Sunday, 29 December 2013
Welcome to my end of year post! It might make for sobering reading, but I hope you won't mind that. Some of you might well need the kick up the arse I'm about to give you. You're welcome!
As anyone I've ever bored on to about writing knows, I'm a firm believer in discipline and hard work. Go to work every day, put the hours in, get a system together for submissions. I'm not rich (and probably never will be - HURRAY!) but all the same, I consider myself a success on my own terms. Success in my mind being: a writer who writes the way she wants to, and gets her work published pretty regularly. Your definition of success is probably different, but there is mine, and I'm sticking to it.
Below, I detail what I've been up to this year, in numbers.
Number of hours spent writing: 450 (approx)
Number of hours spent submitting: 16 (approx)
Number of submissions made: between 48 & 52 (approx)
Number of short stories published: 5: 3 print, 2 web
Most number of times a story was rejected before finding a home: 18 (approx)
Fewest number of times a story was rejected before finding a home: 1
Number of times a story got accepted the first time I sent it out: 0
The Best Of Times, The Worst Of Times
Low point: receiving 4 rejections for the same story within the space of 2 days.
High points: seeing my words handset in a letterpress book made by a friend; having my novel accepted at Cinder House & Dead Ink Books.
You won't get anywhere if you sit around feeling sorry for yourself.
Friday, 27 December 2013
Thursday, 12 December 2013
Photo credit: Jeff Moriarty
I'm really excited that my story, Top Dog, has been published in the December issue of the US lit journal Toasted Cheese. The issue is now online and you can read the story for free by clicking here!
Many thanks for Theryn and all the editors at Toasted Cheese for deciding to publish my work.
Pharmakon Dirk Wittenborn
Bossypants Tina Fey
"There once was a family who lived in a wood; a boy, a girl, and their selfish old Papa. The children went about barefoot, and ate whatever they could find on the forest floor. They were always dirty and hungry. Their Papa had no interest in looking after them. He lay in bed all day, smoking and listening to filth on the wireless."
Now available to buy: a seriously limited edition handmade letterpress short story chapbook. Featuring a modern-day flash fiction fairy tale, written by me, in a book with a centrepiece illustration by Helen Entwistle, and letterpress printed and handmade by Phil Treble.
Only 100 of these were ever made, and believe me they are absolutely beautiful - the picture really doesn't do them justice. I am forever grateful to Phil for making these, and for he and Helen for collaborating with me on them. You can buy these from me at readings, or email me, or they're available in Phil's etsy shop.
Sunday, 8 December 2013
Saturday, 23 November 2013
Saturday, 16 November 2013
Really exciting news & I'm grateful to the editors of Toasted Cheese for taking an interest in my work.
The Blindfold Siri Hustvedt
Memoirs of a Geisha Arthur Golden
Something I've Been Meaning to Tell You Alice Munro
Wednesday, 6 November 2013
I'm 10000% stoked to announce that my novel, Brick Mother, will be published early 2014 by Cinder House and Dead Ink Books.
Brick Mother is a literary thriller set in a locked psychiatric ward.
As yet, we don't have a release date set, so keep checking back (or follow me on Twitter @bradleybooks). All the same, this seems like a good time to thank everybody who's supported me over the years - old housemates for putting up with me keeping odd pieces of paper all over the house, friends for putting up with me never going out anywhere, the Fictions of Every Kind crew (Mason & Ian in particular), my long suffering boyfriend, and of course Nathan & Wes for taking an interest in my work.
The Secret History Donna Tartt
Wednesday, 23 October 2013
Coming soon: Crap Dad by SJ Bradley.
A single short story chapbook, typeset and letterpress printed by Phil Treble (@muttonsandnuts) with centrefold illustration by Helen Entwistle (@memohelen).
I've only seen the cover of this so far, and it looks amazing. I'm indebted to my co-conspirators Helen & Phil for agreeing to collaborate with me on this book. It should be out by mid-November in a limited edition of 75 (soft cover) or 15 (hard cover).
If you'd like to get one, you can contact me on s.j.bradley [at] hotmail [dot] com.
Saturday, 5 October 2013
I had a fabulous night at The Red Shed Readings on Thursday this week - many thanks to hosts John Irving Clark and Jimmy Andrex for organising it.
Sharing the stage with me that night was Lancashire born poet Tony 'The Great' Boltini. I've read alongside Tony a couple of times now, and the man's something of a legend around these parts. Yet Tony has never published a collection. Perhaps it's partly for that reason that he isn't more well-known. Here are a couple of videos of him in action from The Red Shed this week.
Old School Tobias Wolff
Reasons To Live Amy Hempel
Tuesday, 17 September 2013
Tuesday, 13 August 2013
Thursday, 1 August 2013
Several days ago, equality campaigner Caroline Criado-Perez was repeatedly subject to rape threats for her work on the Jane Austen £10 note campaign. Perez was subject to hundreds of @ mentions an hour at the height of her persecution. Perez has called upon Twitter to improve their response to this kind of abuse. Many have responded, citing the example of the twitter joke trial, that Perez was only subject to trolling, and that she should just ignore it and move on. Lots were concerned that an improved 'report abuse' function might hamper freedom of speech on social media networks. I'm here today to explain - in the simplest terms I can - why ignoring abuse is no way to solve this problem.
Sexism still exists. (boo!) It still affects men as well as women. However, it is women who are far more affected by sexism than men. Some of the effects of sexism upon women are things like: getting paid less for doing the same work. Being more likely to be unemployed than a man of the same age and educational background. Being the one in the family who has to take parental leave, even if it is your family's preference to have the father be the stay at home parent. Being highly likely to be made redundant upon your return to work from maternity leave. Being judged more on how you look than what you can do. There are more. This isn't intended to be a comprehensive list, but it'll do us for starters.
Ok, so let's move onto the worst bit. It's relevant, so stick with me. Women have a bad time in many public spaces. Sexual assault is prevalent to quite a disturbing level. When I talk about sexual assault I include: having 'compliments' shouted out of car windows at you as you walk down the street; having strangers make sexualised comments to you in the street; being stared at in an intrusive way; being followed; being shouted at; being grabbed or groped. You might be shocked to find out the extent of this. Personally, between the ages of 15 and 17, I had at least one of these things happen to me almost every time I went out of the house. It still happens to me these days, though not as often, thankfully. The worst ever one was when a complete stranger grabbed my boob in the street. I was about 16 at the time and the guy who did it skated off afterwards, laughing. Now listen. These things didn't happen to me because I am hot shit. They happened because all over the world, in all of our streets, there exist a lot of men who have internalised the belief that women's bodies are public property. In short: they think that if they like the look of it, it's their right to touch it. You with me so far? And the worst part of it is: it happens all the time.
You, reading this, might be cynical. Perhaps you think either "She's exaggerating. That doesn't happen", or perhaps that the women who suffer it somehow 'bring it on themselves'. Well, I have two responses to this. One is to ask any woman you know. Your mother, your sister, your friend, your girlfriend. I guarantee she has suffered the kind of low grade sexual assault I'm describing. And my second response is: we do not bring it on ourselves. I've been sexually assaulted while wearing baggy jumpers, paint-splattered dungarees, even on one occasion (restrain yourselves, gentlemen) a borrowed German Army surplus jacket several sizes too large. In short: It matters not how we dress. It happens anyway, and the message from our assaulters is: "We can do whatever the fuck we like to you, and it's your own fault for going around being a woman in public."
It had a wearing effect, as continued abuse does. There were days when I was genuinely reluctant to leave the house. I knew that at some stage in the day I'd likely be subject to more of the same. Please, when reading this, consider: abuse is not the fault of the victim, and there is no 'right' way to respond to it. I did not invite these things to happen to me. All I wanted was to be able to go out without worrying that some knobhead was going to try to masturbate down the back of my coat, or whatever. Simple, right? A right I should enjoy, right?
Well, the truth was, it happened so often I started to get a bit jumpy. There didn't seem to be a good way to respond to it. I often wanted to be able to ignore it, but often couldn't. Sometimes the abuse was done in such a way as to be deliberately intrusive, as a way of getting a reaction. Stuff like, a weird guy sitting too close to me on the bus, and breathing heavily. Getting up to leave would be a reaction. Looking uncomfortable would be a reaction. Anything would be a reaction, so whatever you do, the sex pest has got what he wanted. These things, which happened to me at one stage almost daily*, (THIS IS KEY SO PAY ATTENTION) made me feel like I had no right to be in a public space. The effect (KEY MESSAGE KEY MESSAGE) was to make me feel like that if I went around being a woman in public, I should be prepared to take the consequences.
I mention all this not because I think that all men do it. They don't. Many men are respectful and non-sexist and would never dream of going around grabbing a stranger's ass in a bar. But there are two important things to mention. One, this sort of abuse has a degrading effect on our ability to feel safe in public spaces. (As I mentioned above, there were many occasions when I did not feel safe in public spaces.) And two, rape jokes are a continuation of the kind of unwanted sexual comments that women suffer in their everyday lives. They're a specific kind of sexist abuse targeted at making women, as individuals and as a group, feel uncomfortable.
Rape overwhelmingly affects women far more than it does men. 1 in 3 women will be raped in their lifetimes; it is something that far less frequently happens to men. Only a dunderhead could fail to notice that, given these statistics, rape jokes are likely to be targeted specifically at women. Rape 'jokes' are used by sexists and misogynists to make women feel uncomfortable in a very specific way. Remember how often women have suffered sexual assault already - even the type you might consider 'minor'. The rape 'joke' is a continuation of street abuse. It's a way of telling women: "You have no right to be here, and I can do whatever the fuck I like to you, and it's your own fault for going around being a woman."
If you want to improve the world, I'd suggest that the way to do it is not by trying to protect anybody's freedom to make a rape 'joke'. Instead, I'd urge you to think about the implications of preserving sexists' ability to intimidate and threaten women, as individuals and as a group. Do you really want misogynists and sexists to be able to say whatever the fuck they like to your girlfriend, your friend, your sister, your daughter? A rape 'joke' is specific - it's targeted to women, done as a way of keeping women in their place, and making us feel uncomfortable; like we have no right to be here. So seriously, if you want to uphold anybody's rights - think about the rights of women to feel safe.
*Gentlemen, if you are shocked by this and want to help, there is a lot you can do to become an ally of women. A good place to start would be by supporting and listening to the women who surround you, and by challenging sexism where you see it. This article on 101 ways to become an ally to women is an excellent starting point.
Fun pop quiz: When is it ever ok for me to grab the ass of a strange woman I do not know, and have never spoken to? Disclaimer: she has a really nice ass and she looks the type to respond well to my advances.)
1. When Cheryl Cole comes back as a judge on the X-Factor.
2. When George Lucas makes another Star Wars film, and the Star Wars film that he makes is as good as The Empire Strikes Back, and the film stars Alec Guinness playing the part of his own Dad.
3. When Chris Nolan releases a sequel to Inception titled Inception II: Running Away Through Treacle and the film stars Chuck Norris, Danny Dyer, and Jason Statham.
(Answer: any or all of the above!!!!!)
Pop quiz question two: But what about if I want to shout a nice compliment like 'nice tits!' or 'give us a smile, love' out of a car window? I mean, she looks a bit like she could do with cheering up, and women love that sort of thing, don't they? So when should I try that?
1. When Erasure release their long-awaited LP of Millwall FC football songs.
2. When Oasis reunite and release an album of Beatles covers.
3. When The Beatles reunite and release an album of Oasis covers.
Answer: any or all of the above!!!!!!!)
Currently reading: The Martian Chronicles Ray Bradbury
Monday, 1 July 2013
Monday, 24 June 2013
Tuesday, 28 May 2013
However I'm pleased to say that there's quite a lot of exciting stuff going on in Leeds over the next few weeks, not least The Big Bookend Festival and The Hannah festival. I'm not involved in core organisation for either of these events, but am glad to be peripherally involved either by organising warm-up events, or giving readings. Have a look below to see whether there's anything that interests you!
4th June 2013 - Avast! Join us as we plash a creaking boat through a miscellany of stories, songs and poems of the sea. Featuring performances by Matthew Bellwood, SJ Bradley, Becky Cherriman, and Ian Pepper, with music from We Died at Sea and The Ocean Loiners. At Santiago's, Leeds, from 7:45, entry £3. Avast! facebook events page
7th June 2013 - Big Bookend Anthology launch. At the Customer Services lounge in Trinity Leeds, from 7pm onwards.
14th June 2013 - Poetry in the North / Fictions of Every Kind / Hannah festival - A shared event curated jointly by Fictions of Every Kind & Poetry in the North, as part of the Hannah festival. With readings from SJ Bradley, Kathryn Glass, Jenny Oliver, and Catherine Stones. Clock Cafe, Otley Road, from 7:30 (not sure of entry price)
2nd July 2013 - Fictions of Every Kind: Ramble featuring guest speakers Anna Chilvers and Max Dunbar, and music from Look Yonder! Wharf Chambers, 7:30, £3 (please note Wharf Chambers is a members' club and you must be a member, or guest of a member, in order to attend an event here. Please visit www.wharfchambers.org for more info). More information on the Fictions of Every Kind facebook events page
Junot Diaz Drown
E M Forster Howard's End
Wednesday, 17 April 2013
If you've been following this blog a while, you may already know that I'm a sucker for an antiquated printing method called Letterpress. I didn't mean to fall in love with Letterpress - it just happened. We met one day while I was at a book fair. Letterpress showed me all these cards made with salvaged type nobody else wanted; it whispered in my ear that it would take up hours of my life, infect my thinking, and make me want to drive to other parts of the country to look at bits of metal in boxes.
"I don't mind," I said. "It is already too late."
Between then and now I've printed cards, chapbooks, posters, and a tiny anthology of work by writers I admire (now sold out). I used to print these at The Print Project, but for various reasons decided I'd be better off with a press of my own (pictured above).
In the future Yuertes (as he is affectionately known) will likely be used to print gig fliers, leaflets, and short story postcards. For now, he is just settling into my kitchen. Doesn't he look at home?
Here are some of the things Yeurtes and I have made this afternoon.
Thursday, 11 April 2013
Male writers, I know it is not easy to imagine what it is to be a woman. Many male writer-friends have told me they avoid writing women, or leave them out of their work altogether. It's often for the most honourable reasons. Perhaps you're afraid to get women 'wrong'. Or you're sensitive to the fear of undermining female perspectives, because you might steal women's stories and mistell them through the prism of male experience. Worst of all, women like me might read your stories, become enraged by your lack of understanding, and write a whole series of blog posts about what a massive misogynist you are.
So how does a writer like Franzen - somebody who is frequently hailed as being the greatest writer of his generation - get women so wrong? For me, as a reader, the answer is really simple. In trying to use his female characters to explore the problems of sexism, Franzen ties them up in knots. His female characters often are used as mirrors to extrapolate the dilemmas facing his male characters. They don't jump off the page; they don't have needs, wishes, desires. Their needs only exist as a means of irritating or servicing (delete as applicable) the needs of the men in the book. They have no volition, save when it serves the men for them to do so. They have no complexity, no depth, no sympathy. In short: Franzen writes about women as though he has never met any.
Men, here is what I suggest: if you want to get women right, there's a lot you can do. The more you do, the more your feel for women will improve. You can do as little as much as you feel able, but I recommend doing as much as you can. It'll all serve your work in the end.
A good place to start is by reading women writers, and lots of them. You might find that women writers see the world differently, that they write differently. It might surprise you how different the female perspective is. There are plenty of amazing female writers to read - my personal favourites are writers like Margaret Drabble, Muriel Spark, Amy Tan, and Claire Massey. Don't just leave it at one book. Read many, and widely. Women write a wide range of fiction as do men - do yourself a favour, and check their work out.
Fiction an easy place to start, but needs to work in tandem with actual experience. This is where you really need to put your back into your research. Be ready to go places you have never been before. Stay calm, it's all in service of your art.
To really write women well, you have to get to grips with good characterisation. Your reader will believe your characters if they seem real; and poor characterisation always results from drawing on too little. Write a character based on only one or two people, and it will always come across thin. But write based on many, and you'll have something believable. It's as true of female characters as it is of males.
It will help to start meeting new people. If you only really ever meet women as a means of dating them - if you only know women your own age, say, or if you only know women who are dating your friends - this isn't really a wide enough pool to draw upon. You need something outside your social background. You need to meet women of differing educational backgrounds, and of different heritages. Always think about expanding the range of your experience, and most importantly, of doing it deeply.
There are tons of good ways to do this. A good way to start is by meeting women of different ages. You'll find you can learn a lot from older women. They'll be able to tell you how women's status has changed over the generations, and the struggles they faced when they were young. If nothing else you'll find their stories fascinating. Where do you meet them? Well, that's up to you. Older women are all over. Join a book group. Start going to a knitting circle. Seek them out, hear their stories. Seek out that which is outside your immediate experience. Find it and soak it all up, and write it down in your notebook afterwards.
But the best way of all to learn about women - and I know many of you will baulk at this - is to do what has become women's work. Low paid, low status jobs in the health and care industry are crawling with women. Why do women do these jobs? Go and do one yourself, and you'll find out. It's not just one answer, but many. The hours might suit for childcare; or perhaps this job is the only one your colleague has the skills for. Perhaps it's a stopgap between graduating university and finding something better. In amongst doing this low status work, during which you'll have the chance to find out what it is to do that work - literally what it is to be a woman - you'll have the chance to meet women from a whole range of different backgrounds. You'll find out why they do the work they do; you'll hear them talk about their home lives, their domestic arrangements, their wishes for the future. All of this is stuff that you can draw on for your female characters. As always, make sure you do it with respect. Be mindful that the women you're working with are real. They're not just somebody you're going to take the piss out of later to get a cheap laugh when you come to write your novel. They're real people, with real lives, and most likely many of them will still be doing this work when you are long gone. Tread carefully and you can represent them and their lives well. Giving accurate voice to someone who can't speak up for themselves is a big responsibility.
Above all, my advice would be to pay your female characters the same amount of attention you would your male. Give them backstories. Know where they come from and what they want. If your characters are drawn from a range of experience in life, they will have that much more of a ring of authenticity. Don't assume that you can make it all up in your head and get it right. You won't. Listen to women; collect their stories, blend what you know from life well into believable characters, and you will get it right.
Best European Fiction 2012 Ed. Aleksandar Hemon
The Shipyard Juan Carlos Onetti
Tuesday, 2 April 2013
Budapest Chico Buarque
Bartleby & Co Enrique Vila-Matas
Falling Through Clouds Anna Chilvers
Sunday, 10 March 2013
A Hologram for the King Dave Eggers
Not Fade Away Jim Dodge
Sunday, 3 March 2013
The full Willesden Herald shortlist is here.
Saturday, 2 March 2013
There's more info on the facebook events page here.
All Our Spoons Came From Woolworths Barbara Comyns
Fup Jim Dodge
Tuesday, 19 February 2013
Sunday, 3 February 2013
I went, and read the opening of a short story I've been working on called "Control". Mason tried to take a video but it came out a bit Wrong. Instead, I made the resulting audio file into an MP3, which you can listen to on my Soundcloud.
The Marriage Plot Jeffrey Eugenides
The Witness Juan Jose Saer
The Illustrated Man Ray Bradbury
Wednesday, 2 January 2013
Scene: A New Years' Party. In a bar in the centre of town - in the run-off, undesirable part of the city - a group of friends, known to each other through the sort of gigs that ruin your hearing, are talking. Two are propped up against the bar, beers in hand. They are trying not to get in the way.
Quiet, unvoiced thoughts of self: Wow, look at all these people. I wonder if they go out all the time. I bet they do. They probably talk to each other, and everything. Not like me, spending all my evenings glaring fiercely into a laptop and jabbing at the keys. Those lucky, socialising bastards.
Self, to old friend: Hey, Neil! How's it going?
Old friend (trying not to get beer on floor): Hey! Great, thanks!
Self: You up to much this week - after this madness is over?
Old friend: You know, I am. Guess what I'm doing on Thursday?
Quiet, unvoiced thoughts of self: He has Thursday off work? Wow, I know what I'd do if I had Thursday off. I'd go and hang out in the library. Best not say that, though. That's a shit thing to say at a party.
Self: No, what?
Old friend: I'm off to Madrid. I've been invited to play a solo set over there - me, and Seb Rochford from Acoustic Ladyland. We're getting flown over there, and flown back. Not bad, eh?
Self: That's ace! Hey, congratulations Neil. I bet you'll have a brilliant time. And it'll be warm, too. You lucky sod.
Old friend: Yeah! I know! I'm really excited.
(Pauses; drinks beer).
Old friend: So what about you, anyway? Haven't seen you for ages. What you been up to?
Self: Oh, you know, not much. The usual. Working. Writing. Writing. Working.
Quiet, unvoiced thoughts of self: That is no good, Bradley. Jazz it up a bit. Try to make it more interesting and dramatic.
Self: You know. Making things up in my head and then typing them down into a blank Word document.
Quiet, unvoiced thoughts of self: Should I tell him about discovering the Navigator function in Open Office last week? I wonder whether people, in socialising situations, are interested in that sort of thing.
Self: I've been working on some short stories. This and that. You know. I've been working on a novel. It's er - it's about ...
(Friend nods; smiles politely).
Self: You see, the trouble with a large document like a novel is that it's quite unwieldy. You might want to rearrange the chapters - say, if you realise, a part of the action would be better moved to an earlier or later section. Because these things don't just organise themselves, you know. And that's why I was so excited last week when I discovered a new function in my word processing software...
Quiet, unvoiced thoughts of self: ABORT ABORT DO NOT SAY ANY MORE WORDS
Self: Hey listen, the band is starting.
(Glasses raised; people cheer; the band begins to play).
Stone Junction Jim Dodge
A brilliant present from Ian Pepper, one of my Fictions of Every Kind co-conspirators. Thanks, Ian!