Over the past two weeks I’ve developed a crush on the entire Costa coffee staff at my local train station. In the way that a really good musician, or someone really good with words (or, combine the two, a bloody good lyricist – oh WHAT I’m a cliché and a pushover, I know it) can get my heart thumping, apparently so can anyone who hands me coffee with a smile in the morning – at the moment, anyway. And it doesn’t even need to be with a smile. It can be the nervous shrug of the girl who’s still learning the ropes; the slight scowl of the dude in the beanie who is clearly a rock star when he’s not working; the super efficiency of the fellow with the beard who reminds me a bit of one of my uncles; or the jitteriness of the skinny raver who calls me petal. Continue reading
The decision to do interviews on this blog was the right one, I think.
The interview with Emily Macaulay that I posted earlier this week is already the second most viewed thing I’ve ever posted. First place goes to a film/event review/critique that was retweeted by the director and one of the actors, and actually the interview is rapidly gaining on that! This is nice not so much because of view numbers (if I truly cared about those I would have stopped blathering into the ether a long time ago) but because I sincerely think it’s a good review and that Emily is worth reading about. So I’ll be doing more interviews – a couple of people have already agreed to be the next
Still, I thought, since we’re nearing the end of the first month of 2016 already, I should probably put a nod in as well – a bit unwillingly, but then once I’ve done this entry, I can’t use it as an excuse not to work on everything else. (Yes, this is how I get through To Do lists – I deliberately don’t list things so that I can use them as procrastination for items that are on the list. Then I write them in and tick them off afterwards. Makes me feel productive, and the warm glow of productivity is my drug of choice.)
It started with various global disasters/massacres, deaths of beloved public figures (typing away to Hunky Dory right now) and has continued with a rolling programme of bad news closer to home. It has, briefly put, been shit so far. The only saving grace is that things that would ordinarily stress me out in life are now no worse than being kicked by a gnat: bothersome, but there’s no strength behind them and they’re easy enough to swat. The good things are worth celebrating, of course, always. So day to day it’s a zen life – I’m drifting in the anti-grav atmosphere around those solid ice-cold fucking twin planets called Worry and Grief. And please, please don’t message asking if I’m all right. That concern should be directed to people who aren’t me. I’m a moon in this particular scenario, a faraway one. And this metaphor has died on its feet.
Sorry-not-sorry for the swearing.
Things that are happening: I’m attempting my first writing grant applications this month, with a view to attempting some more, because why not? Fingers crossed for those. I’m braced (or not, because I don’t care right now) for a slew of rejections. I’m slogging through a manuscript, determined to get to the end of Zero Draft so I can focus on absolutely anything else. I’m clearing out a lot of my belongings (I have a couple of hundred, I think, books up for grabs. Will be giving them away or selling them. If you might be interested is some pre-loved literature, please speak up.) I’m going to Newcastle Literary Salon tomorrow night. I’m developing what is positively a streak of silver in my hair. I’ve been drawing a lot of pictures (not so much this week, but I was) and putting said pictures up on a new Instagram account. I’m sort-of-learning electric guitar. It’s kind of fun to be so so so bad at an instrument.
Right now I’m on a train heading for my second singing lesson of the year. I managed to cut myself just above my right tonsil at some point last night (dinner? weird dream? spider in mouth?) which is painful and a bit odd. I have a sore throat on one side, that doesn’t affect my voice at all but makes eating a bit of a chore. I have no idea how singing will go. Wish me luck.
Now reading: The Rabbit Back Literature Society by Pasi Ilmari Jääskeläinen. I’m reading this slowly so that I don’t run out of it too soon. That’s how good it is.
(No picture for this entry – too awkward to sort out on train wifi).
Welcome to the first of what will hopefully be a series of interviews on this blog…
Meet: Emily J Macaulay
When I thought of/shared the idea of doing interviews, Emily is the first person that sprang to mind. We’re twitter associates, and haven’t yet met in real life. In Emily’s words, we ‘connected through a mutual friend talking about triathlon training and then discovered we both love Stella Duffy too’. Which is, frankly, a solid basis for a twittery friendship if ever there was one.
Over the course of our acquaintance, it’s become clear she is one of those rare people who puts her money (and body, and mind) where her mouth is. I’ve just realised that that sentence conjures up an odd picture, but the point is, she gets things done. And by things, I mean she has received an MBE for her services to equality and diversity, and she’s raised over £20,000 (actually, I think at least over £23,000 as of today) for the Jane Tomlinson Appeal by doing a properly challenging challenge almost every year. The Jane Tomlinson Appeal raises funds for childrens and cancer charities – Emily has cancer. She also works in a management position at Exeter Library, a job she moved to after nine years working in the criminal justice system, making use of a postgrad level degree in Criminology and Sociology. Continue reading
Yesterday morning the sky looked like something holy wanted us to look up for a few minutes, and it felt too too ordinary to be seeing it as I walked to the train station weighed down with parcels. And then I saw two people punching the sh*t out of each other, expletives echoing, and wrestle each other into a waiting taxi – and the magic leached away slightly. Continue reading
This went up a while back, but December is still going and it’s really important that this doesn’t fade out at the end of the year so please, read and then READ.
The simple answer is that BAME (Black, Asian and Minority Ethnic) writers are largely ignored. Underrepresented on agents’ books, publishers’ lists, review pages, prizes lists and recommended reads.
The catalyst for this particular initiative was the revealing of the UK’s World Book Night list last week. In case you’re not aware of WBN, the idea is that members of the public sign up to be a giver. They choose a book from the list they’d like to distribute to non-readers and, if their application’s successful, are sent 20 copies of their chosen book. It’s a great initiative and I’ve been a giver myself. However, this year there isn’t a single book by a BAME writer on the list.
Responding to this, writer Nikesh Shukla wrote a piece for the Bookseller titled ‘Where Are World Book Night 2016’s BAME Writers?’ In it, he says:
…having BAME writers will encourage…
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Have to be honest, I haven’t missed writing blog entries. My domain ownership actually ran out a couple of weeks ago, and it took me longer than it should have to renew it. I was half-heartedly considering shutting this place down – maybe starting a new site, a more professional one with my name in the address and whatnot. Bookworms is a hodge-podge after all, with a misleading title and not enough control over the layout to keep me happy. But I’m giving it another year (if you keep reading).
I haven’t slept properly for the past four nights and, since I can’t pin the blame on caffeine, stress or much else, I’ve decided that part of the problem might be lack of decent exercise.
The Thursday after the Great North Run, I took myself off up to Scotland for four days alone. I stayed at an incredibly romantic and quite fancy shepherd’s hut (and completely recommend the place). No electricity, so when night started to fall, that was bedtime. After the first day, if I wanted a fire I needed to chop wood; if I wanted water, I had to fetch it from the next field over and slightly up a hill. Point being that even making a cup of tea involved some measure of effort. And I decided, in between reading a lot and writing a bit, to go walking. I bought a map of the area with trails marked on it, and went for a short explore on Thursday evening, and for longer walks on my own (six miles and ten miles each on Friday and Saturday. Sunday was a lazy day involving cake and a dog-sitting for the lovely people I met there).
Three weeks of silence, so here’s a story. It was written very quickly over lunchtime last Friday, as is fitting for the Faber Academy weekly #quickfic challenge. The winner gets a batch of Faber books; second place story goes up on the Faber Academy site with the winning story. Third place isn’t really a place but does, it turns out, get you a nice email from one of the Faber Academy folks letting you know that you very nearly almost scraped in, and that next time you might nudge it. Good enough for me. Below is a screenshot of the picture prompt from the Faber Academy site, and my words. It’s worth heading to the site and reading back through all the winners. A pleasant way to spend some time.
First off: sorry to all of you that received an email at the weekend saying ‘new post’, only to find your access blocked. That particular entry is me doing some test runs of the Literary Salmon project that’s due out at the end of next month – I’d forgotten about the notification thing until CM pointed it out to me. (No, I’m not giving you the password.)
Literary Salmon Project 1 is well on its way, though. With a week to go before the hardest work, courtesy of the writers, is finished, we’re ironing out some last bits and pieces of the plan. It is intensely exciting to see it all taking shape; it’s also a bit nerve-wracking. It feels as though Bernie, Jane and I have been talking about this on and off forever, but even when we actually got the thing going, I confess to having some doubts that we’d actually do it. But here we are – and I think the final result is going to be something of which all the project writers can be very proud. I really hope that it’s going to be the first of many such projects.