Tuesday, 23 November 2010

Interview with Johanna Harness

by Frank Burton

As promised a while ago, here is an interview with Johanna Harness, creator of the #amwriting hashtag, and recipient of the Christopher Al-Azwad Prize.

More information about this project here

Information about the Christopher Al-Azwad Prize here

Are you surprised by the success of #amwriting? Did you expect it to win awards?

I've been constantly surprised and amazed by the success of #amwriting. The writers using the hashtag are unstoppable, creative, supportive--I could go on and on. It really never occurred to me that there could be awards attached to starting this. It fills a need and that makes me very happy. The rest is all a bonus.

Does the #amwriting community actively promote itself, or is this something that happens naturally?

When writers use the hashtag, everyone in their following list sees the tag and word spreads. It's a very organic process. Once in a while a member will see an opportunity to promote the group and everyone jumps in, but even those moments are pretty spontaneous.

Can Tweeting get in the way of writing?

If writers are looking for ways not to write, anything can be used for an excuse. The great thing about #amwriting is the excitement everyone shows for the craft. It's difficult to read through the stream of posts without wanting to jump into writing. The writers who post there have fun and their enthusiasm spreads.

#amwriting is a great way of information-sharing between writers. Are there any particularly useful things you've learnt from using it?

One of the best things I've learned is that everyone gets frustrated at times. The words don't flow one day or the revision is much more complicated than imagined. It's enormously reassuring to know that this is part of the writing process and others experience these same things.

Would you recommend #amwriting to writers who want to promote their work, or is it not used for that?

Promotion flows naturally from the community of writers. We know each other, support each other, and want each other to succeed. If someone starts using the tag for promotion, but they never write with us, they're not going to find much help from the group.

How do you feel about writers creating fiction and poetry through Twitter?

I love pushing the boundaries of creative expression and greatly admire writers who are able to embrace new forms. Twitter is a fun part of this.

Would you be concerned if someone used the #amwriting hashtag incorrectly? Or as a means of insulting other writers?

The users of #amwriting are very tech-savvy. When we do have spammers or offensive posters, those users get blocked and reported by 200-300 people and their account disappears. Good energy attracts good energy and I have faith in that, but my faith is helped along by good filters.

What are you writing at the moment?

Right now I'm working on an anthology of short stories featuring my young adult character, Claire Morgane. The stories all take place either before or within the first three chapters of the first Claire novel and I'm publishing a new one on my website every Friday (http://clairemorgane.com). Unlike serial novels, the stories are created to stand alone and can be read in any order. My goal is to introduce readers to Claire's world and keep posting stories while I'm working on additional novels.

Friday, 19 November 2010


My nomination for the greatest work of animation ever produced.

New Novella - The Darkened Corner by Tom Hamilton

Our new novella, online as of today, is The Darkened Corner by Tom Hamilton, available to read online or download for free from www.philistinepress.com.

The Darkened Corner covers seventeen years in the life of a traveller, conman, self-hater and hard-drinker, and his continuing obsession with his childhood crush, Katie Rose. Tom Hamilton's fragmented story is delivered in short, sharp bursts of prose.

Friday, 12 November 2010

Adam Buxton does NWA - Help The Police

Hidden poem

On the subject of hidden tracks, I thought I'd mention that one of the poetry collections on the Philistine Press website features a "hidden poem." I can't tell you which collection it is, or where it's hidden. I've already said too much.

I just wanted to point this out, because we may well be the first publisher to release a hidden poem. I've not heard of anyone else hiding a poem in a collection before. Maybe they have and it's all a secret.

Until someone corrects me, I will continue to claim that we're breaking new ground with our mystery hidden poem thing.

By the way, if anyone is able to identify the hidden poem, there's a prize.

(Small print: 1. This isn't available to the poet who hid the poem in the first place. 2. The prize is hidden.)

Tuesday, 9 November 2010

Gallstones by Rob Sherman

Last week, Rob Sherman contacted me recently with an “extra bit” for his and Sarah Ogilvie’s poetry and art collection, Valve Works. It’s a short story called Gallstones.

I don’t want to go over the top or anything, but I thought it was astonishingly good.

I wasn’t sure about adding it to the collection, however. Firstly, it would be quite time consuming updating the PDF, the online version, the Smashwords version and the Google Books version. Secondly, it’s not a poem, so it doesn’t quite fit in.

So instead we’ve published it on the website as an accompaniment to the collection – the literary equivalent of a DVD extra or a hidden track. The only difference between this and a hidden track is that it’s not very well hidden – it’s advertised on the home page of the website with the words “New short story by Rob Sherman”.

Well, we wouldn’t want anyone to miss it.

Read Gallstones here.

Read Valve Works here.

Thursday, 4 November 2010

New review

Jay McLeod's The Rupublic of Naught has been reviewed in Neon Magazine.

I think the reviewer liked it. Jay has been in touch to say he likes the review, so all is good.

Read the review here.

Wednesday, 3 November 2010

By the way, I'm still alive

Just thought I'd mention that I'm still alive. Haven't had much time to post things on here recently, as I've been doing lots of editing and writing.

So, while we're here, here's a few things that have come my way recently ...

Anastomoo magazine - including a selection of handwritten poems.

Notes from the Underground - including a short story by Philistine author, Clare Fisher.

Fifty Two Stories - another good fiction site

and another one - Mudlicious Press

Monday, 1 November 2010

Interview with Clare Fisher

Clare Fisher in conversation with Frank Burton

Clare's novella The Hole in the Wall can be read online or downloaded for free from www.philistinepress.com

Some novellas are expanded short stories. Others are condensed novels. Is The Hole in the Wall one of these two options, or was it always intended be a novella?

When I started writing it I had no idea how long it was going to be. The idea came to me whilst I was delirious from tiredness, on the tube going home from work. When I finished Caroline's narrative, I knew there had to be different points of view as well, although I had a feeling there wasn't enough for a full novel.

Is it your ultimate aim to be a novelist, or are you happier with shorter works?

If I'm honest, yes. I enjoy writing shorter pieces but - and the same goes for when I read them - I never feel quite satisfied. If the story's really good, I want more. I want something big. Writing something that sustains your own and your reader's attention for the length of a novel is a challenge I would like to undertake, however impossible and suicidal it may seem!

Who are your influences?

I have always enjoyed novels with multiple first-person narratives. I read The English Passengers by Matthew Neale and Barbara Kingsolver's Poisonwood Bible when I was a young teenager. I think these were unconscious influences - although I didn't realise it until I began to think about your question. More generally, I enjoy writing that is quite direct and paired-down, often in first person; influences in this vein include Douglas Coupland and Banana Yoshimoto. I could go on; I have been influenced by everything that I read and really connect with, even if it is only in a small way.

One of the impressive things about The Hole in the Wall is your ability to adopt a range of voices - male, female, children, adults - people from different backgrounds. Was this a difficult thing to achieve?

I didn't find it a particularly hard thing to achieve. Voice is one of the aspects of writing I have always found most interesting, both in my own work and in others'. I am also an extremely nosy person, and spend too much time wondering what's going on in other peoples' heads... I have always been fascinated by the way people furnish their worlds using language that is particular to them; that is something I was hoping to explore in this piece.

Do you have a favourite character in The Hole in The Wall?

I think it would either be Treasure, for her wacko imagination and relentless optimism, or perhaps her gran, who we never hear from directly but who is a ghostly presence holding the whole thing together.

Caroline and Michael probably represent a lot of couples in Britain today. Do you sympathise with them, or are you satirising them for their hypocrisy?

I would say both. When I write, I have to find a place in my characters that I sympathise with, no matter how ridiculous or distasteful they are; if I don't, all that comes across is bitterness and hate, which I don't think is particularly fun to write, or to read.

So, when you're writing, do you put yourself directly in the character's shoes, or are you able to remain detached from them?

I do what I can to become my characters whilst I'm writing. When things are going really well, their thoughts and feelings come without me having to do anything; when I find myself thinking, that's my thought not theirs, I know I'm stuck. I need to be free of self-consciousness when I write.

Do you have a particular way of getting rid of your self-consciousness?

Practise helps, but the main thing is to feel a certain love and enthusiasm for what I'm writing.

Finally, how do you feel about internet publishing?

Well, it's given me a lot of opportunities to get my stuff out there that I wouldn't have had otherwise, so I'm all for it!