Tuesday, 27 December 2011

A Risk Worth Taking

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

Take a Risk on a Book

My friend James gave me a Christmas present the other day and said "It's a book!". Well, it was kind of obvious anyway judging from the shape and form of the packaging. What's not obvious though is what book it is.

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!)

Monday, 19 December 2011

Brighton - well, Hove actually - in December

I love living by the sea, but am looking forward to some snowy forest when I go to Sweden for Christmas.

I've been busy LIVING in December, but am trying to make sense of the fragmented poems that I've collected in my journal ...

Am in a funny manic mood. I feel creative, and find inspiration all around me, but am too restless to actually work. Time to dance round the Christmas tree.

Monday, 12 December 2011

A Perfect Storm at Ace Stories

When I look back at this year, thinking of things I've enjoyed the most, Ace Stories, at Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton, is high on my list. It was a true honour to be invited to read at such a well-organised event, and a good occasion for me to try out UNDER THE LIP on an audience for the very first time.

It felt a bit like introducing a new boyfriend/girlfriend to your friends, anxiously hoping that everyone will like him/her. Luckily my novel extracts went down well. The theme for the evening was sea-faring and I had picked three scenes from UNDER THE LIP where the sea features: main character Natalie arriving in Brighton, then hanging out on the beach with a punk girl, and finally escaping into the sea after an argument with her parents.

Next up was Courttia Newland, writer-in-residence at Kingston Writing School, who read a short story set by the seaside in Africa.

Actor Brendan Wyer read an extract from Jack London's classic The Sea Wolf.

And Dr Sue Currell, Senior Lecturer in American Literature, discussed The Sea Wolf with Ace Stories director Jay Clifton. I haven't read The Sea Wolf, but Sue was very engaging and told us that even though some of London's writing can come across us anti-feminist he was a great supporter of the suffragette moment.

My highlight of the evening was blues singer and musician Sandy Dillon who performed songs from the forthcoming album Shipwreck'd with guitarist Ray Majors. As well as being a good singer and player Sandy is also a fantastic lyricist. The 'shipwrecked' songs are all based on true stories.

I bought one of Sandy's CD and was lucky enough to get a chat with both her and Ray! I'm totally in love with their music. Lovely people too!

I also love the Hotel Pelirocco*, and last night I felt like a real star having "Perfect Storm" - Kraken Rum cocktails, chatting to artists and other random people. A big thank you to everyone involved in Ace Stories for putting such a great night together. As usual I took photos of the night and all pics are by me apart from the first which is taken by Sam Collins, and the last couple of pics are by Solera Russell.

*Dear Santa, please give me a night in the "Pretty Vacant" room ...

Thursday, 8 December 2011

"What must it be like to be a paedophile who lives near a kid’s playground?" - Interview with Starlings Author Erinna Mettler

Starlings is a daisy-chain novel set in Brighton; I finished reading it about a month ago, but the characters won’t leave me alone. Every time I walk around Brighton someone from the book pops up in my mind, it could be anyone from a paedophile to a mod from the 60s. As I was very curious about the way Starlings was written, the author Erinna Metttler kindly agreed to be interviewed. Enjoy her inspiring answers!

How did you go about writing Starlings? Were they all separate stories to begin with, when did you decide to link them and how did you do it?

I was lucky enough to take a creative writing course at Sussex University. It was a workshop based course which involved writing short pieces and getting feedback on them in class. The first chapter of Starlings was one of the stories I wrote for that. It’s based on an urban myth, I had heard the story about the paedophile living next to a children’s playground many times, but every time it had something different about it, a different playground, a different outcome. I think people can’t help exaggerating stories but they are equally quick to believe something that they’re told is true. I wanted to explore the way myths are created in a city through assumptions and word of mouth. I wrote Roses and Birdsong next and had the idea of linking it somehow to Andy (the paedophile in the first chapter) so I made a minor character in it his father. After that everything in the book seemed to link together. It’s the way people communicate, it’s not even gossip, it’s more like passing around stories. Brighton is a characterful city and you keep seeing those characters around, it’s also small enough to bump into people you know, or know of, just walking around town. We’re all closely connected to each other and that’s what I was trying to show in Starlings.

When it was all finished it was a nightmare to get into order. I had a spread-sheet with who was who, how they linked, their dates of birth and death and when they met each other. There are some very complex connections and some very simple ones. The first and last chapter were always that, but the others moved around in sequence, they still could, you don’t have to read them in a particular order. I don’t think people should stress about making the connections, just read the stories and if they connect then fine. If you like the book it is better to read it twice because then you pick up on a lot more. I must admit, I like books that ask you to work at understanding them. I think the reader should be actively involved and not just treat every book like fast food.

Where did the initial inspiration come from?

I was sitting at the West Pier Playground on a cold sunny day while my kids were playing. I always have a note book and I just wrote what I saw, describing everything as if I was filming it, but didn’t have a camera and had to do it with words. That’s how I always get started, and then I fill in the story, and the senses you can’t film, like touch and smell and taste. With Andy I thought it would be interesting to tell the story from the point of view of the person who never gets to be heard. I mean, what must it be like to be a paedophile who lives near a kid’s playground? Then I wanted to balance that by showing what a mother who loses her children goes through, that was much easier because every mother has lost sight of their child once in a while and imagined the worst.

The other stories came from walking around Brighton with a notepad and picking up ideas from what I saw and overheard. I’m a terrible magpie – don’t sit near me on the bus.

Did you plot each individual story or did you “just write them”?

I always just write. I usually write the beginning first, then the end and then fill in the middle, but sometimes a story will just naturally flow from the first line to the last. More often than not I’ll think I’ve finished something and then go back to it a few days later and write twice as much again. With Starlings I didn’t plot until I’d finished, and then I went back over everything and tightened up both individual and overall plots. I’m not that hung up on plot, I think it can work against natural creative energy, for me it’s much better to just see where the story takes me. Often the stories in Starlings intertwined without me having to think about it too much.

All stories are set in and around Brighton where you live, despite knowing the environment did you have to do any research?

I talked at a book group the other day and one of the members said they would have put money on me being Brighton born and bred, that made me very happy. I’ve lived here for seven years but it was only four when I wrote the book. My knowledge of the city grew as I wrote the book and I think sometimes an outsider’s eye is invaluable in picking up things people take for granted. Apart from just wandering around and writing what I experienced, I had to go deeper into some spaces than others. I got a tour of behind the scenes at the Booth’s Museum – which was utterly fascinating – and of The Old Police Cell’s under the Town Hall. You can go into the cells and see the graffiti on the walls written by the mods and rockers who were arrested in the May Day riots. I watched footage of inside The West Pier just before it burned down, and anything about the incident on Youtube. I did a lot of newspaper research on the city’s history, the war, the 1950s and 60s, what shops and cinemas and cafes there were then. With the stories that explore the nastier elements, drugs, wife beating, child abuse, I was very careful to do as much research as I could, articles, testimony, academic journals, people working in those areas. You need to get it right, otherwise you are doing those involved a disservice.

In one of the stories, The Wife Of Joshua Bones, you have a character writing a fictive story. What was the thought behind that?

I think that might be my favourite story. Originally, it was much longer and alternated between Dia’s fictional imaginings and her real life, which was much more mundane, school runs, washing up etc. But I’d really already gone into that in other stories, so I thought I’d just present her writing, and see if people got it. The chapter is about the creative processes, about imagination and reality and identity, about how as a writer you can’t help but delve into your past, or things that might have been if your life had turned out differently. My favourite author, Paul Auster, once said that his books are often about what his life could have been. Dia’s story is supposed to be inspired by the newspaper article at the beginning, by the death of her lover from twenty years before, and how that fires her creativity. I didn’t go into the rooms at the Pelirocco Hotel (where some of it is set) until after I’d written it, because I wanted it to be in her imagination. I wanted it to be dreamy and fleeting and full of other influences, I read romantic poetry and gothic novels and listened to melancholy love songs. I really enjoyed wallowing and I am immensely proud of what it produced.

How did you find a publisher?

Bizarrely, through an ad in Latest Homes! I didn’t try to get an agent first, which is what everyone says you should do (I still don’t have one). I sent the manuscript simultaneously to about 25 agents and publishers who accepted unsolicited manuscripts. I got a lot of positive feedback, even when the answer was no, and that spurred me on. One other publisher wanted it but it didn’t work out, it didn’t feel right, I felt they wanted me to change it too much. Revenge Ink got what I was doing immediately and the changes they suggested weren’t fundamental and only made it better. All in all, it took two years from submitting to them to the book hitting the shttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifhelves, which is incredibly quick. They are a gutsy independent and they go for modern, challenging writing without relying on celebrity or formulas and, in my humble opinion, the publishing industry needs more like them and less people commissioning ‘party books’ (you know who I’m talking about).

Thank you very much, Erinna. I wish you all the best with your next writing project. And I hope everyone will buy a copy of Starlings as a Christmas present!

You can also catch Erinna reading at Grit Lit tomorrow, Friday.

Tuesday, 6 December 2011

Sneaky Novel Peak at Ace Stories this Sunday

Now is your chance. For the first time ever I'm going to read a few short extracts from my English novel, UNDER THE LIP (aka Replacing Angel). At the moment my novel is under consideration for publication in both Sweden and the UK. It's just a matter of waiting, waiting and some more waiting.

So get your ass down to Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton this Sunday, 6pm.

Another good reason for coming along to Ace Stories is ... Sandy Dillon. And there's a chance of winning an electric guitar!

Sunday, 27 November 2011

My Novel in November

No, I'm not taking part in NaNoWriMo. But I do have about 50 000 words on my new novel project. If you've read my previous posts here and here you know that each month I'm aiming for 10 000 words that move the story forward and aren't just general rambling.

In December I'm going to take a break from the novel though and focus on poetry and performing. Mainly because the words need to rest. I have written the beginning and the middle, but I kind of wrote the middle first and am not sure how to link the beginning and the middle, if I should actually start with the middle or not. I do have an end in mind, but it's very sketchy and there are several ways to write the story.

I haven't yet decided how much back-story/back-flashes I'm going to use and if there's going to be more than one narrative. It could be quite a straightforward or quite an experimental story depending on which route I take, and I suspect that like my previous two novels this one will also fall somewhere between the Adult and Young Adult genre.

The voice is also something I need to think about. I know whose story it is, but am not sure to whom she's telling it and why.

Friday, 11 November 2011

I live 3 Miles from Love

Yesterday I went to the Catalyst Club at the Latest Bar in Brighton. One of the speakers was James Burt who did a brilliant talk on psychogeography and his experience of strange occurrences in Brighton.

Not far from where I live in Hove, about 3 miles from Brighton, I spotted this painted sign.

Sunday, 6 November 2011

Starlings - A Star Read

A few weeks ago I went to the launch party for Erinna Mettler's debut novel Starlings. I started reading the book on the bus on my way home and missed two stops!

The writing is brilliant, full of quirky detail and a dark sense of humour (read the Snip-chapter and you'll see).

Starlings is quite an unusual novel as it is a novel made up of short stories where the same characters appear, disappear and reappear. Some of the chapters work as short stories in themselves while other chapters are dependent on the stories previously told.

A very good read and as a bonus the book is set in Brighton taking in the seedy seaside atmosphere.

Friday, 4 November 2011

I won the Hammer & Tongue Poetry Slam in Brighton!

It's been a potty autumn for me ... A potty poetry autumn!
Last night I won my second poetry slam: Hammer & Tongue at Komedia in Brighton,
hosted by Rosy Carrick and Mike Parker.

I wasn't going to go out due to November Rain, but I changed my mind
and jumped on my bike to town to do a poem about trains which you can read here.

Winning the slam means that I'll be in the grand slam final on the 1st of December
battling against all the slam winners of 2011.

(if you need the toilet the potty can be found in Queens Park)

Tuesday, 25 October 2011

The Wheel is Spinning

I've posted a lot of letters

I've set something in motion

The world is spinning and I'm spinning with it

I'm about to embark on a creative non-fiction project

(There's now a wheel on Brighton seafront. I'm not desperate to go on it, but it seems to fit with the changes I'm making. The wheel also steals the attention from the pier.)

Monday, 17 October 2011

Counting Words & Drafting Shit

When I tell people that I'm aiming to write 10 000 words a month on my new novel they think that's a lot. I don't. It's only 2500 words a week, 500 words a day if you work 5 days a week.

It's mid October and so far this month I've managed to write 8500 words. So in total I've got 28500 words as I started in August. (I've written more words than that, but half of what I write is just random ramblings to find out what it is I'm trying to say, making notes etc.) I never used to obsess about word counts, but at the moment it does help me to move forward.

What inspires me is to hear how other writers work. I read a really good article about Jeffrey Eugenides in the free We Love This Book magazine. He has only written 3 novels with an interval of 9 years in between each novel. It doesn't mean that he's lazy - he's writing all the time, but it's just a matter of getting it right, without being a perfectionist. In the interview he said that his current novel, The Marriage Plot, grew out of the backstory he wrote for a character in an abandoned novel.

The novel I'm working on at the moment sort of started back in 2007 when I spent 5 months in Thailand, but at the time I was too close to the environment I was writing about, so now 4 years later I'm ready. However I'm still struggling with the voice and the structure and I have 2 different ideas of how to tell the story ... At the moment I'm just trying to get the story down, by writing it in a quite traditional way of first person, past tense, but it's very likely to change in the second draft.

Recently I heard Meg Rosoff speak at the YLG (Youth Library Group) Conference and she mentioned that her first drafts are so bad you want to commit suicide when reading them ... I feel the same about my first drafts. As mentioned in a previous blog post, I'm aiming for 10 000 words a month, and after 9 months I'm hoping to have a first draft, but not necessarily a good first draft. But keeping it down to 10 000 words a month will hopefully make the first draft better than if I was taking part in NaNoWriMo churning out 50 000 words a month just for the sake of it. By keeping it down to 10 000 words I'm hoping to keep more focus, to actually think about what I'm writing. (Many writers only write in November and then abandon their VERY shitty first drafts forever.)

Jennifer Egan says:

"I haven’t had trouble with writer’s block. I think it’s because my process involves writing very badly. My first drafts are filled with lurching, clichéd writing, outright flailing around. Writing that doesn’t have a good voice or any voice. But then there will be good moments. It seems writer’s block is often a dislike of writing badly and waiting for writing better to happen."

(I think I first found this quote on the A Salted blog, thanks! And the post-it note saying "shitty first drafts are allowed" probably comes from Julia Cameron but am not sure.)

Friday, 14 October 2011

Early Midlife Crisis

I'm worried that I'm "only" going to be 60 years old as I'm going through a mid-life crisis, but in Swedish there's no word for midlife crisis, instead there are two different concepts: "the 30-year-old crisis" and "the 40-year-old crisis".

My crisis started last summer when I was 28. For the first time I had no desire to live and it frightened me. It felt like a burden having another 50 years to fill, fill with what?

My three biggest dreams had already come true:

*writing a novel and getting it published (my award-winning Swedish novel "Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude")

*experiencing requited love (my 5 year long relationship with Sky)

*travelling to New Zealand to track down a long lost relative (my gran's cousin)

It felt like nothing could ever match those amazing experiences and that life had become pretty dull. No career (as I'd changed my writing career to England and to writing in English, and was starting from scratch again), no place to live (just renting rooms in other people's houses) and no meaningful relationships.

So for two years I've been walking about in some kind of mist, but the other night under the full moon I had an actual light bulb moment. All of a sudden it became clear to me: I came up with a plan for what I'm going to do with my life. At least for a year, staring on my 30th birthday on the 26th of February. This project involves at least 30 people and I do hope that you're out there! More info later ...

Sunday, 9 October 2011

Swedish Glory on National Poetry Day

Swedish poet Tomas Transtömmer won the Nobel Prize of literature!!!

And here I am, performing as Lou Ice, one of the guests
at Hammer & Tongue at Komedia in Brighton,
warming up for another great Swede ...

Henry Bowers aka Kung Henry who told us a few things about darkness

As usual it was a great night hosted by Rosy Carrick and Mike Parker. Both me and Henry did a poem each in Swedish which went down well as there were a few Swedish people in the audience. I had recruited them when I did a performance/talk at Loxdale Language Centre last week ...

The open slam was won by a guy called Ed who did an angry poem, defending people who are wrongly accused of being paedophiles. It seemed like the slam was more intense than usual as a lot of people went over the allocated time of three minutes, caring more about the poetry than the points!

The other guest of the evening was the brilliant story-teller Wilf Merttens.

And thanks to performing I got invited to do two more gigs this autumn. Check it out here!

Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Upcoming Gigs

I'm performing at the following events:

Story Studio, Sunday 2 Oct, 8pm at Komedia, Brighton
Am one of the guest for the Feast & Fetish Theme, and will be reading my flash fiction story "Common Fetish"

Hammer & Tongue, Thursday 6 Oct, 7.30pm at Komedia, Brighton
I'm the local guest poet, warming the stage for Wilf Merttens - and fellow Swede Henry Bowen!

Tuesday 18 Oct, 8pm at Bombanes, Kemp Town, Brighton
An evening of music & poetry featuring Lou Ice, Jane Bom-Bane & Rosie Brown

Horseplay, Thursday 27 Oct, 8pm at the Black Dove, Kemp Town, Brighton
An evening of spoken word, music and random fun!

Something Wholly Inappropriate, Monday 7th Nov, 8pm at the Earth & Stars, Brighton
Hosted by Alice Shaw. I'll do a 20 minutes poetry est.

Ace Stories, Sunday 11 Dec, 6pm at Hotel Pelirocco, Brighton
More info TBC

Library's got talent, Saturday 18 Dec, Jubilee Library, Brighton
More info TBC

Monday, 19 September 2011

Winning the Bang Said the Gun Poetry Slam!

I've come second and third several times. But this was the first time I actually won a poetry slam! And not any poetry slam ... Bang Said the Gun is a poetry collective that runs a weekly poetry night in south London. They took their show to Edinburgh Fringe Festival and were awarded with 5 stars. I can only but agree!

I happened to be a London for two reasons:

1. Taking part in Jacob Sam-La Rose's excellent masterclass on running poetry workshops for young people (organised by Apples & Snakes)
2. The yearly YLG (Youth Library Group) Conference

I had no idea that the third reason for my London stay would be Bang Said the Gun. I only found out about it a few hours before the show kicked off, and decided on a whim to perform Making Over My Landlord, so maybe the spontaneity contributed to winning: I was quite relaxed, and did it for fun. And fun it was. On the tables were empty plastic milk containers filled with little stones (???) for the audience to rattle. It felt like being part of a massive maraca orchestra.
Here is special guest Will Stopha performing a very topical piece about robots. Note his matching top!
I was also very impressed by Richard Marsch's and Katy Bonna's poet duet. They performed a piece about stag and hen nights ...
Me with my trophy: a golden welly boot gun! And best of all I got invited back to perform at the next event which is Thursday this week! 8pm at the Roebuck Pub in Great Dover Street, London (nearest tube is Borough) Join the Bang!

Friday, 9 September 2011

My Friend Married Herself - 2 Year Anniversary Today

Today it's 2 years since one of my very best friends Sara married herself, and took the new surname Starkström which means "high voltage" or "strong power" depending on how you look at it ..
I was (one of) the bridesmaid in blue and Sara was the bride in red ...

She married herself to celebrate herself
as a way of celebrating her own and everybody's self-worth and self confidence.
A way of showing that she loved and respected herself and wanted to commit to her own truth.

This doesn't mean that she can't have a partner, it's just an manifestation of that you need to love yourself before being able to love someone else.

Sara is also the author of Game Girl
- a female version of Neil Strauss dating handbook The Game.

See more pictures of the Wedding on Sara's blog.

At the time Sara didn't think of it as an art project, the idea of marrying herself was just something she had felt very strongly about for a long time, and I really admire her for this. I was very honoured to be part of her wedding day, and it's not until now that I look at it as a performance art piece.

Monday, 5 September 2011

Flash Lit at Brighton Digital Festival

There seems to be at least one festival on every week in Brighton... On Sunday I'm taking part in Flash Lit - a short story slam that is part of Brighton Digital Festival.

I don't think you can compete in writing, but I do it for fun! Honestly. I've written four very short pieces especially for this event, and if I make it to the final I get to read three of them.

Where? Sticky Mike's Frog Club, Middle Street, the Lanes

When? Sunday 11 Sep, 7pm-10pm (late bar)

How? Turn up and make a big noise when I read! (It depends on the audience who makes it to the final ...)

Wednesday, 31 August 2011

Setting Your Own Deadlines

One reason I've never done any serious studying after I finished school is that deadlines set by other people really stress me out, to the point I get sick and can't sleep.

I prefer to set my own deadlines and goals. People tell me "oh, you must be so disciplined". Perhaps I am ... Or perhaps I'm just a control freak.

When I was in Sweden at the beginning of August, and got into working on my new novel project, I decided that I'd write 10 000 words a month. 10 000 okay or good words, not just any words which seem to be the case if you are a NaNoWriMo-Writer.

If I stick to 10 000 words a month, I should have a first draft of 90 000 words in 9 months time (yes, I like comparing writing to pregnancy even if I don't have any experience in this field ...)

Today is the last day of August and I've got 10 616 words. They are okay/good words, but by no means perfect words. Because at the same time I'm sticking to the advice on my post-it note: SHITTY FIRST DRAFTS ARE ALLOWED.

Seems like I'm contradicting myself, but this is how it works: I write as much rubbish as I can in a month, then I go back and edit, making sure I've got at least 10 000 words of connected paragraphs that make-up a continuous story.

Funnily enough I've been off sick from my part time job for two days ... I feel exhausted, as if some kind of bug is gnawing away on my body. Perhaps my own deadlines stress me out as much as other peoples' deadlines after all ...

(the photo was taken by Mimmi on a walk to Rottingdean the week before last, so no I haven't spent by days off sick on the beach, I've spent them in bed!)

Tuesday, 23 August 2011

Story Scavenging in Brighton

If you're stuck for ideas, bored with writing in general or just want to have fun I can recommend going to one of Wendy Greenhalgh's Story Scavenger Workshops.

It's a bit like a treasure hunt, but instead of just collecting impressions/people/objects you write about your finds after. Exercises involved spying on people at Brighton Station, picking an odd object in Snooper's Paradise, and photographing as many blue things you could find in fifteen minutes, hence the blue guitar in the above photo ...

I came home with my head filled with North Laine impressions and a notebook full of half-finished stories and ideas (to hopefully be developed into finished pieces at some point). Even though I was knackered when I came home, I still felt inspired to sit down and write some more in the evening - the playful workshop really opened up my writing energy.

Check out Wendy's blog , for the latest news on story scavenging and other similar workshops.

Sunday, 21 August 2011

Read My Story on Your Phone

One of my short stories has been published by Ether Books, and can be downloaded to your phone for free! (If you have a fancy phone that is ...)

Just click here, and then search for "Louise Halvardsson".

My story is called "A Girl Who Just Wants to Come" and was originally accepted for the Are you sitting comfortably? story night where it was read by an actor.

WARNING: Explicit content. 18 + only!


Monday, 15 August 2011

The Weekend Novelist

I spent the weekend as the Novelist I keep reminding myself that I am. Working on a novel makes me happy, makes me feel I'm part of something bigger than myself. When I'm actually writing it feels like meditation. It's the worrying about writing that makes me unhappy. I wish I would remember this ...

Saturday I wrote my morning pages (3 pages of A4 in longhand as prescribed in the Artist's Way) in bed; had breakfast in the garden, reading a Virginia Woolf biography; spent time with my novel,doing exercises from The Weekend Novelist; went jogging; had dinner; spent a couple of hours working on the novel; went for a walk on the seafront to look at the full moon, contemplating my characters.

Sunday followed the same kind of pattern, but in the evening I went to Ace Stories at Hotel Pelirocco in Brighton to let myself get inspired by other writers (Cathi Unsworth, Danny Bowman, Stefania Mastrorosa)and outstanding musician & singer Sandy Dillon.

It's not only me who am The Weekend Novelist. It's also the title of a really good book. I previously worked through The Weekend Novelist Redrafts the Novel when I revised UNDER THE LIP, so I thought I'd give The Weekend Novelist a go. Unlike other creative writing books that tell you how to make believable characters and how to make a setting come alive etc. this books is very straight-forward and simple with exercises that gets you going.

I'm not following the book slavishly or anything, but I claim that The Weekend Novelist unblocked me when I was in Sweden. Just by doing exercises like finishing the sentence "This is a story about a character who ..." and then speed writing for ten minutes I really got a sense for where I'm going with my novel.

I'm still struggling with finding the right voice and the right structure, but at least I've started from the beginning again, trusting that things will work out, knowing that I can change things later. For now I'll just focus on getting the story down, staring at the post-it note on my wall saying SHITTY FIRST DRAFTS ARE ALLOWED. Today is Monday and I'm still a novelist. I know I'm on the right track when I do something else and ideas or thoughts about the characters and/or plot pop up in my head.

Monday, 8 August 2011

What I Miss about Sweden:

CINNAMON BUNS made by my friend and author Sara Starkström aka GameGirl

PIZZA. You might find it strange ... but the best pizza is to be found in Sweden! Not in restaurants, but in special cheap pizza places that are more common than pubs ... My favourite is the banana and pineapple topping. My brother prefers kebab on his pizza.

LAKE SWIMMING. I still don't know if I prefer lake swimming to sea swimming, but the advantage with lakes is that they are still, so you can actually swim without having to fight for your life against waves and currents.

FORESTS. One morning I woke up early and went down to one of my favourite spots on this planet: Isåsadammen - a lake in the forest, 15 min walk from my parents place. I brought my breakfast and sprinkled the muesli with raspberries and blueberries that I found in the woods just behind me. (And apart from breakfast I brought my notebook and did some random writing.)

FOREST. Yes I do miss the forest. The above mentioned lake at sunset.

As I "feared" the weather distracted me from doing as much writing as I hoped, but my main mission was to find a new way to begin my new novel project and I think I found that way ...

When I'm at the beginning of a new project I can't get enough of just "being" and walking and thinking. It's not the actual time spent in front of the screen.

Now I'm back by the sea in Hove, and at the moment this feels like home. I just need to fill myself up with buns, pizza, lakes and forests now and again ...

More about my new novel project in the next blog post.

Friday, 5 August 2011


Sky who made my website has developed a cool new app for iPhone and iPod that is available on the App store.

The app is called dbug and you can use it to "examine CSS, selected HTML, doctype and header information on nearly any website, using a unique mobile interface".

Even if I'm not a computer geek myself I'm impressed by how it works, the possibility to see all the coding behind a specific part of a website etc.

Visit the dbug website!

Thursday, 28 July 2011

Out of Office

This summer I've been out of office a lot. Every time the sun shows its face I'm there. Swimming trunks on, grabbing a towel and walking - or rather skipping - to the beach.

A borrower (I know they are called "customers" now, but I prefer the old-fashioned word) in the library complimented me on my tan and asked if I'd been on holiday. I told her I'd been on my local beach, to which she replied "You're a good advertisement for Hove!"

My normal "office hours" are between 9-12 in the morning before I go to work in the library, but I find it very hard to sit by my desk in my bedroom when the weather is so welcoming ...(You Brits moan that you haven't had any summer but I tell you that most mornings have been pretty sunny!).

I don't know about any laptops that actually work well in sunlight ... but luckily I can still operate a pen and a notepad, so I have done some work, sitting on the beach, in parks or in the garden.

As I'm between novels (just like other people are between jobs or between relationship or between homes or whatever) I find it extra hard to place my bum on that office chair ...

I'm still struggling with some of the ingredients of my new novel project, but by jotting down notes, writing random scenes and drawing diagrams and making mind-maps I think that I'll get a dough together eventually ...

On Saturday I'm off to Sweden for ten days. One part of me is praying for rain. Rain means serious writing. Another part of me is dancing the sun dance. Sun means lake swimming.

Monday, 18 July 2011

A New Season of Ace Stories

It feels like you "should" stay in on a Sunday night and prepare yourself for the week ahead, but by going out you make the weekend last longer, and Ace Stories (at Hotel Pelirocco, Brighton) is a great excuse to leave your cosy bedroom!

First up was the poet Mike Loveday. His extraordinary observations of everyday life made me smile. Especially the poem about what you might find in a lift.

Next author to take to the stage was Lizzie Enfield and she revealed that what motivated her to write What You Don't Know was that she saw one of her colleague's novels in a supermarket and thought I could do that!

Lizzie has a great sense of humour and read a couple of extracts from the novel, featuring a husband bordering on OCD behaviour and his wife mixing up his CD collection, shelving Radiohead under H ... (I do that to my brother!)

The headlining author for the evening was Jayne Joso who has written a very original novel called Perfect Architect. The widow of an architect challenges four other architects to build her the perfect house ...

Jayne was interviewed by the event director Jay Clifton before her reading, and it was fascinating to hear how the idea for the novel sprung from a non-fiction book about architecture that Jayne had ghostwritten.

Another interesting thing I found out was that Perfect Architect is actually the first novel Jayne wrote, but as she had difficulty finding a publisher at the time her second novel got published before the first ... (This has motivated me to crack on with my new novel idea!)

To finish the evening off Fire Eyes played some great folky rocky tunes.

Ace Stories now have a website and I'm very happy to be the event photographer! Check back later for more photos. (Also this post looks better if you view it in Firefox.)

PS. Ace Stories finishes at a sensible time (9pm ish) but I wasn't sensible enough to leave then ... But hanging out in the bar after is part of the fun, and I love to talk to writers and other artists about their work. Also it was nice that the audience were not only made up of writers. Among others I spoke to a psychologist and woman selling dresses.

Monday, 11 July 2011

Novel Ingredients

I have:
a setting

I don't have:
a structure
a voice

Can I still make a novel? Or will it be a bit like making a cake without sugar and butter ...?

Monday, 4 July 2011

Where the Book has No Name

Today I was interviewed by a Swedish radio station and they asked me about my new novel (UNDER THE LIP), but this novel in question is already starting to feel old to me...

I'm between novel relationships. I'm waiting for a publisher to take on UNDER THE LIP, and I've started a new project, but it's a bit like seeing a new man/woman when you're still clinging to your ex. (Which funnily enough has been my status in real life as well!)

So I find it very hard to fully give myself to this new novel project (that doesn't yet have a name) as any day my agent could email me with good news. But at least it feels like I'm making half-hearted love to this one idea now instead of sleeping around with different ones ... Yet it's far too early to label this affair, hence the "no name" ...

Thursday, 30 June 2011

No Explosion, No End

CLICK HERE TO READ "No Explosion, No end" - a flash fiction piece I performed in the Brighton Fringe Flash Fiction Story Slam

Monday, 27 June 2011

My Midsummer Camp in Norfolk 18-25 June

My Midsummer Camp

Midsummer Camp started off pretty damp
Wet socks and feet
the rain falling in sheets
but after getting a pair of Welly boots
I was ready to sing and shoot

I decorated the marquee
where later 5rhythms set me free
Flowing to the beat of a drum
was better than drinking rum
but with the help of some gin
I played the Welly with a grin

For the solstice I painted my face
and danced round the field in a haze
Sitting round the camp fire
my body burning with desire
Beautiful boys from Leeds
got me into some bad deeds
Smoking and singing some more
I found myself on the floor
A festival of cuddles
arms and legs in a big muddle

Helped building a bender
which made me feel a bit tender
(as if I’d really been on a bender)
Struggling with yogic breath
to save myself from a minor death

In the kids tipi I made a poi
and almost stood on my head oi oi oi
I learnt more in a week than in a year
and my head feels more clear
Wiping snot and chopping wood
did me some good

The view from the compost loo
made my mind grow
feeling the grass under my toes
more intimate than shoes
In the communal shower
a woman made me feel like a flower
by sharing a story about her nipples
which made my smile ripple

In the camp council I confessed
that I liked getting undressed
jumping in the hot tubs
getting free shoulder rubs
Everybody I met had a story to tell
and a hug to share as well

Shedding skin in the sauna heat
made my heart beat
with appreciation, accepting
the changing season
The nights are now getting longer
but I feel stronger
Am not going to drown
cause I’ve found my inner clown.

Wednesday, 15 June 2011

Re-charging Batteries in Sweden

About three weeks ago I ran out of battery. Everything and everyone seemed boring, and I had no energy to do anything. For the first time ever I suffered from homesickness and in desperation I booked a ticket to Sweden.

There's something about this time of the year: the light in the forest, the summery smells and the feeling of freedom ... (At least that's what it used to feel like when I was younger as school is out in June and you have 10 weeks of holiday ahead of you.)

June is also the month of my Dad's birthday, so I decided to surprise him ... I just turned up on the day, knocking on the window of my parents house. Mum looked as if she had seen a ghost and my Dad was in shock all evening ... It felt like something that happens in a book or a film.

Going for longish walks in the forest was just what I needed. A place to breathe, a place to recharge my creative batteries. To let go of all demands. To be free from computers and phones.

Another purpose of my trip was to collect some inspirational material for my next novel. All I'm revealing is that it's set in Thailand. As I spent 5 months in Thailand in 2007 I filled quite a few journals and took lots of photographs that I had stored at my parent's place. Cramming the journals and photos into my hand luggage I was ready to go back to the UK and face reality again ...

But not for long because on Friday I'm off to Midsummer Camp Festival in Norfolk, so see you in 10 days time or so ...