This is a blog about By All Means (Nine Arches Press), a short story collection by Tim Love. It's ISBN 978-0-9570984-9-7 and is on sale from Inpress

Saturday, 20 October 2012


Many people contributed to this book, unwittingly donating an anecdote, a gesture, or a phrase.

Firstly, a big thanks to the people at "Nine Arches Press". Bringing out short story collections takes courage nowadays. The editors of the long-deceased magazine "Panurge" (John Murray and David Almond) put up with a lot of stuff I sent them. Anthony Caleshu, editor of "short Fiction", deserves mention too. I note that Helena Nelson (of "Happenstance", the publisher of my poetry pamphlet) is mentioned in the acknowledgements of Richard Meier's "Misadventure". I suspect I'm only one of many authors grateful to her.

As regards writing, the influences aren't so clear. Some books or stories have inspired me over the years, kept me writing when I'd dried up, or showed me new approaches. Munro's The Moons of Jupiter, Vanessa Gebbie's Notes from a Glass Bubble, Borges' "Labyrinths" and James Lasdun's story "Ate, Memos or the Miracle" all helped, as did AL Kennedy's books. Vanessa Gebbie's kind words have bolstered my morale just at the right times.

I go to Cambridge Writers meetings. Barely a prose evening goes by where I don't wish I could write like someone there. They bring out my competitive nature. I keep telling them to send more pieces out. The people at Eratosphere similarly keep me on my toes.

And I must thank all those trains I've been on.

Sunday, 14 October 2012


You might have heard of Fractals, or have seen Mandelbrot patterns. Big claims have been made for them

  • Alice Fulton wrote "Just as fractal science analysed the ground between chaos and Euclidean order, fractal poetics could explore the field between gibberish and traditional forms"
  • M. Birken and A.C.Coon wrote "Fractals may be the most complex and the most subtle examples of patterns found in both mathematics and poetry"

So what are fractals? Symmetry is when you can do something to a shape so that it matches itself - with rotational symmetry you rotate the shape; with reflection symmetry you reflect the shape. You can look upon fractals as another type of symmetry where instead of rotating or reflecting, you magnify. In real life you can get a rough idea of how this works by looking at a tree (the pattern of the boughs is like the pattern of twigs when you zoom in) but pure fractals only exist in maths - it doesn't matter at what scale you look at certain mathematical objects, they'll always look the same.

In "Fractals" I try to use this idea as a guiding analogy - depth gives you repetition on a different scale, not profundity; writing about writer's block leads to a confusion of fact and fiction, re-writing life. The framed story leads to the frame. A wood is full of trees made of wood. A character is described in words made of characters. It's another of my favourite pieces - given its brevity I think it packs a lot in.

Tuesday, 9 October 2012

Where stories come from, and where they go


Two fragments that gell; an episode or phrase too good to be wasted; something written in an extreme of emotion just because you want to write; a character who takes over the story; a plot; an exercise. Yes, any of these. Sometimes they grow organically, sometimes they grow by accumulation, material added from trawling notebooks or doing research. A new sensation may emerge from inside the text as it grows. Maybe the initial idea can be thrown away now that the text has found its real purpose.

In the PEN/O'Henry 2011 anthology, Jim Shepard wrote that his piece "began as many of my stories begin lately - with my browsing around endlessly in an utterly nerdy and bizarre subject and then finding my imagination caught by a particular moment that resonates with me emotionally in unexpected ways". That happens to me as well - how artists have used sunflowers through the years; Pink Floyd's legal wrangles; how the legal status of protesters living in trees changes when a letter's delivered to them.

Alice Munro wrote "The stories that are personal are carried inexorably away from the real. And the observed stories lose their anecdotal edges, being invaded by familiar shapes and voices. // So one hopes, anyway". I use a mix of personal and anecdotal material. Yes I've been to Prague, and a school-friend has died. No, I've not seen inflatable pigs. I've stayed in a caravan, but that's the only personal part of the person-centred "The Big Climb" story where two people fail to connect with each other while learning about an absent third person. There are quite a few absent third persons in these stories.

In general I find prose much more of a reality-guzzler than poetry is.


If you can't change, move. AL Kennedy, amongst others, uses rooms and cities to represent identity. Journeys are traditionally quests. She often uses trains, but not as quests. As one of her traveling characters says, "You can relax here - this isn't anywhere. Whatever happens outside, there's nothing we can do about it right now". Kaye Mitchell says of Kennedy that her trains are "free of the expectations and judgements of others, a space in which to meditate freely on the past and her possible future". In many of my stories a person journeys (often by train) to make sense of something.

If you can't move, make the most of your stillness - find a form. Elsewhere I've used some tight forms. Here they're much looser, as in "Fractals" and "Definitions". Symbolism can become structural as in "Doors and Windows".


Suppose a text were just the symbolic lines? The white space surrounding such a piece might, like wet blotting paper, absorb the effects. Suppose the symbolic lines ended a non-symbolic story? We'd have a lyrical, enigmatic ending where the energy rebounds off the other text then is projected into the future, the white space beyond the writer's control. Why not embed the symbolism so that the surrounding text becomes infused? Why leave the best bit to the end?

In the Guardian (14/5/12) David Gaffney wrote "Make sure the ending isn't at the end. In micro-fiction there's a danger that much of the engagement with the story takes place when the reader has stopped reading. To avoid this, place the denouement in the middle of the story, allowing us time, as the rest of the text spins out, to consider the situation along with the narrator, and ruminate on the decisions his characters have taken". Maybe I do that too. In "Doors and Windows" the pretentious main character says "A father's a son's window. A son's a father's door". He receives no reply, but the influence of that symbolism is supposed to seep back as well as forth through the work.

Monday, 8 October 2012

The launch

About 30 people attended the launch beside the canal. I read twice - first I read the beginning of "Dreams" to show how I try to make things real if I start from an unreal idea (I slap on a lot of reality), and then I read "Definitions" to show how I try to cover my tracks if I start from something real. I said that unlike Alice Munro or Ali Smith I tend not to re-use raw material, so I need to keep seeking new ingredients. It's the first time I've read prose to an audience. I think I improved as the evening progressed.

I met Joel Lane after a gap of decades. He's written several books, both poetry and prose. I suggested during my reading that though some writers of poetry and prose say that their poetry's more personal in my case it's the other way round. I meant to ask him whether he agreed. I heard Dragan Todorovic's stories for the first time and look forward to reading his book.

A 4 hour round-trip but it was worth it. I walked off with a pile of my books. I'm going to be busy the next few days, sending them off. You can buy the book from Inpress.