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.
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:
It’s been a busy autumn of engagements but now I’ve got my head down and I’m totally consumed, writing the new novel. However, thought I should post a few dates for next week (!) and next year.
On December 1st 2012 I’ll be in Birmingham delivering a workshop thanks to Kate Cooper, creative force behind The New Optimists. If you’re aged between 18 and 30 and live in Birmingham and you’d like to attend this facilitated workshop on 1st December, co-hosted with the Birmingham Leadership Foundation, then sign up here. It’s free.
We’ll be making ‘narrativium’, multi-media stories from the future, all based on on info from regional scientists, people who have useful info and perspectives on what it takes to feed a city. You’ll be joining lively young Brummies, including a theatre guy, a musician and composer, a film-maker, a novelist and on-line author . . . to list just a few.
Here’s the blurb
Learn everything you need to know about how to get people reading your writing. Mez Packer, author of The Game is Altered, will explore with you the ins and outs of blogging, interactive storytelling and how to use social media to develop your work and get it noticed.
In April (5th-7th) 2013 I’ll be on the Isle of Wight with the Skyros team delivering a weekend of creative writing at The Grange. It’ll be my first time on the island and I’m looking forward to a bit of spring sightseeing and meeting the Skyros ‘home team’.
In July 6th-19th, 2013 I’ll be back on the wonderful island of Skyros – again with Skyros Holidays, delivering a full two-week creative writing course entitled Aspects of Novel Writing. This will be my third year and I can’t wait for some serious sun, sea and scribbling.
That’s it. I’m determined not to accept any more invitations until the novel is written. But knowing me I probably will.
Reliable Witness has been gathering steam online so I thought I’d aggregate some of the bits and pieces I’ve been doing to promote the project acros the web.
Finally here’s an interview I did with the good people at The Information Daily :
I’m getting excited about Reliable Witness, a project I’ve been working on all summer. Along with another midlands-based writer, Rochi Rampal, I’ve been writing the scenarios and interactive scripts for a bold transmedia storytelling piece commissioned by the Birmingham Book Festival. Come and see the installation – 4th-13th October – Unit 10, Pavilions Shopping Centre, Birmingham, 10am-4pm daily. It’s going to be amazing! There will also be an initial performance piece at ArtsFest in Birmingham, September 8, Centenary Square. I’m not sure of the time yet but it’ll be in the afternoon.
Here’s some of the website blurb.
Meet Darren and Amy – a young couple in love finding their feet in their relationship.
As their trusted friend you’ve been there for them, giving advice and a sympathetic ear for years. You’ve relaxed in their company, shared jokes and have been known to crash out and stare at the TV together now and again. You’ve seen them through a few ups and downs. So far, your involvement in their relationship has been passive, easy. Your loyalty has been neither divided nor tested. That’s about to change.
Darren and Amy’s story is moving quickly. Are you watching?
Reliable Witness is the Birmingham Book Festival’s first ever commissioned interactive storytelling experience. Follow the characters on social media, become a spectator or participant in their life together. Meet and see them in the offline world. Look out for The Birmingham Book Festival team live at Artsfest on the afternoon of Saturday 8th September, previewing this literature event with a difference.
You can follow the initial story on Twitter hashtag #reliablewitness or visit the capture website – Reliable Witness. You can also make friends with all the characters on Facebook or follow them on Twitter.
The interactivity is being produced by the expert geeky people at The Adhere Creative, project managed by the fabulously efficient women at Red Lantern Project Management Ltd, overseen by some serious digital enthusiasts at Birmingham Book Festival and funded by Arts Council England.
Thank you to the marvellous women of Knowle for welcoming me with such enthusiasm at the library yesterday. As promised (if a day later than I said) here is a list of five of my number ones:
- Gilead – Marilyn Robinson
- Sacred Hunger – Barry Unsworth
- Disgrace – JM Coetzee
- Silence – Shusaku Endo
- The Hours – Michael Cunningham
This is not a TOP FIVE I hasten to add – just five novels, off the top of my head, that I gave five stars when I read them.
Thanks again for a very enjoyable afternoon – and I’d love to put one of the pictures here that some of you were taking. If you leave your email address in the comments I’ll get in touch. Mxx
Come and enjoy the literary stylings of Fiona Joseph, Gaynor Arnold, Andrew Killeen, Sybil Ruth, Amanda Smyth – and me. Tickets are free but need to be booked here. And Fiona has set up a Facebook page for the event here.