Available to read online
Dandelion Years: Bath Flash Fiction Volume Seven, Ad Hoc Fiction December 2022
To the Young Woman Trying on the Puffball Wedding Dress. Shortlist: Bath Flash Fiction Award, June 22.
The seventh Bath Flash Fiction anthology, Dandelion Years, contains brilliant flash fictions of 300 words or under by 132 winning and listed writers in the three international awards in 2022.
Flash Fiction Festival Four Ad Hoc Fiction, Mar 2022.
Inside My Father’s Head. Winner: Flash Fiction Festival ‘Great Throw Down’, Oct 21.
‘Highly emotional and packed with imaginative detail “Inside My Father’s Head” is a beautifully written flash that makes effective use of repetition and imagery. A stand-out winner from my first reading.’ Diane Simmons, Competition Judge
This is Not a Story About a Rain Stick. Winner of Winners: Flash Fiction Festival ‘Great Flash Off’ Signature Challenges.
‘I was immediately drawn into this flash and invested in little Stevie, his rain stick and the relationship with his father.’ Diane Simmons, Competition Judge.
The Weight of Feathers, Retreat West, Sep 2021.
Flamingos. Shortlist: Retreat West Annual Short Story Competition.
‘Flamingos by Ali McGrane is a gloriously tender tale about belonging, set in the vibrancy of a trip to the zoo. Interspersing animal facts with the unfolding narrative of a woman trying to hold her family together while they hold her intact, it found its way between my ribs and lodged there.’ from Judy Darley’s anthology review
With One Eye On The Cows: Bath Flash Fiction Volume Four, Ad Hoc Fiction, Dec 2019.
Hymn For My Mother. Shortlist: Bath Flash Fiction Award, Jun 19.
‘From lush description to plot surprises to current events and complicated relationships of all kinds… a wonderful cross-section of flash fiction.’ Nancy Stohlman, author of Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities.
‘A real cornucopia of flash skills…all sparking joy.’ Vanessa Gebbie, author of The Coward’s Tale.
Flash Fiction Festival Two, Ad Hoc Fiction, Dec 2018.
The Last Sheep
Sixty selected micro fictions written by participants and presenters inspired by the second UK Flash Fiction Festival held in Bristol, July 2018. The stories here, by writers from several countries, touch on world politics, relationships in all their forms, fantasy and historical themes. Short-short fictions that linger long.
Flash Fiction Festival One, Ad Hoc Fiction, Dec 2017.
If I Were a Mirror
Seventy-four selected micro-fictions written by presenters and participants at the first ever literary festival entirely dedicated to flash fiction, held in Bath, June 2017. These short-short stories, 250 words or under, show the wide variety of styles possible in this emerging genre.
One More Impossible Thing
A grotesque clamour, metal on metal, shrieks and groans among oil spills, grease and chains—then over a threshold into upholstered calm, navy skirts, company scarves and put-on smiles.
You booked front row recliner seats facing the prow; foam topped deeps, the storybook promise of land. We might see a whale, an albatross, a kraken.
Neck pillow, hot fresh coffee, a book turned to the first page, until my hand begins to ache and I let the cover fall.
I wake to sculpted sea like a romping carousel ride, and pan the horizon, a curve made straight, as hard to believe as the fact of this laden steel tub staying afloat.
He appears in the corner of my eye, one more impossible thing. A deep sea diver, clear helmet clamped to white bodysuit. Over-sized gloves, boots.
‘Look,’ I say, tapping your thigh.
‘Huh?’ You haul your eyelids up, shrug and subside.
He stands against the wall, occupying space. People squeeze past, unconcerned. I look for a cameraman. Maybe there’s a film. When I turn back he’s taking awkward steps towards me. I shrink into my seat, open my book, wonder what my pulse is doing.
There is a shout from behind. Everyone scrambles forward, lifting children to the glass, as a weave of dolphins race the hull, slip-sliding between elements, nudging the air, blowholes spurting brine. You are unsteady on your feet and we link arms, feeling the joy like a child’s bubble-machine pumping pastel spheres.
I look for him. For the globe of his helmet, his clumsy gait. But he’s gone.
It’s late when we disembark, tell each other we love it here, the food, the wine, the whole deal. You’re nervous driving on the right and I know not to comment when you sit so long at a junction. We break our journey in a room with no identity. While you sleep I stand at the window and try to part the night with my eyes.
The raucous soundscape of the beach reminds me of the ferry. I trawl the strand for keepsakes, a shell, a stone, emerald sea glass, milk-white weed. You power through the waves without me while I arrange my treasures on a towel, shaping them into a man.
At the edge of my vision the spray-filled sun-drenched air dances with rainbows that fade as soon as I turn my head.
Originally published in Moonchild Mag, May 2018
Silence, Sound and Time: Variations
Jackson stepped over a beckoning threshold and waited for the air to settle. Some thin blue material billowed at the glass wall of the new room. Like being underwater. Muffled explosions rumbled. Jackson pushed past the blue to open a small window. A treble line pulsed over the pounding. Music, not bombs. Jackson leaned out. His veins crackled as though plugged into lightning.
The Carpenters were a dying breed. A strange concept, Jackson thought. A pairing of opposites. And you could no more breed a Carpenter than a nail. You didn’t want to be noticed by one. Grim parables from the Abundancy trickled about like dust in a spring draft. Jackson had only ever seen three Carpenters his entire life and the stories didn’t need to be literal truth for the experience to be unnerving.
Anyway. The doors were their legacy. The doors that called to you, as though the heartwood still lived, beyond the severance, the fall, the forced fit of mortise and tenon.
There were three others in this room and two looked to have been here a while. They had that dreamy edge. The third was a woman around his age, in dark trews and a grubby white vest, arms so lean you could see the underlying structure.
‘Jackson,’ he said.
A worn pew littered with cushions and throws in vibrant colours lined the back wall. Jackson took the centre seat and watched the woman settle into a corner like a grace note. The music came in waves through the open window.
‘Dee,’ she said without looking at him. ‘My door was over there.’ Her voice was a surprise, full and resonant.
‘What will you do?’ he said.
‘I’ll wait. Like them.’ She nodded towards the two men. ‘It’ll be back.’
‘How can you be so sure?’
She shrugged. ‘The pull works both ways for me now.’
Jackson stood and checked his door. It creaked and swung on brass hinges. Dee drifted to the window and wrapped herself in blue. The music segued into something stately and melancholic. Jackson pushed one arm through his doorway, testing. He backed away and joined Dee.
‘Where are you from?’ he said.
‘I’m not from anywhere. I’ve been travelling the doors since the Collapse. I don’t think the place I started from exists in any meaningful way now. It’s nothing and nowhere.’
She didn’t look old enough. But time hitched rides through doors and doubled back on itself. Jackson took a handful of the strange blue curtain and it flooded through his fingers like a river spilling into a gorge.
‘It’s beautiful, isn’t it?’ Dee said. When she smiled her whole face opened.
Jackson squatted next to the slumped men, the one grey and paunchy, the other young, sharp-featured. An air of togetherness.
‘How long?’ he asked.
The older man checked his notepad. ‘Seven,’ he said.
Jackson regarded them. They would probably never get back. Your body stopped feeling hunger or thirst, suspended in the room, but there was a gradual diminishing. You became part of the fade.
‘Can either of you see my door? We could use it together.’ His desire to retract the offer was immediate. Some deep-toned woodwind rose above the orchestral murmur.
The younger man pulled himself straighter. ‘I can see it,’ he said. ‘Dad?’
‘No. It’ll not take three. We can’t risk it.’
‘But if we stay…’
‘It’s weight, not numbers. That’s what they’re saying now.’ Jackson had been to a session at the Institute.
The older man shook his head. ‘I don’t want to end my days stuck in a door. I’d rather fade.’
The son gripped Jackson’s arm. There was still strength there. ‘Do you think we can do it?’
‘I’ve seen a family of five pass through. They cleared straight away,’ Dee said. ‘Scrawny kids though and a double door.’
Jackson surveyed his door. It was panelled and beaded, the handle screwed tight to a matching finger plate, a strong construction. He thought about the two men, their combined weight. The son’s hope, slow and fat like a fresh-hatched grub on the forest floor.
The music drummed. Dee stood close beside him, her palm pressed to a knot in the wood, the space between them filled with oscillations. The two men argued back and forth, quiet arpeggios building to a crescendo.
‘Take my son.’
It seemed to Jackson he heard the words in his head before they were spoken. The inevitability of them. He watched as the two men hugged and prised themselves apart. Their silent tears oozed like sap.
‘I can take the old guy with me,’ Dee mouthed. ‘If he’s still viable when my door comes back. If that would make you feel better.’
Jackson closed his eyes and let the drums into his bones. The world was a raft of broken connections. You met someone in the intensity of a room and never saw them again. He turned to her, to breath the oxygen she added to his air. He wanted to say, let’s leave them here and go together through my door; let’s trust its square solidity, its brass and heft; let’s not be lost again. He was only human.
Her hand brushed his. The drums died away and a lone flute sounded.
Originally published in Grindstone Literary, Issue 1, Aug 2018