At The Playground You Meet Someone Amazing – A new short story

My mother had a stroke. Luckily, it was quite minor. She was still able to read, though more slowly. There was a gap in her vision – an absence where sight simply didn’t take place. Because of this, she wasn’t able to drive. My mother’s stroke changed our family. None of her children had started […]

Receipt: Poem

Receipt ‘Would you like the sea?’ I say yes, puzzled. Tamp, and another afternoon’s second coffee – she is Russian, or Ukrainian, and so I realise she said receipt. ‘I gave you a hard time earlier today,’ her Indian boss says, alongside the machine where she’s making my milk bluff. And she, ‘Not so much,’ […]

Junot Díaz – ‘My Full Account of Cruelties Towards People’

Last year, I gave a lecture on ‘Success!!!’ and how to cope with it. I quoted Junot Díaz extensively, and approvingly. (I also used some words from him as the epigraph of my non-fiction book, Wrestliana: ‘You wrestle with your family your entire life.’) In the midst of the dismaying, appalling accusations against him, I […]

Against “Show, Don’t Tell” (With Walter Scott)

‘Show, Don’t Tell’ (like ‘Less is More’) has become a cliché of creative writing teaching. It’s usually associated – to my mind at least – with American minimalist writing. Not just the more recent instances, such as Lydia Davis and Mary Robison. And not the middle distance of Ann Beattie, Raymond Carver and Tobias Wolff. […]

Sport – or, What Can Writers Learn From Athletes and Coaches?

This talk was first delivered to students of the Creative Writing MA at Birkbeck on May 3rd 2016. Leicester City won the Premier League, and since then a great deal of the national conversation – online, in newspapers, in corridors – has been, ‘How did they do it?’ The next thing after that, of course, is, […]

Intimately Uninvolved: Notes of a Librettist

Vastation When it gets to curtain up, The Librettist is intimately uninvolved in the opera she has co-written. She is aware that, some time in the past, if her fingers had struck a different arrangement of keys, then what is about to happen would be other. That this character is already on stage – that […]