Thursday, 30 December 2010

My Writing Year 2010

2010 is coming to an end. It hasn't been one of my best years. It has been a difficult year on an emotional and personal level, but when I look back I've had a great deal of success with my writing.

2010 was the year I completed my first novel in English, REPLACING ANGEL, and got an agent interested. In January I treated myself to a writing retreat in Lingfield. In February I sent the MS off. In December things started to happen.

2010 was the year I focused on short stories.

I've had two stories published:
*Lovers of the Planet in the Spilling Ink Review Anthology
*The Butter Dish in Scribble
*Next of Kin was shortlisted for the Ilkey Festival of Literature competition

I also submitted stories to the Bridport Prize, The Asham Award and the Fish Prize.
All in all I wrote about twenty-five short stories, including a few flash fiction pieces. What I haven't done enough of is submitting ...

However I've had loads of stories selected for readings at live literature events in Brighton:

*Foxy Lady and Relax Johnny-Boy have some fun for Are you sitting comfortably?
*Steal from the rich and give to the poor for SPARKS
*Ex Love for Short Fuse Story Salon
*I'm from further North than you for the Short Fuse appearance at The Edge of the Sea festival (the story will also be illustrated and published in an anthology to be sold as The Wedding Present Merchandise)
*Clowntown for New Venture Theatre's Into the Dark story event
*Party is over for the Ace Stories event
*Suicidal Girlfriends for Grit Lit

To make time for the short story events I decided to cut down on poetry (both writing it and performing it.) Yet I got a poem published called His depression in an anthology called Book of Dreams.

These are a few of the poetry performances I did in Brighton (and I said that I'd cut down!):

*The Hanover Poetry Festival
*Everybody's got to be somewhere at Prince Albert
*Black History Month at Red Roaster
*We Love Mondays & Thursdays (study support sessions at Jubilee & Hove libraries)
*New Writing South's Christmas party
*Waterloo Press Christmas party
*a couple of Hammer & Tongue slams

2011 was the year of workshops:

*Brighton Creative Writing Sessions & Not for the faint hearted with James Burt and Ellen de Vries
*Voice and singing workshop with Alexander Technique teacher Alan Mars
*Improvised spoken word and music with Safehouse Collective and Tom Cunliffe

And I also had time for some very professional things:

*lecturing at the Literature week in Gothenburg
*talks and book signings at opening of new cultural centre in my hometown, Nassjo
*lectures at Loxdale Language Centre in Portslade
*writing workshop for young adults at Hove Library
*attending Chichester Writing Festival
*organising author events and poetry nights at Hove library

2011 was the year I got a permanent part-time job at Hove library.
I'm lucky to be able to combine my writing with a job that involves literature
and organising events and performing poetry ...

All these good things wouldn't be possible without my wonderful writing mates ...
I meet up regularly to do some writing exercises with Morgan & Bernadette, and I also have "creative coaching" sessions with Sue. My coffee dates/drinks/meet-ups with Kay, James, Robert, Saskia, Kristen, Laura are invaluable. And I'm also very, very grateful for the support and feedback I get online. Tim, Brian, Sanna, Solera, Chris, James, Ed ... I hope I haven't forgotten anyone. Sara of course. Anna Liv. Lotus. You know who you are.

I'll celebrate New Year's Eve with my "sister" Johanna in the middle of the forest in the south of Sweden. Then I'll spend a week writing, i.e. revising my novel as the first third drags ... To help me stay focused and not distracted I won't use internet for a week. So if you make a comment on this post it won't show for a while as I have to log in to accept it ... Same with emails and facebook. Don't despair: I'm not dead - I'm writing.

My new year resolution is ...

to keep believing in myself and my writing.

Keep on dreaming, cause when you stop dreamin' it's time to die. - Blind Melon

Old Habits - New flash fiction piece


Sunday, 26 December 2010

Kaizen Writing

Found a great blog post about six small steps you can take every day towards your writing. It has helped me a great deal. Even during busy days at work I can find five minutes to brainstorm a project or one minute to describe a stranger ...

It's also worth keeping those six steps in mind if you're away for Christmas: stuck on trains or bored at family dinners ...
And I'd like to add one point to the list: go for a walk, even if it's just ten minutes. Reflection time is so important. Whilst the whole of Sweden watched the Christmas Disney special at 3pm on Christmas Eve (a tradition to be missed, same programme every year) I went out for a walk and made a snow angel.

Read more about Kaizen writing in Jurgen Wolff's blog here.

Monday, 20 December 2010

Re-entering Novelland & Working in Cafes

Last Monday I spent about 3 hours in Coffee Republic* in George Street Hove, sipping the same cold peppermint tea. I don't normally like going to chain coffee shops, but it feels more all right to spend hours in a big anonymous cafe than in a small funky cafe. Restaurants are the worst. I once got kicked out of the Regency, the manager telling me it wasn't an office ... I'd spent about 2 hours in there just ordering a coffee and had covered the whole table with files and books and pens ...

I printed the Replacing Angel manuscript and managed to read about half of it, making notes, and carried on reading the rest at home later in the week. I feel hopeful about it, and am looking forward to my planned week of novel revision work in January.

It's so nice to have a novel in my head again. It feels like the short stories I've written this year have "only" been one-night stands or love affairs, some amazing, some boring, but now when I'm in Novelland again it's like falling in love and entering a proper relationship.

*I applied for a job there when it first opened back in 2002, but after going for a group interview session where we had to make potato men I got a call saying I didn't have the right skills. Thank God!

Saturday, 11 December 2010



publishable (comparative more publishable, superlative most publishable)

1. Able to be published.

I've spoken to an agent who's read my English novel, REPLACING ANGEL. It's publishable. That's the first thing he told me.

Publishable, but not quite yet.

The first third of the manuscript drags. I'm aware of this. My playwright/drama teacher friend who has also recently read my MS is of the same opinion.

And the title doesn't work, is too cheesy, too obvious. I wasn't aware of this.

The worst though is that I've used far too many Nick Cave quotes ... (Did you know that he crashed his car into a speed camera at the end of my street this week?! Photo evidence above.)

Even though I have a lot of hard work ahead of me I feel excited. The agent suggested that I take some time to think about it all, and then I'll present him with a new version of the MS in a couple of months time. I'm already thinking of spending the first week of the year in my small boring hometown and focus on the re-write, away from the distractions of Brighton.

Saturday, 4 December 2010

Grit Lit

The streets of Brighton were gritted enough for a bunch of writers and their hangers-on to make it out last night. It was time for Grit Lit - a live lit event hosted by Amy Riley and Tim Lay. Their show won the award for the best literature event in the Brighton Fringe Festival 2009. Even though some writers were so cold they had to read with their coats on, the atmosphere in the Red Roaster was heated.

I'm reading my short story Suicidal Girlfriends, inspired by a guy who once told me that I looked like his ex-girlfriend who had committed suicide ...

Amy Riley reads from her latest novel which is set in both Brighton and the States.

John O'Donoghue shares an extract from his autobiography Sectioned - a life interrupted.

I didn't manage to get a photo of Tim Lay ... But above is a picture of his short story collection Nibs. The story he read last night was about the rave scene and a particular drug called Fubar.

The audience was treated to a story about vintage underwear when Erinna Mettler took the stage.

Poet and prose-writer Akila captured everyone when she read rhythmical flash fiction stories about experiences of people with mixed heritage from a hardcore/hidden aspect.

A writer who both opened and closed the night by reading about Batman and meditation was Rob Paraman. I'd not seen Rob for years (we used to hang out at the same writing groups) so it was really nice to hear him read, making me laugh more than once.

Another author, Dan Holloway was supposed to be on the bill as well, but was the only one who couldn't make it because of that damn snow that was gone by the time I walked home, warmed up by rum and good company. Thanks to the few friends that made it out!

Sunday, 28 November 2010

Grit Lit - My Last Short Story Reading of the Year


Expect nothing less than the grittiest writing in town, from the award-winning Grit Lit duo.

Performance poet diva and writer Akila, published in True Tales of Mixed Heritage Experiences (Penguin), When Black Is Red (Peeple Tree), reads from a new collection of stories, Wherever You Find Us.

John O’Donoghue with an extract from Sectioned: A Life Interrupted (John Murray) which won this year’s Mind Book of the Year award.

Louise Halvardsson, who won the Young Adult Fiction newcomer award in her native Sweden in 2007, reading her surreal shorty story Suicidal Girlfriends.

London based writer, Dan Holloway from underground writers’ collective Year Zero, reading a truly gritty short from his Razorblades anthology.

Erinna Mettler
, up and coming Brighton writer reading Underneath, a short story about relationships and vintage underwear…

Australian writer, Rob Paraman, with a hilarious recollection of the Christmas morning when he got a Batman costume… as did half the kids in his neighbourhood.

And your hosts:

Amy Riley, journalist (Trash Menagerie, K-Mag) and short story writer (Queenspark), reading an extract from her novel in progress.

Tim Lay, award winning novelist whose new book Nibs: A Collection of Short Stories is now available from Callio Press, reading a short story set in the wild west (Devon!) during the free party years of the early 90′s.

Advanced tickets on sale NOW: or 5 pounds on door. Licensed bar, best coffee & hot chocolate in town, cabaret style night.

Wednesday, 24 November 2010

Storyville - Women Writers Festival

One of the most exciting things I know is to meet published writers that I like. It’s almost like going to a gig, seeing a band you’re into.

If I could have afforded the money and the time I would have gone to all the talks in the Storyville festival at Pavilion Theatre, but going to three was good enough.

First up was the New Voices session with Emma Henderson, Justine Kilkerr and Emily Mackie. I’d only read Justine’s novel Advice for Strays before (a very unusual novel about depression and imaginary friends), but was very impressed with the other writers as well.

So impressed with Emily Mackie’s And this is true that I had to buy it. The story is about a boy who’s spent basically his whole life travelling round with his writer father in a van, but everything changes when one night the boy kisses his father … You’d think that the incestuous theme would be very disturbing, but he way Emily handles the subject, writing from the boy Nevis’s point of view is fantastic.

When asked how they got published all the debut novelists had similar stories: they’d done and MA in creative writing and met their agents thanks to contacts/events through their universities. Although Emma won a short story competition (yes it’s still worth writing short stories!) and was contacted by an agent because of that.

The second talk I went to was The Music of Chance with Catherine O’Flynn and Lois Walden. Catherine won the Costa book award for her debut What was Lost. She is fascinated by the mundane, and as well as losing people she also writes about the loss of certain aspects of a city. In the end she told us about the long way to getting published. She had fifteen agents completely ignoring her (what’s worse is that she lived in Spain at the time and spent a fortune on posting her manuscripts.) In the end she contacted a small local Birmingham publisher and the rest is history.

Lois also had a long route to publishing. She’s got her background in the music business, but finding an agent wasn’t easier because of it. One agency was interested, but held on to her script for eight months, with nothing happening. In the end it was a friend of a friend who introduced her to an agent … What impressed me with Lois’s writing was that she was very aware of rhythm and her language felt very musical thanks to her musical background.

The last talk I went to was the best. I had a seat in the front row, wriggling nervously on my seat, waiting for Ali Smith to enter the stage … She’s one of the best writers I know. Reading her makes me smile, think and be happy to be alive. There’s something magical about her way with language, the flow and the way every single word fits. I asked her about this. She revealed that seldom did a short story come out in one sitting. She edits and edits and then edits some more. First by page, then by paragraph, then my sentence, then word by word.

Ali was very keen to discuss her writing with the audience and I was surprised that she found it so hard to write short stories, so hard that in fact she once wrote a story called Last, promising herself never to write a short story again … But of course she has. It was also very encouraging to hear that whilst Ali is very disciplined, she’s also very lazy, but is okay with that … To do nothing is also part of writing.

If you’ve followed my blog you know that I’m having a writing block/break at the moment … However something clicked in my brain during the first talk on the Saturday. All of a sudden I had this burning urge to get my notepad out of my handbag and put some words down, and so I did … Since Saturday I’ve written quite a lot, nothing finished and nothing sensible, but at least I’ve put words down, words that form sentences, sentences that forms paragraph, that forms pages …

Also. An agent who has read Replacing Angel says that some aspects of my novel works, other aspects don’t. I’m not hoping too much, but at least we’re going to meet up and have a talk about it soon …

I might submit a working aspect of my novel to Sussex Writers Award. They only want 1500 words, plus a 500 words synopsis. Deadline is 1 Dec.

Another competition coming up is The Writer’s Retreat Competition, organised by Myriad Editions and West Dean College.

Monday, 22 November 2010


The Short Story evening at New Venture Theatre Friday went really quickly. You'd think that you'd feel exhausted after hearing nine stories, but I wanted more! Although it was nice to have time to catch up with people in the bar after.

It adds to the entertainment factor that actors are reading out the stories submitted by writers. Gayle Dudley who read my story Clowntown was brilliant and made the story more justice than I could've done myself, putting on a very creepy low clown voice.
I got the inspiration for Clowntown when I was in Ireland and came across a tattoo shop in Ennis called Clowntown. Also James Burt had challenged me to write a story about a clown ... His device is to add a clown to your writing whenever you get stuck ...

This is the beginning of Clowntown:
"Penny didn’t look happy when I turned up at her doorstep after dark. It wasn’t just that I was late and the food had gone cold – I’d brought a clown with me."

Other highlights of the night was the host Sarah Charsley's story Ghost Sex (the title says it all!), and Louise Hume's story about a woman who preferred a house to a man. Needles to say the theme for the evening was Into the Dark.

Thursday, 18 November 2010

Short Story Night at New Venture Theatre

Tomorrow, Friday 19 Nov, my short story, CLOWNTOWN
will be read out by an actor at New Venture Theatre
at the Into the Dark Event. 7.45pm

Monday, 15 November 2010

Ace Stories

Ace Stories (former Tight Lip) is one of my favourite literary events in Brighton. Through the years I've seen and heard some great writers read, among others Joolz Denby, Amanda Smyth and Cathi Unsworth. Usually the night is headlined by a big name and supported by two local authors. At the end the audience get treated to musical entertainment. The organiser and curator Jay Clifton is very professional and takes his time to interview the headlining author as well as asking the support acts why they write. (And believe it or not - all writers get paid!) Best of all there's also a book/film raffle included in the ticket price. The venue Hotel Pelirocco is an excellent choice and adds to the atmosphere, especially as there's a two for one deal on cocktails. It was a great honour to be invited to read at the last Ace Stories for this season.

I'm reading my short story The Party is Over about two teenage girls coming home after a party where they met their big rockstar idol. I also promoted by Swedish novel, Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd which was the right thing to do as there was a Swedish woman in the audience who bought it! Later I was approached by people from Kingston University who might set up another reading for me. Very exciting!

Jeff Sheppard is reading a few poems from his audio collection Autism and the Migration of Birds, and to my amazement he also read from a book that he had published when he was sixteen ...

James Miller with his latest novel Sunshine State

Kristin McClement is finishing a great evening off



Saturday, 13 November 2010

Reading at Ace Stories

Come and listen to me read my short story, THE PARTY IS OVER.

Monday, 8 November 2010

Improvised Music & Spoken Word Workshop

Saturday I went to an improvised music & spoken word workshop (organised by poet Tom Cunliffe at the Open House Pub) with an open mind. When I signed up for it a few months ago I thought it sounded cool to improvise words to music. The reality of it was more than cool.

The Safehouse Collective is a group that meets regularly to improvise music and some of the members are also part of a band called 4thirtythree that play live gigs and record albums - all improvised.

Anything can happen and that's what I love about it. The musicians not only use instruments; they pick up brushes, chairs, glasses - anything in the room - to make sound effects. In the workshop the poets were welcome to join in with any words they felt like using. Some used lines from already existing poems, while others made the words up on the spot.

I got a line in my head "I have ice cream in my head, melting in my ears" literally ten seconds before going on stage and later on while I was tuning into the music "my head was falling off." A liberating feeling as I'm a person who normally learn my poems by heart and keep rehearsing ...

Thursday, 4 November 2010

You always have a Choice ...

Today I was in an apathetic mood, feeling a bit emotional and lost.

These were my choices for the evening: (in no particular order)
*go to the Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam
*stay in, being miserable, feeling sorry for myself, thinking too much
*return a missed call from an ex-lover
*edit/re-write a short story on the theme of slugs

I should have a competition and let you guess which option I went for, but as I don't have any good prices to offer, I'll reveal that I went for the slug story option ...

I'm still feeling a bit blocked when it comes to writing, but after venting my misery to a few loving writing friends (you know who you are) I decided that I don't have a block - I'm having a break.

Having a break means that I don't have to write, but I can if I want to. And tonight I felt inspired to re-write my short story THE SNAIL HOUSE that originally was on the theme of Hope&Faith for the next Liar's League Event in London. But at the time of writing I drifted a bit from the theme and started to write about snails, and after feedback from Miriam I changed the snails to slugs ...

I've had a great night. Learning about slugs. Listening to The Smiths ("I was happy in the haze of a drunken hour But heaven knows I'm miserable now.") Eating jaffa cakes (the most healthy option when it comes to biscuits apparently*), drinking red wine (good for the heart) and actually writing. I've killed a few darlings. I've added a few new darlings. I will submit the story to Liar's League, even if I've gone off the theme slightly ...

Thanks also to Tim and Chris for feedback. Having someone read your work and making comments about it (positive and negative) is a reason for living.

*don't know if 8 is a good number though ...

Friday, 29 October 2010

Writer's Block.

No, this is not an advert for NaNoWriMo (National Novel Writing Month.) It's an advert for me and my pathetic Writer's Block. A lot of writers say that writer's block is just a myth, that if you're a writer you just write. You have good work days and bad work days just like everyone else.

But what if you have two bad weeks? I've lost my motivation and inspiration. Usually I write every morning between 9 and 12 no matter what. Some of those mornings I write pages and pages and am annoyed when my alarm goes off, and I have to go to my other job at the library. Some of those mornings I stare at the clock and write about two sentences and make about twenty-two mugs of tea.

It's just that for the past two weeks I haven't even felt like sitting in front of my screen. My bed has been a more tempting place. The pub has been a more tempting place. My friends houses have been more tempting places. I've distracted myself.

When I visit schools and libraries to talk about my writing I often get the question:
Do you get writer's block and what do you do about it?
Usually I answer that luckily it doesn't happen very often and if it happens I go for long walks and read, and trust that my lust will come back. It has never happened before that my motivation and inspiration hasn't come back. Two weeks is not that long really.

Like with other problems the best thing is to find out where they come from. Why do I feel blocked? The answer is obvious: stress in my life. Uncertainty about where I live, missing my Ex (even if we separated two years ago), waiting for an agent to take me on. If other people have stress in their life I always say: Write about it. So maybe I should follow my own advice. But when I pick up my pen all I want to write is SHIT. And when I sit in front of the computer all I want to do is to spy on people on Facebook. Some people say they can only write when they are depressed. I can only write when I'm happy.

I do a bit of journal writing, which helps. But I don't have my usual flow. Maybe I have to follow my other bit of advice: do it anyway. Even if I just write SHIT SHIT SHIT for a hundred pages I'm still writing. And I have a list in the back of my journal with ideas I've collected. I could just pick one of those ideas and write and see where it takes me. I could, but don't really feel like it.

At least I edited a story today. The Snail House on the theme Hope & Faith for Liar's League.

Monday, 25 October 2010


When I have no inspiration and motivation I turn to nature, trusting my spark will return just like the seasons do ...

Sunday, 17 October 2010

Short Story published in Scribble

My short story, The Butter Dish, will be published in the Scribble Magazine!!! (It's not yet confirmed which issue.)

What inspired me to write the story was buying a butter dish in a charity shop in a moment of a nostalgia ... (I didn't even eat "real" butter at the time). Buying the totally wrong birthday present for a friend's daughter (not a butter dish) was another inspiration. Tim - a writer friend - said he admired my ability to find inspiration in every day life. Well, write what you know as they say ... But the story is not really about butter dishes and birthday presents. It's more about being bitter ... I thought about calling the story The Bitter Dish at one stage ...

Thanks to Brian M and Tim P for feedback. And to Rachel for some nice comments.

Friday, 15 October 2010

Who the f*** is Kitty?

"Knutte", a punk guy I was in love with (unhappily) when I was fifteen, told me he refused to wear advertising. I wonder if he's escaped Kitty. Even I own a pair of Hello Kitty socks. (A birthday present from my mum). But I do wonder. Who the f*** is Kitty?

In almost every shop I've been lately there are clothes, wallets, pens etc. with the Hello Kitty logo. What worries me is that people just buy these items because they are available. What if Kitty is a murderer? Luckily she isn't, but I had to google her to find out what she's all about. A Japanese animation. Fair enough. I doubt though that most people who wear Hello Kitty T-shirts/socks/knickers or write with a Hello Kitty pen have ever seen an episode of the animation.

This got me thinking. I could probably attract people to buy my novel, Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd, by producing products with the book logo. It was actually my brother's idea with the top (the image on the top is the same as my book cover). I only had two of them especially made to wear when I go to book fairs etc. But every time I wear the top someone asks me where they can buy it. It would be free advertising for me.

The only downside is that I don't own the copy right of the image. It belongs to the designer Ida Branzell Rosén and I can't thank her enough for making such a brilliant image. It would be weird if people walked about with the image of my book cover and not even knowing where the image came from ... So next time you buy a Hello Kitty T-shirt think about if you really want to be a walking advertisement for something you're not passionate about. (Apologies to all true Hello Kitty fans.)

Monday, 11 October 2010

One Sentence at a Time

*I bounce down the street, knowing I'll never go to Peter's flat again.

*'If you fall in love with me, you're going to regret it,' she said.

*I only wear false teeth on a Saturday.

*A fortune teller once told me that I'd die on my 35th birthday, but it would be a good thing.

*We were finally on the road with our thumbs up in the air.

Above are a few of the opening lines I generated at the One Sentence at a Time workshop, curated by James Burt and Ellen de Vries, as part of Brighton Creative Writing Sessions. I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday than to be creative together with other people. And James and Ellen have an ability to trick you into working by playing ...

To spark the imagination Love Heart-sweets, Miracle Fish and words on pieces of paper were passed around. And if you were really stuck you could stick your hands in Ellen's magic box ...

Before the first break the focus was just on writing opening lines for short stories or novels. After that we carried on writing opening paragraphs, and then we were encouraged to build on some of these paragraphs. Everybody read out three paragraphs and the other participants voted for the one they wanted to be developed. By the end of the workshop a few of us had more or less completed stories or at least a big chunk of material to carry on working at.

I felt so inspired that I wanted to go home and spend the rest of the afternoon/evening/night writing and was annoyed that I had other plans ... (Even if the party at Zu Studios in Lewes also was a good source for inspiration.)

It's amazing how people's imagination works. The oldest participant in the workshop wrote a story about bondage pets, a very sweet guy wrote a story about a sex addict politician and one girl wrote about nuns having a fight. And I got very inspired by someone else's opening line:

'The prints of Mary were still fresh on the snow.'

What I liked best about the workshop was the playful atmosphere. Once we stopped just to pop a party popper. James said Herman Melville used to do this when he felt stuck in his writing ... Whether that's true is up to you ... What is true though is that whenever you're stuck throw in a clown in the story and see what happens.

Good news is that there are more workshops and happenings planned. I think this is the way forward for writing workshops. Instead of "learning the craft" these sessions are about letting go and setting yourself free and let the words flow. Passion, inspiration and imagination is sometimes more important than style.


20 Essential Works of Feminist Fiction

Following on from previous blog post about Fay Weldon, I received an email from a reader with a link to a blog that lists 20 novels by women that is essential reading. Among them are already a few of my favourite books: Cat's eye by Margaret Atwood, The Bell Jar by Sylvia Plath and Fear of Flying by Erica Jong.


Which books are your favourite books by women? Which books would you add to the list?

A male friend recently sent me a list of 40 novels he'd recommend. Of those 40 novels only 3 were written by women ... (I don't blame you Brian, if I was to send you a list I'd probably recommend 37 women and 3 men ...)

Any other thoughts on this? Do women prefer to read books written by women and do men prefer to read books written by men? It's more common that women read books by both male and female authors whilst some men wouldn't touch a book written by a woman ... Why is that? Sometimes I wish all writers would just use their initials like M.J. Hyland and A.L. Kennedy, and that no information about them was available on the book jacket.

I think about 75% of the books I read are written by women, maybe because I find it easier to identify myself with female writers and their experience. I'm still in the stage of life when I'm trying to find out who the hell I am and then it helps reading books written by women about women. Especially young and confused ones... On the other hand lots of female writers use a male protagonist and vice versa.

In November there's a festival in Brighton called Storyville - Women Writers Festival. Why do we still need these divisions? Do these festivals highlight women or do they make it more visible that female writing is a minority? How many men will attend the festival?

Tuesday, 5 October 2010

Fay Weldon - the only feminist

Fay Weldon guested Brighton yesterday to do a talk at the Pavilion Theatre, hosted by New Writing South. She has inspired me not to have children. At least not more than one. Fay is soon turning eighty and talks about women, men, children and sex more easily than anyone else I've come across lately.

One of the things she said was that it was easier for women of her generation to raise children than it is for women today. Mainly because today there are more expectations that you should do everything "right" whilst back in her day people were more relaxed ...

With no shame she tells the audience that she's the only feminist and that a lot of feminists probably hate her. She feels sorry for men. Because women don't need them any more ... Then she goes on to say that life stops at thirty-five because it's around that age women lose their sex appeal. If these words had come out of someone else's mouth I'm sure it would've caused a lot of reaction, but Fay is more convincing than any politician when she speaks ...

And yes she talked about writing too. Saying that you are as bad as the worst of your characters. She also thinks that you get better at writing novels with time, but that doesn't mean your novels get any better, it's just that you know what to do.

Another intersting thing she pointed out was that when she was writing for TV she was asked to make a lot of changes and when she handed in the new version of the script they asked her to make more changes and so on, but were still not happy with it. In the end she gave them her original version - which they accpeted. People like what's familiar, she says. And that first version was familiar to them.

I've only read a couple of Fay's novels, but am planning to read more. One that I really remember is Big Women about a group of women fighting for feminism in their own ways ... Her latest novel is Kehua which deals with ghosts from a departed past, based on Maori mythologi.

Monday, 4 October 2010

Treat yourself to a writing workshop this Saturday

There are different kinds of writing workshops: the ones where writers share and crit each other's works, the more serious ones where you learn all about character/plotting/setting etc, and then there are workshops where you write for the sake of writing, letting your imagination run wild ...

I'm gutted to have missed three of the Brighton Creative Writing Sessions (hosted by James Burt and Ellen de Vries), but am very happy to be able to attend the last one, which is happening on Saturday, 9 October. See info below.

One sentence at a time (October 9th, 10am-4pm, at Jake Spicer's studio New England House Brighton)
Asked how he wrote a short story, Raymond Carver answered “I write the first sentence, and then I write the next sentence and then the next.” Starting with a list of first lines, we will add to them until a new story is prepared. By working together, participants will see how other people approach creation, as well as being able to generate a veritable catalogue of new ideas to take away for working on at home.


To read about previous sessions click here and here

Sunday, 3 October 2010

National Poetry Week

Next week is National Poetry Day (Thursday 7 Oct), but the celebrations are lasting for over a week.

I've been invited to both Jubilee Library in Brighton and Hove Library to perform some poems at the Study Support sessions "We Love Mondays" and "We Love Thursdays". I'll also inspire Young People (9-19 year-olds) to write their own poems and enter a competition on the theme "Home".


The week after, Wed 13 Oct, I'm co-hosting (with Brian Marley) a FREE POETRY OPEN MIC night, "Every Day is Poetry Day" at Hove Library. Everybody welcome! Doors 6.30pm for 7pm start. Sign up early at the door if you want to read. Special guests: Yvo Luna, Rosy Carrick and Ben Graham.

Thursday, 30 September 2010

It's Raining Blood

My friend and sometimes writer, Solera, challenged me to write a poem using the words "rain" "blood" "flower". I didn't need to use all of them or write them out in the poem, the idea was to get inspired.

I tried and I tried and I tried. But I'm in a very "prosy" period and all I could come up with was a bizarre flash fiction piece ...
And does anyone know if a prose poem and a piece of flash fiction are the same thing?

Very grateful for any feedback!

Picture by Birdy27

Monday, 27 September 2010

Chichester Writing Festival

I spent the weekend at West Dean college, taking part in the 4th Chichester Writing Festival. When I say "take part" I don't mean that I was on stage. Even if there was a programme with a panel of different authors it didn't feel like a stage - the whole room was a stage. The point of Chichester Writing Festival is that everyone who's there is welcome to take part in the discussions and debates. And everyone is a writer. It doesn't matter if you're a bestselling crime writer, a debut author or someone not yet published. As Lady Antonia Fraser said "I was a writer from the moment I learned to write."

The panel events were chaired by creative writing tutor Greg Mosse, and the evening events were chaired by his wife, the author Kate Mosse. I arrived back in Brighton last night with itchy fingers wanting to write, feeling inspired after hearing the stories of a dozen authors.

I learnt that Michael Morpurgo doesn't like to write - but he loves telling stories. I learnt that some agents are obsessed with characters and don't even bother to read the synopsis (Hannah Westland) and that some agents are more focused on plot (Lorella Belli). I learnt that Vicky Blunden from Myriad Editions works very closely with her authors during the editing process. I learnt that some authors need to rewrite a whole part (Ed Hillyer) whilst others only need to change a a paragraph (Isabel Ashdown). I learnt that Peter James spends a day a week with the police to gain material and inspiration for his novels. I learnt that Bidisha is fed up with talking about being published at 16. I learnt that some poets (Becky Swift) have no idea that their work is good.

For me the most interesting people were the ones from abroad: Bulgarian Nikolai Grozni (ex concert pianist and ex Buddhist monk) who tried to write a novel about his life, but turned it into an autobiographical memoir (writing in English (American) which is not his first language); Zornitsa Hristova - also Bulgarian - who translates English fiction into Bulgarian and Bulgarian fiction into English, and has developed a creative story game for children; and Jonina Leosdottir from Iceland who has written a coming-out trilogy for Young Adults partly set in Brighton, but not yet translated into English. Meeting these people gave me hope and courage to keep pursuing my career, writing in English.

Finally I learnt that most published writers are published because of a contact. Not always by knowing an agent or editor personally, but for example being married to a person who's already published or knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone ... The word networking came up several times over the weekend. Now I'm off to find the new contacts/possible friends I made on Facebook ...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sports, Prostitution & Other Aspects of History in Fiction - Free Author Event at Hove Library This Thursday

Debut authors Ed Hillyer and Jonathan Kemp, both published by Myriad Editions of Hove will read from their novels followed by a Q&A, curated by literary agent Adrian Weston.

Where? Hove Library, Children's Area
When? Thursday 23 September, doors 6.30pm for 7pm start
How? Free! No need to book, but turn up early to avoid disappointment, refreshments (wine, juice) available

Follow Hove Library on Facebook

Ed Hillyer and Jonathan Kemp's very different novels both explore the untold stories of the past, from Aboriginal cricketers touring Kent and the capital in the 1860s, to rent boys on the fringes of high society in Victorian London.

Ed Hillyer was selected as one of Waterstone's New Voices for 2010, and his novel THE CLAY DREAMING is an epic adventure with a mystery at its heart, brimming with memorable characters and historical intrigue, and etched with documentary detail that brings both Regency and Victorian London vividly to life.

Jonathan Kemp's first novel, LONDON TRIPTYCH, explores the lives of three gay men in three historical periods - the 1890s, 1950s and 1980s - in a dark, startling and unsettling narrative of sex, exploitation and dependence set against London’s strangely constant gay underworld. Jake Arnott described the book as 'vivid and visceral... cuts deep to reveal the hidden layers of a secret history.'

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Another Shortlist!

I made it to another shortlist with another short story: Next of Kin for the Ilkley Literature Festival competition, judged by Barbara Trapido.

I'm very happy and excited as this indeed shows that I can write in English.

Read about my other story, Lovers of the Planet, that also made a shortlist here.

What I think these two shortlisted stories have in common is that I really like them and felt passionate about them when I was writing them ...

Thanks to James B, Morgan and Solera for feedback on Next of Kin and thanks to Chris L, James H and Tim for for feedback on Lovers of the Planet.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Write Club - not for the faint-hearted

Whether you're a beginner, suffering from writer's block or just want a break from that god-damned serious novel you're working on to have some fun - Write Club is for you.

James Burt and Ellen De Vries run a monthly event at the Skiff in Brighton. People get together, not to fight but to write flash fiction or poetry. The evening is divided into different rounds where the participants are invited to write for either 2,3,4,5 or 10 minutes inspired by a picture projected on the wall.

The first rule is: Don't apologise

That's why Write Club is not for the faint-hearted. After each round you have to read out loud what you have written. But the great thing is that nobody is allowed to apologise. This adds to the atmosphere and takes away some of that seriousness and pressure. Nobody expects you to come up with a masterpiece in five minutes. Although some of the writing is so good it makes me jealous ...

I've mentioned it before, but I think all writers whether professional or not, need time to PLAY. I often make the mistake of just sitting down thinking "now I'm going to work on this particular story" and then I feel frightened and blocked. To get going I need to write a lot of rubbish before I begin. Write Club helps you to keep the writing muscles going. Just like a runner is stupid to do a marathon without exercising beforehand a writer is stupid to write a novel without doing some exercises now and again. I don't think I'll use any of the stuff I wrote at Write Club to work on. I joined in for sheer pleasure, pen against paper, letting the stream of conciousness flow ...

As a bonus a piece of cake was thrown in as inspiration among the photographs at the last session. For ten minutes you were supposed to write about your cake-eating experience, but as I'm having a sugar free (and alcohol-free) month I got an apple instead ...

This is part of what I wrote:

"You can't eat an apple in silence.
Not the kind of snack you reach for in a tent
with somebone sleeping next to you.
You'd want something soft
like a banana, or a cake ..."

Next Write Club session is in October, but James and Ellen are also hosting other workshops. Check it out here.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Public Speaking: my journey from shy smalltown girl to published author

I've spent a few days in Sweden to talk about my life as a writer and my first novel Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd (Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude)

This week it was the opening of a new cultural centre in my hometown, Nässjö. On Tuesday I was invited to hold a talk in the library and the day after I did the same 45 min talk at the youth centre. I also went to another town, Tranås to talk to young people about identity (which is the main theme in my novel).

It's always a bit nerve-wracking to speak in my hometown as a lot of people know me and/or my family and I can't get away with any lies ... Not that I usually lie, but sometimes I change things around a bit ...

Even if the audience was very different at these three occasions I basically spoke about the same thing: my journey from quiet/shy/ugly smalltown girl to confident "punk industrial hard rocker with attitude".

I made an active choice the summer when I was sixteen. When school started again (in Sweden you go to the school "gymnasiet" from when you're 16 until 19) I wanted to be a punkrocker. I also had thoughts of becoming a "good-looking popular girl", but decided it was much harder so I settled for the punk rock style.

Now, 10-12 years later I've realised it's just as hard to become a punkrocker as it is to become a good-looking girl. It takes courage to find your own style, search for alternative music and go to school looking like a car accident with hairspray- damaged hair and ripped jeans. For me it was a relief though, not having to keep up with the latest fashion, although in the end I compared myself to other punks and wondered if I was a "real" punk ...

Whoever you are it's tough to grow up. I think everybody spends far too much time in front of the mirror worrying about if they're okay or not. Sometimes the beautiful people are not visible because they are too shy to be seen ...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


It paid off going a bit submission mad the other week. My short story, Lovers of the Planet was shortlisted for Spilling Ink's short story competition and will be published in their annual print anthology. Very exciting!

At the moment I'm in my hometown Nässjö, Sweden. Tonight I'm doing a talk at the new local library about my writing career and first novel Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd, and tomorrow night I'll do the same talk at the new Youth Centre. Friday I'm going to Tranås to speak at a school.

And I'm not the only lucky one in the family ... My Dad won 3rd prize in a local sunflower competition ...

You can read Lovers of the Planet by clicking here. It was inspired by a woman who knocked on my door and "forced me" to sign up for Friends of the Earth ...

Sunday, 29 August 2010

At the Edge of the Sea Festival

Yesterday I was on stage at Concorde2 for the first time. I opened At the Edge of the Sea Festival by reading my short story I'm from further North than you, which was inspired by a Wedding Present song with the same title.(The Short Story organisation Short Fuse was behind this idea and there were three more reading acts throughout the day.)The singer of the Wedding Present - David Gedge - said my story was naughty, but then it was his lyrics that started it all off ...

The headlining band was of course The Wedding Present, but I also enjoyed David's other band Cinerama (picture) and the Ukrainians among other bands. I think it's a great idea to mix literature and rock. Good news is that the selected stories will be published in an anthology that will be sold as Wedding Present merchandise. My story will most likely be illustrated in the format of a graphic novel.

I must confess that it was quite nerve-wracking to open up a festival - just ten minutes after I arrived. After my reading I felt faint and had to go and sit on the beach, at the edge of the sea.

Photo: James Burt

Thursday, 26 August 2010

Behave and Submit

Writers need to make it part of their routine. Yes, it's more fun to write than to read submissions guidelines and check for the eleventh time that you have numbered your pages, not written your name anywhere in the document and made sure the word count is right.

Tonight I've submitted five times. Five short stories to five different competitions/magazines. The chance is five times higher that I'll get a short story accepted than it was yesterday. If you just behave and keep submitting success will follow.

I had kind of forgotten,
despairing after having been turned down by nine agents/publishers.
But thanks to meeting up with authors Kay Sexton and James Dawson (who both had more than nine rejections before securing an agent),
I got my HOPE back.

" ... I've been draggin' my heels
With a bitch called hope ..." - Guns N'Roses, Garden of Eden

We need that bitch.
We need to submit to that bitch.