A Not So Perfect Interview with Nik Perring

Recently I won a draw on Bah! To Cancer’s blog for a signed copy of a book of short stories by Nik Perring, Not So Perfect. By the way, if you haven’t visited Bah! to Cancer before, pop over now and have a look, it’s a great site. No, not now, I’ll never get you back. Go at the end of the post, when you’ve commented about how wonderful I am. Sorry, Nik Perring is.

I’d heard great stuff about this little book, and I was over the moon to win a signed copy for myself. I started reading it quite late at night, intending to read a couple of stories then and digest it slowly, but I was completely hooked and devoured the whole lot in one sitting. I would have gone back and read it again but my husband turned the light off. Grr.

There are 22 short short stories, and they really are short. The book is a small square and each story is only a couple of pages, but my goodness! Nik Perring says more in those couple of pages than a lot of people get to in three sides of A4. There is a range of stories too, some are more whimsical but some left me feeling like I’d been punched in the stomach. I think I actually caught myself holding my breath after Shark Boy. This was my favourite story, but the others were all wonderful, and like the best short stories, you can go back and re-read each one to find more and more layers and meanings. The stories are kind of like one of those rich sweets you get from a posh chocolate shop, y’know? They’re only tiny, you gobble a couple down, and just enjoy the experience, then you learn to chew them properly and discover all the flavours. Sorry about all the food references, it’s past my elevenses time.

So if that hasn’t whetted your appetite yet (sorry!), I was lucky enough to persuade Nik to give me a quick sort-of-interview. This is my first crack at this, so be kind to me…

How did you get published? Was it a long tortuous process involving pulling out of hair and staring into empty gin bottles in front of a dying fire?

This is going to sound very arrogant, so I apologise in advance, but my path to publication was really straight forward. I found a publisher I loved and wanted to work with (Roast Books), and I submitted to them. They liked what they read, asked for more, I sent those in, which they also liked, and so they said yes.  I would say though that I think the reason it was all so straight forward was because I’d spent an awful lot of time doing the hard work.

As for gin, well, I’m saying nothing!

If you had to pick one story from Not So Perfect – I mean, if your life depended on it – which would it be?

That’s always a really, really difficult question to answer, probably impossible, because I genuinely love, and am proud of, them all. I really enjoyed writing Number 14 because that was about the first one I’d attempted after deciding that writing short stories was what I wanted to do, and I loved writing Seconds Are Ticking By because it came so quickly and fully formed. I’ll always be fond of Shark Boy and In My Head I’m Venus because they’re really good fun to read out, like Kiss and The Mechanical Woman, and – and…

What was your process in making an anthology? Did you write a million stories and then choose 22?

The twenty-two that made it into Not So Perfect were my best and the ones that fitted together the best. There were a few that got left out because it was clear that they were different and didn’t quite fit but, to be honest, it all came together very naturally (and I’m a stickler for only putting work out there that I really love which I think helped the process).

What’s the best thing about being a published author? Or the worst?

The best thing is that people are reading my work and, apparently, enjoying it. That’s really, really special. It’s a nice feeling too to know that I’m not all that bad at it!

Worst? I don’t know. There are lots of bits about it that aren’t perfect. Being a writer’s a lonely occupation. I’ve seen people’s attitudes towards me change since this book’s come out, often in a not so perfect way. There’s a pretty constant sense of worry and anxiety and pressure.

But mostly, and I genuinely mean this (despite sounding like an utter grump) I love the job.

If you were giving advice to a newbie, what would be the one essential ingredient to a perfect (or not so perfect) short story?

Truth, I think. And by that I mean being true to yourself and being true to the story. So, not trying to write like someone else and not trying to write something you think a certain sort of person would like. I think any writer will write best when they’re writing something they’re enjoying (it’s a lot less pressure then too!). So yes, truth and feel free to write whatever you want to write.

The other advice would be: Just Do It! Be brave!

(You can see a list of my short story writing tips here: http://thestorycorrective.com/short-story-tips/)

Thanks so much for having me on here! It’s been a pleasure!

Thanks Nik!

Nik Perring is a writer, and occasional teacher of writing, from the north west. His short stories have been published widely in places including SmokeLong Quarterly, 3 :AM and Word Riot. They’ve also been read at events and on radio, printed on fliers and used as part of a high school distance learning course in the US.

Nik’s debut collection of short stories, NOT SO PERFECT is published by Roast Books and is out now. Nik blogs here (http://nikperring.blogspot.com) and his website’s here (www.nperring.com). He also offers short story help here (http://thestorycorrective.com/).

I’m In Love…

…with Build A Bear!

I was recently put in touch with Estelle from Publicasity, who wanted some Mummy bloggers to have a trip to Build A Bear and blog about their experience, and it’s somewhere I’ve wanted to take Daniel for ages so I leaped at the chance. And I have to say, I absolutely love this shop and cannot recommend them highly enough. With or without children.

We went to the Metrocentre store, which I am reliably informed is one of the biggest in the UK. I can believe it – there is loads of room to manoeuvre a pram, despite there being plenty of customers, and still have loads of products to look at – in fact, I had no idea you could get this much gear for a teddy bear! Anyway, the store is lovely and welcoming, and big enough so that a small child doesn’t feel hemmed in.

Now, I need to remind you that Daniel is just over 3, and has more mood swings than I did when I was pregnant. All the way there he was excited, talking about the big orange bear he was going to make. The minute we stepped foot inside Build A Bear, he clammed up and clung to me or Grandma, refusing to look at the bears or any of the display models. We built Emily’s bear, we coaxed him towards the machines, the clothes, the brushes, but he simply refused to take part. All through this the staff were unfailingly patient. Kate, who was looking after us, never faltered in her enthusiasm or her extremely kind manner with him, but eventually we admitted defeat. We decided to go and have a drink and a sticky bun, then come back, and as soon as we left the shop, the weather vane spun again and Daniel suddenly couldn’t live without a bear. Grr. So we trooped back in, and the wonderful Kate took a very quiet but happy Daniel through all the steps of building his bear.

If you’ve never done this, you have to. I insist. Now. Go. After choosing your bear, and there are too many gorgeous ones to choose (I was particularly drawn to the monkey and the terrier, but both children got traditional teddy bears) you take it to the stuffing machine. These are pretty big and noisy, but Daniel wasn’t in the least bothered, and I think this is mostly because the child controls the machine using a pedal. This kind of detail shows how much the designers have taken children’s needs into consideration, and it was very much appreciated yesterday. By the way, a note about the actual bears. Some, for example the Champ that Daniel chose, are quite long-haired, but the Velvety one we got for Emily is specially designed for babies or children with asthma or other allergies. It has short hair that doesn’t moult and is very baby safe. Just in case you were wondering. And the construction of all the bears is really clever, so that when it is stuffed you cannot see which bits were ready-stitched and which were just finished off in the shop. There are no loose threads, for example. Anyway…

I’m not going to go through every step of the process, but Daniel loved it. He chose the sound to go in- we decided to go for a pre-recorded sound rather than doing it himself. Watch out for the giggle, that’s a little creepy, as is the optional ‘beating heart’. The other sounds are great though. All the way through Daniel felt really engaged, and he was obviously in charge of his bear, brushing its fur and choosing its clothes. Oh, the clothes! Beautifully made, a HUGE range of styles and colours, and even some novelty costumes (including a Darth Vader outfit – seriously). Shoes; accessories for every occasion – no excuse for a well-dressed bear to ever be without the perfect outfit. Daniel ended up with a groovy guitar dude, complete with hoodie, jeans and shades. Once he was dressed, we went to the computer station to complete the bear’s birth certificate. Yes, birth certificate. Although Daniel insists it’s a treasure map. Armed with birth certificate, which is really nice because you can personalise who stuffed the bear, for example Emily’s says “Stuffed with hugs by Mummy”, the bear is popped into its house (a sturdy carrying box) and away you go.
The thing with Build a Bear is that although the initial outlay is a little high – although well worth it, for the quality of the teddy – the clothes and accessories cover pretty much any budget. You can get, for example, a full outfit for around £10-ish or something small like a guitar for £2.50, which means it’s a good bet for pocket money or birthday money. Also, these bears will last for YEARS, and there will always be some outfit or accessory you haven’t got, so it’s a brilliant idea for grandparents or relatives who may be struggling for present ideas. You can even get a wardrobe to keep it all in!

The problem is, I can see it becoming addictive. I went straight home and looked on the website for more outfits and shoes.

I’m just glad I have my children. Now I have an excuse to keep going back!

Note: I have some lovely pictures which I took on my visit but for some reason WordPress is not playing nicely so until I can figure out how to get these pictures up you’ll have to imagine two very cute bears and two even cuter children. Many thanks.

Book Review: Nighty Night

I’ve decided to start a new series of blog posts. On a regular basis I will review a book that my two and a half year old son has recently read. But don’t just take my word for it, check out The Daniel Pages for his point of view.
The first one we’ve chosen is Nighty Night by Colin McNaughton (click here to see on Amazon).

This has become part of Daniel’s nightly routine and he calls for it without fail. Technical stuff first: It has twelve double pages with bright pastel colours, big bold text (that becomes bigger or smaller to reflect tone of voice!) and appealing cartoons. The story builds up to a wonderful rant by Littlesaurus about why he doesn’t want to sleep then closes with a lovely, snuggly ending. I actually think one of the reasons we all love this book so much is because Littlesaurus reminds us so much of Daniel, and I suspect any parent will recognise their lively toddler in our hero.

The parents, Mummysaurus and Daddysaurus, are also brilliantly drawn – again, I recognise both myself and my husband in their reactions to bedtime. I love when Mummysaurus tells Daddysaurus that he’s supposed to be calming Littlesaurus down and he slinks away guiltily.

The only negative thing I can think of is if you are trying to encourage your child to stay in their bed all night, this might not help, as Littlesaurus ends up snuggling in between Mummy and Daddysaurus. But it’s such a sweet ending I love it anyway!

Reading the story is a lot of fun for both us and Daniel. The sentences are short and snappy, and Daniel loves to echo them back, sometimes finishing them before we do! I can see this being a favourite for years, and will be a good choice when he starts reading on his own as the text is so clear and the words are a good mix between challenging and manageable.

There is another book advertised on the back cover, featuring the same characters, dealing with potty training, and as soon as I finish this post I will be popping over to Amazon to buy it. If Potty Poo-poo Wee-wee is as much fun as Nighty Night I can’t wait to get started.

Thanks for reading our first book review. I’d love anyone to comment if they have read this book or can recommend similar, or if there’s anything I’ve missed off the review. If you have a book you read to your children and fancy putting up a review use the Contact Me page to send an email letting me know, it would be great to hear from you.

Don’t forget to pop over to The Daniel Pages to get Daniel’s verdict on Nighty Night!