Archive for the ‘happy’ Category

Enough Is As Good As A Feast

Saturday, August 20th, 2011

I’ve decided to pack it in.

I’ve been blogging for four years (ish) now. I started because I wanted to have a place to link to the short stories I was beginning to publish in various web magazines and never expected that I would find such a welcoming community. Through this special kind of writing I’ve made friends, found work, been able to talk to my readers, hear what you think about my writing (Cheesy Peeps!) and I’ve been able, I hope, to let lots of people know about my writing who might not have heard about it otherwise.

While I’m NOT FROM MANCHESTER, the Manchester blogging and literary community in particular welcomed me with open arms, and long before A Kind of Intimacy was published I was attending reading nights, vomiting with fear, and testing out some of my earliest attempts at flash fiction and unreliable memoir. That wouldn’t have happened without blogging friends – there’s not a chance in cheese I would have plucked up the courage otherwise. There are too many of you to name, and this isn’t an Oscars speech – but you know who you are. Ta. (Not you.)

Despite my incurably sloppy spelling, tendency to post when tipsy even when I promised myself I wouldn’t, my ignorance of arcane blog etiquette and the occasional (pfft!) indiscretion, I have enjoyed blogging, and enjoyed reading other people’s blogs. A friend, Max, argued that blogging is an exhausted form and has been replaced by newer, briefer, more immediate forms of on-line communication. That newspapers have gobbled us all up. Maybe that’s not true for all of us bloggers, but I think it is for me and for Every Day I Lie A Little. The blog form might not be exhausted, but I am.

It’s always been a struggle for me, like all bloggers, to draw a line around my private and family life. I know you know my children aren’t really called Small Fry and McTiny, and my house isn’t really called Ashworth Towers. For those of you who are close to me in my real life as well as my online life, thank you, thank you so much, for indulging me and collaborating with me on keeping them apart from this world for all this time. For the persistent (two years, you weirdo) person who has been reaching this blog by trying to find out the real names of my children: I am not packing this in because of you.

I want to be more private, and the more private I am, the more insipid my blog posts become. I toyed with the idea of starting again  – anonymously, and saying what I really wanted to say. To write like I used to – without worrying about making a Career Limiting Move. But then I realised, I am saying what I really want to say. In the novel I am writing now, and in the writing projects I’m planning for the future, I am still communicating. My best writing is elsewhere. My blog writing was becoming something much less than second best. So in novels and stories and whatever else I get up to – that’s where you’ll find me from now on. Lying my head off, and letting more of the truth slip through than I’d probably like.

I’m also tired of the energy it can take to be a part of this community. To join in with the exuberant pissing contest that Manufacturing An Online Buzz about your work can be. No-one asked me to do it, and I’m sure many of you would rather that I didn’t. But I did, and now I’m finding that the energy needed to turn myself outwards, to sell and advertise and display, isn’t working well when I need to be quiet, and think, and type and delete and type some more.

And lets be honest, I can’t be the only one to notice that I’m fast running out of ways to make the writing life sound interesting. I get up, do a school run, type, do another school run, cook, eat, drink, type, read, sleep. Every Day. Sometimes it’s really hard, but you’re not allowed to say that because it’s not a proper job, and there’s lots of other people who could do it better than you, or would give their arms and legs to be in your shoes. And sometimes it’s brilliant. And you can’t say that either, because it sounds like bragging. So what is left? I type a lot. There it is.

Let’s not be melodramatic about this though.

I’m converting this part of my website to ‘News’ and will be updating, now and again, with details about events, readings, and gigs. If you want to carry on getting that sort of information, you can subscribe here. I’m hoping to move into book reviewing, and other kinds of online and print journalism. I’ll be reading and commenting on blogs, and writing posts for the Writing Smithy. If you’re wondering how you’ll get by without my ill-punctuated domestic ranting, refusal to be drawn on matters of national import, and puns about sandwiches, I’ll be on twitter and would love to carry on the conversation there.

But for Every Day I Lie A Little, it’s curtains.



Thursday, August 4th, 2011

I’m away. Not here. Absent.


The best bit about taking a trip away is choosing the books I’m going to take with me. Well maybe not the entire bestest best thing. I also like buying tiny versions of toothpaste and finding the right pocket in my bag to put everything in.

I’ve been reading lots recently so it’s been tricky to whittle the choice down. Even though I have a kindle and could take a million books if I wanted to. I’ve just finished Jim Thompson’s The Killer Inside Me and watched (through my fingers) the film last night. Then I devoured Dispensation, an anthology of modern LDS fiction. And followed it up by listening to the original cast recording of The Book Of Mormon: The Musical while I put all the guff that has gathered on my desk over the past few months away where it is supposed to go. And found loads of fluff and an unused book of stamps (first class). Result!

I finally decided to take Mrs Dalloway, Pale Fire, The Great Gatsby and The Good Soldier. If there’s a theme there, I can’t see it.

In case you were thinking about missing me, Sarah Hymas and I, with our Writing Smithy hats on (mine has a feather in it) have been busy scheduling blog posts over at Andrew Oldham publishing. We’re writing about poets and novelists working together, setting up a creative business, making time for writing and other interesting things to do with our work at the Smithy. We’ll be there until the 12th August.



Sunday, May 15th, 2011

So. The Launch has come and gone.

Because Waterstone’s wanted Cold Light to be in their May promotion, the publication date was pushed forward a little from mid May to the end of April. Sceptre were fearsomely and efficiently ready, but I wasn’t, and refused (other than to get rid of a couple of bottles of fizz on the 28th) to feel like the novel was really ‘out’ until the original publication date.

Last Friday, Tom Fletcher launched his new and brilliant novel The Thing on the Shore and I tagged along with the launch for Cold Light. It was everything a launch party should be and our friends from the Northern Lines Fiction Workshop – the moral-supporters, pointing-out-when-you’re-being-lazy, noticing-crap-grammar-and-lazy-characterisation, buying-you-a-pint-when-you’re-feeling-crap amazing set of friends that they are, read with us. And we got quite a bit drunk.

It was a celebration, after all.

I have been so nervous about publicity. Since January I have been shrinking (literally) and wanting to find a very small place to hide inside. A mouldy stone to slither beneath.

Which is actually a fairly good state of mind to be in when it comes to writing another novel.

I don’t know why, it just is.


The launch night was stuffed full (a hundred people or more, apparently, and people sitting in the fridge…) of friends, not journalists or book buyers or customers. Just friends there for Tom and me. I know that launch parties are only for the author’s ego, and do nothing for sales or reviews or anything else. But my ego has been through the wringer, and it needed it.

If you were there and you haven’t had a message from me yet – thank you. My giant, pathetic, enormous and disgusting ego thanks you.

My ego is a giant, sweaty, moist thing. Its sort of pink and glandular looking – like the inside parts from CSI-New York.

Don’t worry, haters. Tomorrow it will be shrinking back to its papery, crinkly, skeletal nettle-leaf self.

And since then there has been the first nice print review and interview / feature in The Times (behind a pay-wall so I don’t think it would be nice to quote from it here) and a kind blog review and interview from The Book Bag and something amazing about the cover and an interview at 3am and so many emails and messages.

I have been overwhelmed with terror for three months and now I am overwhelmed with whatever the opposite of that is.

I think what I am trying to say is that writing can be fairly hard work and lonely. And of course I know I am lucky to be doing it. But it takes a long time, and the chance for celebration comes along only once every two years or so – if you are slow, like me.

And I have learned this week that it is good to celebrate and feel very loved and happy that you managed to do something that didn’t seem possible. Because there will always be work and doubt and trembling and it’s nice to have a day (well, an evening) where things like that don’t matter.

Thank you, friends.

Cold Light book trailer – the stills

Sunday, April 17th, 2011

Click on the pictures to see how brilliant they are. Go on.

These are all stills from the Cold Light trailer – which I spent a day out and about in Preston on Friday helping to make.

My bit was very tiny but the guys at Progress let me hang about for a bit afterwards to watch the filming and see how these sorts of things are done. I’ve never had an experience like that before and I was blown away by the detailed and careful attention required to make even a short film. I could offer only a tour of Preston’s less beautiful corners and a styrofoam cup of parched peas as a token of my gratitude. And while filming in the bus-station, some tiny Preston scallies strutting around in their own little cloud of skunk-smoke threatened to stab us all in the neck. Sadly, they didn’t hang around long enough to sign consent forms so they could appear as extras.

Book trailers that show the faces of the characters run the risk of disappointing the reader. So much of the pleasure is to be found in imagining the faces of the characters for yourself. I know that because I like reading as much as I like writing, and so it was something I worried a little bit about. Especially when it came to putting the faces of Chloe and Lola out there. Cold Light is a gripping, page turnery book with a tangled investigation into a decade old murder at its heart but, like everything I write, it is really about the changing and troubled relationships between the characters. And these two in particular. More than event, more than setting – if Chloe and Lola were going to be cast for the trailer, it was important to get them right.

I met with the film makers in the pub the night before to go over the schedule for the next day.

‘You’ve not seen the girls yet, have you?’ one of the guys said.

‘Nope,’ I squeaked, and a few clicks and swipes of a mobile phone later and a picture of Becky and her friend Gemma appeared.

And I came over all teary eyed and emotional, which is unlike me. They are just right. And the the painstaking work that Progress did before filming – reading the book, casting the actors for Carl, Chloe and Lola, visiting Preston to scope out the locations, shopping for clothes, parkas, shag bands, bags of chips and more gold jewellery you can shake a stick at – means that these images are as close to what went on in my head when I was imagining the story as possible.

What do you think?

I’m very pleased, and dead excited about seeing the finished product. Which should be soon.

Big (mega) thanks to Matt, Ben and Amy at Progress, Katy at Sceptre and Andrew, Gemma and Becky the cast. Andrew did a brilliant job of looking appropriately terrifying but is actually not like Carl at all IRL. So don’t send him hate mail because he’s a gentleman. 🙂

Unaverage week

Tuesday, March 8th, 2011

Most of the time being a writer involves hunching over a rickety desk, sending the odd invoice, worrying about receipts and lots of reading. Then there’s the teaching, which involves all that, and then some marking and some talking and lots of replying to emails. None of this is very exciting to anyone other than me, I am sure.

This week has been different, obviously. There was the telly thing, which I still haven’t seen yet, but which evidently one or two of you liked. And the telly thing temporarily put A Kind of Intimacy into the Amazon Bestseller Charts, which was unexpected and very nice. And on top of that I have heard that French rights to A Kind of Intimacy have just been sold. Which is also very nice.

Other new things about this week include some changes round here. First – a new page about Cold Light on this website. I get asked a fair bit about my writing process, how I do drafts, whether I type or handwrite and so on. I thought a sneak into my dark box of drafts might be interesting to some of you. The front page has had a bit of a spit and polish too, but isn’t quite finished yet.

I’ve been overwhelmed by all the messages you have been sending me and all the new visitors to my blog. Hello and thank you. I’ve been a bit crap about doing phone and emails but will be catching up soon. Promise.

P.S The picture is the actual cheese and pickled hedgehog that the kind people at the Culture Show made and brought in a cool box to UCLAN all the way from London. I was allowed to take it home and I kept it on my desk until it went all manky.


Sunday, January 9th, 2011

The past two weeks have been BRILLIANT. For the first time in over a year, I feel like I can read properly and easily. I am sure it is something to do with having a baby and being a bit ill. I remember trying to teach a workshop during my early pregnancy and feeling so ill and vague and disorientated that I had to leave during the middle for a few minutes to collect myself. The fog never really went away, but I have been mind-over-mattering through it.

Now it has gone and I have been reading and instead of having to puzzle out the sentences I can hear them slotting into place one in front of the other. I can feel the way the paragraphs are making the pages breathe. The Mr is not reader of fiction, but he is a listener to music and we have often talked about the jaggy, nails on a blackboard feeling you get when you listen to words or notes out of tune. I was not as sensitive to words as I usually am for a while.

Everything is suddenly so much better. Like someone has turned up the volume on the radio. There is a real pleasure to be had in writing sentences, but being able to read them is better. Being able to read them and hear them is what makes me want to write.

I am reading stories by John Cheever.

In other news, and in a symbolically pleasing kind of way: the contact form at the footer of this website has been bust for ages and I didn’t notice. Now I have noticed and it has been fixed. I never ignore polite messages, so if you’ve tried to contact me and haven’t received an answer, forgive me and try again as I can hear you loud and clear now.

Does not play well with others + Northern Lines

Wednesday, December 8th, 2010

This is a quote from a school report of mine. From every school report of mine.

And yes, writing is a solitary activity but being a writer does not happen in a vacuum. My most unpleasant learning experience over the past three years was realising that ‘writing’ as a ‘career’ involves other writers, live lit nights, festivals, emails flying back and forth. Being followed and unfollowed. Friends, unfriends and de-friends.

I thought I was choosing a ‘career’ where I could do what I liked best (be alone, make things up) and ignore all the parts of life I didn’t like (small talk, other people). I discovered that was not possible. In writing, as in every other career, there are in and out crowds, gossip, flavours of the month, scandal, patronage and shifting allegiances.

I don’t like that side of it. Me not liking it does not mean that it will ever go away. It doesn’t mean that I don’t ever participate in it, either. But still, I find people, in their networking aspect, frightening, mysterious and difficult. It still distresses me and drains me.  Although I prepare better for it than I used to and have healthier strategies for shyness and anxiety than booze which, for a while, was my default defence.

I still like the odd gin, but decapitation works better for me now.

Like this: I have a work head. I put it on, like Worzel Gummidge, when I leave the house, and leave it in the hallway when I get home. Work Jenn is someone different. Blog Jenn is someone different. Blog Jenn who admits to being someone different is also someone different.

You see how tiring this can be? Someone could very rapidly vanish up their own fundament. If that someone weren’t careful. Taking refuge in third person sometimes helps.

So I say all this as the preamble for a post about a group I am a part of. Earlier this year, as I finished a productive, demanding and life-changing relationship with a writing mentor and I decided that to be the best writer I could be, maybe I did need other people after all. You can’t be mentored forever. But co-mentoring, or a group? That seemed to be the next step forward.

I hate groups. I hate clubs. I don’t join in with things. And because honesty is so important to me, and because I am the most inconsistent and dishonest person I know, in May (ish) of this year I started a club. A group. An exclusive writing circle. A clique.

The Northern Lines Fiction Workshop was modelled after the famous writing group that spawned Tindal St Press. I was in touch with a couple of their members, picking their brains, asking for advice and the benefit of their experience. Exclusivity seemed important to them, and became so to me.

I wanted to work with people whose writing I admired and was curious about and who I knew would be as committed to the venture as I was. I wanted to be able to meet in person once a month or so, which meant people local to me. I wanted not only to work with talented writers, but writers who were ambitious, who wanted to get better, who cared more about the quality of their work than in being stroked.

I wanted to talk about writing with writers who cared more about writing than in talking about it.

We’re going to perform together soon. And publish things. I am really excited about doing something small and loved and handmade.

We meet every three weeks. We take turns. We started off tentative but I notice us getting more demanding of each other, more rigorous – because we know each other better, because we trust each other more, because we care about each other’s work more. I think it makes us more demanding of ourselves too. As readers and critics and editors and as mentors and as writers. A loop. It works.

Holes and Writing

Friday, November 19th, 2010

I read this old Guardian article about The Mole man via a rabbit-trail of facebook links that I forget the start of now.

This quote made me smile:

“I don’t mind the title of inventor,” he said. “Inventing things that don’t work is a brilliant thing, you know. People are asking you what the big secret is. And you know what? There isn’t one.”

Mr Lyttle died since the Guardian wrote about him in 2006, but only after being evicted from his own house, re-homed in one belonging to the council and continuing to dig…

I’d hate to turn this blog into a po-faced collection of craft and industry twittering. Of self promotion and back-scratching. I can be very logical and practical and organised and if you want to be good at anything, you need to have or develop those skills.

But there’s the magic of it too. The thing that is harder to talk about than how to get paid, or what colour fountain pen ink floats my boat. The inventing things that don’t work for no other reason than the fact that it’s brilliant. The Mole Man reminds me of the character of Donald in Cold Light… I reckon I was thinking a little bit about writing when I invented him.


Top Banana!

I am off now, happily, to dig holes for no other reason than because I want to.

Freaking Bookworm

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Here’s a first for me. A video-book review from US reviewer – Elizabeth Kaylene. Elizabeth liked the book and, like me, she’s got a bit of a snuffly nose right now… 🙂

Where the Trees Were

Sunday, September 5th, 2010

Avenham Park had an old and famous avenue of trees chopped down a few months ago because they all had Bleeding Canker (it sounds medieval enough, but people can’t get it).

I remember going to this park where I played and rolled my eggs when I was little, skulked and sulked in as a teenager, drank and laid about reading in pre-babies and pushed prams in post-babies and I remember seeing these huge trees laid on the river bank, the smell of broken wood and sap in the air. Very sad. Small Fry cried about it.

I thought about one of the prisoners in the creative writing group that met in the library I used to work in – he’d written and worked and reworked a poem set in this Avenham park about this avenue of trees – the way they frame the path that hugs the north bank of the Ribble and in the summer turn it into a green tunnel with the veined shadows of the leaves beneath your feet. His favourite place for thinking about his children and women and the first place he was going to go when he was out.

And those trees – hundreds of years to grow so this park will not be the same in our life-times. And I’ve been walking there again recently and the thick, toilet-freshener smell of the sap has gone and they’ve carved away the stumps from the bank – either to stop the disease from hiding in the soil or to make room for the new saplings or so we won’t be reminded of what was once there.

And the bare places are covered up now – pink fireweed and curly Japanese knotweed with the white trumpet flowers. Bees, and a crap attempt to fill in the sides of the path with flags and pebbles, and I got used to the bareness and realised you could see along the river much better now, and for the first time it felt okay again.

I was house-bound and missed most of the late Spring and summer so I didn’t see it happen, but I feel better now and it all grew back while I wasn’t there.

So that is one of the things I’ve been doing while I haven’t been writing.

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