Reflecting on my most recent piece of published work, Sunday on the Boulevard with my Pet Lobster.
A couple of years ago, after a massive over-indulgence in Looney Tunes cartoons and QI clips, I was inspired to tell a bizarre little tale about a lobster that liked to smoke cigars. I was already toying with ideas of human-animal co-existence; one such story got developed during my Master’s degree into what’s currently known as The Bloody Zoologist. But after reading about the writer Gérard de Nerval, who infamously had a pet lobster that he took for walks on a lead, I knew I had to play around with this idea some more. I can’t tell you the exact process. All I know is that somewhere down the line, we decided this lobster would be a smoker. That he’d have a smoker’s cough. And that asparagus would be the only cure. The end result: Sunday on the Boulevard with my Pet Lobster.
Writing Sunday on the Boulevard with my Pet Lobster
Admittedly, this short story’s surreal tone came off the back of misunderstanding absurdism. I learned more about that when I interviewed Great Ape‘s Dale Hall and Nels Challinor for my podcast. Indeed, I submitted the story for their publication’s first issue, and naturally, they rejected it. But having had excellent feedback from readers, who praised the style and the humour, I knew it’d have a place somewhere.
I modelled the comedic style on a couple of my favourites from childhood. Looney Tunes, for one, and also the Muppet Show. Both of them arguably surreal and witty in equal measure. Then I added my own voice, injecting my personal loves for luxurious settings, such as the restaurant Chez l’Armoire, and fine food.
Publishing Sunday on the Boulevard with my Pet Lobster
As I mentioned, I first submitted this story to the absurdist literary journal Great Ape. They rejected it, and rightfully so. But no longer really knowing what the story was, beyond weird, I just decided to fling it anywhere and everywhere. Hoping that at least one competition would take it on.
Eventually, I thought it’d be worth a submission to the Bournemouth Writing Prize. This is an international competition that Fresher Press runs annually, in association with my alma mater Bournemouth University. I submitted it in the January and then didn’t hear anything for months. With that in mind, I didn’t expect to hear anything at all.
Until, that is, I got tagged in a Facebook post in May, which told me that my story had made it onto the “immensely competitive” longlist for the short story category! A much-needed bit of good news! While that meant that I hadn’t made the shortlist, I later found out this story was getting published in two anthologies. Namely, Strange Encounters and Pick Me Up. It’s an added little ego boost that the covers of both books mention or allude to the lobster in some way.
I can’t argue with the competition judges and I’m very honoured to have made the longlist. However, if the audience reaction to a reading at the anthology launch event, and the enthusiastic discussion that came afterwards, were anything to go by, I feel like the story could’ve gone even higher. If you haven’t seen the video yet, just have a look below.
What’s next for the Bournemouth Writing Prize?
While I’m happy to leave my little lobster story alone now, I’m not done with the Bournemouth Writing Prize. In fact I already have my entries for the 2023 competition ready for submission. Just waiting on a bit of last-minute feedback before I enter. But let’s keep everything crossed that there’ll be another short piece published this year.