Archive for the ‘crazy’ Category


Tuesday, October 19th, 2010

Final, jiggling with the completed manuscript of Cold Light before it goes to the typesetters. I pity the person who needs to make this scribbled, Tipp-exed, dog-eared lump of well loved paper into a book.

Things I have learned during these edits:

You can’t have someone watching the adverts while The Antique Roadshow is on, because AR was a BBC programme and there weren’t any adverts.

The prescription charge in 1997 did not apply to contraceptives prescribed by a doctor, did apply to the morning after pill unless you got it from a doctor in an A and E department or you were under the age when prescription charges would usually apply.

My handwriting is attrocious, and I drip tea on everything.

Lemsips really do take care of anxiety.

I have done a Bad Thing

Wednesday, July 14th, 2010

Or rather, I’ve been watching some bad things on You-Tube.

First, it was whole series-worth of Midsomer Murders. That’s okay. I was heavily pregnant, fairly poorly, unsightly and fit for nothing else.

But now it’s things like this:

and this:

and this:

and perhaps worst, and most excitingly of all – these two gems: The Crystal Maze and Cluedo, the TV Series!
(embedding disabled, but click through and watch them and then you too will feel as happy with life as I do).

Yes, this is all in the name of ‘research’ and ‘fact checking’ and ‘conveying atmosphere’. Some days I really love my job. The painstaking nature of the work, the breaks to sharpen pencils and listen to theme tunes, the constant tea and iced fingers. The promise of one more episode of Midsomer Murders if I get this chapter fixed before bedtime. The lovely interruptions of a fairly easy-going McTiny who settles remarkably well while listening to the Fun House theme tune.

Edge Hill + Keswick + Wirral + Manchester

Wednesday, March 10th, 2010

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.

The Writing Life

Sunday, January 24th, 2010

I did not imagine it would involve fighting over who gets to use the clean fork while the laundry, paperwork and bills pile up around our ears. Suddenly, I am missing university when I had only one tiny room (of my own) to fill with crap, and days and days and days in which to read. I did very little writing, but I knew, without being worried, that I’d be getting around to it soon.

On The Road

Thursday, January 14th, 2010

A break from the pedantry and solitude of editing Cold Light for a trip into Macclesfield to see Jo Bell. More snow, two pies and a day long discussion and practice session for our new show. We’ve been planning this for a while, but snow, extended school holidays, festive madness and packed schedules meant that yesterday was the first time we’ve been able to get together to talk staging, running order, performance and props.

All very new to me – but very welcome. I’m not scared when I get up on the stage or in front of the mic any more – not when I’m reading my own work, anyway – the thrill of testing the words out loud and watching to see if the audience responds the way I want them to appeals to the attention-seeker in me and drowns out the nerves. But for a year, more or less, I’ve been reading the same four or five extracts from A Kind of Intimacy, and answering people’s questions about it. Soon, I’ll probably be doing the same for Cold Light.

This, though, is different. This isn’t reading in order to sell something, to promote a novel, to shift some copies. I’ve written some new material and had ideas for more after hearing Jo read her work. I’m relishing the chance to concentrate on the short work I do (some of it has been published on-line and there are links in the sidebar of this blog…) and to do something out of the house with other people. This isn’t reading either – no muttering something off a sheet of A4 still warm from my printer – this is performing – a difference I’ve had to learn, and a learning curve that is made much easier by working with Jo, who is an experienced producer of live-lit and spoken word, and of course a poet.

Working with a poet is a new thing too. I write short stories (is that what I should be calling them? Most of them are too long to be flash – and too autobiographical to be stories. Jo suggested Fascinators, after the feathery fluff Some Girls clip into their hair, and I sort of liked that) and as I waited for the train to get there (passing by the tantalising Stockport Hat Museum) I caught myself wondering if a real, live poet would be a different species. But it isn’t like that at all. We are writers. We choose words and spend a long time putting them in order. Poets make things up, and sometimes Story Writers tell the truth.

Anyway, how could I possibly pass up the chance to work with someone who is currently writing a play called Aching For Dick…

It was interesting – sitting in Jo’s new pink office, (‘no, no dear, you’re allowed to walk on the carpet‘) watching the snow come down outside, scoffing her cake and listening to her read – to reflect on how similar her work is to mine, and how different. The change in tone and pace and style between the two of us is marked – and is one of the things that’s going to make our show so good, I think. But the images – jars of flowers, empty crisp packets, bin-bags and coffins, key-holes, Marmite jars, telephones, clocks and frozen peas – echo across both our work – along with our over-arching, many-splendoured theme, which is love.

Love. If you know my writing, you’ll know I’ve gone to town with this, and only one of the pieces is even slightly heart-warming. I’ve got a stalker (obviously), a crap boyfriend, a competitive wanker, a bitter sex-therapist, a kebab, seepage from a family grave, a dead goldfish and a whole bunch of origami flowers. Jo’s got a dead man, a man who thinks the clitoris is a light-switch, and a neighbour who breaks in when she’s asleep. It’s going to be Top Banana.

We were shooting for dates in February and wanted to celebrate Valentine’s Day in creepy, comic style. The work’s gone so well we’ve decided to develop the show a little and book dates across the North West (with a little toe dipped into the Midlands and North East) during April and May. Watch this space. I’m really excited, so I’ll probably be rattling on about this a lot.

The Fleetwood Assassin

Thursday, October 22nd, 2009

I did loads of research for the Annie-book, and I knew about the Fleetwood Assassin already. But something made me remember her again.

I think she’s my hero.

Nearly There!

Friday, October 16th, 2009

Less than a week to go! This getting very near finishing the novel is exciting. If you’d like a sneak preview of what I’ve been doing with myself, you can read an extract of Cold Light here – it’s a chapter from the first third of the novel, and I’ve called it ‘Same Old’.

The editor of The Manchester Review, the poet John McAuliffe, told me that in the extract, Lola makes ‘whole family’ sound like a swear-word. There isn’t, I don’t think, any other way to say those words.

Other interesting things this month included the third meeting with my mentor. We talked a lot about my characters, and their motivations for doing the things they do. I have a very self-absorbed first person narrator, but I didn’t want her lack of interest in the people around her to mean that the other characters in the novel were pale and insubstantial. Working that out took a few long conversations and some fairly brutal rewriting – but I think I’m nearly there now.

We also talked about where to go next – and what to do once I’m finished with Cold Light. I have an idea for another novel, and some ideas for ways to make money while I write it – but I can’t have a mentor forever. I need to figure out a method for writing and living as a writer where I can hold my own hand through the tough bits and cheer myself on when it is crap and also give myself the much needed kicks up the arse, when needed. I’ve already learned some good techniques for managing my time and working out how to do a really, really big project without going mad, so I’m sure I’ll work this out too.

I wish Creative Writing MA courses covered this kind of thing. I should probably write an extra module…

I’ve been doing lots of outsidey things this month too. Readings at the Chester Literary Festival and the Liverpool Chapter and Verse festival at the very swish Bluecoats. An interview with a Swedish journalist and creative writing workshops in Morecambe and Freckleton as part of the Lancashire Library Service’s Adult Learning Festival. A Special Word Soup for National Poetry Day in Blackpool, and planning another one which will be tomorrow, in Preston – and specially Spooky for Halloween.

If you feel like seeing Jenn in the flesh, I’ll be reading (again, from Cold Light) at the Manchester Blog Awards on Wednesday, at Lancaster Literature Festival on Friday and at the Birmingham Literature Festival on Saturday. In-between, I’ll be sleeping and frantically writing.

And buying wedding shoes…

Failed Novels + Tiny Stories

Tuesday, October 6th, 2009

I read this, this morning, and it got me out of a foul mood that has been simmering for about a week. I’ve also been enjoying the short short stories Emma Lannie has been writing during her September project.

I’m sick of my novel. SICK, I tell you. Oh well, back to the coal face. I don’t have a break scheduled in for another three weeks.

On My Travels

Monday, August 24th, 2009

A little post before I’m off on the train tomorrow to Edinburgh to read at the Writers’ Retreat tomorrow evening, alongside Ray Robinson. I’ll be reading from and talking about A Kind of Intimacy and Ray will be reading from his second novel The Man Without. Apparently, the two of us write ‘superb and unsettling fiction about damaged individuals and their effect on others.’ So now you know.

I’m kind of excited about this one. Would you believe I’ve never been to Edinburgh before? I’m not going to have time to stay for more than a night because we’re in the getting ready for new school and uni terms frenzy here at chez Jenn, but I did manage to bob into the Debenham’s sale to get a new dress.

It is spectacular (as was the fact it cost me only 9, yes NINE of your English pounds) and will also be the outfit of choice for Word Soup #5 – not until the 22nd September but already shaping up to be a top night with another great line-up. Ace!

Something else that is exciting is the 2009 Manchester Blog Awards. Can’t believe it is that time of year already. I remember last time, short-listed for the Best Writing on a Blog Category and reading a draft extract from Cold Light that had just appeared on my blog. A Kind of Intimacy hadn’t even been published yet.

This time, I’m going back as part of the entertainment (which makes it sound like I’m dancing, or telling jokes. Neither of which I’ve been asked / am able to do.) I could read a bit of A Kind of Intimacy, but I know that lots of people in Manchester have already heard me read it, so I might opt for something different this time. I’m quite excited about Cold Light, so it might be time to give that its first proper outing.

Hmm. Thinks thinks.

Nominations for your favourite blogs can be made via this link. There are several categories, and you can nominate blogs in more than one of them. It isn’t a vote, so if your blog has already been nominated (or you’ve nominated it yourself – it is allowed) then there’s no need to get all your friends to do the same. Can’t wait to see you all there.

And no, don’t ask me about how my shiny new writing schedule is going. When my mentor comes back from her holiday, I am going to be For It. I’m sure she’ll have some crazy punishments up her sleeve, but nothing is as bad as the guilt.

Please Win Me A Mug

Tuesday, August 11th, 2009

Hee hee.

I just found out I’ve been long-listed for the Guardian’s Not The Booker Prize. Apparently, the winner gets a special Guardian Mug.

You all know how I love my tea, don’t you?

Off you go and vote (for me, or other fine books of your choice on the long-list). Voting closes on the 23rd August, so I won’t harass you about it too many times before then.

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