Last night, I read at SOLOFest in Coventry and thoroughly enjoyed it.
I read Twenty Miles South from my Night Swimming collection, and it went down very well. It was great to finally meet Andrew Fletcher, and Chris O’Connell. Andrew organised SOLOFest, and Chris put the open mic slots together. It was also a real pleasure to meet Sinead Brady and Jackie Armstrong two talented Coventry writer/performers.
However, the best part of the night for me was Toby Thompson’s I Wish I Was A Mountain.
Toby’s story was based upon Faldum, a Hermann Hesse fairy tale. Toby used turntables to play mellow jazz, cassette tapes for birdsong, an array of wooden houses that opened out to reveal candles and elephants, as well as a piano that he played refrains upon often along with the jazz records. These inventive props were great, but the real magic came from Toby’s delivery which was full of energy and wonder. The performance posed the question – What would you do if you were happy? How would you be if you had everything you wanted? I’m not sure how long the performance lasted, but I could’ve watched him all night.
I’ll certainly be looking out for future performances from Toby and you should too.
My first reading of this year will be at SOLO Fest in Coventry at the Warwick Arts Centre at 18:00. I was picked for one of the open mic slots before the main performances and will be reading a short story from my Night Swimming collection. Many of us are feeling a bit, Mick Hucknall, these days, so you’ll be pleased to hear that the open mic slots are free to attend if money is indeed too tight to mention. But what is SOLO Fest? The Warwick Arts Centre says:
“SOLO Fest is a four day festival that showcases three captivating theatre shows by solo performers. Audiences have the opportunity to see two shows each evening, along with FREE pop-up performances by local artists, and post-show gossip events.
One person shows depend on the combination of imaginative writing
with skilled and versatile performance and stagecraft. Despite there
only being one person on stage, the best solo shows can transport you
far from the theatre into another world.
We have handpicked three of the best solo shows in the UK today, by top young artists Keisha Thompson, Tatty Hennessy and Toby Thompson.”
That all sounds pretty awesome to me.
I’ll be going to both performances that evening, I Wish I Was A Mountain, and A Hundred Words For Snow, and hanging around for the post show gossip. I’ll even have some books on me if you fancy buying a copy. Please come up and say hello – I won’t bite.
This coming Saturday, the 15th of December, I will be reading at Country Voices, the Meadow Inn, Ironbridge, Shropshire. I’ve a twenty-minute slot so I’m hoping to read a short story in its entirety. At the moment, I’m thinking of reading Joyce’s Garden which sounds quite idyllic but isn’t. Joyce’s garden is yet to find a home, but I’m really pleased with it, and hopefully, the crowd will be too as I’m bringing some books to sell – when I find where I’ve hidden them.
The Meadow Inn looks lovely, I’ve never been, but the photos are excellent, and it looks over the river Severn in Ironbridge. Look, here’s a picture montage followed by a map.
If you do make the journey please say hello and buy a book. Did I mention I’ll be selling books?
I read an article the other day on a site called Quartz at Work, yeah, I’d never heard of it either; the post was: Five things to do when you have too many ideas and never finish anything. My paranoid android kicked in – that’s you – and I gave it a read.
The post was reasonably interesting and quoted some research linked to choice and how having too much choice can lead us into making no choices – hey, isn’t greater choice the one thing we all seek according to slavering capitalists everywhere? – well, it appears that too much choice is bad for you.
This rang a bell with me. I remember when I was a child, way back in the desolate wastes of the pre-internet age. Days would drag on forever, especially in the school holidays as both of my parents were out at work, and I’d find myself gazing into space daydreaming. I rattle on at my children now about how great it is to be bored, about how a lack of stimulus can lead to exciting ideas and force them into being creative and inventive. Back then, I would spend hours re-reading comics or copying the artwork, writing and drawing my own stories, or, more often than not, just making them up in my head. I look back at that time now and see it as a melting pot of ideas and productivity.
So what went wrong? Choice. We have far too much choice. If you’ve ever sat scrolling through Netflix trying to find something to watch you’ll know exactly what I mean. Choice leads to anxiety – if I watch this, I won’t be able to watch that, and what about these? I can’t watch all of them. Aarrgh! It’s the same with ideas. I should be finishing my novel, but this short story has just popped into my head, and then there’s that other short story I haven’t finished yet, and the comic strip I meant to start, as well as the audio fiction, and… You get the idea.
The five steps! Wow, if I just take these five steps, I’ll become a productive genius. I’ll defeat the paranoid android and bask in the glow of completed projects and adoration. Who knows? Maybe you will, but it can’t hurt to try.
Step One. Create mini-deadlines. Tasks that you have to complete that day. Instead of looking at the enormity of what you have to do – shit, I have to re-write 80000 words from the third person into the first person, and cut out the subplot with the octopus! Focus on the small blocks that make up the whole. This way you cut out the paranoid android that buzzes in your head – shit, there’s so much to do; you’ll never finish it all – and you focus on the smaller, achievable task. Hell, and if you’re a list person, you get to tick it off, cross it out, highlight it in red, whatever floats your boat. Something else you need to be aware of with step one is Parkinson’s Law – “Work expands to fill the time available for its completion.” I’ve found, that whenever I have less time to do something I get more done. To negate Parkinson’s Law, estimate how long the task will take and then cut your time in half. Scary huh? Give it a try.
Step Four. Develop the habit of finishing. Neil Gaiman talks about this a lot. Make a conscious decision to be a finisher and get stuff done. I have many projects that are outstanding at the moment, and new ones that keep starting up, but I’m working hard to get them done. In the past, I started a lot of things that were never finished. The paranoid android would kick in, and I’d begin to doubt whether they were any good. I wouldn’t say I’m past that yet, but I’m working on it.
Wait a minute. You said five steps, but you’ve only mentioned steps one and four. Why? You’re internet savvy. You’ve seen a smidgen of all the crap that’s out there. I’m an adult. I read the article and thought steps one and four made sense and that the others were just contradictory padding, so I left them out. Feel free to track the piece down and draw your conclusions.
Yesterday, No.1 Daughter and I went to a marvellous workshop at the Ikon Gallery in Birmingham. The workshop was run by Dr Nicola Streeten and Cath Tate as part of the Birmingham Literature Festival.
We looked at visual story telling through greetings cards and graphic novels. Cath talked us through her work and considerations for greetings cards and Nicola the same for graphic novels. The two hours flew by and incorporated some fun and challenging drawing activities. The culmination of this was all of us producing our own four panel stories. The daughter and I agreed to leave our work there as a backdrop for a talk today, so I’ve recreated/completed the first panel above here.
Here are some pics of the work we produced on the night.
Here’s a drawing done entirely in ink – no penciling out before hand. It’s not too bad considering. Knowing that whatever mark you make is permanent sure makes you look a lot more closely at what you drawing and the marks that you’re making.
It has a sepia tint because I shot it on my phone under the yellow lighting of the back bedroom. I used the Tombow flexible brushes for the majority of this – a black and a selection of greys. In fact, the only fine line work I did was on the hair and that was with the trusty Staedtler pens – a 0.5.
I quite like this, but I’m sure my son will hate it.
I’m finding Inktober a bit harder to be consistent with compared to Sketchtember. I’ve missed four days so far!