of existential love story; I think it’s a really serious book as well. It’s completely unputdownable. Canongate is heavily involved in the upcoming World Book Night. Could you tell us more about it? World Book Night is the biggest thing I have ever been involved in. It’s a very simple idea at its core; on March 5th
all you said that morning
after so many years I’d lost count you slammed the door just once on me and my head-ache self-conscious self in the bathrobe that was your father’s or brother’s or whoever’s you didn’t scream it or dramatize but strode sleep-dazed in and leaned on the fridge like you do or you did or whatever
a spoon with some yogurt and oats in my hand my dried lips awaiting agape my unshaven face looking up at the sound of your steps down the stairs your stubborn-slow steps I thought were languorous-sexy how you always turned up late to parties and dates secretly I thought was so hot-mystery until until you were late late finally and we decided to go the hell through with it willing each other not to know that the rest would be history or will be but that morning you didn’t need to say anything bared all with your eyes somehow though I’ll never know how you communicate you do it far too well you blinked your eyes as you said it I remember you bitch you cunt you goddess your lashes kissed cool-easy
Lovers Are Lunatics
“Poetry is thoughts that breathe, and words that burn.” -Thomas Gray
poetr I’m leaving and taking the baby
but it’s the words you said next that meant the most because I didn’t know their meaning you’d been taking a language course at the college and you said you show-off you harlequin
amantes sunt amentes
after I heard you from my chair at the table my bowl of yogurt and oats suddenly soggy and pitiful struggle to lug your bags down the stairs and I sat like that there with my yogurt and oats and those three words stand-ins for your million mysteries
I looked it up later and knew you’d been saving it special for me
You were lit up sometimes by real glow, And momentarily, as low as summer is, Your long pretense looked less ridiculous Than all our squinting friends. But ever Were you sleeping while the sun stretched at Your window. Ever were you writing With the scratch of rats and owls in tow. Then why the overiris curtain? Why still I find myself perusing every shot, (my Generation’s magic safety-safety net, The unregret our parents never got). Camera undelete it all, rememorise The apple shades; shades for the fall.
Eyes bottled under the heatstroke and brick carving is hard work, no tongue lollygagged in a book, but all whistle and jolly rodger, slap clef and radio chisel, kashunked beneath an instrumental six pack of concrete, the thunk think of a hot hammer head, not men of leaf but gods of lead. RUSSELL JONES
This love is the angular lettering of a page, smeared with the hurried, don’t-look-back scrawl of a boy, too unused to the hasty flickering of thought from newly calloused, black-ended fingers. It is the smudged spoiling of flesh with words, LOIS WILSON upon which it is sworn to love nothing, save that which stains, and reverence only for the grim tarnish of darkness masking a hushed communion with the poetry of a digit. This is no more than the shadowy phantom of ink upon skin, gracing the tip of a slender left hand pointer where whorls and ridges are expressed in sharp relief – furtive mountains and valleys of thought and idea described within the certainty of blackness, This ghost of a heart beats thick blood about the bed – etched in ebony upon eyelids. chill thrusts of salt and iron soaking darkly through down as soft cotton sheets play, pink and naïve, at gauze and suture. LIZ EBDALE The clammy yellowness of fat curls, languid, around muscle, probing slyly, slickly beyond clotted gobs of meat and sinew, making sharp the bloodied scalpels of front line desperados as they lash atrium and ventricle to a ruin of springs and struts. Here, a broken arabesque of arteries spills elegance to the floor, trailing tender red vines across a rug where cold toes once curled before a male hand passed, adroit, through the split of a flayedopen gown, to mar skin now stretched taut between head and foot.
Were we our parents then, back then But at our age, the shots would be imprisoned Until printing before burning or whatever. They had more time for thought, more time For dread, but were reliable (I’m told) instead.
Camera sweep southwestern for the spring. A country nearly cut in half for coys Who look for puce, who look for pulse In everything. I mean the type who seeks To hide irresolute on undersides of Trendy vibrant frames (is mute because An audience is overlistening). I mean The apple shades (and other shapes) we’ll Not be vague this time. Camera erase -
You sit and cough and stare and talk I watch you from the edge of space And when you move I feel your air Here from the chair on the far side Your eyes they smirk at mine which hide You joke, you laugh, I hurt, I smile.
There: a fleshy reminder of what pillows witnessed and blankets recorded. LIZ EBDALE
yan Van Winkle Interview
Photo Credit: Ericka Duffy
From rowdy Hogmanay fantasies to his support for the Forest Cafe, Mr. Ryan Van Winkle- an Edinburgh based writer and the current Reader in Residence at The Scottish Poetry Library- discusses poetry, his current success, and Vanilla Ice with PublishED’s Matthew Oldfield.
As an American, what brought you to Edinburgh? It’s an embarrassing story, actually. I graduated in 1999, and a friend and I got six-month work visas for the UK. We went to London, and we were there for about a week, and it didn’t seem that great. Then we heard that Edinburgh had an amazing Hogmanay party, where apparently girls would just make out, open snogging. It was the year of the Millennium, so we thought they’d be fucking in the streets! They weren’t, but I got a job here, and a lovely girlfriend, and a bike. I kept trying to move back to America, but it never took. Eventually all my underwear ended up here, and so this became where I live.
You have been heavily involved in the financially-threatened Forest Café, Forest Publications and ‘The Golden Hour’. How is the future looking? The fundraising is going well. We need 5000 people to donate £100 – that’s not that much really if you think about it. The glory of the Forest, I think, is that it provides an opportunity for like-minded people to meet and do new things together without the fear of failure. If we fail to buy the building, I don’t see that as a failure at all. We’re all way out of our depth; none of us are experts at this, we’re all artists, political activists, and writers.
That is a brilliant story! You studied journalism at college; when did poetry become your favoured form? Poetry and fiction came first, and then I got trained up as a journalist. You know, as a kid writing is writing, it doesn’t really matter what kind. Three or four years into my degree, I didn’t really love journalism anymore. It turned out I was a lousy journalist. I found it very frustrating trying to create a true representation of an experience. Oddly enough, I found poetry more honest; there’s an emotional honesty to a poem that I couldn’t get at using journalism. Poetry felt a lot more freeing, and the resonance and feeling is there.
For Edinburgh students who are unaware, could you tell us about ‘The Golden Hour’? The Golden Hour is a literary cabaret – it’s words and it’s music and it’s visual rubbish in a lovely state. I wanted to create a night where we could get together and perform. We try to get writers who are semi-famous, and young writers who aren’t famous at all, and we tried to give a stage to people who have never had a chance before.
2010 was a good year for you. You were published in the Oxford Poets 2010 and the New Writing Scotland 2010, and then your first full poetry collection was published in November. How has the reaction been to everything? I did a lot in 2010. I went to Syria, and I did a bunch of Golden Hour stuff. The Edinburgh Book Festival was great – it was really flattering to be asked, and I had a great time talking to people. On paper, it was a very good year. My parents are quite proud of my poetry, but they don’t know what any of it means; they just want me to come home! It’s a special thing to have a book, but it hasn’t really affected my daily existence. It turns out publishing a book doesn’t make you a better person, or rich, and you still have to clean your bathroom.
What does 2011 have in store for you? Everything changes in 2011. My contract at the Scottish Poetry Library is up in June. I’ve been thinking about London, Berlin, Italy. I’ll probably just stay put, though, because I’m an idiot. I’m doing my own event at the Edinburgh Book Festival this year, which will be lovely. The reviews of my poetry collection will come out, so I’m expecting the dizzying highs and dizzying lows of having my work scrutinised and trashed. And finally, are you by any chance related to Rob Van Winkle, a.k.a. Vanilla Ice? No, but it’s a sign of how lame I was at High School that I used to tell people I was. It was an attempt to make myself somehow cool and hip but surprisingly it didn’t work. Even at that young age, people said 1) it’s a lie and 2) you’re a fucking idiot.
I Got Out When It All Went Down
I am an empty house, my face is nameless. A thin man catches my eye from a garden. I’ve not felt so hungry for a while. The world is not mine, my heart wobbles like yolk.
I Was A Fat Boy
I’m no longer dead in the morning fetal and afraid to start the day. I don’t get stuck in the subway or scan the shadows of streets. This life is better than Betty and all that was, but lately, the lights flicker whenever I walk past. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the hard labor, but I feel the dark and nobody in Nicetown knows about dust. It’s starting to itch me, what I did, and maybe Pennsylvania isn’t far enough. Maybe there is a place you can pull peaches and oranges from trees. I wake from dreams thinking, I am not a soul. Then, last night, in the bar, they were all watching Fox News again. Nobody looked at me. And I wanted to say, it was best, what happened. I never liked those buildings : their shadows froze everything. Mornings, walking into their long trench coats, was like walking into slabs of ice. And once I saw Betty where I did not expect to see her : hailing a cab way the fuck down on 15th and I thought, Christ, poetry courtesy of Ryan Van I was not where I should have been Winkle and Salt Publishing that morning, started for work a little late. Ditched my phone near the chaos, crashed at the Port Authority. And it is a small comfort that my photo hung on the walls with the murdered, that maybe I was so hungry then and the world she’ll have enough money now. held every candy I could imagine. Now, I like to picture her going to that hole, I cannot imagine what it would be like to ride the sun on her face and a new man up the hills I knew when I was fat. When stars on her arm. Safe, thinking my bones were still milk dazzlers and the moon was cheese are buried, that the past is the past above the trees, I’d talk myself to sleep. Now, is the past, and I am not coming home. I’m on a train for Paris. I am the line on the horizon as today turns into tonight — RYAN VAN WINKLE
RYAN VAN WINKLE The Forest Cafe 3 Bristo Place Edinburgh EH1 1EY www.theforest.org.uk The Golden Hour takes place on the penultimate Wednesday of every month. Entry free, BYOB.
My Best Friend Drowned In A Swimming Pool (An Extract) 26
HENRY: So I’m walking down what I think is this corridor, and it’s properly dark. Like when you go on a geography trip to see stalactites in a cave, and they turn off the lights and it’s so dark you think you will never see again. I remember thinking, fuck, I’m blind. Maybe I can get a guide dog. And then just when I’m starting to think that the whole light at the end of the tunnel really is a whole load of shit, these gates appear, and I sort of feel I’m about to enter a high security prison. They remind me of our neighbours’ gates, their kids have that autism thing, so apparently they need a fortress to keep them off the road. And beside these gates there’s this guy sitting with a clipboard, and it kind of dawns on me that the shit really has hit the fan. And this guy he looks at me with this really intense gaze and says in a dead pan voice, ‘name and cause of death please.’ And I can just tell this guy is a human lie detector so I just come clean. ‘OK I’ll be straight with you. My name is Henry Kemp, and I died because I was at a party and I fell and cracked my head off this weird concrete sculpture and drowned in a swimming pool. (smiling) I was fucking twisted. There is definitely something glamorous about dying in your teens, I reckon it’s downhill from twenty anyway. And regardless of how dull or pointless your life really was, suddenly you get placed on a pedestal in people’s minds. No matter how much of a waster you were, you suddenly become this brilliant and tragic case of unfulfilled potential. My dad is a massive Bob Dylan fan. He always used to say that ‘Forever Young’ was the greatest song ever written. I think I agree. LIAM: There are two things that I have known from as early as I can remember: 1. I’m a spiritual person. 2. I’m a homosexual. I am aware that as soon as you inform people that you are gay and Catholic they immediately write you off as a messed up bundle of contradictions. I like to think of myself as a medium through which people can reach God. Sort of like a telephone, just pick up the receiver and you’ll reach the Lord. Henry was one of my best friends. We moved in different social circles, and at one point we were “frenemies”. He was a jock, I was a fag. I fancied him for a while. Chloe was adamant that Henry didn’t believed in God, and everyone seemed to agree that it would be disrespectful and contrived to have a religious service. I don’t think he ever really thought about it. He played for the first rugby team, and drank raw eggs for breakfast. I think maybe he thought he was invincible or even God himself. He thought he’d live forever. Personally I don’t have anything against atheists, I will leave the harboring of resentment to God the al-
mighty, I’m pretty sure that the Lord will see to it that dicky Dawkins rots in the fiery pits of hell. Everyone’s entitled to their opinions, ya de da. What does bother me is the hopelessness that atheism breeds, this black uninspired certainty that this, (looking around him) is it. Losing a friend leaves you feeling like someone carved out the inside of you (pause) and no amount of illegal intoxicating substances can fill that void. I don’t think we can do this on our own. CONOR: Henry and I were like brothers. We did everything together. When we were 13 my parents banned me from going over to his house because I was staying over so often they were starting to forget what I looked like. I definitely think they thought we were fooling around broke back style. (smiling) There was definitely “bromance” between us. Back in the day, we put serious work into feigning indifference, walking around with an expression that said “we couldn’t possibly give less of a shit about anything even if we tried.” It was a lie, a massive contrived façade. We were fooling no one but ourselves. Henry and I were properly obsessed with the people we knew, the girls we saw officially, unofficially, our fitness levels, the number of grams of protein in our diets, the clothes we wore, or just happened to throw on every morning, the places we showed up to, or didn’t, the money we inherited, the cigarettes we smoked, the drugs we did, the grades we got, the people we knew, the places we were going. We worked very hard at making it all look effortless. It’s not a façade anymore. These days I don’t have to feign indifference. I genuinely don’t give a shit. (walk forward to down stage) Am I boring you? I’m sorry, but I really don’t care. Henry was a seriously proud person. I remember one particularly grueling training session; we did sprints for what felt like hours and just as we were finishing up Henry vommed - spag bol all over the pitch. I laughed so hard there were tears in my eyes. He didn’t speak to me for days. We used to go out on the lash, and stay awake for days on end. I can sleep when I die, he used to say. How ironic. Well I’m not sure about him, but I’m certainly doing my fair share of sleeping these days. But no matter how long I stay in bed I wake up feeling exhausted, like a haven’t slept in days.
I remember watching his body float, bobbing in the water and thinking hang on, we are partners in crime… I want to die too.
This is only an excerpt from Eva O’Connor’s play “My Best Friend Drowned In A Swimming Pool,” and the rest may be viewed at www.PublishEDinburgh.weebly.com.
Walk A Mile (An Extract)
PAUL: (warily approaches MAN standing on bench) Excuse me? Are – are you alright, mate? (MAN looks astonished to see a person there) MAN: (pause) Sorry, I was away for a moment there. I’m perfectly fine. Absolutely bloody spiffing. Just getting myself ready. PAUL: Ready for what? MAN: It’s a long and complicated story that you probably wouldn’t want to hear. I’d love to tell you, but you wouldn’t want to hear it. No one ever does, and I always tell them anyway. Perhaps that’s where I keep going wrong. The upshot of it all is, I’m getting ready to die. PAUL: (taken aback) What? MAN: To die. To sleep. Perchance to dream, as old Bill would say. Not that I’m casting myself as a vengeful Danish Prince – Hamlet, of course. But I digress – no, I’m preparing myself for the big jump. Suicide, that is. PAUL: I’m sorry, I’m having a bit of trouble understanding all this. Are you… Is this a joke of some sort? MAN: Joke? A joke? A sick, twisted, malevolent joke? Most definitely not. (His voice becomes bitter) Though given the cruelly ironic undulations of what is supposedly the wonderful journey of life - which I am about to cut short - it would be fitting to end it all with a joke. Maybe people would laugh. I am going to jump off a building. And this bench is my starting point. PAUL: (worried) Look, I don’t know what’s happened to you, but you can’t be serious. MAN: I realise most people wanting to “check out early” just start running straight for the cashier’s desk, legs and arms akimbo, but I want to get it right. I can’t make any mistakes. I’ve even dressed for the occasion. PAUL: But… You can’t! MAN: Pardon me? PAUL: You can’t – because I won’t let you. MAN: I beg your pardon, but I don’t think it’s all that much to do with you. PAUL: It is very much to do with me, because… Karma! Because of karma! I happen to be a very lucky man at the moment, and I can’t just pass by someone who needs help. I’d lose everything I have if I let you take that jump – bad karma, you see. And I don’t think I could stand to see a dead body. MAN: (irritated) Look, it’s just a bench. PAUL: Metaphorically, it’s a lot more. MAN: Meta-fucking-phorically, I don’t have a single reason to get off the bench. There is nothing left for me on the bench. There is nothing left for me off the bench. The bench is void. Empty. Bleak. Desolate. (Paul jumps up onto the bench next to the man) PAUL: Well, you make a very compelling argument. Before talking to you, I was quite happy. Life – I was a fan, thought it was pretty good. But if the world is as bleak and unforgiving as you say it is, I don’t want to be any part of it either. Nope, you and me, we’ve got the right idea. I want no part in a world where a nicely dressed man such as yourself feels the need to take such a drastic step. So if you jump, I want to jump with you. You and me, together, against the world. Of course, if you decide to get down, I’d do that too. Whatever you decide, I’m here for you. How are you feeling? MAN: (looks thoughtfully at Paul before slowly replying) I wasn’t really going to do it, you know. The bench is too high. Too definite. PAUL: Will you get down from the bench with me then? MAN: Definitely. (They step off the bench and stand a few feet apart, awkwardly eyeing each other) I’ve been a stupid bugger. But – thank you. PAUL: Any time, my friend. MAN: What have you got to be so happy about anyway, Mr. Lucky? PAUL: (with a smile of contentment) I’m getting married. To the most amazing person in the world – she means… a lot to me. And every day I wake up completely astounded that she chose me. MAN: You really are Mr. Fucking Lucky.
rama TASHA FROST
This is only an excerpt from Tasha Frost’s play “Walk A Mile,” and the rest may be viewed at www.PublishEDinburgh.weebly.com.
A day of rest and worship. Half-eaten pizza thrown in the microwave. Irn-Bru the cure-all elixir.
Situation vacant! Last night’s ‘Match of the Day’ is this morning’s “Who the fuck are you?” Implied by the body but never quite said. And then...What? Oh yes, escape is impossible, all attempts futile. Bastard. Face the fear! “Shall I ring you a cab?” The hangover directing all the moves. Bones agonising, creaking and straining. No longer rattling and jumping. The spectre of fluids shared only hours ago in another dimension. Look at the clock and urge its acceleration. Guide it to sometime later on today. Just not here and not now. Hurry up, spin faster. C’mon Please! “Naw, yer fine, nae rush”, eyelashes flutter, “any chance ae a coffee?” NO NO NO NO. Go Away From Me NOW! The covers thrown back, “plenty time... are ye no cauld?” Please tell me I didn’t. The steel gauntlet crushes the gut ever tighter. “No, I’m fine” said coldly “you take sugar?” “Naw” coquettish giggling, “am sweet enough hun” Oh fuck! Get the mobile quick. Turn the back and dial the house. Landline rings. Pick it up. “Hello”. The escape committee has convened. Pause and listen intently to the silence. “Right you are...what? Ok, I’ll be with you in half an hour. See you shortly” The duvet snakes to the floor and re-robing is underway. “Sorry, I have to go out. D’you want dropped off ?” The invitation murdered by the front door smashing shut. Half-eaten pizza, Irn-Bru medicine and back to bed! After all, it is Sunday! JEFF RANDALL
prose Alea Iacta Est (An Extract)
‘The die is cast.’ The words took a while to sink in. When you watch someone fall to their death, everything becomes a little harder to absorb. She wanted to transform this moment into something dramatic, the climactic scene of an ancient tragedy. He saw nothing dramatic in the dull thud of a body striking the ground, nothing dramatic in the empty silence that followed. But her words hovered unbroken in the air, echoing in his mind like the last syllables spoken on earth, and for the very first time, he despised her. Sterne motioned to leave, but she beckoned him forwards. He lurched towards the edge and slowly followed her gaze down to the swatted remains on the riverbank. From where they stood, that shapeless heap was no more human than the sprawling rocks that flanked it. He drew back in disgust, and turning, their eyes met. The air of collusion that had haunted her face since their arrival in Brazil had vanished and radiating triumph surfaced in its place. It was the look he had so long awaited: when all the smoldering passion of success, patiently kindled for nine eternal months, was finally set ablaze. He mirrored her arched smile, but his eyes were dead to the world. And worse still, he knew she could sense it. ‘What now?’ He murmured. ‘What now? What now?!’ She panted and shivered with adrenalin. ‘Why now I’m free! What now? Everything now!’ ‘We’re free…’ ‘We’re free, I’m free – what does it matter? It only matters that he’s dead. That fatuous, balding, repugnant little man is dead. The world is free! Everyone is free from his hateful presence!’ ‘Once upon a time you loved him…’ ‘Did I really tell you that? Ha! I would have thought you knew me better by now.’ Cruelty, he reflected. There is an ocean of cruelty in this woman. Since we met I’ve been dancing about the land, blind to the rivers of blood, those cold, careless remarks… Now I’ve caught a glimpse of the horizon. How long before I’m swept away for good? ‘And don’t look so morbid Harry! At least save it for when we get back to the lodge. I don’t want anything to cloud my moment of happiness! God knows, in a couple of hours I’ll have to squeeze out some tears… I’ll just think about my marriage – that ought to do it!’ Sterne said nothing and she cast a long hard look in his direction. He glanced back without focusing, then lowered his eyes. Her lip curled as she whispered, ‘Well I just hope for both our sakes you’re better at acting than sex…’ He watched her fleeting form slip back into the jungle. This is my chance, he considered, my chance to finally sever the cord. All I have to do is jump – dive down like poor Hewitt – stretch out beside him and beg forgiveness. She’ll wander on for hours, certain I’m ten steps behind, until silence and curiosity trounce her pride, and she turns to face… nothingness. She’ll panic, cry aloud, hysterically retrace her steps to Hewitt and Sterne, respiring at dawn, dead at dusk. Cue the world’s collapse around her. All those years at drama school won’t act her out of that... while I, I’ll be set free! ‘Free!’ He screamed down into the precipice. Menacing echoes chased each other through the valley, changing pitch and nuance, piercing the silence with that alien syllable. Then all was quiet. He covered his face with his hands, slid them up to his hair – tearing, wrenching – cast one final look over the edge, and stepped back into the jungle. OCTAVIAN MacEWAN
This is only an excerpt from Octavian MacEwan’s “Alea Iacta Est,” and the rest may be viewed at www.PublishEDinburgh.weebly.com
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f lash fif iction
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