Monday 12 December 2011


Pressies to meself!!
Three marvellous books by three writing friends - all three books clattered through the letterbox last week. So I shall tell you about them, and you must rush out and get them because they are terrific... just in time for Christmas.

‘Somewhere Else or Even Here’ (Salt Modern Fiction) is a Scott Prize winner and debut collection from A J Ashworth. I shall declare an interest here - I have admired AJA’s work ever since I first read her story ‘Overnight Miracles’ in the last Willesden Herald winners anthology New Short Stories 5, and was only too delighted when she asked me for a blurb quote for her collection. I said, using one of her own wonderful phrases -
‘The stories here really are shooting stars - ‘brilliant sparkling scratches’ against the night. A very gifted wrtiter. One to watch...’
The lovely Maggie Gee also blurbed as did Simon van Booy, winner of the 2009 Frank O’Connor Prize, who said:
‘With beauty, poise and fearlessness, A. J. Ashworth creates worlds that are chillingly real, exploring the raw human need for attachment and the fear of closeness in a way that is both tender and haunting. She is a fierce new talent.’

Nuff said, really. if you enjoy great short stories, get it. Easy.
Here it is on Salt Publishing’s website - HERE! Go get it!

Next, ‘The Juno Charm’ (Salmon Poetry) the third full collection of poetry from Nuala Ni Chonchuir. Author of three short story collections, and a novel described by The Irish Examiner as ‘a gem’ - Nuala is one of the most prolific and consistently strong writers I know, working across the forms with apparent ease. I was delighted to welcome her on a recent blog-tour stop for ‘The Juno Charm’ - and she allowed me to include one of the poems - so go back a few posts to read the intriguing poem entitled 'Japanese Madonna'.
To quote from the description of the collection - in this book Ni Chonchuir
‘explores the worlds of two marriages - one waning one waxing - and the pain of pregnancy loss and fertility struggles’ ... ‘employs her signature sensual frankness...’. 'Sometimes irreverent, always vivid, this is poetry ripe with imaginative possibility and wit.'

And I love Mary O’Donnell’s quote, which says that Nuala
‘reveals herself as a witty and energetic purveyor of the happiness and pleasure that lie on the far side of common experience.’

A great collection. ‘The Juno Charm’ can be bought from the publisher and other places...but it’s sold out on Amazon, so ...

Finally I have five copies (wheee!) of another poetry collection, and will be giving this to poetry-loving friends this Christmas. Bookseller, writer and general good egg Jen Campbell undertook a challenge over the weekend of 5/6 November, to write 100 poems in a weekend. She did this to raise money for EEC International, a charity that funds research centres looking into gene p63 and degenerative eye conditions associated with EEC Syndrome - (Electrodactyly-ectodermal dysplasia clefting syndrome) - which Jen has. It is likely that most people who have EEC syndrome will lose their sight. If a cure can be found for this degenerative eye sign problem, it will help thousands of people worldwide. Not just those with EEC.

The poems were written over 48 hours to tag-word prompts sent to Jen on Twitter. I knew that wonderful things can sometimes happen when a writer puts herself under pressure - sometimes - but these poems really are something quite special.

Here are two, with Jen’s permission.

No 35 (Tag word, “Collage”)

We find ourselves as decoupage.

I think this, standing on an escalator
leaning on your arm. We bend and
mould to fit. Adapt and layer over.

When you sleep, your limbs shed skin
like changing clothes. I could take them
to hang. Line the walls of a gallery.

We could spend the weekends walking
amongst ourselves
seeing how we’ve grown.

No 82 (Tag words ‘Mill” and “Holland”)

You want a shoulder tattooed tulip
looking back to time we spent there.

The thick air of autumn cafes
hand in hand with the canal.

Jen produced the books in a limited edition of 200, with cover brilliantly illustrated by Greg McLeod. If there any left, you can buy them via Jen’s blog HERE- If there are none left, you can read all about them, and her... at the same place.

Her first book (other than this one), the hilarious ‘Wierd Things Customers Say In Bookshops’ will be published by Constable and Robinson in April 2012.


  1. Thank you very much for this lovely mention, Vanessa! Nuala and Jen's books look fab too. x

  2. Oh, thank you, Vanessa - blush blush :)

  3. They are all lovely, seriously good stuff. All good fortune to you, lovely writers, its my pleasure. They all arrived in 2 days - zap zap zap - so I thought it was rather good to put them together!