Flash Fiction: Blackcurrant Jelly, 26th August 1966


Snails had almost eaten the paper, but the writing on the label was my mother’s. I’d decided to tackle the sunroom last, after I’d gone through the rest of the house making piles: keep, charity, ditch. A lifetime of parental belongings. The warm smell reminded me of silent meals, my mother picking at her food, me itching to get down and play, unaware of things unsaid.

I would have thrown the jar away, except the date on the label was my birthday. Inside was a curl of baby hair, the same shade as my own.


This is a 100-word flash fiction story inspired by the photo above provided by Sarah Potter. And it’s part of the Friday Fictioneers group of writers, run by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Click here to join in and write your own, or here to read some more.


Find out more about my latest novel, Swimming Lessons, published by Fig Tree / Penguin (UK), Tin House (US), House of Anansi (Canada), and Piper (Germany).


Flash Fiction: Add but don’t subtract


Her body sank to the cobbles, each bony vertebra grazing skin against whitewashed wall. In slow motion she slid sideways into the shade, eyes glassy and the taste of dirt and leather in her mouth from a million sandals that had trod the alley before her. It was empty now, everyone indoors – away from the midday sun. As sleep, or something greater overtook her, she saw her mother pouring homemade lemonade from a pitcher she had never owned.


This is a Friday Fictioneers story. A re-run (because it’s summer and we’re all busy) of an FF story I wrote in 2012. It became a Continue reading

Flash Fiction: Crossing the river alone


Yesterday I asked the fat nurse to describe the view.

‘A river,’ she said, her big hands moving confidently as she changed my dressings. There was no disgust in her face, although even I can smell my decaying self, my rotting body.

‘And on the opposite bank,’ she said, ‘are two yellow chairs. What d’ya say we break out of here and go and have a nice sit down?’

Today it was a new nurse, thin. I imagined her fat colleague, weighing down one yellow chair, waiting. But I didn’t ask her to look. I don’t want to know that both chairs are empty.


This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (or so) short story based on the picture provided by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields, and written about by writers all over the world.


This week WordPress interviewed me about my writing, and included a big mention for the wonderful Friday Fictioneers. Read the piece here.



Flash Fiction: When They Were New



The harpsichord had woodworm, much of the ivory was gone and one broken leg was jacked up on bricks. Peter flicked out his coat tails, eaten into fine lace by moths, and sat.

Dressed in ragged petticoats and crinoline, Cara curtsied low and I took her hand, kissed it. As we danced I thought of those who’d played and danced before us; the people who’d worn these clothes when they were new. And as if from above I saw Peter sitting and us cavorting on the dusty floorboards, fading and turning, turning and fading until we too disappeared into time.


A Friday Fictioneers 100-word flash fiction inspired by the picture above, provided this week by Jan W. Fields. Click here to join in and write your own, or here to read other people’s.


If you live near Bath, England, you might like to know that Our Endless Numbered Days has been selected as The Big Bath read by the Bath Literature Festival. You can get a free copy of the book, read it and come along to open book clubs, and a couple of events I’m speaking at. More information.


Flash fiction: The pump room steps


I lay at the bottom of the steps. It was dark and warm, and no one else ever had reason to come that way. I thought my nose might be broken, some teeth lost. I smelled blood and heard the sound of roots squeezing through stone, the tiny creaks and groans of something splitting, of new life forcing its way through. It was simple to keep still while the tendrils inched over me, wormed their way through my buttonholes, across my skin; easy to let the ants and the insects come.

I closed my eyes as the earth took me back.


I really struggled with this story this week – started half a dozen and discarded them, and still not very happy with what I produced. A 100-word or so story for Friday Fictioneers. Picture by Amy Reese. Join in. Or read others.


Writer and blogger Natasha Orme is hosting a competition to win one of two copies of my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days. Enter here. (Only open to UK residents – sorry!)

Flash fiction: Afternoon breeze


In the afternoons a warm wind blew in with the storks as they rose up from the banks of the river and flew inland. On the porch, rocking back and forth, she liked to turn her face towards the current of air and inhale memories:  cardamom from her mother’s kitchen, line-dried linen on her first lover’s bed, the warm straw of her babies’ heads as she laid them down to sleep.

She closed her eyes and the shadows of the storks passed over her face and she was still, the only movement, the chair rocking in the afternoon breeze.


This is a Friday Fictioneers 100-word (exactly again this week!) story inspired by the picture supplied by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Friday Fictioneers is organised and run by the wonderful Rochelle. Click here to join in, and here to read other pieces. I’d love to know what you think of mine – please leave a comment!


It’s just two weeks until my novel, Our Endless Numbered Days, is published in the UK by Fig Tree Penguin. And until early tomorrow morning (12th February) Goodreads have five copies to giveaway to UK residents. Click here to enter. Canadians have until 14th February to enter to win (click here). Sorry if you live somewhere else!

Flash fiction: The Roper Brothers’ Garage


Ivy always took the car to the Roper brothers in the village, even though she knew they rolled their eyes behind her back and over-charged her.

‘Sounds like it’s the carborator or the catatonic convertor,’ Gordon would say, his voice echoing under the bonnet and Greg would cough and turn away to stop himself from laughing out loud. Ivy wasn’t stupid; she knew.

It was the smell of the place that kept her coming back to be made a fool of: oily dust and petrol fumes, warm leather and cigarettes. The smell of her father; dead and gone these past sixty years.


I’m delighted that this week Rochelle has chosen one of my photos for our flash fiction prompt. Why not join in with the 100-word challenge, or read what other writers made of the picture.


I’m also delighted that a short piece of my non-fiction about living with teenagers has been published on the Tin House blog today.

Flash Fiction: What can you hear?


“Draw the curtains,” said a voice from the bed, papery with age and illness.

Viv rose from her chair and pulled aside the heavy cloth. Sunlight flooded into the room and for the first time she saw him properly: sheet-thin skin laid over bone, the surface mottled like a boulder which had tumbled from a mountain and lain for years in the wind and the weather.

“Window,” he whispered.

With an effort Viv lifted the sash.

“Shh, listen,” he said. “Can you hear it?” Viv caught the far-away slap of the sea. “The carpenter’s plane,” he said. “He’s making the coffin outside the window.”


Top marks for those who get my literary reference this week. Maybe it’s really obvious, especially for any American readers.I’ve had a few comments so far, none of which knew what I was going on about, so I’ve changed ‘Making the box’ to ‘He’s making the coffin’.

I’m delighted this week that Rochelle has chosen one of my pictures. It’s one of a series of statues in Stowe Landscape gardens – a wonderful place to wander around, owned by the National Trust and full of odd folies. More information here.

For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each story is only about 100 words long, so why not read a few others: click here to read some more or to join in.

And please comment below with any suggestions on mine, or just to show you’ve visited.

Short story: A candle to light you to bed














There was a power cut when Hedda brought Rex home from the hospital. Flora had been sitting in the dark on the verandah waiting for them, breathing in the sea’s tang mixed with honeysuckle on the warm evening air. She lit a candle and they helped their father into bed with barely ten words spoken between them.

Flora had thought it had been the candlelight hollowing out his eye sockets, gouging craters into his cheeks and throwing grotesque shadows upon the bedroom walls, but in the bright light of morning Rex’s face hadn’t changed. She knew it wouldn’t be long.


For those who don’t know how Friday Fictioneers works, this picture (this time supplied by Renee Heath) is our inspiration for our weekly online writing group hosted by Rochelle Wisoff-Fields. Each story is only about 100 words long, so why not read a few others: click here to read some more or to join in.  And please comment below with any suggestions on mine, or just to show you’ve visited.