Like the strange sea mist in The Incredible Shrinking Man the #stopfoodcrime project is nearly upon us. There will be singing and instruments and solo performers and something resembling a story that has pathos and redemption, and most importantly there will be fucking amazing songs (courtesy Sara Colman- music: yours truly-libretto).
Come and see the play – The Hand That Feeds – in central Birmingham. It will be something! Or else it will be me at the end with a darning needle fending off a marauding spider. Help me!
At the start of the summer I was invited to meet with a local reading group to gather narrative elements for a commissioned short story – organised by Roz Goddard and the West Midlands Readers Network. The group members were lively in their opinions about what made a good short story and I came away with a long list of ‘do nots’ – particularly, do not write about miserable middle-aged men! The no-no list also included: no young women narrators, no child narrators and no sci-fi (among other things).
The narrative prompts were interesting and included an interesting timeframe, a tunnel, a sausage dog, a rubber ring and a goddle house (you can find a definition in David Crystal’s “Disappearing Dictionary” but it’s basically a house that has fallen to abject ruin).
When I took all these things away it felt as if I was in a drawn out version of Whose Line is it Anyway? I didn’t manage to get all the elements into the story but I very much enjoyed the process and the final story is called Devourer of All Things and will appear in the Seven Minute Stories anthology in December.
I’d like to thank the Leamington Reading Group for being so welcoming. They meet regularly in The Fox and Vivian pub at the top of town and I had great fun meeting them and a nail-biting, but ultimately rewarding time reading their story to them.
I will be joining the other commissioned writers, Rob Jefferson-Brown, Dragan Todorovic, Justina Hart and Ruth Gilligan, and Roz, at the Library of Birmingham for a special event where we will read extracts from our stories and discuss the process of writing them. You can come too if you like. Book here for the event and a copy of the anthology.
My dear friend and long time writing buddy, Anthony Ferner, launched his debut novel, Winegarden, on Sunday. I was lucky enough to be one of the early readers and I can’t recommend it highly enough. It is small and perfectly formed.
Winegarden recounts episodes in the life of Jacob Winegarden, an agnostic Jewish professor of theoretical physics whose speciality is ‘thought experimentation’. A burly, vague, distracted man, a fan of popular films such as Toy Story and Fantastic Voyage, Jacob is still forlornly infatuated with his enigmatic wife, Miriam . . . Moving backwards and forwards in time and touching on different parts of Winegarden’s life and thoughts, the stories are designed to fit together as a novella. Together they tell a larger personal story of grief and survival, the ambivalence and persistence of love, and the meaning of being Jewish. (via Holland Park Press).
If you like cats (particularly Schrödinger’s), theoretical physics and impeccable writing – buy this book.
I haven’t written anything on here for a while so I thought I’d add some information about projects, new writing and creative writing courses.
I was recently commissioned to write the narrative and contribute to the lyrics of a 45 minute Song Cycle looking at the issue of food crime – yep – food crime. If you’re not sure what food crime is then you can find out more here. The indefatigable Kate Cooper managed to persuade various agencies to fund the new writing and I’m honoured to be working with composer and singer Sara Colman to bring Kate’s gloriously madcap idea to fruition. The project is moving forward and the Song Cycle will be performed (with full choir and added stagecraft) at Birmingham MAC in May 2016. Watch this space.
I have also been commissioned to write a short story by West Midlands Readers’ Network. Each year, five or six writers meet with a local reading group to discuss narrative elements they might like in a short story. I attended my meeting last night and met with the lovely readers of north Leamington in the Fox and Vivian pub. WMRN website explains the process:
We pair a regional writer with a regional reading group and fix a date for them to meet. During that initial session the group discuss a wish-list of themes and ideas they want to see in their completed short story. Then, after tea and cake and some gentle haggling we set the clock ticking as the writers produce the bespoke short story.
Then, at the end of the summer when six short stories have been written and the writers have emerged, we publish them in a gorgeous anthology. The anthology is showcased at our Seven Minute Stories event at Library of Birmingham where the writers read extracts of their stories, and talk about the process of writing them.
So–with the short story, Song Cycle, final tweaks on the new novel and off to teach at The Writers’ Lab on sunny Skyros next week–I’m having a busy summer.
This July/August I taught a two-week creative writing course at The Writers’ Lab on the beautiful Greek island of Skyros. It was my fourth year teaching on the island and I had eleven participants from France, US and UK (not all in the photo unfortunately).
You can read a review of the holiday (and a bit about the course) from one of the participants, Chrissy Nason – freelance travel writer.
I am delighted to have been awarded an Arts Council Grant for 2014-2015 to support my current novel. I’m not sure what state the arts would be in without ACE – but there are plenty of relieved and grateful writers scribbling away thanks to this amazing support.
Novel on track. First draft due late October.
The writing is consistently strong and widely varied, reflecting the experiences and styles of an extensive network from all walks and stations of life. A watery theme links several, as though the sea were indeed both metaphorically as well as physically inching inland . . . Simone Weil said that it is not so much what every moment of a human life contains as the way in which each of its moments is connected. This book offers an insight into how Midland writers, in this instance over thirty years, create and develop a sense of solidarity within both an area and a discipline.
The dots join up and make a gorgeous whole – well worth reading and emulating. Siân Miles in BookOxygen
I’ve been attending the Tindal Street Fiction Group for several years and this October, 2013, sees the launch of the group’s 30-year celebration anthology, The Sea in Birmingham. My story – Mr Spider – is one of twenty-two stories from established authors and emerging writers who are all past or present members of TSFG. The collection has been edited by Julia Bell and Gaynor Arnold and you can find information about the other contributors (including Amanda Smyth, Gaynor Arnold, Alan Beard and Mick Scully) on the TSFG website and pre-order a copy of the anthology from Amazon.
The launch takes place on October 12th 2013 at the new Birmingham Library and the event will be part of the Birmingham Literature Festival. You can book free tickets for the event here.
Here’s what some other people have said about the collection:
A vivid evocation of place, a cast of richly imagined characters and stories that stay with you. This is The Sea in Birmingham and it’s full of pearls. – Catherine O’Flynn
This selection of 22 stories set in or around Birmingham – inventive, muscular, painful, witty, surprising, various – has the feel of the city but the scale of the times. – David Edgar
A collection of fine stories that wander the familiar streets of the West Midlands, revealing intimate lives with passionate prose. These writers brought me back home. – Cathy Galvin
Here are some pictures from the launch:
First, let me say, what a pleasure it was to meet you all. I came away with a head full of stories and longing to hear more about men who keep dolls and great aunts in India, Jamaican crime fiction and incarcerated refugees overcoming adversity. I thought some of the free writing was superb – fully formed stories, some of them, and slices of deeply felt emotion, others. Thank you.
Here is the link to the Raymond Carver short story – Cathedral
I know several writers who have used the following consultancies for editorial services and mentoring. I know one or two of the mentors personally and they are superb!
Independent (and professional) proofreaders are harder to find (and costly). But the Society of Proofreaders and Editors is a good place to start. There are a number of links if you google “freelance, literary, proofreaders”. But the consultancies (under editorial services, above) also offer proofreading services.
Writer and workshop leader, Fiona Joseph, got back to me and said she’d converted her book to e-book herself! However Amazon do a fine job (though you can’t choose the pricing structure). Fiona may be releasing an online course on e-books and marketing later this year – so I’ll keep you posted.
However Fiona did say that she uses an excellent print on demand company that she would highly recommend.
Thank you again and I look forward to seeing some of you in the summer. Happy writing!