Tuesday, 21 May 2013
Monday, 20 May 2013
|The Teams in the Final: Göteborg, Malmö, Gotland & Huddinge|
|Jamila Woods & Robbie Q Telfer|
Wednesday, 8 May 2013
Photo: Marie Nilsson
Monday, 29 April 2013
Thursday, 4 April 2013
Thanks to the Swenglish-project, a tax return and support from family and friends I've been able to be a full time writer for over a year, but now it's time for me to get a job that pays the bills.
Is someone tempted to employ me as their hairdresser? If not - just give me another job, any job. This is my CV in alphabetical order (everything I've ever been paid for):
after school club assistant, author, babysitter, barmaid, blogger, café staff, camping host, columnist, compere, dinner lady, dishwasher, editor, events coordinator, flyerer, lecturer, library assistant, library officer, photographer, poet, poetry coach, postal worker, receptionist, reviewer, shop assistant, Swedish teacher, translator writer, workshop leader
Saturday, 16 March 2013
I'm super happy as I haven't been on stage in Sweden for years. Almost all my material is in English, but I wrote three poems in Swedish especially for this competition. You can watch some of my poems on YouTube.
Wednesday, 6 March 2013
Today I visited a college in Sweden and talked about the background of the book, why and how I wrote it.
It all started with a short story I'd written when I did a writing course. It was about a girl called Amanda who wanted to have a piercing done by her older punk friend Sid, but he refused to do it, said it was too close to the eye. In the opening chapter of "Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude", Amanda the main character wants her nose pierced by her older female friend Kim (Sid had to change both name and sex!), but Kim says no and helps her to colour her hair instead.
I also revealed that the novel has no plot. But I let Amanda overcome some traumas that pushed the story forward. The trauma of experiencing the first piss-up, the first kiss, the first sex, the first boyfriend. I thought those things were very traumatic when I went to school and I still feel very uncomfortable walking into a school building. Even the teachers could relate to what I was talking about, confirming the unwritten laws about who's popular and who's not.
I didn't have much time to talk about my current book project, Swenglish, but you can read all about it here.
Thursday, 6 December 2012
The other day I watched On the Road (based on Jack Kerouac's classic novel) with Swenglish host number 29. Even though the book is better of course, I was positively surprised by the film. And I was reminded of one of the reasons why I started to write ... The main character Sal Paradise says:
“the only people for me are the mad ones, the ones who are mad to live, mad to talk, mad to be saved, desirous of everything at the same time, the ones who never yawn or say a commonplace thing, but burn, burn, burn like fabulous yellow roman candles exploding like spiders across the stars.”
When I grew up I was a very quiet and shy girl, but in my teens I was drawn to the so-called mad people described in the book, and I loved and still love reading books about mousy people following more colourful people on great adventures. Apart from Sal Paradise following Dean Moriarty in On the Road, I loved reading about Patrick Keane following Will Savage in Jay McInerney’s The Last of the Savages.
Wednesday, 27 June 2012
My role in the project was to assist magnificent poetry coach Michael James Parker and together we worked with a team of eight young people from a school in Farnborough.
Shake the Dust is a national project and is part of the Cultural Olympics in London. This Monday it was time for the regional poetry slam final in Southampton where our team was competing against four other schools in the South East of England.
Watching the youngsters on stage was much more nervwracking than being on stage myself ... And when the winners were announed I was in tears. I couldn't believe it ... our team aka The Awkward Squad won! I couldn't believe it, not because they weren't good, but because ALL the teams were good. So much power, so many feelings. Next week we're going up to the national final in London to represent the whole of the South East.
I'm also the Digital Champion for my region which means I represent the South East by blogging. You can read about the final and some more of my blog posts here.
Funnily enough my title during the Shake the Dust project has been "shadow poetry coach" which suits me as I'm a shadow in other people's everyday life through my Swenglish project. The idea of Swenglish was to give up my room, my job and my usual activities in order to take part in someone else's life, but Shake the Dust has been good for me, to go away about once a week to do poetry workshops has been a chance to "be myself" for a day.
You can read what I'm up to with Swenglish here.
Friday, 22 June 2012
Tuesday, 15 May 2012
This week I'm having a break from my Swenglish project, so was happy I could go along to the Rattle Tales event in the Brighton Fringe Festival. What I like best about the event is that it's interactive, the audience is allowed to ask questions the author has to answer on the spot. We were treated to stories about insect sex, pear trees, catholic schools, human bears, modern plague and persuasive sellers.
I don't know if I'm as persuasive as the characters in Susanna Quinn's story but the Rattle Tales anthology is on sale here.
To follow my Swenglish adventure please click here.
Monday, 7 May 2012
Where? The Blind Tiger Club, Brighton
When? 8pm, Wed 9 May 2012
Monday, 23 April 2012
The writers were Vanessa Gebbie and Tania Hershman who have been very inspiring to me when it comes to the art of the short story.
There have been many debates over the last couple of years whether the short story is dead or whether it is having a revival. I won't go into the debate, but I definitely think that short stories have a place in our society and culture.
What I love is to dip in and out of story collections, being able to finish something in one sitting that I can carry with me for the rest of the day, or week or month or year if I find something really good. Even a story short as a paragraph can be entertaining and open your mind to new ideas.
The best book I've ever come across about short story writing is Short Circuit - A Guide to the Art of the short Story which is full of essays and useful tips from some of the best story writers in the UK and beyond.
I'm not getting much time for fiction writing as I'm in the middle of my Swenglish project, but now and again I get a flash of inspiration and jot an idea down. At the moment 500 word-stories are working really well for me.
For latest news on Swenglish please check out my Swenglish blog.
Saturday, 31 March 2012
Laura Kerr is a radio DJ and presents her own music and literature show "Light and Dark" at local station Castle Fm, and I'm very happy to be her special guest tomorrow.
She has also set up a reading for me at the 10 RED Poetry night at the Persevere Pub in Leith, Edinburgh on Wednesday, 7pm. It'll be exciting to perform for the Scots!
Click here to listen to the radio show, Sunday 1 April, 10pm-12am
And please click here to follow my ongoing Swenglish adventure!
Tuesday, 28 February 2012
As I've now started my Swenglish project, this blog might be quieter than usual, but please visit Swenglish to see what I'm up to!
Friday, 17 February 2012
It started with the band the Wedding Present and their excellent song writer David Gedge,
it continued with the writer Louise Hume (in collaboration with Tara Gould from Brighton's Short Fuse/Story Studio Live Lit event) who invited other writers to write stories based on the Wedding Present's song titles.
Some of these stories were read by the writers at the Edge of the Sea Festival in Brighton in 2010.
The stories were liked by the band and the fans.
Finally, illustrator Lee Thacker was invited to "do the drawings" for the stories ...
and the result is a graphic novel!
Snapshots is for sale here.
Tuesday, 7 February 2012
Last week I went back to Poets Cornered, the poetry group I used to go to a lot a few years back. They are now meeting in The Farm Tavern in Hove. 8pm every Tuesday. And it's free! Do come along and bring a poem, pen and paper. Or a laptop or whatever device you use.
Read one of my latest poems, "Disembodied" here.
PS. new post in my Swenglish blog about snow.
Sunday, 29 January 2012
I find it very hard to write in rooms with no or very small windows. If I write in a cafe or a pub I usually choose a window seat.
Something is happening when you stare, I believe. Your thoughts reorganise themselves. One morning this week I spontaneously popped into the Medusa Bar in Preston Street for a cup of green tea (miraculously making it last for an hour and a half). In my bag I had a few sheets of poems in progress that I'd printed out. Staring at the street, staring at the sheets things started to happen, and I scribbled frenetically in the margins, making up new lines, crossing bad ones out and moving a few words around. I'd had an idea for a very long time, but didn't get anywhere with it - now I ended up with three different poems on the same theme (compliments).
I am in need of different views now and again, so it's good that Brighton & Hove have an abundance of bars, pubs and cafes. And when I do my Swenglish project I'll have a different view every week, unless someone puts me up in their basement or even worse wardrobe! (The view in the picture belongs to one of the people I'm going to stay with.)
Monday, 23 January 2012
Shake the Dust is a celebration of the spoken word and will get young people into writing and performing their own poetry. My role is to assist another poet (the brilliant Mike Parker) delivering workshops in schools. Well, funnily enough my job description is "Shadow Poetry Coach", so for me this year is all about being a shadow (because shadowing is also what I'm going to do for my Swenglish project)
Last week I went to the first training session with poet Jacob Sam-La Rose. He insists on trying all the writing exercises himself before he tries them on his students. A very sound idea! The Poetry Coaches and their Shadows had to use their heads and pens and come up with a group piece.
Jacob calls this method "row writing": you write for a couple of minutes on a given theme and then pass the paper on to the next person. Our group came up with a very funny piece on the theme of truce called "It's easy to forgive a pet". We then performed this poem, standing on a line, looking angry at first and then moving closer together. I'm now looking forward to see what the teenagers make of this exercise ...
Sunday, 15 January 2012
They say the second book is the hardest, but you’ve done such a good job, and I think Hurry Up and Wait is even better than your debut Glasshopper which I really loved. How was the writing process for you? Was it easier or harder to write the second one?
Thank you! I suppose the writing process was always going to be very different for my second novel; this time round I had a publishing contract – an audience – and, gulp, a well-received first novel to live up to. So in some ways, I felt a little more exposed. I’m a very private writer – with the exception of two close writer friends, I never reveal my work until I feel it’s ready. Even my husband doesn’t get to see a word of it until it’s at an advanced stage. Thankfully, my fiction editor at Myriad, Vicky Blunden, is very understanding, and she left me to get on with it until I was ready to share.
Where did you get the initial idea from?
The seed of it began with a five minute screenplay I wrote several years ago, in which a woman reluctantly attends her high school reunion. I thought, how would I feel about a school reunion; would I go? The thought of it filled me with horror. My writing always starts with the character, and the Sarah of my screenplay was so clear to me, that I suppose it was inevitable I would go back to explore her story further.
How much did you plot and how much did happen as you were writing?
I tend to free-write initially, while I discover the characters and sense of place. Then, once I have a strong feeling about my new world, I panic. I panic over the lack of structure, the hazy direction, the absence of strategy ... In life and in business, I’m one of life’s natural planners, so this way of working is alien to me – but if I’ve discovered one thing about my writing, it’s that it does me good to let myself go a bit, before I pull everything together with a rough plot outline. Of course, the final story never ends up looking very much like that initial plot outline!
Any thoughts on the structure? Did it help using a school year as a model?
It seemed right to locate this story within one full, final school year. So much can shift and alter in those last ten months, as girls teeter on the edge of womanhood, so desperate to be treated like adults, yet so inexperienced and vulnerable. The end of exams and the start of the summer holidays seem to me such poignant turning points in anyone’s history.
How come you decided to frame the novel with an event taking place twenty-four years later?
The story opens in present day, with 39-year-old Sarah preparing to attend the school reunion. Her 40th year felt like a significant moment to take her back to a place and time that changed her forever.
Did you have all characters clear from the beginning or did extras pop us as you were writing?
There are always a couple of very strong characters who draw me along, and everyone else seems to appear as they’re needed. Often I’ll discover someone new, quite by chance, and it’s thrilling, like being handed an unexpected gift. Today, whilst working on my next novel, I discovered Gordon; he’s a brilliant, quirky character I hadn’t planned at all – but somehow he managed to sneak in and steal the scene.
Did you make detailed character sketches or did they happen more organically?
They just seem to develop naturally. I guess the writer’s job is to supply the situations, to set the scene, and to provoke those characters into showing themselves as they really are.
How much did you think of your own school time as you were writing?
Lots – although I was careful not to inadvertently include any real people! I purposely set the events in my own school year, which helped me to stay true to the atmosphere of the era.
Why did you decide to use the fictive names East and West Selton? (It’s clear you had East and West Wittering in mind, as you even mention that a Rolling Stone got a house there?)
Within the novel there are a number of anagrams of real places – for example Selton is Solent. I wanted a fictional town, to allow the story to go where I needed it to. But if pushed, I’d say Selton is a complex blend of coastal East Wittering, where I grew up, and inland Chichester, where I attended high school. Nice to see you got the Rolling Stones reference!
What role did the band Blondie play for the novel?
When I was fifteen, I was massively into Blondie, even though they weren’t all that current by the mid-eighties. I loved the punk influences; Debbie Harry’s stance was so sexy and cool, and above all, the music seemed to speak to me. In part, I was probably indulging my own nostalgic memories by drawing a favourite band into the story. But more importantly, a band like Blondie represented an exotic ‘otherness’ to a conventional girl like Sarah, growing up within the suffocating constraints of small town England in the 1980s.
Did you have to research the 80s stuff of did you remember most of it?
I’ve got a good memory for that kind of detail, so the story sprang out of that. But as I wrote, I was constantly researching information to check my memories were accurate, particularly for historical detail like news footage of the Chernobyl disaster, or for release dates of albums or films I might mention.
Finally, what’s the theme of your next novel?
I’m busy at work on my next novel, which takes place on a British island one summer in the 1970s. It’s a family drama centred on a scandal in a small community, set against the shifting Seventies backdrop of political unrest, social change and vibrant cultural development. The research part of the process is endlessly fascinating, and as well as exploring the historical details of the era I like to immerse myself in the music, which is no hardship as far as that decade is concerned. In fact, I’m just cueing up Bowie’s Young Americans as we speak ...
There’s still a lot of work to do, but it’s gradually coming together. Having done this a couple of times now, I know there’ll be moments of fear and uncertainty along the way, but with any luck, moments of enlightenment and joy will visit me in equal measure!
Thanks for asking me along to chat, Louise – and I’ll let you know when the next book is due to hit the shelves.
Thank you too, Issie for your inspiring answers!
If you want to find out more about Isabel Ashdown and her books visit her website here.
Hurry up and Wait! is available here. What are you waiting for?
Monday, 9 January 2012
Wednesday, 4 January 2012
I don't know which face to show
but I am facing this year in my own way
2012 is the Swenglish year
the year I'm going to work out
where I want to live and what I want to do
who I want to be even.
(more info about Swenglish to follow)
Sunday, 1 January 2012
A is for
Ace Stories (Brighton's best live lit event)
Agent (this year I signed the contract with my literary agent!)
Alexander Technique Lessons
Are you sitting comfortably? (live lit event)
B is for
Bath (where I went with my family)
Bang Said the Gun (the poetry slam I won in London in September)
Barcelona (where I celebrated my 29th birthday)
Beat (poetry gig)
Beer (too much)
Bombanes (poetry gig)
Brighton Festival and Brighton Fringe Festival
C is for
Camping in Hassocks
Chatterbooks (my book group for kids at the library)
Cocktails at Hotel Pelirocco, and Tara’s Cocktails party
Cooking (I’ve cooked for people at 7 different occasions which is 7 more times than last year!)
D is for
Drop-in Drama at New Venture Theatre
Duke of York’s Cinema
E is for
Elly-Mae (the working title of my new novel project)
Events (that I organised/compared at Hove Library)
F is for
4thirtythree (the band I did improvised spoken word/music gigs with)
Floetics (poetry gig)
G is for
Grit Lit (short story night)
H is for
Hammer & Tongue (Brighton’s one & only poetry slam, this year I made it to the final!)
Horseplay (poetry gig)
I is for
Idea (the big Swenglish idea that I’ll embark on in 2012)
Ice as in Lou Ice
J is for
John Cage (part of tribute performance)
John Cale (Brighton festival)
K is for
Kay Sexton (who launched her book Minding My Peas & Cucumbers in a Windmill)
L is for
Laurie Anderson (Brighton Festival)
Lecturing at Loxdale Centre
Library Blues (no comment!)
LOST (Sky and I watched the last episode ever of the only TV series that I’ve ever followed. Well, at least since Beverly Hills 90210)
M is for
Marching f(or Public Services in London and for Pensions in Brighton)
Midlife Crisis (an early one!)
Midsummer Camp Festival in Norfolk
N is for
Natalie (the main character in REPLACING ANGEL/UNDER THE LIP)
Not for the Faint-Hearted (writing workshops)
Nässjö (my hometown where I spent some time in the summer)
O is for
OMG (and other modern age abbreviations)
Orange juice with bits
P is for
Photography (the picture is from the forest where I spent the last day of the year)
Planet India Restaurant
Poetry (got back into writing & performing poetry this year)
Pizza (Swedish style with bananas!)
Psychogeography (thank you James!)
Q is for
Queer & Quirky Brightonians
R is for
Rattle Tales (short story event)
REPLACING ANGEL (my English novel that changed name to UNDER THE LIP, see U)
Rock 'N' Roll
S is for
Sandy Dillon (the best music artist I’ve discovered this year)
Short Stories (not that many written, but quite a few published)
Something Wholly Inappropriate (poetry gig)
Spilling Ink Review
Stockholm (stayed with my brother and visited one of my best friends)
Story Studio (short story event)
Sue (our “creative coaching” meetings are great!)
Sweat Lodge in Stanmer Park
Sweden (three trips this year: surprising my Dad on his birthday in June, summer bliss in August, and Xmas/New Year)
Swimming in the sea
T is for
U is for
UNDER THE LIP (my English novel that is under consideration for publication in both Sweden and the UK)
V is for
Visitors (Laura, my aunt, my family, Pernilla, Sara)
W is for
Waiting (for news about my book)
Whale Writing (a project with my writing colleague Lotus)
X is for
Xmas tree (dancing round the tree at work and with all relatives on Xmas day!)
Y is for
YLG (Youth Library Group) conference in London
Z is for
Tuesday, 27 December 2011
Five minutes before boarding the plane to Sweden I opened my Christmas present (see previous post) There was no return, no more book shops, no more magazines even. Luckily, I immeditately took a liking to Sarah Salway's novel Something beginning with ...
I love so-called concept novels. This one is based on the alphabet. Every chapter has a few paragraphs on a letter in the alphabet, e.g. L is for Lesbians, Letters, Liqueur Chocolates, Love Calculators and Lust. At first it seemed pretty much like a stream of concsiousness on different topics, but Sarah Salway actuallly manages to tell a whole story with beginning, middle and end between A and Z.
Tuesday, 20 December 2011
I'm going to take a risk. I'm going to Sweden on Friday and want something to read on the plane and train. Usually I plan ahead what book to read for my travels so I know that I've got something good to digest. This time I'm going to bring the wrapped book and not unwrap it until I'm in the air and it's too late to pick another book ... Whatever book it is I have to read it! (I do hope it's not a Mills & Boon!)