Saturday, 18 July 2020

Book Review - A Song Inside by Gill Mann

A Song Inside spills over with love, so that although Gill Mann’s memoir about her son is filled with heartbreak, denial, grief and anger, it is nevertheless imbued with inspiration and hope. The story of Sam’s brief and turbulent life is told partly through diary entries, partly as a journey into the family’s past and partly as a conversation with Sam, a young man tragically unaware of his own devastating and destructive illness. Sam burns brightly throughout, full of contradiction and colour, exasperating and captivating in equal parts.

Gill Mann’s poignant and beautifully written memoir is as much about the impact of Sam’s life as it is about the impact of his death, as much about family as it is about one young man. It overflows with enduring love and will resonate with anyone who has ever grieved.

Sunday, 5 July 2020

Just Beverley

Just Beverley Magazine -  Issue 66 
Delighted to have a poem featured in the current issue of Just Beverley.

The Colm Toibin International Short Story Award

Utterly delighted to have won the 2020 Colm Toibin International Short Story Award! My story, 'Eating Unobserved' can be found here

I was also thrilled be shortlisted for the Anthony Cronin International Poetry Award.

The Wexford Literary Festival awards ceremony was on Zoom this year, but despite the restrictions it was a lovely evening.

Wednesday, 1 July 2020

'Tiger' and Eggs!

'Tiger' appears in my new collection, Scratched Enamel Heart, and today my lovely friend Chris brought me three eggs from her chickens as well as a beautiful egg she made to match my book cover. I love it!


Sunday, 28 June 2020

Radio Leeds

 BBC Radio Leeds

My flash story, 'Tiger' will be broadcast on Radio Leeds on Monday 29th June. It will feature on Gayle Lofthouse's show sometime between 11am and noon.

You can listen live here!

Or you can catch up later on BBC Sounds.

Saboteur Trophy

Thrilled to receive my gorgeous Saboteur trophy! The first one I've won since the overall sports trophy at primary school when I was eleven. That was for winning the high jump, long jump, egg and spoon, sack race and 100 yard sprint. What's gone wrong since...?!

Tuesday, 2 June 2020

Interview on The Literary Pig

I'm delighted to feature on The Literary Pig this week, talking to Tracy Fells about writing Scratched Enamel Heart.


Today I am delighted to welcome one of my favourite writers as a guest on the Blog. Amanda Huggins has kindly returned to talk about her new short story collection Scratched Enamel Heart (published by Retreat West Books). 
Amanda Huggins is the author of Scratched Enamel Heart, a new short story collection which features ‘Red’, her prize-winning story from the 2018 Costa Short Story Award. Her previous short story collection, Separated From the Sea, received a Special Mention in the 2019 Saboteur Awards. She has also published a flash fiction collection, Brightly Coloured Horses and a poetry collection, The Collective Nouns for Birds, which won the 2020 Saboteur Award for Best Poetry Pamphlet.

Scratched Enamel Heart

The resilience and frailty of the human heart lie at the core of this second short story collection from award-winning author, Amanda Huggins.          

A lonely woman spends a perfect night with a stranger, yet is their connection enough to make her realise life is worth living? Maya, a refugee, wears a bracelet strung with charms that are a lifeline to her past; when the past catches up with her, she has a difficult decision to make. Rowe’s life on the Yorkshire coast is already mapped out for him, but when there is an accident at the steelworks he knows he has to flee from an intolerable future. In the Costa prize-winning ‘Red’, Mollie is desperate to leave Oakridge Farm and her abusive stepfather, to walk free with the stray dog she has named Hal.

These are stories filled with yearning and hope, the search for connection and the longing to escape. They transport the reader from India to Japan, from mid-west America to the north-east coast of England, from New York to London. Battered, bruised, jaded or jilted, the human heart somehow endures.

Animals and nature feature in so much of your writing, is this intentional? What part do animals/wildlife/nature play in your own life, do any of your fictional creatures come from your own experience of animals?

No, it isn’t intentional, however I do have a deep-rooted love of animals and the natural world, so I guess it’s inevitable. My partner and I are members of the RSPB and really enjoy birdwatching, both at nature reserves and while walking on the moors or the Northumberland coastal paths. We also have a menagerie of seven part-time cats – four semi-strays which we feed, and three others which are perfectly well looked after but have just latched onto a good thing!

I always aim to convey a strong sense of place in my stories, and rural landscapes feature regularly in my work. I’m originally from the Yorkshire coast, so the sea plays an important part in a number of my stories – such as ‘Where the Sky Starts’ and ‘Light Box’ in Scratched Enamel Heart – and it is also the all-encompassing theme of my debut novella, All Our Squandered Beauty. I find my characters are shaped by the places they inhabit, particularly in those stories set in the distinctive landscapes of India, Japan and  North America – for example, ‘A Longing for Clouds’ and ‘Red’.

The locations which feature in my stories are always inspired by real life travels – I would never set a story somewhere I hadn’t visited myself. The koi fish and the beautiful garden in ‘A Potential Husband’ were inspired by my travels in Japan, as were the fireflies in ‘Soul of a Fighter’. Nature also features heavily in my poetry, and one of my favourite poems in The Collective Nouns for Birds is ‘At the Kitchen Table’, which I wrote when snowed-in in the North Pennines.

Hal, the dog in ‘Red’, is a creature of the imagination, though I’d love to own a dog like him! Similarly, Jigsaw, in ‘Where the Sky Starts’ isn’t based on a real pony, though I loved horses and horse riding as a child and often pretended that the grey stallion which lived in a nearby field was mine! The only real life creature I have written about is my favourite cat, Duzzy – she was the inspiration for the poem ‘Not-Quite-You’ in The Collective Nouns for Birds.

You can read the full interview here

Saturday, 30 May 2020

My Porridge & Cream Read

 I'm over on Sandra Danby's blog today, talking about my comfort read, The Little Prince.

“There was strong competition for my Porridge and Cream choice, and I’d just like to mention two of the worthy runners-up, both of which I return to time and time again. The wonderful Jane Eyre needs no introduction or explanation, and has been in my top ten since I was a teenager. Another contender was The Remains of the Day by Kazuo Ishiguro, which I’ve loved since first reading it in the 1980s. A beautifully written story of a life lost to duty; unsentimental and utterly heartbreaking. But my final choice has to be The Little Prince by Antoine de Saint-ExupĂ©ry, one of the all-time bestselling – and most translated – books ever published."

Wednesday, 27 May 2020

Publication Day!

It's publication day for my second short story collection, Scratched Enamel Heart! I've already had some lovely reviews, a few of which I've shared below.

I'll be over on Twitter tonight at 8.00 p.m. to talk about my writing - there'll be a book giveaway too!

"Amanda writes with empathy, an eye for vivid detail, and a sense of adventure. Her stories display darkness and light, vulnerability and strength, and great charm." Alison Moore

"Amanda Huggins has created a masterclass in short fiction with Scratched Enamel Heart. Whether the story is one page or ten, every one is an exemplar of the craft. Readers will be left thinking about choice and freedom, love and grief, sacrifice and self-preservation; and the book stands up exceptionally well to repeated reading. Huggins is definitely an author to watch." Amanda McLeod

"This beautiful collection from Amanda Huggins is a lyrical journey of delicate devastation. Each story is told in exquisite detail, sparking the senses so the reader really feels the ‘soft rabbit-skinned’ gloves in 'Violet Flint and the Softest Blue,' tastes the bitterness of the bourbon in 'A Brightness to It,'  and sees with startling clarity the stray dog, Hal, with his paw aloft silhouetted against the dawn sky in 'Red.'" Kathy Hoyle

"There’s a conciseness to Amanda Huggins’ writing that makes me think of a stitch being drawn taut – her words pull the core of you to the core of a story until you gasp for breath.
Huggins has a vivid mastery of words that whips up a setting you can virtually walk into, and uses that mastery to construct scenery that weaves the story’s mood around you: “Mollie hated the dark, brooding weight of the house, the trees so dense they held a part of the night’s heart within them even when the sun shone.” Judy Darley

"Amanda Huggins writes in a beautiful and empathetic way to immerse readers in the challenges and dilemmas she presents to her characters. As readers we care about these characters and learn from them. This is a truthful, authentic and essential read." Gail Aldwin

"Reading Amanda Huggins is like taking a journey around the world. Her stories are so beautifully written we forget where we are. Japan, Russia, Paris, London, the states, we are drawn into a series of fascinating lives. Hearts are broken but survive, scuffed and painted bright colours, people never fail to keep trying. These are stories we need to read." Angela Readman

"...what a great collection it is, even better than the first. Beautifully nuanced writing that will surprise and move you and includes her award-winning story, 'Red', third in the Costa Short Story Award, 2018. No word is wasted and it’s clear from the quality of the writing that Amanda is a fine poet too." Ali Thurm

"Huggins has captured teenage angst and inadequacy to perfection. Scratched Enamel Heart is a beautiful collection that will take you on a journey through time, across land and sea, and deep into the hearts of her characters." Laura Besley

You can buy a copy here

Friday, 22 May 2020

Scratched Enamel Heart - Review by Ali Thurm


Another lovely review for my new short story collection from Ali Thurm. Here's a taster:

"In 2018 I reviewed Amanda Huggins' very enjoyable first collection of short stories, Separated from the Sea, and here I am again only two years later reviewing her second. And what a great collection it is, even better than the first. Beautifully nuanced writing that will surprise and move you and includes her award-winning story, Red, third in the Costa Short Story Award, 2018. No word is wasted and it’s clear from the quality of the writing that Amanda is a fine poet too.

Many of these stories have themes of escape – appropriate for our present situation of social-isolation and lock-down. In Where the Sky Starts, life is closing in for Rowe; he’s coming to terms with a bleak choice: a job on a fishing boat like his dead father, or going down the pit like his brother. Like Billy Casper in Kes he seeks refuge in the natural world. This is a subtle, beautifully-written story that I found very moving each time I read it."

You can read the full review here

Saturday, 16 May 2020

The Saboteur Awards 2020

Utterly thrilled that The Collective Nouns for Birds has won the 2020 Saboteur Award for best poetry collection! It was lovely to meet everyone at the online awards ceremony - and to see my publisher, Retreat West, win the award for most innovative publisher.

You can buy The Collective Nouns for Birds here

Book Review - A Song Inside by Gill Mann

    A Song Inside spills over with love, so that although Gill Mann’s memoir about her son is filled with heartbreak, denial, grief a...