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‘Still’ | Shortlisted for Saboteur Indy Lit Award

Still is shortlisted in the Saboteur Indy Lit Awards for Best Mixed Anthology. Congratulations to all the talented Still writers and many thanks to everyone who has been so supportive of the book.

Readers are invited to vote for the book, details at Saboteur Shortlist

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David Hebblethwaite’s story-by-story review of ‘Still’

DAVID HEBBLETHEWAITE is a renowned book blogger from Yorkshire, who reviews both novels and short fiction on his blog Follow the Thread. He also writes reviews for The Huffington PostStrange HorizonsWe Love This Book and Fiction Uncovered. He’s a big supporter of the short story format and since the end of September, he has reviewed every story that appears in Still – in chronological order. We’ve listed a brief excerpt from each individual review below, or you can read the full reviews here.

Foyles, Charing Cross Road, Still in Anthologies

‘Still’ on sale at Foyles

And the ending is a real shock to the system. ‘Midnight Hollow’ – Mark Piggott

But, for those four pages, the author convinces you it’s all true. ‘My Wife, The Hyena’ – Nina Killham

I also love the way Blackman transforms the imagery of dirt trailing down a wall; the ending of ‘Sanctuary’ becomes as much a tableau as one of Bakker’s photographs. ‘Sanctuary’ – Andrew Blackman

Wyld  keeps the atmosphere suitably unsettling, and any hope she offers comes with its own nagging doubt. ‘Corridor’ – Evie Wyld

There’s a neat reversal in this story, and I like Frey’s use of the staircase as an image and venue. ‘The Staircase Treatment’ – Myriam Frey

The choppy rhythms of van Mersbergen’s prose underline the sense of unease, up to a rather chilling end. ‘Pa-Dang’ – Jan van Mersbergen

The titular rose acts a symbol of the family’s hope – something to keep growing in the garden, and not to remove, for fear of angering the landlord. ‘A Rose For Raha’ – Ava Homa

Royle tops it off with a dark twist at the end. ‘The Blind Man’ – Nicholas Royle

It’’s amusing to read, but also leaves one with the nagging thought of just how easily that sort of thing could happen… ‘From the Archive’ – James Miller

Details of ‘real’ life are heightened through their transformation into Hershman’s science-fiction idiom, and the ending is especially poignant. ‘Switchgirls’ – Tania Hershman

Rechner makes good use of sensory detail to convey the stuffy and intense atmosphere of the theatre. ‘The Playwright Sits Next to Her Sister’ – Mary Rechner

Hussein reveals the full possibilities only gradually, and even then keeps the truth ambiguous. ‘The Tree at the Limit’ – Aamer Hussein

Just as Beard’s piece blurs the line between fact and fiction, so it effectively portrays lifts as simultaneously useful and threatening spaces. ‘Life Under Inspection, Do Not Touch’ – Richard Beard

This is a nicely paced story, with an effective sting in its ending. ‘Odd Job’ – Preeta Samarasan

What follows is a snappy, rhythmic jaunt through the cacophony of modern life. ‘Noise’ – James Higgerson

 ‘A Job Worth Doing’ is more a celebration of what has passed. ‘A Job Worth Doing’ – SJ Butler

Rose captures a certain stiff formality in the voice of his protagonist; and the range of details focused on creates an effective sense of diffuseness. ‘Sere’ – David Rose

This piece is both a portrait of the emotional value that books can have to someone; but it’s also a poignant tale of loss… ‘Morayo’ – Sarah Ladipo Manyika

A well-constructed mosaic of events from Justin Hill’s life, with recurring themes of memory and going through doors. ‘Waiting’ – Justin Hill

What gives this story its edge is a clear sense that this is a false hope, and that the protagonist can’t move on in life because she won’t let go of the idea. ‘Ten A Day’ – Jan Woolf

‘Opportunity’ provides an elegant and broad examination of its issues. ‘Opportunity’ – Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende

Its supernatural twist gives this tale a very effective chill. ‘In the Dressing Room Mirror’ – Claire Massey

I like the ambiguity in the ending of this piece, and especially how it illuminates the narrator’s character. ‘The Owl at the Gate’ – Nicholas Hogg

Definitely a story that carries greater force than its length might suggest. ‘Still’ – SL Grey

This absorbing read takes a shocking turn. ‘How to Make a Zombie’ – Deborah Klaassen

A fine note on which to end the anthology. ‘Winter Moon’ – Xu Xi

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Photographs from ‘Still’ launch event, 26 September 2012 at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London

THANK YOU! Negative Press London says a BIG thanks to all the writers (reading/non-reading) who were at the Still launch event in the Gallery at Foyles, as well to all the people who came for what was a very lively entertaining literary evening.

The readings went down a storm and the audience really enjoyed the mix of writing and related photography. It was a special treat to hear the stories read out with such passion and panache. Q&As, discussions and mingling followed!

Thanks to the writers who were there: SJ Butler, Myriam Frey, Tania Hersham, James Higgerson, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen (thanks for setting up Facebook event), Claire Massey, James Miller, Jan Woolf and Evie Wyld.

And thanks to the writers who were there in spirit: Richard Beard, Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Ava Homa, Sarah Ladipo Manyika, Jan van Mersbergen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Mary Rechner, David Rose, Nicholas Royle, Preeta Samarasan and Xu Xi.

A big cheers to Paul Savage for a fantastic bar service and to David Owen at Foyles for five star help and organisation.

All photographs by Roman Skyva, www.romanskyva.com

If anyone has any photographs they want to share, email to info@neg-press.com (max file width 1000px at 72dpi, if possible)

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Q&A | James Higgerson

James HiggersonJAMES HIGGERSON LIVES IN MANCHESTER. He’s a writer, music reviewer and urban health researcher, currently finishing his PhD. His debut novel, The Almost Lizard, will be published in spring 2013 by Legend Press. His story ‘Noise’ is his print debut.

Do you enjoy short stories?
I must admit I rarely read short fiction. When I do, I’ll read only one or two, rather than a full anthology, because I find they lose their impact if I read lots back to back. I like to get attached to characters. It’s the same with writing. If I had more time I’d follow up the short story ideas I have, but that only usually happens if I don’t have a novel that I’m writing.

Is Manchester an inspirational city?
Manchester’s a great city. I moved here straight after uni, mainly because I’d been coming over for gigs for years and loved the place. I have a few bars and coffee shops that I like to write in (those which haven’t closed down and been replaced by a Tesco and/or Gregg’s), but the city itself is inspirational. There’s a lot going on here; so many different people, different lives – it’s amazing for people watching. That said it is detached from the writing industry, which effectively lives in London, so there is that fear that you’re in the wrong place if you want to make progress (it’s not true, but it’s easy to believe at times). There are some good things happening at the moment – a group called Bad Language have recently appeared on my radar. They’re doing lots of interesting events so I’d like to investigate that more.

Where do you write?
I’ve been really lucky this year and have travelled a lot with work, so the novel I’m currently writing has been penned in Paris, New York, Amsterdam, Oslo, Ljubljana and Portugal, as well on various planes. Because of the travel I’ve returned to writing in notebooks, which has been really good. I spend far too much of my life in front of screens so I’m going to stick with the pad and paper. It’s given me back the freedom to write where I want, which I hadn’t realised I’d missed until recently. Still, the majority of my writing is either done at home or in the bar next to work at lunchtime.

What made you want to become a writer?
When I moved to Manchester, I was living with two musicians and felt like I was a lacking a creative side, so I thought I’d give it a go. I hope it wasn’t just a cynical attempt to fit in, but I don’t think it’s possible to commit the time and effort to writing a novel if that were the case. I’d written a few books (long lost, sadly) in my teens but fallen out with English at A-Level, mainly because analysing the shit out of books I only mildly cared about was predominantly tedious. I’m tone deaf and had no rhythm, so I thought I’d give writing another go. So it was those two musicians who initially made me have a go at writing. It was writing my first novel (some fictionalised but largely self-referential badness that will never see the light of day) that made me want to be a writer.It was coming runner-up in the Luke Bitmead Bursary Award in 2008 that made me realise that I stood a chance of becoming a published writer.

The Assembly Hall (Roof) from Still Roelof Bakker

The Assembly Hall (Roof)
© 2012 Roelof Bakker

Why did you select this photograph?
I was torn between a few of the photographs, but the one I chose (which I do now refer to as ‘my one’) jumped out of me because there was so much potential in it. Many ideas came about straight away, and initially was my story was going to be set within the space. I also liked that the space seemed very private compared to the other parts of the Town Hall – it provided somewhere for my character to escape to, if necessary. It was also one of the darker photos, which I’m often drawn to.

What was your approach?
Usually when I write, it isn’t directly influenced by one specific thing, like a photo, so this was a different starting point for me. Once I’d selected the photo, I then thought about what I could write about, or what it was that had drawn me towards selecting that photograph. I started off quite literally by setting the story in the room depicted in the photograph, in its current state, and trying to work out how someone would end up finding themselves in there. It appeared derelict, but through the skylight you can see that the rest of the world was scurrying on. So this room became a sanctuary from the outside world.

The first version of the story was about a man desperate to escape the Tory Government and finding this bolt-hole, only to come across a tramp who it turned out (at the end) had been hiding there since the previous Tory Government. With riots and recession and union crushing, their conversation would have revealed that little had changed between Governments. For whatever reason, though, it didn’t play out well for me when I tried to write it, so I changed the characters but kept the setting, then changed the characters and the setting. Then all it took was one bad day and the story came together very quickly.

Do you use visuals for ideas?
Not directly, but all of those things are incredibly influential overall. Most of my writing comes from things I’ve observed rather than things I’ve seen. Writing ‘Noise’ was certainly the most I’ve been directly influenced by a single photo, and also the name of the collection – Still – had an impact on the sort of story I came up with.

Have you collaborated with artists before?
A few years ago I ran a collaborative project called Bad Marmalade. We put on gigs in houses which we brought photographers in for (so the bands – who played for free – were rewarded with professional quality photos, and the photographers were able to add to their portfolios). We also ran a blog featuring commentary and short fiction. With the fiction I always tried to get an artist or illustrator to do something to accompany it. We had a good band of willing volunteers from all over the world and it all worked really well. I liked these collaborations between complete strangers. It was a shame we gave up on it when we did, because it could have really gone somewhere.

What are working on at the moment?
Another novel. This is about my eleventh attempt at writing this story, but I’ve been working on it for over a year now. Also the publishing process is slowly starting to kick in at the moment for my debut novel The Almost Lizard (had to mention it – surprised I waited until the last question!), which will be published on 1st March 2013. My PhD thesis has to be complete by December, so it’s more that than anything else at the moment. Writing is my ‘treat’ in between writing up sessions.

JAMES HIGGERSON

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‘Still’ exhibition at Foyles, Charing Cross Road, London – until 30 October

The Green Room

‘Still’: an exhibition of photographs and excerpts from related stories

An exhibition of photographs from Still by Roelof Bakker has opened at Foyles, 113-119 Charing Cross Road, London WC2H 0EB.

Twenty large size photographs of vacated spaces at Hornsey Town Hall are exhibited in two separate spaces: the Café on the first floor and the Gallery on the third floor.

In line with the approach of the literary art book, each photograph is accompanied by a brief excerpt from the related story with the writer’s name and story’s title included.

‘STILL’ AT THE CAFÉ ON THE FIRST FLOOR, FROM 18 SEPTEMBER TO 30 OCTOBER
With excerpts from stories by Andrew Blackman, SL Grey, Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Ava Homa, Claire Massey, Jan van Mersbergen, James Miller and Evie Wyld.

‘STILL’ AT THE GALLERY ON THE THIRD FLOOR, FROM 18 SEPTEMBER TO 30 SEPTEMBER
With excerpts from stories by Richard Beard, SJ Butler, James Higgerson, Nicholas Hogg, Nina Killham, Deborah Klaassen, Barbara Mhangami-Ruwende, Mark Piggott, Preeta Samarasan and Jan Woolf.

Justin Hill, Waiting, from Still Negative Press London 2012

Excerpt from ‘Waiting’ by Justin Hill to accompany the print ‘The Green Room’

The book itself was launched at Foyles on 26 September in the Gallery with a literary event including readings by Tania Hershman, Justin Hill, Nicholas Hogg, Aamer Hussein, James Miller (with Jan Woolf) and Evie Wyld as well as a screening of the video film from the project with other visuals.

FOYLES EXHIBITION DETAILS

Negative Press London and Foyles have also launched a short story competition.

NEGATIVE PRESS LONDON AND FOYLES: SHORT STORY COMPETITION

EXHIBITIONS SPECIFICATIONS
20 C-type prints from negative film with film information borders, size 50cm x 50cm, framed. 20 plagues with story excerpts mounted on foam board.

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