On Wednesday 28 September 2011, I read a story called Tuffnell's Toffees at the launch of a book.
Quickies: short stories for adults is an anthology of flash fiction produced by the Flashtag writing collective as part of the Didsbury Arts Festival. The launch was glittery with lollies, wit and innuendo.
The Flashtag writers are Sarah-Clare Conlon, Fat Roland, Dave Hartley, Tom Mason and Benjamin Judge and and the Quickies stories are written by them and by their invited writerly chums. My virtual friend Ben Judge (now my actual friend, I think, as we met at said glittering event) asked me to contribute a smutty story. I was very pleased and very scared by this prospect. I was scared for two reasons:
1). There was a word limit of 400 words and, as my other reader will know; (alive or dead) my name is not a byword for brevity.
2). I didn’t want Ben to be the only Flashtagger with a duff chum.
With this in mind I wrote Tuffnell’s Toffeees then tinkered, meddled, redrafted, redrafted, got constructive feedback from Sarah Schofield, Valerie O'Riordan and Jenn Ashworth, (thank you folks) tinkered, meddled, redrafted, redrafted. I’m tinkering and meddling still (buttery fuck doesn’t appear in the book, it says buttery fingers in print) - donkey bolted/gate bolted; all that stuff.
Never were 400 words so tinkered and meddled with.
I hope Ben isn’t ashamed (of me, that is - he should certainly be embarrassed by the out and out rudeness of his own stories - one memorable line from his mucky reading was, ‘I tease the length of your dolphinhood…’!)
The glittering launch was grand – Sarah-Clare Conlon provided additional glamour (and a naughty story), Fat Roland snapped on Marigolds to handle the goods and I met many illustrious members of the (I mean this fondly) Manchester Blackwell literary mafia.
I have followed Dave Hartley’s story telling for years and he read a Quickie about Scouts and Guides (a comedy platinum combo).
Thanks to Valerie O’Riordan’s (I hope that doesn’t count as a spoiler) laugh out loud coming of age/aeroplane-sex tale I know how to avoid a kidney infection.
Adrian Slatcher wrote about a club I’d like to visit, just to see; and the word anus in Socrates Adams reading prompted a storm-out by an audience member. Ah, the heady allure of glittering launches.
Some of my other favourites were LJ Spillane, ‘He blinks and inhales like a man who if dressed and unbound, would be placing his hands in his pockets to steady a tremble.’ Daniel Carpenter’s Fetish Collector and Kinga Burger’s unreliable narrator enumerating past liaisons, ‘…therefore, according to the five-second rule, [he] doesn’t count.’
I got a forearm tattoo that said smut! in big puffy letters; sadly it was only a temporary tattoo and had faded to a lovebitey exclamation mark by morning, which was sad, but I’ve come to terms with the disappointment.
The anthology is very, very good and contains amazing stories by Adrian Slatcher, Benjamin Judge, Chris Killen, Claire Massey, Claire Symonds, Clare Kirwan, Daniel Carpenter, Dave Hartley, David Gaffney, Dom Conlon, Emma Jane Unsworth, Fat Roland, Gavin White, Jane Bradley, John Macky, Kim McGowan (me!), Kinga Burger, Laura Maley, LJ Spillane, Lynsey May, Matthew Carson, Nick Garrard, Red Newsom, Sarah-Clare Conlon, Sarah Hilary, Shirley Kernan, Socrates Adams, Tania Hershman, Tom Mason, and Valerie O’Riordan.
It is worth £3.50/£5 of anyone’s lolly fund.