I feel like there should be an end of the year post but I have such a lousy memory I can’t recall all the things I liked best. I listened to Nicki Minaj a lot and I have much love for her. “Did it on ’em” was a song that actually made me go “What the fuck is this? What is she saying?” and then “Oh my god, it’s amazing. She’s amazing. This is perfect.” I’m so glad there is a woman more than equal to the top guys in the field, and that she is recognised as such.
I have sadness that there’s still “top guys in the field” instead of top people. It’s true all over – TV, comedy, writing, whatever. There are the successful men and then the select women who are deemed of rare enough quality that they get to hang there too. Even on twitter amongst the people who tweet about lit stuff it seems there’s a boys club (with separate UK and US branches of these in the blog world too) and only a few honorary women. Anyway, a massive cheer for Caitlin Moran who somehow managed to write a clever, funny, brilliant, best selling (number one on the list for weeks and weeks) book about feminism (even if it is mainly a biography) How To Be a Woman.
Favourite novels of the year are The Canal by Lee Rourke and The Coward’s Tale by Vanessa Gebbie. Fave short story collections are Everything Ravaged, Everything Burned by Wells Tower and Ayiti by Roxane Gay. Speaking of Roxane Gay, it’s been a pleasure to read her intelligent, articulate thoughts online in a wide variety of places (HTML Giant, The Rumpus, and her own blog to name a few.)
Fave TV show was Sons of Anarchy. Compelling viewing that just kept relentlessly building. We’re a season behind the US here and I am so looking forward to watching Season 4 when it airs. I also loved The Mentalist. I want to be Patrick Jane, and date Cho.
Film of the year? No idea. I saw Thor yesterday though and really enjoyed it. Home and Away boy has done good! And learned how to open his eyes. How buff? More fun than I expected too. I appreciated the Shakespearean swagger and am really looking forward to Whedon’s Avengers.
Scent of the year – Amazing Grace by Philosophy. Absolutely gorgeous. Fresh, clean, non-cloying.
Meal of the year was in the Fork and Field where I tasted the best pasta I have ever had. Seriously so good that I couldn’t stop smiling. It was Gratin of Macaroni with spinach, parmesan and fresh truffle and was perfection.
Book-selling hurrahs were realising we’d sold over 100 copies of Janice Galloway’s Collected Stories, and selling out of Kuzhali Manickavel’s Insects Are Just Like You and Me Only Some of Them Have Wings yet again, selling heaps of The Best British Short Stories, and ordering in goodies like Roxane Gay’s Ayiti and Breece D’J Pancake‘s Collected Stories. I get a real thrill introducing people to damn good writing and I’ve never had anyone come back and complain about a recommendation I’ve given so I hope that’s a good sign.
More personally, my family have struggled through hellish times this year but emerged stronger. I pack the sad, angry, bitterness down inside me and carry on. What else to do? One of my boys made up a song – “I’ve got an arch of love for you” – and he sings it, complete with arm gestures, to me. I congratulated my other son on how well he dealt with an awkward situation – “I model myself on you,” he said. There is nothing more precious, more wonderful, than my twins. My resolution for 2012 is the same as the advice I give to my beautiful boys – “Be the best you that you can be.”
Happy new year y’all.
I’m so excited that Vanessa Gebbie will be signing copies of her debut novel “The Coward’s tale” tomorrow at Waterstones, Brighton from 11 a.m. Not only that but she will also be writing personalised tiny fictions for anyone who buys it. She’ll add your name, or any name you choose, and a few other unique details. A wonderful idea, and a really different Christmas gift.
Heavy demands on my time this year mean I don’t get to participate in online groups and discussions in the same way I have in the past. I do still google read many blogs but it’s easier to whizz through and kid myself I’m keeping up than stop and comment. So, I’m a lousy blog pal but I do still read, and I comment when I can.
1) Vanessa Gebbie has signed a deal with Bloomsbury for her novel “The Coward’s Tale” to be published in hardback in November 2011 and paperback 2012. This is simply wonderful news. Vanessa is a hugely talented writer: uncompromising, determined, and inspirational. Many congratulations, Vanessa!
2) In other news there’s an interesting discussion at Jane Smith’s How Publishing Really Works blog about the Brit Writer’s Awards and their recent invitation to apply for a chance to join their publishing programme (where for a fee of £1,795 fifteen writers will be guaranteed to be published with a “…top publisher before Christmas 2011”). Hmmm.
3) I have deemed myself the anti-fest. Truth is that it’s been a shitty year and I’ll be glad to see the back of it even though I can’t see things changing much in the new year. Whilst I’m glad of the break from school/work grind I find it hard to participate in something I view so warily. Christmas seems a pacifier to the workers, a time to kick back and indulge in too much of whatever it is you want to indulge in. And at the same time we prop up our capitalist society by spending way too much money on stuff in a bid to show those we care for that we love them. So, the most festive I’m going to get is by sharing this awesome video with you (cheers to Big Adam for bringing it to my attention.) It’s Slayer, it’s Reign In Blood, it’s Christmas lights, it’s amazing!
Ok, it’s the 4th of January, the day the majority of us return to work or school after the holidays, and it’s time to get back at “it” (whatever your “it” may be!) Reading around the blogs lots of writers are resolving to be better, work harder, hone craft, shine prose etc. Well read on…
I get asked to review a lot of stuff these days and to be honest I turn most requests down. Whilst I like to imagine myself some queen bitch who will tell it like it is, the truth is that I actually hate to upset anyone if I dislike their work. On the other hand I have no desire to turn my blog into some kind of puff factory where I churn out positive reviews for fellow authors in the hope that one day they will reciprocate should I have something of my own to sell either, so I tend to say no to requests unless I think I’m going to be genuinely enthusiastic about the book.
Hurray for Short Circuit!
It’s a guide to writing short stories written by experienced authors and teachers and is packed with essays, advice and exercises. It’s a text book that will keep on giving, and one can dip in and out. Having trouble with your ending? Check out the relevant chapters here. Stuck for inspiration? Try one of the exercises. (And so on…)
This ace book was edited by Vanessa Gebbie who answered some of my rubbish questions! (One question is inaccurate but I left it in because Vanessa’s answer is so good and if I reworded it I’d make her look a bit nuts!)
Remember the anti-plagiarism day? Remember the whole ghastly “one writer in a workshop stole from another writer” thing? Ugh. It’s uncomfortable. I want to look away. I want to look. I don’t want to be involved, and yet as writers we are all involved really. It’s our duty to speak out. Isn’t it? Anyway, seems like it’s all out in the open at How Publishing really Works. Look. Don’t look. Ghastly innit!
One World is a splendid new anthology. It contains stories from around the globe from some friends of this blog (Vanessa Gebbie, Ravi Mangla), some very well known names (Chimamanda Nozi Adichie, Jhumpa Lahiri) and some as yet unfamiliar:
Full author list:
Martin A Ramos
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Ken N Kamoche
Lucinda Nelson Dhavan
Adetokunbo Gbenga Abiola
Ivan Gabriel Reborek
Not only does buying this collection mean that you will have a fiction feast to enjoy but also all the profit will be donated to Médecins Sans Frontières.
Win win eh?
Lovely, lovely Pulp Net are organising a fantastic event on 12th September at London Metropolitan University. The programme is packed full of writerly delights:
Arrival/Coffee/Intro/Sign-up for Evening Session/10-minute Zone
The first page
Bridget Whelan offers a confidence-building session that allows you to discover the writer within. Imaginative exercises to help you to find inspiration in the ordinary, create characters that live and breathe and encourage you to take risks with your writing. (prose – all levels)
Getting inside the editor’s head
Rosalind Porter, senior editor with Granta magazine, Laura Barber of Portobello Books, and Tom Chalmers of Legend Press open the lid on publishing from the editor’s Point of view. Later in the session we hear from agent Hannah Westland of Rogers Coleridge & White about where she, as an agent, fits into that process. (fiction – advanced)
Finding, or inventing, the right place for your work
Dr Sarah Law, poet and tutor at London Metropolitan University, talks with Les Robinson, director of Tall Lighthouse Press, and poet Maggie Butt about innovative ways for young poets to drive their careers forward, including poetry in galleries. (poetry)
Buffet lunch provided. Time to meet and mingle, browse the book table, take part in the 10-minute Zone, or use the Writing Room – perhaps even draft a fresh piece for the Evening Session.
A space for informal discussion on writing related topics of relevance to LitCampers. Signup on the day, or just show up. Speakers have 4 mins, then it’s open to the floor for debate, questions. Change of topic every 10 minutes. Runs at lunch /recesses, or whenever, for people seeking an interactive space. Powerpoint accommodated.
A quiet space open all day for a break, reading etc. Laptops may be used, internet access tbc.
From Wannabe to Published
Not every would-be writer successfully manages this transition, but Jane Wenham-Jones has done. The novelist, freelance journalist and non-fiction author has lots of very realistic tips to offer writers who are just starting out. (cross-genre)
DIY Book: a self-publisher’s story – Paul Ewen
Paul, whose short fiction book London Pub Reviews is stocked in indie bookshops across London, shares his experiences. This session covers the basic steps you must be prepared to go through if you choose the self-publish route. Come prepared to work hard! (short fiction)
“Paul Ewen is the funniest new writer I have read in years. Join him on his one man Campaign for Surreal Ale.” – Toby Litt
Poetry workshop with Sarah Law
An exercise based workshop designed to strengthen writing abilities for anyone new to poetry or needing fresh inspiration. Sarah Law has published two collections of poetry with Stride. Her third, Perihelion, is published by Shearsman Books. (poetry – all levels)
The short story path to success – Vanessa Gebbie
A writer who has won many awards for her stories and whose first short fiction collection Words From A Glass Bubble was recently published by Salt Books, Vanessa shares ideas on developing your writing strategy, the importance of networking, and whether to blog. (short fiction – all levels)
How to make a living while you write
Earn a living while you draft and revise your magnum opus. Bridget Whelan teaches at City Lit and Goldsmiths College, London. Her first novel A Good Confession is soon to be published by Severn House and she is also the author of a short book Make Money from Your Writing. (cross-genre)
4.15-5pm Coffee break + 10-minute Zone continues
Willesden Green Writers Group
The very first time that this group published a book of its members’ work, they won a prestigious award. Here to share practical methods for how to set up a successful writer-led group are Anne Mullane and Bilal Ghafoor who is editing their next book. (cross-genre)
The Last Page
Farahad Zama and Nicholas Hogg discuss the challenges of completing a first novel, and ways of managing plot to ensure the final cut is one that works for readers. Nicholas is the author of Show Me the Sky, and Farahad’s forthcoming novel The Marriage Bureau for Rich People will be published in 2009 by Little Brown. (novel)
Drinks reception sponsored by London Metropolitan University
The Evening Session
(6ish-8pm) Katy Darby (of Liars League) introduces an eclectic mix of writers drawn from LitCampers whose names we’ve yet to discover. Sign up early to get a spot. Also featuring: Paul Ewen, Jay Bernard, Farahad Zama, Vanessa Gebbie, Bridget Whelan, Anne Mullane, Nicholas Hogg, Maggie Butt, Bilal Ghafoor…
Tickets, inclusive of refreshments, cost £36 full price, or £27 for the early 25% off rate (quota-based). Places are limited, to ensure your place please complete sign-up.
Hope you noticed that friend of this blog Vanessa Gebbie will be sharing some of her wisdom on the day.