Thursday, 20 February 2014

All Things Flash

Well, as you might have gathered, things are starting to move once again, here at Gumbo.

Last week, we were delighted to publish the first of what we hope will be many full flash-fiction collections. Our debut came in the form of The Book of Small Changes by Tim Stevenson who, among other accolades, was the winner of last year's National Flash-Fiction Day micro-fiction competition.

(That competition is open and running again, by the way, full details at

The Book Of Small Changes takes its inspiration from the wisdom of the Chinese I Ching, replacing those ancient fortunes with new stories: where the sea mourns for those it has lost, where encyclopaedia salesmen weave their accidental magic, and where the only true gift for a king is the silence of snow.

The book is available in paperback and Kindle formats. More details at

We are also looking at other collections, and hope to have news of future publications soon. If you wish your collection to be considered, submission details can be found at

In other news, we are now starting to sift through submissions for the first issue of Flash Gumbo. There is still time to see your story in that issue, so send us something through in the next week and you might make it into the inaugural issue. Submission details for this are at

And, as a treat, and to give you some idea of what we like, here are some flash-fictions that originally appeared in our previous e-zine, Word Gumbo. Enjoy!

by Joanne Key
(Originally published in Word Gumbo issue 4.)

They leave the house and carry the silence between them like an empty frame. The clumsy shape and sharp angles make it difficult to handle; it forces them into a push-me-pull-you motion until they get the feel for it: how to grasp with their fists, balance their distance. They stop outside the gallery and decide at the same time to wander in, not because they are synchronized, but because they know they can rest in this place where absences blend easily into white space.
She finds herself climbing the steps into every portrait; testing the boats in all the harbors. He heads straight to the lighthouse. She scans the seascapes for hidden images in the pages of waves, but all they say is keep looking. Turning her head, she catches sight of him, looks for the thing that has captured his eye, stopped his heart, and sees him, in the distance, admiring the rigging of a ship in a bottle.
As she crosses over, she looks to the love stories: the two shadows on the beach who have found all they need under a heart-shaped sunset; night-swimmers meeting at the line the sun has drawn under the day; stick people fused by their hands and marooned inside an island of themselves, but she cannot hear his voice in her head until she reaches an assemblage: an artwork of washed-up flotsam which she understands. The perspective of driftwood is all hers, and she knows he would call it “wreckage” and say it has come to this only because there were not enough fragments to rebuild the boat.

Out on the sea wall they watch the day narrow. Thin shadows linger on rocks like clock hands and the brass bell of sun seems to chime - There Is Still Time. He holds a lens to her face and in her head, she practices reaching out from behind glass to say: I love, I love you, I love this. Instead, she decides to just smile for the photo, but the camera detects a blink behind sunglasses and he is captivated by its eye for detail. This breaks the silence, creates a space wide enough for him to step though and ask, “Are we OK?”
She doesn’t say that the blink was a refocusing; a homing-in on the image that has appeared on his shoulder all through this holiday: a creature rising from the surf and repeatedly throwing itself at the shoreline, only to find one breath of form and enough time to leave the same hurried note, over and over, in the sand. Yesterday, she read: I am more than water, today it says: I tried my best to hold on. She watches his face and takes his hand, because she knows sometimes when there are not enough words to give; you can just grab hold of the signs and quietly run away with them.

In A Different Light
by Downith Monaghan 
 (Originally published in Word Gumbo issue 3.)

Since you moved to the city, people see you in a different light. It was expensive, but the blonde highlights disguise the mousy brown hair and you wear pencil skirts and silk blouses now, instead of scruffy jeans. You even found a shop that carried kitten heels for wide feet. Yes, since you moved to the city, people see you in a different light. But you know better. Back at your new flat, when you shut the door and turn on the light, you see what they don’t, what the mirror doesn’t reveal. Beneath the swish clothes and silky undergarments, you’re still the same bloke from Hampshire.

by Cheri Ause
(Originally published in Word Gumbo issue 5.) 

At the end of his shift, he turned off the patio and pool lights, the signal to motel occupants they could not enter the area until morning.   
The water was warm, the air only slightly cooler each time she lifted an arm. She rolled into a turn at the end of the pool and re-surfaced, now gliding soundlessly on her back across the dark water. The marquee on the street cast a dim glow: Travelodge.  The single L slipped between the two words: travel, lodge.
Earlier that night she’d ridden with him through the traffic and neon of State Street, the top down on the Austin-Healey, the tails of his silk tie trailing over the shoulder of his white shirt.  “Twenty-three?" her mother said before she left. "What does someone his age want from a seventeen-year-old girl?”  
Still wearing his slacks and shirt, he sat in a deck chair and watched her swim, her body indistinguishable from the dark medium except for the pinpoints of light flickering across it.   Once she raised her hand and snapped it, sending sparks of water in his direction. 
“Hey.  Knock it off,” he said, but he didn’t move.  She imagined his mouth and the partial moon crease to the right of his lips when he smiled.
She dived beneath the surface and slipped deeper into the shadows, the edges of her body softening, dissipating.  Amniotic.  With a dolphin kick, she propelled herself to the far end of the pool. When she emerged, he was standing above her, a towel draped between his hands. 
“Ready to get out?”
He unlocked 3A, the same room they would use all the other nights that would follow—gone forever the fumblings of backseat boys.  In the dim light, the radio played something sweet—Getz and Gilberto, Chet Baker, Trane ballads.   In this way she learned to love jazz, sitting naked on a bed while he dried her hair with a coarse white towel.  In this way she learned to love a man, the smell of chlorine, bleached cotton, and sex, co-mingling and indistinguishable.


Double Blind Date
by Jim Eigo
(Originally published in Word Gumbo issue 2.) 

From the passenger seat I turn my pounding head around as far as I can manage and still maintain my surface nonchalance. What do I say? I’m not really keeping track. The move is just an excuse to fill my eyes with her. The sight of her in the flesh once more confirms what memory has known for several hours. I watch them—the exceptional girl I’m now looking at and the exceptional girl I’ve been entertaining in my head—draw close and kiss in the looking glass of my heated imagination.
In the dark of the backseat of the car, her calm, heavy eyes rise to meet the oncoming headlights. Otherwise she barely registers their passing. Nor does she react to whatever I’ve just said. Perhaps it merits no response. Under the exaggerated play of flash and shadow she sits, placid, happy by the look of it.
How in hell can she be happy with the guy she’s been stuck with the whole damn night, the one she’s now stuffed next to? From shoulder to toe, he presses his inexcusable bulk up against her long, fresh body. How can she be happy with the familiar way he’s draped his arm around her? Like cocktail sausages, his thick fingers rest on her bare shoulder like they belong there. He disgusts even me, and I’m his best friend. I know the deep rot his flesh hosts. When he smiles (which he does right now with transparent intent, as dumb and smug as the bugs of high summer that right now are smearing themselves across the speeding vehicle’s windshield) I can smell it on his breath.
When he smiles she responds with a muted laugh, uncrossing her legs before she crosses them again in the opposite direction. Stockinged thigh strokes stockinged thigh, making a sound like a distant cloud of insects. Something’s coming! Can I be the only one who hears it? No, no functioning male within earshot could fail to pick up the signal. My friend moves his free hand from his knee to hers and there it stays—content for now but for how long?
His thoughts leer loud and clear. I can hear the gears in his head whirr from here, like a rogue projector discharging its pictures out into an unsuspecting world, backlit luridly. But in the dark of the hurtling car, if I spoke right now what my heart knows, my startled date might drive us all off the side of the highway into who knows where.

Sunday, 26 January 2014

A New Gumbo

Hello all,

Well, I know it's been a long time since we've been in touch. Things on the Gumbo Press front have been a little quiet since Word Gumbo went on hiatus. We have, of course, published two excellent flash-fiction pamphlets (Enough by Valerie O'Riordan and Threshold by David Hartley) which you should check out.

But with the start of 2014, we have decided to get back into the race, and as such we are launching a new e-magazine, Flash Gumbo, focussing entirely on flash-fiction, which like our previous e-zine will be published bi-monthly-ish. As such we are hungry for your submissions. So, send us your wonderful flash-fictions, 500 words or fewer, and let's broadcast them to the world. Full submission guidelines are up at

We are also, in a new venture, looking for flash-fiction collections to publish as, you know, actual books! These should be in the 20-40,000 word range and can be in any genre you wish, as long as it is a coherent collection of flash-fictions. Full submission guidelines for that are at

Please submit, share these links, encourage your friends to send us their work, and generally get the word out there. We want this to be a huge success!

Calum Kerr, Managing Editor

And, if you are wondering what kind of thing we like, and just because we love to share, here is a flash-fiction from Angi Holden which we published in the first issue of Word Gumbo, back in June 2011.

I Can Tell You How It Began
Angi Holden

I’m not sure how it all ended, but I can tell you how it began. I wish I could say it was something romantic, like we locked eyes across a crowded room, or something like that. Or even that we met through an online dating agency. At least that would have the virtue of being modern and a bit quirky. But it wasn’t. It was ordinary and practical and rather banal.
Our fingertips met around a one-litre carton of semi-skimmed. The last one-litre carton of semi-skimmed. The last any-litre carton of milk in our local Spar, skimmed or otherwise, to be precise. We were both living in Hightown at the time. I was in my final year and sharing a student house with a couple of other girls; she had a studio flat in a block for ‘young professionals’ around the corner. We agreed to go back to her place; she’d decant some of the milk into a jug, and I’d take the rest of the carton home.
Only that wasn’t what happened. She made coffee and found a packet of Bourbon between the Demerara and the Golden Granulated, and I stayed. I was easy to impress back them. An unopened packet of biscuits had enough rarity value for someone living in a student household, but showing me a cupboard containing three types of sugar, Earl Grey and Balsamic vinegar was like giving me a glimpse of the forbidden city.
It was three days before I went back to the house for a change of knickers and to collect a library book that needed renewing. The book was important; I couldn’t afford to start racking up fines. The knickers were kind of irrelevant, at least until we ran out of fresh bread and needed to go shopping.
I suppose I ought to tell you that I wasn’t in the habit of being picked up by random women in corner shops. In fact, I was a virgin. She had a go at me once about being ‘closet’, but it’s a bit of a non-event, coming-out, when you’ve never been ‘in’ in the first place. And it’s a bit sad if you’re not ‘out’ with anyone. Anyway, I’m not the confessional type. Well, I wasn’t back then.
I’m not sure how it ended. Did I say that before? Sorry. When you live with someone who doesn’t listen to what you say, you tend to repeat yourself a bit. Well, a lot really. She said I nagged, and I suppose I did. I’d graduated (not as well as I’d hoped) and we’d got this flat together. It’s a lovely place, bigger with this separate bedroom, but lonely when she didn’t come back some nights. The shagging petered out too; sometimes we didn’t have sex for weeks and to tell you the truth that suited me. Though a cuddle would have been nice.
Anyway, I can’t afford the rent on my own, so I’m moving out. So, do you think it’ll suit you?

Thursday, 1 March 2012

Volume 2: New Year News

Hello, Gumbo-fans, and welcome to our very intermittent blog.

Submissions closed last night for our latest issue - due out at the end of the month, and I want to say thank you to you all, we have had a bumper crop of 'Endings' submissions to bring our first volume to a close.

'But what of your next volume?' I almost hear you ask.

Well, we have had a think and we are going to be changing things as we move into our second year. Gone are the themes and gone are the deadlines. Instead, from now on we will be working with an open theme so you can send us your very best work on whatever subject takes your fancy. If a theme emerges from a batch of submissions, we may assemble a special issue tied to that, otherwise it will just be a more free-range version of the 'Word Gumbo' you have come to love.

And, of course, with the removal of themes , we no longer have a need for set deadlines, so that last minute panic will hopefully recede.

How it will work in future is that, on the last day of every other month (much as at the moment) we will gather up whatever has been submitted and assess that batch for the following issue. Anything that comes in after that time will simply be part of the issue after. So now there will be no need to panic if you miss the deadline.

Don't let this stop you from writing and submitting your work, but hopefully some of the pressure is off and you can concentrate on sending us your very finest poems, stories, flash-fictions, scripts and non-fiction pieces.

Now go and start writing, we're already looking forward to whatever you send us!

Full submission guidelines can be found at

Friday, 22 July 2011

The Opposite of Easy

Hello all, and sorry for the silence.

We have, of course, all been busy here at Gumbo Towers with all the things we have to do, and watching your submissions roll in for Issue 2 of Word Gumbo.

As of today we have finalised our decisions and emailed everyone, so now it's just a question of putting the issue to bed. All things being equal, we hope it have it up for you by the end of the month.

If anything it's been an even harder job this time around, with the quality of the work being exceptionally high. Still, we've managed to find what we consider to be the very best pieces and we're sure you'll really enjoy the magazine when it finally hits the virtual shelf.

This morning was spent sending out the emails, and it is quite a strange experience. Because of the anonymous submissions system, when reading the work we don't know who we have accepted until it comes time to go through the emailing process. As a result we discover that we have to disappoint some friends and respected writers. Still, I think that shows that we are being as fair as possible, accepting only the very best and most fitting for the theme, ensuring the quality of the final magazine.

Anyway, that's enough waffle for now. Time to type-set and get that magazine into your eager hands!

And, don't forget, we are already looking for material for the next issue. The theme is 'Light' and the guidelines can be found at

Thursday, 2 June 2011

Our New Arrival

Well, dear readers, it has been quite a month here at Gumbo Towers.

We have read through all of the pieces you sent and been incredibly impressed with the writing. We have been slightly disappointed at the dearth of script and non-fiction, but overwhelmed with the fiction and poetry. It has been fascinating to read through all your various interpretations of 'Beginnings'.

And, from that selection, we have found the very best writing we could. Some of it is from names you may well have heard before - A.F. Harrold, Cathy Bryant,  G.B. Clarkson - and some of it from writers who we are excited to be giving their big break into publication - Fat Roland, Ian Bartlett, Casey Bourne. Whoever the work is by, however, it was all chosen anonymously so you can be sure that we only picked the very best pieces, and those which fit with our theme.

On that topic, we did receive many wonderful pieces which we would have liked to accept, but with little or nothing to do with 'Beginnings', so do make sure if you're sending pieces in that they meet the theme.

Once the pieces were chosen, the enjoyable task of putting the issue together came next - designing the layout, putting the pieces in order, designing the cover - all to bring you a magazine which we hope you will find nice to look at as well as utterly enjoyable.

So, that's us for the first issue. You can read it by going to and downloading the pdf file. Please let us know what you think of it on our Facebook page (

We're going to have a rest now, but come July 1st we want to be even busier than we have been in May, so start sending your work in for the next issue, 'Opposites'.

Until the next time, dear readers. Enjoy!

Wednesday, 4 May 2011

May Days

April 30th has come and gone, the submission deadline for the first issue of Word Gumbo has passed, you've done your hard work and now it's our turn.

As I type, the editors of Team Gumbo are poring over your submissions - over 160 of them in all - and working out what is going to make up our first issue, 'Beginnings' which will be out at the end of May. So far we're really pleased with the standard of work we've received, so well done to you all.

But while we're slaving away bringing the issue to life, there's no need to just sit there and wait. A new theme - 'Opposites - has been posted on the website, and the deadline for issue two is June 30th. So put fresh inspiration into your brain, apply pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, and send us your work.

We're looking forward to it.

In the meantime, it's back to work for me and the rest of the team.
See you on the other side of the pile!

- Calum Kerr

Friday, 29 April 2011

The end of the first month

Hello, dear reader, welcome back to the blog. It has now been almost a month since the birth of Gumbo Press, and the first deadline is closing in.

Of course it's been a busy month, with the assemblage of the editorial team, agreement of editorial aims and guidelines, creation of the website, promotion of Word Gumbo and monitoring/gathering of submissions. It's been a wonderful month too, though, as the word has spread the enthusiasm for our new venture has become palpable.

And now, here we are, with just two days to go before the closing date for submissions for our first issue. We have received over a hundred pieces to consider, and we're still hoping for more as the deadline approaches. It has always been my practice to submit only as the deadline closes in, and I imagine I'm not alone. All of which is wonderful, because the more pieces we receive, the better our chance of achieving the high level of quality which we are seeking for.

It's very exciting to be on the cusp of reading the first batch. I can't wait. I know it might, in time, feel like work, but at this moment it is just tingling anticipation.

After that, there will be the assembling of the magazine, and then waiting for your reaction, dear reader, to our first publication. Tell me, can it get any better than this?

-Calum Kerr, Managing Editor