Archive for the ‘plug’ Category

Zoos. Reviews.

Saturday, August 13th, 2011

I came home from a lovely (very damp) week away to find that Cold Light has been nominated for this year’s Guardian’s Not the Booker.

Two years ago A Kind of Intimacy made the short-list, which was just splendid. So if you read Cold Light and you liked it you send me to the short-list again by clicking this link here and following the instructions. You need to write a short review to make your vote count.

If you didn’t like Cold Light, don’t let that stop you from voting. It almost always turns into a nice on-line scrap and there’s nothing like it, is there? There are some brilliant books on the long-list. Perhaps I’m supposed to vote under a series of aliases for myself, but my vote went to the book I nominated: Russ Litten’s Scream if you Want to Go Faster – and you can read my mini review of it here. I would have voted for Michael Stewart’s King Crow, also long-listed – a beautiful, startling, odd book set in Salford and Cumbria – a sort of Fight Club meets Kes – but Russ’ book just pipped it to the post by being so well constructed and unpredicatable. I wish I’d been allowed to vote twice.

I wrote on the ‘about’ pages of this blog that I don’t do book reviews. As ever, please refer to the title of this blog as an explanation for my recent review of David Whitehouse’s Bed which appeared in the Guardian Review last month.

I don’t know if reviewing is going to be a bigger part of the work I do in the future or not, yet. It is still something I have very mixed feelings about. I would, wouldn’t I? It’s strange and a bit not-on being the animal in the zoo as well as the person selling tickets at the gate, isn’t it? But reading is such a huge part of my working and thinking and writing life that it seems peculiar I rarely mention my opinions about the books I read in public. I will think on this more.

The next nice thing was hearing that Cold Light has been chosen by the Birmingham Books Festival to be their official Book of the Festival. I’ve appeared at various Writing West Midlands gigs over the years both as a writer and a reader and I have always been impressed by their events. I’ll be doing various things with the festival this Autumn, including an event on the 16th October. If you’re a bit skinty, the festival bods have just opened a competition where you can win two tickets for the event. All you need to do is write a short review of the book, and the best reviewer will be awarded the tickets.

Rabbit Hole

Monday, June 27th, 2011

I think a summer blog silence is becoming a bit of a habit. Last summer, I had a newborn and was busily finishing the edits and copy edits of Cold Light. The summer before I was writing Cold Light. And the summer before (I think) I was ‘on the road’ with a shed load of events for A Kind of Intimacy that didn’t leave much time or space for updating everyone on what I was up to.

A bit of deja-vu then.That’s all right. Except I’ve been teaching a few blogging workshops recently and keep guiltily overhearing my own voice talking about regularity of posting. As I say and not as I do.

I have finished a first draft of the Book In Progress and took June ‘off’ to do some more research, visit Utah (more about this some other time, I’m sure) and generally have a bit of a rest. The remainder of the summer will be spent on events, rewriting, planning my courses for the autumn teaching, working with my select and beloved set of Writing Smithy clients and waving at my offspring every now and again. Cold Light has been doing just fine without my interference, and is on its second printing already.

As I don’t have a lot of words for you today, here are some from others:

There’s a review of Cold Light from Book Munch by Amy Pointon and another at Jamie Fewey’s blog. A very recent one at The View From Here from the wonderfully named Grace Read (bet you a Polo she’s never heard that one before…). One more by Ben Myers at 3am Magazine and finally some nice words from For Books’ Sake.

And while I was away in Utah, a few appeared  in the print press too, which you can read here.

I also have some events booked. So if you wanted to see me reading from and talking about Cold Light or ask questions about writing, publishing, blogging or any of the other things that I do, then you could turn up at:

Hale Library at 7pm on Wednesday 29th June

or St Anne’s Library at 7pm on Wednesday 13th July

or Lancaster Oxfam Bookshop (Penney Street) at 3pm on Friday 15th July

or  at Bury Library at 7.30pm on the 18th July for the Bury Library Literary Salon

or Bolton Waterstone’s at 5pm on Thursday 28th July

Bye for now. I am booked for a very important engagement with a cup of tea and a piece of shortbread. Can’t be late for that.


Wednesday, March 2nd, 2011

Sadly for you I am appearing on the telly this Saturday night – thus ruining yet another weekend for you all with my relentless attention-seeking.

John Mullan along with a panel of judges read 57 novels published in the last two years, and between them they chose what they thought were the twelve most interesting. A Kind of Intimacy was one of the twelve.

You’ll disagree and come up with your own best and worst lists, of course – and I think that’s a good thing. I’m interested in what conclusions the panel of judges drew about where contemporary British literature is headed. Down the pan, according to some, I am sure.

Just in case you can bring yourself, the Guardian ran a piece about the Culture Show Special here. The show itself will be running on BBC 2 at 9pm this Saturday night.

Station Stories + A Plea

Tuesday, February 15th, 2011

I’ve not participated in a project since, I think, Bugged. Which was back at the start of the summer. Ages and ages ago, although – so I hear – the book is still selling very briskly thanks to Jo’s efforts in planning and performing in events up and down the country.

Still, for me it is time to take on something new to run alongside the endless typing of The First Draft and the terrifying approach to Cold Light’s arrival in the world.

The something new is Station Stories – a writing project run by David Gaffney and The Hamilton Project. The other writers involved, me, Tom Fletcher, Peter Wild, Nicholas Royle and Tom Jenks will all be writing stories set in and around Manchester Picadilly train station. Once we’ve written, edited and practiced our stories we will be performing them in the station across three days in late May. And the performace will be something very special.

We’ve already met up to be given a tour of all the station’s nooks and crannies in the hope that it would get our juices flowing. Brain storming has been happening via email. This isn’t a writing collaboration – we’re all responsible for our own words, but the performance needs to work as a whole and that means working together during the planning stages to ensure there isn’t too much overlap of story or tone, that we manage to cover, somehow, the life of the train station. 

Sadly, I am stumped. I normally like a commission and don’t have any problem with coming up with new ideas. But this week and the one before – nothing. I will pull it out of the bag in the end, promise. Most of my commissions are written in a bolt of white hot panic, against a deadline.

But in the mean time. tell me your train station stories and I may steal them and recycle them. Don’t worry if your train station isn’t Picadilly. Alk donations are welcome. Sorry for the imposition but it’s hard times for all of us.

Think of it as your donation to the Big Society.

the Writing Smithy

Saturday, January 22nd, 2011

Out to tea with a friend this week, and he said to me, ‘so, do you plan on having a holiday any time soon?’ and I shrugged sheepishly – which is my way of telling you that I’ve gone and started something else with a friend of mine, and this is a plug-post.

the Writing Smithy is me and Sarah Hymas, mentoring and editing and doing appraisals. She does poems, I do novels – and if you’re a short storyist or a flasher or a script-writer still get in touch because we can refer you on to people we know and like, are qualified to do what they do and will not fleece or flatter you.

We ‘soft-launched’ the website a couple of weeks ago – and already the recommendations and referrals are trickling in. I’m so excited about this. Since I stopped working in the library I’ve been trying out loads and loads of different kinds of work and finding a lot of tasks, environments (and yes, people) that I didn’t want to continue with. But since Sarah and I decided to do this, it has been Spot On.

The thing I like best about being in charge of my own working life is that I can make sure everything I do is honest and high-quality, is more about the writing than the selling of the writing*, involves working with people I find interesting and doing something that I like. And what I like, I’ve discovered, is working with other people who are interested in making their writing better, open to experimenting, reading and writing new things, talking and listening, practising and working hard.

Everything else about us and what we do and why we do it, how much it costs and how you can get in touch with us is on our website. We’re based in the North West, but we will work via email, phone or Skype if it is impossible for you to travel to us.

*there’s nothing wrong with selling writing. I like selling writing. But I am a writer and a teacher, not an agent or a publisher or a sales and marketing specialist. So I stick to the writing part. It’s only fair.

Win a copy of A Kind of Intimacy

Tuesday, December 21st, 2010

And in another festive give-away, bob on over to The Lancashire Writing Hub where Daisy Baldwin interviews me and I set a taxing competition question about cake.

If you like and want free things, you’ll almost certainly want to check out my interview with Sarah Hymas while you’re there, because there’s a DVD version of one of her poems just waiting for one lucky reader to win it.

Win a copy of Cold Light

Monday, December 20th, 2010

If you want to be the very first amongst your friends and relatives to own a (proof) copy of Cold Light, thus making them all jealous and casting the rest of your Christmas presents into the shade, you should make your way over to Bookhugger, who are running a give-away.

It’s a bit scary to think of the first copies of Cold Light making their way into the world. I’m uncomfortably aware that out there, somewhere, people are reading it.

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.


Saturday, August 14th, 2010

Recently I took part in the judging panel of the Rainy City Stories / Creative Tourist short story competition, Rain Never Stops Play.

Lydia Unsworth is a worthy winner with her short story The City is Leaving Me If you like that, there’s plenty more where that came from – on her blog Getting Over the Moon.

I want to think more about the experience of judging things before I write about it here. The last time I was a judge was at last year’s Manchester Blog Awards – an event close to my heart because the earlier incarnation of Every Day I Lie a Little won the Best Writing on a Blog Category back in 2008. Last year Emily at My Shitty Twenties took the ceremony by storm and won two categories.

I wonder who it will be this year? I know there are a lot of Preston based bloggers who read these posts – so as a reminder, seeing as we’re in commuting distance of Manchester, we’re eligible to nominate ourselves too… there were two Preston nominees last year – Just Testing and I Thought I Told You To Wait in the Car and it would be great to see some more Preston bloggers get a bit of extra publicity for their writing this year.*

What can I say? I am a mad Preston Patriot. Get in.

*this isn’t a thinly veiled plea for you to nominate me. I’m fairly sure ex-winners aren’t eligible any more.

New Things

Tuesday, August 3rd, 2010

During a week when I’d much rather be in bed, the duvet over my head, lights out and something not-nightmare-inducing on my MP3player, I learn that fame is mine at last and the American A Kind of Intimacy is going to have a bit-part in a film. Annie will be starring alongside Demi Moore and Miley Cyrus (better known to us all as Hannah Montana) in a film called LOL.

I am ludicrously pleased about this and even though Annie doesn’t have any lines they’ve promised not to use her in a derogatory or defaming manner. I expect she’ll be on a bookshelf or coffee table somewhere, or poking out of someone’s bag, or holding up a sash window, or propping up a wobbly table leg. Maybe she’ll be the book in the breast-pocket that stops a bullet bound for the heart. Perhaps there’ll be a code needing to be cracked and the book will be the key to the cipher (wasn’t that new Sherlock brillo-brilliant? He’s no Jeremy Brett, but extremely easy on the eye all the same).

I never thought people needed to ask permission for such things. The people making the film aren’t quoting my words and it seems more credit should be due to the cover designer, model and photographer than me. It’s book-as-object they want, not book-as-story. Perhaps I am over thinking. Still, it’s quite exciting and will probably have me in the cinema scrutinising the backgrounds for my green book as soon as the film comes out. I’ll be gutted if it gets edited out. I can’t think of anything worse than being an actor, but having Annie stand in for me and appear in a real, proper film is Top Banana.

The technical term is ‘set dressing’. It is product placement Gone Wild!

And here’s another US review via Mary Whipple Reviews. Mary helpfully includes a picture of some possible semi detached houses for her readers. I always wondered which bits of my book might need a bit of cultural translation. Duplexes are one on top of the other, aren’t they? I just heard the book is going to be included in a Barnes and Noble new writers promotion – something similar, I think, to the Waterstones New Voices promotion the UK edition was included in shortly after it was published. Having your book in the window / face out makes a difference. It makes me happy that A Kind of Intimacy seems to be doing well in the US. Are there any US readers of this blog? Do any of you live in duplexes?

This article from The Guardian by Frank Cottrell Boyce made me happy too. Apparently his son thinks he sits in his office retyping Millions all day so that everyone can have a copy. My Small Fry also thinks I’m a typist. There’s nothing like the contemptuous sneer of a five-year old (why are there lots and lots of that book you wrote still in your office?) to keep things in perspective. It’s only a job.

Current worries and concerns: travel to London. Getting eaten by rats on the tube. Shoes. Cat hairs. Not reading enough. Everyone having colds. The bead and button box being knocked over. Swearing in public and not realising it because I’ve been house-bound for two months. Writing / not writing a blog. Relative sizes of jeans in different shops (still). The great clutter clear out of 2010.

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