I never set out to write short fiction. I went for the big guns; the novel, but slowly learned that as good as any story was, you needed the skills to tell it properly. I couldn’t afford courses at the time so a writer friend suggested I try my hand at the short story. Writing them is an education in itself: you learn about brevity, characterisation, dialogue and moving narratives along in a finger snap. I got to play around with themes and genres I wouldn't normally tackle and they gave me valuable experience of preparing my work for competitions and magazines. I won't lie...I look back at my first stories and I cringe slightly; they were all a bit heavy-handed, I spelt EVERYTHING out and they always, always had an ending. I sincerely hope they’ve got better with time. Below are some links, excerpts and details of publication. Happy Reading! Feedback always appreciated.
Winner of the inaugural short story competition and published in Expat Living (Singapore).
''(It) really touched our hearts...with characters we recognise from everyday life...and a sympathetic heroine with whom we can identify.''
Vol. 1: Aardvark-Aztec
Published winner in the Read for READ International anthology.
Published in Mslexia (Issue 46). Judged and chosen by Christina Patterson.
''Written in the voice of a child neglected, and finally abandoned, by his crack addict mother, it's tautly written and extremely moving.''
Ward 51: Wings
Shortlisted and winner of the Readers' Prize in the Riptide International Competition for Young Adult Fiction 2010.
''...a vivid imagining of an alternative world in which themes of trust, escapism and acceptance are explored...''
Published in Mslexia, longlisted for the Bristol Prize 2010. Judged and chosen by Pascale Petit.
''...an expose of certain mother-daughter relationships and social pressures...its extremeness is its strength...''
Jesus on a Washcloth
Longlisted for the Momaya Press Short Story Competition. Notable contender for the Bristol Prize 2013.
I let out a feral shriek and feel something slide out of me like the fish I see lined up in the wet markets. My head springs up as I hear the immediacy of its cries, the pain somewhat gone as quickly as it started,
‘Aiyoh, it’s a boooooy. Very handsome, Miss.’
‘Waaaahhhhh. So good, lor?’
He lies there, wriggling with life, being handled so tenderly by the Malay Woman in her bloodied clothes as the Taxi Man helps wrap him in a stretch of material and tears fill their eyes. The girl behind me cannot conceal her excitement and embraces my shoulders. Words begin to fail us all yet a sense of thanks, awe, and disbelief sit readily in the air. I look down as Malay Woman places him into my arms; mottled in purple and pink, eyes searching for answers and minute fingers clasped shut. There are no words. Just pure shock. It turns into a bewildered smile, leading my eyes to fixate on his; blue, just like mine.
And the world stops as this moment etches itself into mind. The echo of ambulance and handphone, the briny taste of tears in my mouth, the touch of the tiniest of hands. And faces, so many faces. Gleaming so bright in that big, yellow taxi; with pride, kindness, some sort of life-changing will. It’s beyond every good word I know; just a concoction of emotion coursing through my veins, making me smile as that feeling of being alone evaporates in the heat of the sun.
I back out into the hallway, hands cupped over my ears. Dean legs it out of there. Voices roar crazy loud. Fists flying square. Blood. I can’t catch my breath. Dean’s dad can’t run quick enough. The back door slams and I swear the kitchen chairs jump about. He goes over to the kitchen sink and grabs at it like he’s gonna rip it out. Then he storms past me, pounds up the stairs, heavy feet making the floorboards rattle.
I sit on the bottom step and hear him going mentalist, going through drawers, ripping shit off the walls. Then he stops. He knows. He stands at the top of the stairs and looks down at me. Then he sits, resting his hairy knuckles on his forehead. How long she been gone? Tears grow fat in the corners of my eyes then fall into black patches on my school trousers. My face is all warm snot and tears that I wipe down my sleeves. I stare out the front door, out at the sky. The same sky I look at every night as I’ve been sat here, waiting. Weeks. I’m half expecting him to clobber me. But he just sits there and closes his eyes. Then I hear him. Breathing light, moaning; bulky old Uncle Brian crying into his hands, tears leaking out the cracks of his fingers. I go and hang an arm off him. He squeezes it hard, mumbles words I can’t make out, drenches my shoulders. We sit there for an age. Until the house is pitch black and the fridge hums a different tune.
Vol. 1: Aardvark-Aztec
Then one moment Beau’s standing there. The next, his face whips around. I see a blur of something three inches thick, a cream leather cover. Mum tumbles from the weight. I hear a sound like an eggshell cracking, teeth tumbling out of his mouth like pieces of chewing gum, blood splashing on to me like water. He falls into the table, over what’s left of my dinner. He looks up. Crapping hell. Blood bubbles like some volcano out of his mouth, streaking his chin. Mum finds her feet again.
“My teef! My fudding teeth!”
Mum holds a finger up to the air.
“I be telling you to stay away from my daughter.”
He points down to his teeth, Mum kicks them under the cooker. His eyes squint ready to fall like timber. The baby and I stand there like lemons, hovering over our chair not knowing where to be. Mum points to the back door.
“Be away wit’ you. You come near this girl again, I’ll be smashing more than your teeth.”
The air is raspy in Mum’s lungs, the bones of her wrist rub against mine as she grabs my hand so tight my fingers go dead. He says nothing, just falls out the back door and we hear footsteps echo, the wheelie bin topple over. Then Mum drops the book. It lands like it could leave a hole in my floor. Blood like cake sprinkles painted over the page. Open at ALAMO. The baby kicks and moves wildly, arms like it’s doing star jumps, punching any inch of space left inside me.