Edge Hill + Keswick + Wirral + Manchester

A mad week that started with a lovely trip over to West Lancs for a reading at Edge Hill’s Rose Theatre – where I read from A Kind of Intimacy and the first chapter of Cold Light. I don’t get nervous about A Kind of Intimacy any more, although I do still get tempted with the red pen when I open that book, but it’s a scary prospect reading Cold Light. It’s still so new and I’ve not got a thick skin about it yet.

Still, it went well and I sold all my books which would have been an excellent thing, except it meant when I ran out of diesel on the A59 and had to call a taxi, I tumbled out of my car when he arrived in a short skirt, shiny-high-heels-reading-confidence shoes, and a purse full of crumpled fivers. I may have given the wrong impression, (I am an author, honest!) but I got home okay in the end and back there safe the next morning to give two workshops to the second year undergraduates who were a lovely and well-read lot. Hooray for Edge Hill!

Next, a drive up to Keswick for the Words on the Water festival to take part in the North West Voices showcase, hosted by Ra Page of Literature Northwest and Comma Press. I got to listen to a whole afternoon of wonderful readings including a very distrurbing but brilliantly written story by Annie Clarkson. We also got our lunch in a nice upstairs room overlooking sunshine, green grass and water. It felt like the first day of spring and our small but loyal audience was very kind, even when I read the bit out of A Kind of Intimacy where Boris slags off Keswick which is actually in my top ten of nice places to visit. Naughty Boris.

The final slot of the day was a discussion session about ‘Surviving as a Writer’ – there was a nice question from an audience member about discipline and writing routines and me, with my new-found to-do-list method said I needed to treat it like a job, and do it if I felt like it or not, and Jackie Hagan, the wonderful poet and performer from Skelmersdale, said she only wrote when she felt like it – and couldn’t force herself. I wondered aloud if this was to do with form and the time it takes to write poems compared to novels, but I don’t write poems and I know they take longer than I think, so I wouldn’t like to assume. It’s a shame, but we didn’t get a chance to talk about this as much as I’d have liked to.

I can’t MAKE myself have an idea, but I can sit and force myself work on an idea I’ve already had – and generally, when I get an idea I need to make it last a few thousand words. Maybe it’s different for poets? There was a little discussion about life-style – about how chaotic, energetic, vital poetry is often fueled by a chaotic life. I certainly need order, nights in alone and a to-do-list to make my books but I don’t think my books are dull. I think my life is dull so my books don’t need to be. People have asked if children get in the way of being a writer – but actually being forced to live the house-bound, ordered existence of a mother-to-Small-Fry (tea-bath-teeth-story-bed like a metronome shaping each evening forever) has been the best thing I could have done for my writing.

Next was a day out to Liverpool, a trip across the Mersey on the ferry (yes, they did play the song…) and a walking trip around Seacombe, Birkenhead, Rock Ferry, Rock Park and Tranmere. All very interesting research for a storytelling and blogging project I’m doing over the next couple of months with Liverpool Binenial. I’m sure I’ll be blogging more about this during the weeks to come. I also have pictures and lots of ideas about tropical fish, wedding dresses and stolen mussels for outside picnics. It’s going to be brilliant.

And finally, a little reminder about the event I’m doing with the Manchester Centre for New Writing – you can catch me and Jen Hadfield reading at the Whitworth Gallery on the 22nd of this month – tickets available to book here. I’ve been reliably informed that A Kind of Intimacy is being studied at two universities in the region (god help us all) so if you’re there because you’ve got to write an essay, I’m sorry – come and say hello and I will apologise in person. 

Would you think I was mad if I told you I sketched out a possible plan for Book Three on the train back from Liverpool Lime Street yesterday night? And even though I desperately needed eats and sleeps, stayed up FAR too late last night tinkering with it?

Today, mainly inside the house at my desk quiet work and a cup of ladies’ tea this afternoon.

The image of the rascal van is supposed to represent all the driving about and travelling I’ve done recently – although I don’t actually own a rascal van, I will one day – just as soon as I can convince Himself this is an excellent idea and a vehicle I could both park AND live in, I’ll be the proud owner of one of these things. 

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