06 November 2014

You may confer

Things have been a bit busy lately, what with running events, performing at events and promoting events, so not only has writing my novel fallen by the wayside, but updating this blog has also been parked on the proverbial grass verge. Sorry about that. Now, I know it's been a while since the Northern Lights Writers' Conference, but I can't let this great image of Will Self slip off unseen, especially as it gives me the perfect excuse to let you all know that he took a chug of my ciggie during the lunch break and was cantankerous, as has widely been reported (well, on the Manchester Literature Festival blog Chapter & Verse, at least), but, actually, I thought, quite helpful. Unless you are a genre writer or a student of journalism, in which case you probably went home and rethought your entire career strategy over a stiff drink or five. His advice that as a writer, you should write anything, pretty much, was sound - features and so forth; the more you put pen to paper or fingers to keyboard, the better you become at the actual craft, at meeting deadlines and at keeping to wordcounts.

Elsewhere at the NLWC - organised by Creative Industries Trafford as part of MLF and held at Waterside Arts Centre in Sale - canal poet laureate Jo Bell left at least one audience member dismayed by divulging that she spends about a third of her work time promoting herself (and others) through social media channels and whatnot. Well, no one is going to do it for you, are they? Unless you have a wad of cash you want to bung at a publicist or are really bloody famous and signed to a publisher with a fabulously enormous press office… Publicity cropped up in one of the afternoon workshops, run by Louise Rhind-Tutt, who kindly sent me a copy of the handout she shared with her group; another was on funding, led by David Gaffney, with both his writerly hat on and his Arts Council one. The third workshop was with Juliet Pickering, an agent with Blake Friedmann in that London, who explained the importance of covering letters and synopses, then patiently re-explained the importance of covering letter and synopses in the Q&A rounding up the session. Other speakers at the day-long event were prize-winning author Joanna Kavenna, with some useful writing tips, and children's literature agent Louise Lamont, backing up a lot of what Juliet had covered - hopefully people were listening this time round.

If you like the sound of this event, there's a similar one coming up in Chorley. Write Now - organised by Chorley & District Writers’ Circle - is all about getting published and has four speakers lined up: including author Carys Bray, a couple of publishers and a literary agent. It takes place Saturday 15 November, 1pm - 4.45pm. Tickets are £10 and are available via an Eventbrite link from the site www.chorleywriters.org.uk. Get on it!

29 October 2014

A face like Doncaster

A week or so on, Manchester Literature Festival 2014 is now a dim and distant memory, but here's a link to a review I wrote for the official MLF blog, Chapter & Verse, of poet Simon Armitage in conversation with (my old boss) Rachel Cooke… I enjoyed hearing Simon read a couple of years back - 24 November 2012, to be precise - at a Poets & Players event at the currently pending makeover Whitworth Art Gallery, but learning more about his background and career path, and listening to anecdotes behind the poems gave this year's event at the Cathedral even more depth and resonance. Plus, I was born in Sunny Donny, so Poundland was a particular gem...


11 October 2014

Men Who Like Women Who Smell Of Their Jobs

…is the name of a new exhibition at The John Rylands Library, which launched this week as part of the Manchester Literature Festival 2014 offer, and takes as its start point David Gaffney's short-short story collections Sawn-off Tales and More Sawn-off Tales. Of course, I'm by no means biased in favour of the show, but why bother coming up with my own witty moniker for this post - that one just can't be beat. I've been working on the PR on behalf of David and the visual artist who has interpreted his work, Alison Erika Forde, and the title has helped garner plenty of column inches. "If we were giving out awards for the best exhibition title of 2014, the bookies money would be on Men Who Like Women Who Smell Of Their Jobs," says The Skinny. "Possibly the weirdest exhibition title ever," Emerald Street said yesterday on their weekend round-up of things to do. There was a great spread in the City Life section of yesterday's Manchester Evening News (we got more space than Kate Tempest, natch) and Creative Tourist have had a private tour of the show and should be running something on Monday, so watch that space. 

Men Who Like Women Who Smell Of Their Jobs (the title is based on a story in More Sawn-off Tales called Reekers, which involves a woman who works in a gelatine factory - inspired itself by one of my anecdotes, dontchaknow) launched officially on Thursday evening, with a bells and whistles event that saw upwards of 175 people - including some of the great and the good of the literati and arts scenesters - gather in the cafe area of The John Rylands new extension. They were treated to David reading some of the stories that feature in the exhibition, plus some more, followed by new work by Anneliese Mackintosh and Socrates Adams, inspired by the paintings inspired by the stories. Alison explained a little about her creative process and how the project came together, then Kevan Hardman described the involvement of O>L>A, an ambient two-piece including Dean Jones, before the pair played live in the lovely gothic part of the library - compositions inspired by the stories, the artwork and the building, and described by my electronica expert pal Fat Roland as "all plaintive and grand and spooksome". The exhibition continues until 31 January 2015 and is free entry. I'm off to have a proper shufty at it in a mo...

02 September 2014

Frock stars

Following my recent act of derring-do, saving an Ossie Clark frock from being half-inched from the Gallery of Costume, I was back at Platt Hall recently for the launch of the latest show, Something Blue,  an exhibition of wedding dresses. I wasn't expecting to be blown away by it, but it's a great look at one hundred years of marriage wear, with some fabulous real-life stories about the couples who tied the knot. I've written a piece about it for Creative Tourist, which you can read here. It has some lovely quotes from a chap I met at the launch, who told me all about getting hitched in 1949. It also tells you more about Manchester City Galleries director Maria Balshaw's Vivienne Westwood number (below).

12 August 2014

Small ones are more juicy

I've been published again by The Manchester Review, this time with a write-up of The Best British Short Stories 2014 anthology, edited by Nick Royle and just out on Salt Publishing. I was given the first copy out of the box while on a recent visit to Salty Towers in Cromer! You can read the review here.