A Pickled Dinosaur was written by Katie – our Editor-in-Chief – and was inspired by the Location theme. We asked Rob Walton and S.A. Leavesley to #EditTheEditors and judge it against the same submission guidelines we use.
We deliberately try to keep the themes for each issue broad and unspecific so that writers can respond to them as they wish. For this issue, these interpretations have included writing about home, favourite walking routes, internet browsing histories and even a trip to the afterlife during a near-death experience.
In A Pickled Dinosaur, the location Katie chose to write about is the inside of her Dad's car. While location implies a static place and while a car travels between destinations, it can also be a static place in its own right. If you've never heard Cadillac Ranch by Bruce Springsteen, Katie recommends listening to this live version whilst reading it.
So while the #ETE editors mull on their decision, why not read it yourself and tell us what you think using the comments box below.
I blame the whole fiasco on the Samaritans.
The one time my six-year-old-self misreads the Samaritans as the Smartians, my brother and Dad have to be there.
It still gets brought up every time one of us sees a mention of them.
Sarcasm is the staple food in my family’s diet – we’re started on it young when it’s mixed in with baby formula. You may think it cruel, but a thicker skin and a slight (major) tendency towards cynicism hasn’t hurt me… much.
But this isn’t a tale about that.
As most of my childhood stories go, this one starts in the back seat of my parents’ Cavalier. I was so bored that tracing the tiny grid pattern on the car seats – which looked like pages from my maths book – was the most entertaining thing I could do.
Then it came on the stereo, a blast of the chorus which would haunt me for the next eighteen years.
Long and dark,
shiny and black
Open up, engines let ‘em roar
Tearing down the high way like a pickled dinosaur.
I didn’t ask whose song it was. After a catastrophic incident with a bottle of Coke earlier, neither me nor my brother dared speak before we got home. The prize for whoever did was a fully paid-up membership for the Sore Bottom Club – not something I was keen to win again.
I meant to ask Dad later but my six-year-old #firstworldproblems got in the way. I had LEGO to build, stolen toys to reclaim from my brother and a lack of friends at school to deal with. By the time the earworm burrowed back into my head, the words had faded and I was left only with the image of a shrivelled dinosaur racing down the M6.
You’ll understand why I didn’t go to Dad with that, right? After the Smartians shambles, shooting myself in the foot seemed more appealing than, ‘Daddy, do you know a song about a pickled dinosaur?’
For years, the melody followed me – a song to sing when nobody else could hear. Even Google’s clever algorithms couldn’t get to the bottom of this riddle.
Eighteen years passed and one night, Dad was picking me up from work.
Bruce Springsteen was on the stereo.
Now, I don’t have much in common with my Dad. I inherited his mechanic’s hands, his lousy metabolism and a love for the storytelling genius of The Boss. I’m a writer, he’s an engineer. He takes comfort in the how while I find endless fascination in the why.
Our lousy, out-of-tune duets fill the car’s silence when the riverbed of conversation runs dry.
I didn’t even realise what I was singing at first...
You know, the most frustrating thing is that ‘pickled dinosaur’ isn’t too far off what the actual lyrics are. My dad couldn’t quite understand my excitement – but did concede that a pickled dinosaur trumps the Smartians in providing material for a good old fashioned piss-taking.
Still, it restarted the conversation again.
I’d hoped the incident had been forgotten, unworthy to even warrant a footnote in our family history.
Until I made the rookie error of opening a packet of pickled onion Monster Munch and offering one to my Dad…
Rob Walton is from Scunthorpe, and lives on Tyneside with his family. In 2017 poetry for adults and children, flash fictions, short stories and creative non-fiction will appear in Sidekick Books, Northern Voices, The Emma Press, The Interpreter’s House, a shop window in Marsden, Bennison Books, Write Out Loud, The Line Between Two Towns, Celebrating Change, the Worktown anthology, and DNA Magazine UK among others. He collated the New Hartley Memorial Pathway, and sometimes tweets as @anicelad.
Hair Today... (Issue 2)
S.A. Leavesley is an award-winning journalist, fiction writer and poet, fitting words around life and life around words. Overton Poetry Prize winner 2015, she is author of four poetry collections, two pamphlets, a touring poetry-play and a novella, Kaleidoscope. Her poetry has been published by the Financial Times, the Guardian, The Forward Book of Poetry 2016, on Worcestershire buses and in the Blackpool Illuminations. In 2018, she has a new pamphlet, How to Grow Matches, out with Against The Grain Press in 2018 and a sequel novella, Always Another Twist, with Mantle Lane Press. She is the editor at V. Press – flash fiction and poetry imprint – founded in 2013. Visit her website or follow V. Press on Twitter at @vpresspoetry.
These are the selection criterias used by us and the #ETE editors when reading submissions. A piece must answer the first four questions for it to be chosen.
Does it meet the theme?
Themes tie each issue of the magazine together. If a piece of writing does not appear to meet the theme then the author should be contacted to ask for clarification. If certain circumstances, an author explanation may be printed alongside the piece in order to clarify why the piece has been selected.
Is it within the word count?
The max word count for all work submitted is 500 words, 30 lines of poetry or 140 characters for Twitterature. Longer pieces, unless considered exceptional, will not be accepted. This word/line/character count does not include the title.
Does it feel authentic?
DNA looks for tales of the ordinary with the twist of unique personal experiences. If someone told you the tale in passing, would you believe it or feel they were spinning you a yarn? If it is the former, great but if it’s the latter then the piece probably isn’t a DNA tale. When reading a story, the tone of voice and the events described need to sound plausible and believable. Readers should feel confident that the work they are reading is accurate. Details of stories set in the past should be checked to ensure that the correct terminology is used where appropriate. Contributors are also asked to submit scans or photographs of artefacts that have inspired their work to be printed alongside their stories.
Does it feel factual?
While we can’t research every piece of work to check whether the described events have actually happened, any work published in DNA should feel as though it could actually happen. Elements such as magic, time travel and other Sci-Fi/fantasy elements are not appropriate for this publication. The exception to this would be if these elements are used as a metaphor and are not central to the piece.
Does it feel like you know a little bit more about the author/the person or item having read it?
One of the core values that drives the production of DNA is celebrating moments in the lives of ordinary people. We want readers to feel that each time they reach the end of a story, they know more about the person who wrote it/is described by it. We actively seek to publish work which celebrates all backgrounds and cultures.