Wednesday, 28 December 2011

Book voucher beauties

For those who were lucky enough to get book vouchers for Christmas, I thought it would be a good idea to offer some suggestions on what to spend them on. So, here are a few new/forthcoming books I'd like to recommend. I either have/want/have read/want to read them so I hope that you'll want them too.

Tuesday, 20 December 2011

A book of the year...

I got a bit of a shock yesterday - a lovely shock - after finding out that my collection had been named by British writer Maggie Gee as one of her favourite books of 2011. Maggie's chosen books appeared in The Guardian (Nigeria) alongside selections from other writers, editors and publishing professionals from around the world. The article, written by Nigerian writer A. Igoni Barrett, can be seen here. But, as the text is a bit small to see on the photo, here's what it says:

Maggie Gee, author of My Animal Life: I re-read Bernardine Evaristo’s fascinating fictionalised family history, the new, expanded Lara (Bloodaxe, New ed., 2009), tracing the roots of this mixed race British writer back through the centuries to Nigeria, Brazil, Germany, Ireland—comedy and tragedy, all in light-footed, dancing verse. In Selma Dabbagh’s new Out of It (Bloomsbury, 2011), the lives of young Palestinians in Gaza are brought vividly to life—gripping, angry, funny, political. Somewhere Else, or Even Here (Salt, 2011) by A.J. Ashworth is a stunningly original first collection of short stories.

So, as you can imagine, it was a shock indeed. I look forward to getting hold of copies of books by the other writers Maggie mentions, as well as those mentioned by some of the other contributors. A surprise for sure but a great end to the year.

Monday, 19 December 2011

Win a signed copy!

It's National Short Story Day this Thursday, December 22 (the shortest day of the year) so, to mark this special day, I thought I'd offer one person the chance to win a signed copy of my book.

All you need to do to be in with a chance of winning is to find my profile on Twitter (@AJAshworth) and retweet (RT) one of the messages about the competition. You have until 7pm on Thursday, December 22 to enter. One name will be drawn and a signed copy of the book will be sent to that person - or to someone else of their choosing. The competition is open to anyone, no matter where they are in the world. So get RTing! (And don't forget to visit the National Short Story Day website too.)

UPDATE: 9pm on Thursday 22nd - congrats to @jessicapatient who wins a copy of my book. Thanks to all 42 who entered.

Sunday, 4 December 2011


The book launch went really well last Wednesday at Blackwell's in Sheffield. I'd been invited to hold the event as part of Sheffield Hallam's MA Writing Masterclass* series - Hallam being the university where I studied for my MA.

My former tutor Felicity Skelton - herself an excellent short story writer - gave a lovely introduction, which was actually very touching. I then read the first story from the collection - 'Sometimes Gulls Kill Other Gulls'. Afterwards I got a nice selection of questions from different people including if I was finding it difficult to motivate myself to write after the MA (Yes, a bit) and whether writing was like acting (Yes, because you have to immerse yourself in the lives of the characters). And by this point it was time to wrap up.

Family and friends were in the audience as well as a few people from the MA. My good friend Gill Blow was also there, as were work colleagues and online writing pal Valerie O'Riordan. Writer Rachel Connor, who I know from her connections to Arvon, had also sent me a lovely bunch of sunflowers as she couldn't make the event, so that added to what was a nice, intimate and friendly evening.

Here are a few pictures from the night to give you a flavour of what it was like:

* The Masterclasses at Hallam are evening events which run throughout the term and usually feature visits from writers, agents and other publishing professionals.

Sunday, 27 November 2011

Launch day

Next Wednesday (November 30th) is the launch day for my book - and it would be lovely if you could come along to help me celebrate at a special reading in Sheffield. The event is being held in Blackwell's, next to the university where I did my MA, so if you're in the area it would be lovely to see you. I will be reading a story from the collection but, if that isn't enough to tempt you, then there will be cupcakes and wine too. If you can't make the launch though the book is available to buy here and here.

* Wednesday, November 30th, 6.15pm, Blackwell's, Sheffield Hallam University, 1 Howard Street, Sheffield, S1 2LW. Admission free.

Friday, 25 November 2011

The eagle has landed

These were, of course, the words uttered by Apollo 11 astronaut Neil Armstrong after the Eagle lunar module landed on the moon during that first manned mission in July 1969. And while my own little 'landed eagle' is not as momentous a global event as that, to me it is pretty momentous - my book 'Somewhere Else, or Even Here' has landed in the offices of my publisher, Salt. I am now a published author.

Being published - having my own, actual book in print - is a dream I've held for a long time. Often, I didn't think it would ever happen for me. I always hoped it would. And, happily, the day has finally arrived when it has. The dream has become a reality, thanks to Jen and Chris Hamilton-Emery of Salt. So, even though there won't be people lining the streets, waving flags, or any monuments built in my honour this is still a big day for me. A small step and a giant leap all rolled into one. There are still the footprints of astronauts up on the moon - thirty years or so after they were first left there. I can only hope my own book leaves its mark on the world in its own small way - its own little footprint, which will hopefully still be there in years to come.

Monday, 21 November 2011

A party for The Coward

A couple of weeks ago I went along to the launch party for Vanessa Gebbie's novel 'The Coward's Tale'. This exciting event was held in London - in the beautiful Daunt Books in Marylebone High Street - and was organised by Vanessa's new publishers, Bloomsbury.

There were lots of guests there - all willing to raise a glass or two to Vanessa - including Maggie Gee and her husband Nick Rankin, David Gaffney, Tania Hershman, Elizabeth Baines, Adam Marek and fellow Scott Prize winner Jonathan Pinnock. (I actually saw regular New Yorker contributor Tessa Hadley in the street beforehand and wondered if she might be there but she wasn't.)

Vanessa's agent Euan Thorneycroft was also there, as was her editor Helen Garnons-Williams, who gave a lovely speech during the event saying that she loves the novel so much that if she starts reading it, she gets lost in it and forgets to get on with her other work. Then Vanessa spoke to say thanks to numerous people who helped during the course of writing the book including Maggie Gee, her agent and family. Here are a couple of hastily snatched photos from her speech:

But it was all over too quickly and I had to make a dash for the train. A really great event though and I understand lots of copies of Vanessa's novel sold on the night which is great. I'm looking forward to reading my signed copy soon. And from all the great reviews it's getting, it looks as if this is one book which is really going to make a name for itself.

Sunday, 20 November 2011

Reality bites

When you're writing you are, on the whole, not thinking about what will happen when your writing goes out into the world on its own. You're thinking about which words cosy up nicely to other words, which words have become difficult house guests and need to be shown the door. You're thinking about whether the story works or if that metaphor is a bit over the top. You're thinking about the next cup of tea and whether it's acceptable to have yet another handful of biscuits to go with it. What you are not always thinking about is people you have never met reading your book.

And this is where I am.

In the next few days my book is being printed. And, if I'm lucky, people I've met and people I've never met will read it. Exciting? Yes. Frightening? Yes, a little. Anxiety-inducing? Most definitely.

But why the fear and anxiety? Isn't this what we dream about? What we sometimes give up time with loved ones for - often for no pay or recognition? Yes, of course. But, to quote a short story by Delmore Schwartz (inspired by an epigraph in a volume of Yeats' poetry), in dreams begin responsibilities. And this is the source of my anxiety: I am responsible for what I've written. And once it's out there, it's out there - there's no dragging it back indoors and stuffing it out of sight at the back of the wardrobe.

So this is where the notion of responsibility comes into it - I will have to be answerable for any wrong facts, any errors of judgement, anything which is deemed to be not quite right.

All I can say in my defence is, I've written as honestly and as well as I can and I've tried my best to research any facts that I've used. But, as the authors of some books say, if there are any errors in there they are purely my fault.