So You Wrote a Book? Cath Barton

Cath Barton’s award-winning novella, The Plankton Collector, is a modern-day parable, a allegory for a defeated world. The Plankton Collector is that archetype from dreams and fairytales: a hero in disguise who arrives just as one family is on the ledge of their grief. This slim book gives you hope for humanity and lets you remember that angels are among us, watching, and, every so often–stepping in.

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Nancy Stohlman: Describe this book in 6 words:

Cath Barton: Mysterious stranger helps grieving family recover

NS: This is your first published book! Has the process been what you thought it would be?

CB: I really had no idea what the process would be! I entered the book for the New Welsh Writing AmeriCymru Prize for the Novella in 2017, with absolutely no expectation of success as the competition was open to writers throughout the UK and in the whole of North America. So I was amazed and delighted to win, and that the prize included publication.

It was a whole year before the book came out and that seemed an awfully long wait. I understand more about timescales in the publishing industry now!

NS: You say in your Acknowledgements that you weren’t planning to write a novella until challenged. Where did the idea for this story come from? Had this idea always been there or did it come after the challenge?

CB: The family in my book started life in a flash fiction piece I had written as an exercise some time before the challenge, about a boy looking out of his window at his mother visiting the grave of his brother. The graveyard is just beyond their garden. The house, the garden and the graveyard became key locations in the novella, which grew around the death of the brother. As for the Plankton Collector who helps the family, where is came from is as mysterious as everything else about him!

NS: Have you ever met the Plankton Collector?

CB: Not yet, as far as I know, though I could of course have been sitting at the next table to him in a cafe without realising it. As could you!

NS: How did your experience writing flash fiction help you write a novella (or not)?

CB: Yes, I think the discipline of working on flash, making every word is essential, is good training for the novella form, where not only is there no room for excursions from the story, but also, I feel, the emotional content is very concentrated. I like that – I’m not by nature a discursive writer, and I appreciate the challenge of making a story as taut as possible. 

NS: The Plankton Collector won the 2017 New Welsh Writing award—congratulations! Do you consider yourself a Welsh Writer? If so, what does that mean to you?

CB: Thank you! The answer to that is yes – and no! I wasn’t born in Wales, so I’m not Welsh.  I have lived here since 2005, and I do have an affinity with the country, but so I do with England, where I was born, and Scotland, where my parents were from. I identify as a British writer and also, I might add, as a European one.

Of course, as a writer living in Wales I have access to some specific writing opportunities, for which I’m very grateful. I was given mentoring support through Literature Wales last year, which helped me complete a collection of short stories.

NS: You have another book coming out later this year, I believe? What can we expect from that book? How is it similar/different from The Plankton Collector?

CB: I’ve got a second novella coming out in September 2020. It’s called In the Sweep of the Bay, which refers to Morecambe Bay, in north west England, where it’s set. It’s about a family as The Plankton Collector is, but focussing on the joys and sorrows of a long marriage, so the emphasis is different. And there’s no magical realism is this one.

NS: What is your best advice to someone who is writing/wants to write a book?

CB: Concentrate on the writing – tell your story the way you want to. Don’t think about publication until you’ve got the book done.

NS: Anything else you want to add?

CB: Thanks so much for inviting me along, Nancy!

The Plankton Collector is available in the US through Amazon as an e-book and also in paperback.

Also through Barnes and Noble as a paperback or NOOK book.

UK readers can order on-line through Amazon, Gwales or any branch of Waterstones.

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Cath Barton’s prize-winning novella The Plankton Collector is published by New Welsh Rarebyte. Her second novella, In the Sweep of the Bay, will be published by Louise Walters Books in September 2020, and her short story collection, The Garden of Earthly Delights, by Retreat West Books in early 2021. Cath is also active in the on-line flash fiction community and is a regular contributor to the online critical hub Wales Arts Review.https://cathbarton.com/  @CathBarton1

25 Books by Friends (just in time for Jólabókaflóð)

icelandI’m not Icelandic, but if there is one reason why I wish I was it would be to celebrate Jólabókaflóð, the Icelandic Christmas Book Flood where books–yes, books!–are exchanged on Christmas Eve. Then everyone goes home and reads. Doesn’t that sound amazing? And did you know that Iceland publishes more books per capita than any other country in the world?

Regardless of whether you are Icelandic or not, giving books–especially signed books–during the holidays is a super thoughtful gift. It says “I care about your intellectual and creative health” so much more than that bottle of wine–and lasts longer too! Plus you’re supporting artists and that’s always a good thing.

So what books will you give and receive this Winter’s Eve (and beyond)? I have some suggestions! For several years I have done an end of the year “Top 10 Books By Friends List”, and since I was a slacker last year you get double the pleasure, double the fun!

25 Books by Friends 2018

(in no particular order: most published in 2017/2018)

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The Realty Traveler by Jonathan Montgomery
Read my interview with Jonathan here:
“Jonathan “Bluebird” Montgomery has just released his new book, The Reality Traveler, a pop culture allegorical/philosophical tale with Jonny “Bluebird” as its picaresque narrator and Reality Traveling tour guide! Think Don Quixote meets the Alchemist meets the Guardians of the Galaxy.” Read more

Water and Power by Steven Dunn
Read my interview with Steven here
“Steven Dunn has just released his new book, Water and Power! This book is a literary mosaic, collaging the two contradictory faces of the military: the official face of the recruiting posters and the real faces of the people, including Steven’s.” Read more

Meet My Haze by Meg Tuite
Interview coming!

Kiss, Kiss by Paul Beckman
Read Kathy Fish’s review on the Flash Fiction Retreats website here

New Micro: Exceptionally Short Stories edited by James Thomas and Robert Scotellaro
My stories “Death Row Hugger” and “I Found Your Voodoo Doll on the Dance Floor After Last Call” appear in this amazing anthology
Read a review from the Los Angeles Review of Books here

Alligators at Night by Meg Pokrass
Interview coming!

Gather the Night: Poems by Katherine DiBella Seluja
Read my interview with Katherine here
“Katherine DiBella Seluja has just released her new book, Gather the Night, which is largely an investigation into the complex emotions around mental illness and addiction, particularly as it affects the narrator’s brother, Lou. While much literature has been devoted to the stories of people suffering with these and other illnesses, there are fewer stories that speak to the experience of the bystander, those caught in the orbit of the illnesses and getting the midnight ER phone calls. Read more

Funhouse by Robert Vaughan
Interview coming!

Other Household Toxins by Christopher Allen
Interview coming!

Flash Fiction Festival Two edited by Bath Flash Fiction Award
My story “Loch Ness” appears in this great compilation of writers who gathered in the UK in 2018.

On the Bitch by Matt Potter
Interview coming!

One of These Days by Trent Hudley
From my book blurb:
“Trent Hudley is unafraid to look at the underbelly of despair, taking us on an existential unraveling through the landscapes of loneliness, deftly weaving the crisis of humanity between the real and the surreal like a strange premonition. “This is a story without hope” says one of his characters, but One of These Days is a book striving for redemption.”

Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from My Pockets While I Sleep by David S. Atkinson
From my book blurb:
“David S. Atkinson’s imagination is a beast unleashed! The stories in Roses are Red, Violets are Stealing Loose Change from My Pockets While I Sleep are bizarre and hilarious, taking us into a highly peculiar landscape with scenarios that leave me wondering: Where does he come up with this stuff? Narrated with his signature intellectual deadpan (think “straight man”) and featuring labyrinthian titles that unroll all the way to near slapstick, Atkinson leads us from one outlandish situation to the next without flinching, apologizing, or justifying.”

Ripening: 2018 National Flash Fiction Day Anthology edited by Santino Prinzi and Allison Powell
My story “The Pilgrimage” appears in this tasty anthology!

Ideal Suggestions: Essays in Divinatory Poetics by Selah Saterstrom
Selah is awesome!

Nothing Short Of: Selected Tales from One Hundred Word Story edited by Grant Faulkner, Lynn Mundell and Beret Olsen
My story “Naked” appears in this great collection of tiny stories!

I’m Not Supposed to Be Here and Neither are You by Len Kuntz
Interview coming!

Glimmerglass Girl by Holly Lyn Walrath
“Bold yet delicate, sharp, intricate, and woven with fragile strength, there are many things to like in Glimmerglass Girl. The first a reader might notice is the interplay of words and images, something many writers attempt but not always with such success. Glimmerglass Girl uses classic and vintage fairy tale images to give the book an aura of innocence and nostalgia…”
Read more here

Rattle of Want by Gay Degani
Read Kathy Fish’s interview with Gay Degani here

The Plankton Collector: A Novella by Cath Barton
Read Kathy Fish’s blurb about Cath’s book here

Bad Motel: 100 Word Stories by Robert Scotellaro
From my book blurb:
“Like perfectly crafted dioramas, Robert Scotellaro’s micro stores are tiny keyholes, tableau glimpses into fully formed worlds, entire lives implied with the barest swipe of words said, and more importantly, not said.”

How to Make a Window Snake: Three Novellas in Flash by Charmaine Wilkerson, Joanna Campbell and Ingrid Jendrzejewski 
Three great writers for the price of one!

Musalaheen: A War Memoir by Jason Arment
Veteran Jason Arment’s debut book!

The Crazed Wind by Nod Ghosh
This collection began in my Flash Books class in February–Nod is awesome!

The Boneyard, The Birth Manual, A Burial: Investigations into the Heartland by Julia Madsen
Julia is also a great multi-media artist!

Funny Bone: Flashing for Comic Relief edited by Peter Blair and Ash Chantler
My story “Clown Car” from Madam Velvet’s Cabaret of Oddities was first published in this collection of humorous flashes
Profits go to Comic Relief, a major charity based in the UK, with a vision of a just world, free from poverty.

Nothing to Worry About by Vanessa Gebbie
This is a weird little book that speaks to my weird heart!

PS: Okay, I know that was more than 25. I can’t stop!
PSS: My goal is to interview all the authors listed here in my So You Wrote a Book Series in 2019, so stay tuned!

Regardless of what you celebrate, and whether you celebrate anything at all, I celebrate the many ways that we support one another on this crazy creative life journey.
Wishing you love, rest, and inspiration this winter season.
See you in 2019!
xoxo

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