I’m very much looking forward to this event. Here you will get to meet the editors of Digbeth Stories, hear their thoughts on the state of publishing in the UK, why they’ve chosen Digbeth and what makes a good piece of writing as well as hear from Kit de Waal who will be submitting a brand new story to the anthology. As well as all the above it’s an ideal opportunity to meet other writers and to pitch your story ideas to the editors. See you there.
Hmm, let’s start by looking back.
My last post was concerning the huge boost to arts funding that would become a reality after Labour won the 2019 general election – well, that never happened. A bit of a shock if I’m honest. I’m a bit of an optimist, and I was convinced that Labour’s argument couldn’t fail, but it did, so what does the future hold? Well, not a lot if you’re going to sit around waiting for someone to do things for you. It seems that the right-wing have public opinion sown up, thanks to their super-rich media-moguls, but that doesn’t mean we can’ bring about change in our own lives – just look at the huge impact Greta Thunberg has had upon the world simply by going on strike!
We need to make things happen ourselves – don’t worry, this isn’t the part where I hurl internet platitudes at you, ‘Be the lobster you want to be!’ So what am I doing, apart from displaying my fondness for the word lobster? A few things. Me and a talented friend are putting together a book. We’re both fed up of being at the mercy of literary gatekeepers and decided we’d do it ourselves, but this isn’t some self-publishing vanity project – to be fair, much of the self-publishing world isn’t. This will be a labour of love to a part of our city that means a lot to both of us. We’ll be documenting in words, both factual and fictional, and images, a part of this glorious place we live in that could soon be no more. Some of you may even buy it – now there’s a thought.
I continue to scratch away with my own writing. I will have a short story out this year in a Birmingham themed collection from Dostoyevsky Wannabe, and I continue to send words out to potential publishers – chin up, no man’s put me down yet…
There are opportunities out there for creative types like me and I shall be doing my best to snag a few of them. I enjoy working with others, and unlocking other people’s potential, so I’ll be looking out for more stuff like that as well as stand alone projects. A few are already on my radar – it must be this 2020 vision.
I’ve also agreed to climb Snowden in the dark – climbing it in daylight is too easy! That last statement is something I’d never say. I’ll post some more info regarding this soon.
January has nearly gone and I’ve not done half as much as I intended to. I will do more in February. See you there.
My story, Electricity, will be published shortly as part of this wonderful anthology from Mantle Lane Press.
It’s a excellent title for the collection as all the stories are about or misfits. However, thanks to Matt Berry’s Year of the Rabbit on Channel 4 I can now only ever see the Elephant Man as a camp thespian on the make.
The keen eyed of you have noticed that Submerged is now out. That means you can go down to your local bookshop, check out the Mantle Lane online store, or search your favourite online retailer and get yourselves a copy.
Those of you who are more outgoing can meet me and some bloody excellent writers for an evening of stories and booze when we launch Submerged on May 15th at The Birmingham Whisky Club.
We’d all love to see you there.
The flyer says it all, but I can’t stress enough how great the other writers are and how wonderful an evening it promises to be. If you like fiction you’re in for a real treat.
The Birmingham Whiskey Club, 76 Vyse St, Birmingham B18 6HA.
There are easy train and tram links to the Jewellery Quarter station from which we are a few minutes walking distance away.
You can also walk from the city centre, which will take you approximately 20-30 minutes.
The following buses stop in the Jewellery Quarter: 16, 60, 87, 8c, 276 & 9.
There is on street pay & display parking available which is free from 6pm. Or the Jewellery Quarter parking garage is a short distance from us if that is your preference.
Another quick one – I just don’t have the time at the moment. This is a view of the south end of Coniston in the Lake District. It’s all fibre tipped pen and is actually black on white paper. The image is a sepia brown due to me taking the pic on my phone for speed.
I did do a little tinkering in Affinity Photo to add the sepia splashes of cloud.
I’m hoping to get a bit of time at the weekend to do some longer drawing and some writing. That will hopefully be on Sunday once I’ve got my reading at Birmingham Literature Festival out of the way and finished working with my young writers group on the Saturday. I’ve set Saturday evening aside for watching crap with the family and drinking beer.
If you’re in Birmingham this Saturday morning (October 6th) come along to Birmingham REP, the Mezzanine, and hear some great stories from a bunch of wonderful writers. Hell, you could even buy some books.
I’ve been struggling of late to get stuff onto the page. It’s not as if I don’t have things to do. I have a novel that needs a final tidy up and then sending off. A rough outline of a sci-fi novel that needs finishing, and a whole host of short stories that need finishing and starting. I know what I need to be able to write. I need space, time and routine. I have a room in my house where I can go to write. My office is at the back of the house, above the kitchen, and for the most part, it is quiet and interruption free, ideal for writing, providing it can be kept free. My daughter will occasionally camp out there to complete her homework. In fact, only the other night I spent over an hour with her going through her maths home-work – percentages, damn you!
In my previous job as a teacher, I had a routine. I’d dropped down to working three days a week, and on Thursdays and Fridays I stayed at home and wrote. I also wrote in the evenings and sporadically on the weekends. However, once I’d changed jobs, the routine went out the window. The new job involves shift work, and they’re open to change. I can find myself looking forward to some dedicated writing time, a literary event, or just meeting up with other writers and I’ll have to cancel it. Whenever I don’t write when I should be, I’m gripped by a festering guilt. I’m not writing for fame, fortune or recognition. I’m writing to keep the guilt at bay.
I’ve been here before. I know how to get out of this malaise. What I need is routine; I need purpose, and I need to be consistent. It’s just rather frustrating at times. I know writers that go through this. I know writers that struggle to juggle family, work and writing, and I know writers that do not have the worry of the commitment juggler. The one thing that unites us all, I think, is that awful shiver of guilt when we know we should be writing and we aren’t.
Things have gotten a bit better recently. I’ve completed a short story, well not that short, that’s been rattling around in my head for a while, and I’ve started another. The novel still needs to be tidied and sent out, but I know it’ll be done before Christmas – providing I get that tax return in!
What do you do when you’re struggling to write? What sure-fire tactic, habit etc. do you employ to keep the guilt demons at bay?
All answers gratefully received.
Some great tips for getting rejected from periodicals and competitions. They’ll either make you laugh or blush with shame.
Thanks to Kmelkes for this glimpse from the other end of the telescope.
Paddling and writing along Birmingham’s canals
Ever thought of combining canoeing and writing? Well, now’s your chance. On April 23rd, Jo Bell (poet,) Alyse Fowler (gardener/writer,) and I will be doing just that. We’ll be taking groups down the industrial canals of Birmingham and using this unique perspective to inspire creative writing. Check out the press release below for full details and booking info:
£20/£16 (concessions), children £10
Need some inspiration to get writing? Want to explore hidden Birmingham?
Look no further than our series of creative walks, bike rides and canoe trips developed in partnership with the Canal & River Trust, National Trust, Birmingham Roundhouse, British Canoeing and Big Birmingham Bikes, and delivered by five fantastic writers.
Take to the waterways of Birmingham by canoe for a unique perspective on the city, returning to dry land for a writing workshop at The Roundhouse led by Alys Fowler (10am-1pm) or Jo Bell (2pm-5pm). Workshops for young people at both sessions will be led by Garrie Fletcher. Canoes and instruction supplied free of charge from British Canoeing and B-ROW.
Please dress comfortably: we advise that you don’t wear jeans, you do wear trainers, bring waterproof coat and trousers, and a complete change of clothes. The canoes have a weight restriction of 17.5 stone.
Drinks are provided free of charge but please bring a snack to sustain you.
Suitable for adults and children aged 8 and over. Children under 16 must be accompanied by an adult.
Workshop 1 – 10am – 1pm (Alys Fowler)
Workshop 2 – 2pm – 5pm (Jo Bell)
Jo Bell is a former Canal Poet Laureate and currently appears on Nationwide’s ‘Voice of the People’ ads. Her poetry collection Kith is published by Nine Arches Press. She is co-writing a handbook for poets – How to be a Poet – and lives on a narrowboat.
Alys Fowler is an award-winning journalist, regular presenter of BBC Gardeners’ World and Guardian columnist. Her new book Hidden Nature charts her journey through the canals of Birmingham by canoe.
Garrie Fletcher writes short stories, novels and poems. His collection of short stories, Night Swimming, has just been published by Mantle Lane Press. He leads the Birmingham Young Writers’ Group for Writing West Midlands.
How to Book:
Please contact The BOX to book tickets on 0121 245 4455 or you can book online by clicking the button below.
Last Saturday, we launched Night Swimming, at the ‘book festival in a day,’ States of Independence. When I say we, I mean Matthew Pegg – a marvellous and industrious human being – introduced it, and I read a brief extract from one of the stories.
Matthew did a top rate job taking about Mantle Lane Press and the three collections that are out now, including, Night Swimming. My reading went really well; there was a great reaction from those there and a posting of purchases on Twitter soon after.
Night Swimming is:
“A collection of dark, urban tales: the pros and cons of stealing a pensioner, a mothers prison visit, incipient love and roller skating, the guilt of a brothers death, and a past love burnt out by rioting. Stories that deal with loss, longing and hope.
Garrie Fletcher writes about the gaps between lives, the pauses between stations and the static hiss of the city. The moments he captures are fleeting and easily missed, but resonate like a steel string plucked above a pickup, distorted and electric.
Mantle Lane Press small books can be slipped into a pocket and make an ideal stocking filler for literature lovers. ”
To get your hands on a copy of this beautiful book just click here. You can also order it from your local bookshop, or if you’re local, to me, get in touch, and I can get a signed copy to you.
My first collection of short stories, Night Swimming, is almost here. It’s still not really sunk in. But on Saturday, March the 11th, I will finally hold a copy in my hands – that should do the trick.
To be able to look at the cover of my book and flick through the pages, pages covered with words that I typed, deleted, retyped, crossed out, scribbled over and screamed at should fill me with joy, or at least a deep sense of satisfaction.
However, this isn’t ‘job done.’ Now starts the long process of promotion, of convincing people to buy my book. The first step, along the road of self-promotion, will be taken on Saturday at this year’s States of Independence in Leicester. I will be reading a short extract from, Night Swimming, as part of the Mantle Lane Press launch. I’ve read my work at many events over the years, but this will be the first time that I’ve had a ‘product’ to promote. At the moment, I’m reading through the stories and trying to decide which one will tantalise the most and leave an audience wanting more.
If you’re in Leicester, or fancy a day out there, please come along to States of Independence. Here’s some info and details from their website:
States of Independence
Independent publishing | Independent writing | Independent thinking
A book festival in a day
This year’s States of Independence is our eighth. It’s a book festival in a day, a marketplace, a conference, a chance to relax and listen to some readings, an opportunity to argue about issues in the industry and to meet with independent presses from across the region.
States of Independence supports independent thinking, independent writing and independent presses. Join us for the day or an hour. Attend lots of events – you will be spoiled for choice – or just one, or simply come along and browse through the twenty or so bookstalls to see what the independent sector is publishing.
As always there are poetry and fiction readings and industry panels discussing current hot topics – this year focusing on independent literary magazines. Non-fiction wanders from British Palestine to John Clare’s escape from an asylum, via the political power of music, reminiscences about being gay in the 80s, and how to talk about poetry
States of Independence is a free event, underwritten by Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham and the Centre for Creative Writing at De Montfort University, with the support of over fifty writers and over thirty presses.
All sessions are free, no tickets required.
Just turn up and stay for an hour or two, or the whole day.
States of Independence is organised and funded by Five Leaves Bookshop in Nottingham and the Creative Writing Team at De Montfort University, Leicester.